Traffic Changes, Tall Oaks Among Concerns at Hearing

Total Rehab has moved from Tall Oaks Village CenterThe Fairfax County Planning Commission heard citizen concerns ranging from a potential massive traffic interchange to the neglect of Tall Oaks Village Center, but opted to defer decision on changes to the Reston comprehensive plan on Wednesday.

The comments came at the planning commission’s public hearing on changes to the Reston comprehensive plan. The commission heard testimony from more than 20 citizens, developers, Reston Association staff and board members and other interested parties about the planning changes that will guide Reston development going forward.

Planning staff has been working on what is commonly called the Reston Master Plan Phase 2 since June 2014. Phase 2 changes deal with development in and near Reston’s village centers, as well as in neighborhoods, should they be redeveloped.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved Phase 1 of the comprehensive plan changes in February 2014. That plan, which guides development around Reston’s transit centers, was finalized after four years of task force meetings.

Speakers mainly concentrated on a few themes at Wednesday’s public hearings:

Concerns about traffic changes near Polo Fields homes

Several residents of residential neighborhood Polo Fields, located off of Sunrise Valley Drive at Fairfax County Parkway, are not in favor of a suggested multi-lane interchange to be built near their homes.

“This suggested interchange will not significantly improve traffic issues and will cost as least as much as Fair Lakes interchange, which was $65 million,” said John Eidson, a longtime resident of Halter Lane. “If this interchange goes in, some of us may lose our homes. Where are our rights? and what gives you the right [to build this] without giving us a say in the matter?”

Not enough potential planning for areas outside of transit centers

Both Brian Winterhalter, a lawyer with Cooley LLC, which represents several developers, and Patty Nicoson, Reston resident and Master Plan Phase 1 Task Force Chair, said there is not enough leeway for future development without more comprehensive plan changes.

“It would require comprehensive plan amendments for any redevelopment proposals,” said Winterhalter. “Fundamentally, I don’t think that is the right approach. A community as large as Reston should provide opportunities to grow. This downplanning does not make sense.”

The future of Tall Oaks Village Center

Several residents of homes close to Tall Oaks told the planning commission they want Tall Oaks to remain a village center and not be downgraded, as had been discussed in community meetings in the last 10 months, to convenience center designation.

“Our village center thrived some 10 years ago; we know it can thrive again,” said Shari Hebert, a resident of Bentana Cluster. “Giant [Foods] moved out not because of lack of support. It was a business decision on part of Giant to get out of small-footprint stores. We feel Tall Oaks has kind of been neglected by Reston Association. We all agree changes are needed to our  village center. We ask you to maintain the village center zoning and give community a chance to have a voice in this.”

The 300-plus page comprehensive plan amendment says about Tall Oaks “… there needs to be additional community and staff discussion, as well as a detailed redevelopment proposal in order to properly consider if a redevelopment recommendation should be added to the Reston Plan.”

Tall Oaks was sold to the McLean based Jefferson Apartment Group for $14 million in December. The firm plans a mixed use development at Tall Oaks, which has seen a majority of its stores shutter in recent years. The Jefferson Group will present its preliminary plans to the community April 23 and 27 (7 p.m. at Reston Association headquarters).

Reston founder Bob Simon was the last speaker at the hearing. The 101-year-old Simon has said for years that Lake Anne Village Center and Reston Town Center are the only true “town centers” as he envisioned in his plan for Reston more than 50 years ago.

As for village centers at North Point, South Lakes, Hunters Woods and Tall Oaks?

“Tear them down and start over,” he told the commission.

Fairfax County officials say the the current comprehensive plan, last updated in 1989, requires revision because Reston no longer has a master developer to update the plan for Reston; the plan for Reston has outdated elements; and with population expected to grow with the arrival of Metro, Reston is evolving as a community.

The planning commission will make a ruling on the plan amendments on May 13. If recommended for approval, it will move on for final approval by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in June.

Tall Oaks empty store/file photo

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