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Op-Ed: DRB Would Likely Keep Tetra From Development

by RestonNow.com April 29, 2015 at 4:20 pm 55 Comments

Tetra buildingThis is an op-ed by Reston resident Ed Abbott. The opinions expressed here do not represent the views of Reston Now.

I am a lay member of the Design Review Board (DRB). I have been a member for about five and a half years. My views presented here are my own. My term was up last month and I am not seeking another term.

Much has been written for and against the Reston Association (RA) decision to purchase the Tetra property. Terry Maynard has provided the most comprehensive and compelling analysis of that decision.

Essentially, the RA Board desires to purchase the property to save open space and prevent commercial development of a building, which would allegedly be a restaurant. The question is whether or not it is worth paying $2.65 million for a property that is valued at best at $1.4 million to prevent its commercial use. In my judgment, it is not.

I think one reason is that the Design Review Board is very unlikely to approve of the property’s commercial use, especially as a restaurant. Such development would significantly change the residential nature and aesthetics of the neighborhood.

During my time as a DRB member, I have seen numerous applications which would have had an impact similar to the potential commercial development of Tetra property that have been disapproved or required to undertake significant rework.

For example, the DRB disapproved the construction of several cell towers and required significant changes to the development that would replace the current Fairways Apartments. The latter apparently were significant enough for the developer to postpone construction indefinitely.

The DRB is tasked with assuring all applications are consistent with Reston’s Design Guidelines. This often requires the Board to apply the intent of the guidelines to the specifics of the application. As part of that process, the DRB takes input from the public. In fact, it is required to do so if a neighbor protests. The DRB heard from such “affected parties” in both the cell tower application and the Fairways project.

Regardless of the proposed use of Tetra property, many of the people in Lake Newport would likely register their objections as affected parties, including to any use that RA is contemplating. The DRB takes the affected party comments seriously. In fact, it relies on community input. Based on what I have read in Reston Now, the affected parties on any proposed use of the Tetra property would be numerous and vocal.

For any future owner of the property, including RA, threading Reston’s design guideline needle in the application process would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, given the property’s location.

It makes no sense to spend $2.65 million to prevent development that is very unlikely to happen. At best, the RA purchase of the Tetra property may prevent a very unlikely unwanted development from occurring, but at an exorbitant cost. At worst, RA may be stuck with an overpriced useless building.

The only sensible outcome is to let the current owner deal with this “white elephant” and not make it RA’s.

  • Wings!!

    Wouldn’t it be nicer to have a delightfuly tacky yet unrefined Hooters establishment on the lake, as opposed to a 3 million dollar wedding reception facility where drunked up people will be screaming Livin’ On A Prayer every Saturday night?

    • LakeNewportGuy

      that’s what amazes me about the pro purchase crowd. Wedding receptions would be the worst possible crowd. Worse than any restaurant. Endless speeches broadcast over the water. Wedding dj’s every weekend.

      • JCSuperstar
        • yup

          After one wedding reception at the Tetra property, loud music being carried over the water, beer bottles in the lake….. The Lake Newport home owners would have wished it was a Hooters. A buddy of mine is getting married next year, I’ll have to suggest the Tetra property to him. 🙂

  • mathias

    A German Restaurant Company is preparing an offer for a Munich Style Hofbrauhaus Restaurant for the Tetra property, pending the clarification of the various interpretations of the confusing and somewhat misleading zoning laws.

  • Ming the Merciless

    I say we give Ken Kneuven’s job to Ed Abbott!

    • Katy B

      They can’t they gave it to Ellen Graves

  • Rodney Dangerfield

    Referendum will approve it. Keep grasping at illusions.

  • JCSuperstar

    Let’s see, where has the DRB stopped something from being developed, Mr. “layperson”?

    Hmmmm. St. Johns Woods? Tall Oaks? Lake Anne? the Harrison? the RTC Office Tower (which the DRB approved)? Fairway Apartments? Reston National Golf Course?

