Op-Ed: I Voted ‘Yes’ on Tetra, You Should Too

by RestonNow.com April 27, 2015 at 2:30 pm 29 Comments

Michael Sanio/Credit: David Madison for RAThis is an op-ed from Reston Association At-Large Director Michael Sanio. It does not reflect the views of Reston Now.

I voted yes in the Tetra referendum for the following three reasons:

1) The 3.5 acres Tetra Property next to Lake Newport and the former Reston Visitors Center provides a wonderful space for children’s activities, summer camps, even family weddings and gatherings.  Tetra will complement Brown’s Chapel, the Pony Barn and other Reston amenities.

2) In later years, cost for the property are estimated to increase member assessments no more than $5 per year.

3) Reston’s ownership of the Tetra Property will add to open space.  Open space that is constantly under pressure from development, especially given the approved development at Lake Anne.

One of the comments I often hear when I speak to friends and neighbors is – the Tetra Property is already protected and can not be developed further. A restaurant can not be built on the site. The existing Fairfax County Resource Protection Act – RPA will prevent further development.

In fact, the existing regulations, and decisions of Fairfax County will allow further, development including a restaurant that can expand over the lake.

This can get technical and legal, so lets get started. Here are the facts:

First, the county RPA maps are guides only. The actual areas included within an RPA are subject to field verification and study by qualified professionals.

Second, there are certain exceptions (where the RPA restrictions do not apply), exemptions (where the regulations themselves provide the ability for certain development activities), limited exceptions for certain zoned development, and waivers (where it is unfair and unproductive to enforce RPA restrictions). The task of analyzing a particular property’s situation is both complicated and fact-specific.

Generally speaking, RPA regulations are intended to restrict the manner in which property is developed or redeveloped, rather than completely precluding such development or redevelopment.

This avoids unconstitutional regulatory takings of property without compensation.

It makes a difference that Lake Newport is a manmade lake which was originally designed to accommodate lakefront development. This is not a situation of a natural waterway where manmade development encroaches and diminishes the natural functioning of the waterway. This distinction makes a difference.

Development of the Tetra Property is permitted through the PRC zoning, development plan and proffers, all approved by the Board of Supervisors in RZ 79-C-032. This approval clearly allows for the development of a restaurant and a sales information center. This background makes a difference in the application of RPA regulations.

The Tetra rezoning and its final site plan (which was deemed to be in conformance with the zoning), were approved prior to the enactment of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act Ordinance Amendments by Fairfax County. This makes a difference.

The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has determined that the proposed restaurant footprint extending over the lake (as shown on the approved site plan) will not encroach into the flood plain and that the man-made lake was designed to accommodate such lakefront development. This makes a difference.

The Board of Supervisors Policy treatment of approved and pending plans of development with regard to the local Fairfax County Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance provisions provides a number of exceptions which can be applied to the Lake Newport Property.

“All developments shall comply with the provisions of the Amended Ordinance to the extent possible, provided such compliance does not preclude fulfillment of any proffered condition.”

The proffers specifically allow the additional restaurant footprint, which is shown on the approved site plan.”

“All development shall comply with the provisions of the Amended Ordinance to the extent possible, provided such compliance does not result in the reduction of density, floor area ratio, or the relocation of structures or facilities, all as shown on the plan of development.”

The approved plan of development shows the current building footprint and the additional restaurant footprint which extends onto the lake. There are no height limitations in this zoning approval. ”

“Any plat, plan or building permit submitted pursuant to a proffered rezoning application or District rezoning application approved prior to July 1, 1993″ is excepted from the RPA regulations. Rezoning RZ-79-C-032 is both a proffered and P District rezoning application, which was approved prior to July 1, 1993.”

For more information on this, including a letter from county staff, I invite you to review the materials on our website.

We are making important decisions for our children, and our community. We want to carefully consider the financial implications, and the long term benefits. I urge you to carefully review the facts, and make your voice heard.

As I said, I voted yes. As an interested member of the community, I urge you to vote too. The referendum runs through May 8.

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