    Here’s a good one:


    • Ming the Merciless

      DRB does not get to review what happens in Reston Town Center. RTC has its own design review board.

      The DRB did not “stop” St. John’s Wood, but it certainly changed the proposal.

      Since nobody has applied to do anything to the golf course (yet) the DRB has had nothing to say about it (yet).

      • JCSuperstar

        Absolutely agree, but, do you see DRB stopping these developments in the PRC? The St. Johns Woods critical numbers did not change, yes the plan is better, but it is going to be triple the size of the existing complex nonetheless. The DRB has nothing to do with FAR, density numbers, etc.

        Note regarding the Tower:
        “On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, the Board of Supervisors, The approval came after earlier support from the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee (P&Z), the Reston Association Design Review Board (DRB) and the Planning Commission.”

        “There was near unanimous view that the proposed RTC building was a welcome architectural marvel. The issues that divided the discussion were whether the location is the right place and is density and height appropriate for the building.”


        • Ming the Merciless

          I suspect that’s a misprint. It should say the Reston Town Center Association not the Reston Association.

          • JCSuperstar

            Actually not. The Reston DRB, Planning & Zoning and County Supervisors actually approved it. While the RA Board did not.

            “While the RA has now gone on record opposing the project, it also devoted three pages to it in the summer issue of Reston: The Magazine. Here it is, front and center in the magazine’s table of “content,” which called it “a model project for partnering with Reston Association’s Design Review Board.” (Which, to be fair, has already approved the proposal, as has the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee.)”


          • Ming the Merciless

            That’s a different building than I thought we were talking about.

            Never mind!

  • NoRestonWatcher

    Mr. Abbott is sadly mistaken if he thinks that DRB can prevent development based on use- their authority is about DESIGN Standards. When Glory Days moved into the old Blockbuster space they did NOTHING to prevent it- him included!

    • Ming the Merciless

      Um, why should they have prevented it?

  • JCSuperstar

    This has got to be the silliest “op-ed” so far. What’s next, the dog park folks jumping in?

  • Jim Miller

    Yes- a good friend tells me that Mr. Abbott and Mr. Maynard are card playing buddies, but I’m sure it opinion is totally unvarnished. Plus all those amazingly good decisions he’s made for Reston! That makes him a perfect one to opine on what’s good for Reston!

    Thanks for Glory Days Mr. Abbott, I love hearing the Glory Days “beer bottle” trash go out at 11:30 at night.

    • JCSuperstar

      It’s apparent Mr. Maynard is pulling out all the stops. First Class Mailings, TV spots to the four folks that watch Channel 28, Op-Eds, what’s next:


    • Poplar Grove Resident

      Oh and don’t forget the trading of trees for PARKING LOT at the Mormon church sacrificing our entire Popular Grove neighborhood! Yes, Mr. Abbott always has the Reston Members very best interests at heart.

    • schmoe

      Ed Abbot’s argument is that the design review board would ultimately reject any request for a restaurant, particularly if the neighborhood is against it.

      Your rebuttal does not address that argument in any way. It just adhominem and guilt by association…

      • JCSuperstar

        The DRB only focusses on Design Guidelines, nothing more. This, according to the Reston Governing Documents:

        “The DRB shall have the power to interpret, administer, and render decisions involving the design covenants in Deed Section VI.1 in accordance with duly adopted and published Design Guidelines, as amended and approved by the Board of Directors, after Notice pursuant to Deed Section I.1(bb)(1) and hearing, all as provided in this Deed. The Board of Directors shall have the power to enforce such Design Guidelines.”

        • schmoe

          This is a better rebuttal as it addresses points made in Abbot’s essay.

          How would a prospective restaurant go around the DRB if their design fails to comply with Design Guidelines?

          Or perhaps asks the question from the other end, how would the DRB handle restaurant not in compliance?

          • JCSuperstar

            Any developer will obviously use the right mateials, colors, roof type, clapboards being horizontal versus vertical, landscaping design, etc. Every development in Reston (except those in the Toll Road corridor) goes through the DRB. Look at Lake Anne Redevelopment Partners, Fairway, St. Johns Woods, the 23 story RTC Tower, the Harrison, Tall Oaks, the house on Cutwater…

            That’s all the DRB does — it does not interpret/override county development plans. If you are hoping the DRB can stop the Tetra purchase, someone has been selling you quite a bit of poooo.

          • Ming the Merciless

            And if it looks beautiful, then nobody has any basis for complaint!

          • JCSuperstar

            Being facetious Sire. You know as well as I, the DRB cannot stop a development, they can only impact the design criteria.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Who could object to a Hooters with T-111 siding in tasteful earth tones?

          • JCSuperstar
          • Dodge

            Wow, that really puts some perspective on the restaurant design.

          • DRB Head Cheese

            Unfortunately earth tones can’t do. It has to be Nazi brown like the other camp dwellings.

          • Wings!!

            No you’re talking!

        • RAmember2

          According to the too-well paid Ben Chadwick at the RA community meeting, the RA Board can do anything it wants to that is not prohibited by the governing documents.

          So we could get a casino, lake cruising riverboat, and a Hooters at Lake Newport, even if it says it will preserve open space. After all, it gave away a perfectly excellent acre of hardwoods for a parking garage and a drainage ditch.

      • Jim Miller

        How’s this for an argument- I live behind what used to be a quiet retail shop. Glory Days came to the DRB with a design that included expanded outdoor dining.

        Almost my entire cluster came out as an Affected Party- (which according to Mr. Abbott the DRB has deep feelings of concern for those who might be negatively impacted!)

        Changes made for us? Zero

        Development allowed by DRB? Everything they asked for– so please don’t you condensed to me “schmoe” Mr. Abbott voted for development at every opportunity. His Op Ed is 100% BS. His record is clear and available.

        • Ming the Merciless

          Haw, you live behind a busy strip mall and you wanted quiet? Poor planning on your part.

          • Jim Miller

            Maybe Ming but it wasn’t helped by the DRB as Mr. Abbott would suggest.

          • Wings!!

            I was really hoping a Hooters was going to go in that spot instead of a Glory Days.

    • Greg

      Glory Days doesn’t recycle?

  • Wm.Morris

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! I live near Cutwater in South Reston. These guys can’t stop anything and oh, by the way- they’re in the business of building things; houses, buildings, etc.

    On Cutwater the DRB allowed someone to tear down their home and replace it with a gigantic McMansion, so if this is who you’re counting on to prevent development you’d better think again. It’s even possible that one of the DRB members will be working for the firm that’s trying to do the building, but hey- no worries, they’ll put Reston first- NOT!

  • Katy B

    This is a joke right?

    • Ray Wedell

      I agree. I think this is a spoof. Kind of like that April 1 post about the monorail in Lake Anne.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    Whether you re for or against the purchase of tetra DRB arguably has the worst opinion on this topic. In fact we re running a good probability that the DRB is lowering home values in the area and preventing progress. I say fire the whole bunch before they can do more damage!!!!

  • JCSuperstar

    NEXT! Now serving A-217.

  • RestonMember

    This is a ridiculous premises, the DRB is responsible for design guidelines, perhaps if the DRB Board members knew that this was their mission we’d have more balance! Maybe its a good thing that Mr. Abbott’s time on the board has come to an end!

  • Rational Reston

    Mr. Abbott’s argument may not be the strongest, but it’s on par with the opposition that Reston should shell out $2.65 MILLION because of some mystery “scary thing” that may someday happen.

  • ThinkPeopleThink!

    People–Do you understand that property owners have actual rights that convey with ownership? If the use is consistent with the Master Plan and the Zoning the owner will be able to use the building how they choose within whatever limitations may prevail; but you’re fools to thing that you can dictate that it simply remain AS-IS!

    • Rodney Dangerfield

      Finally, someone who understands!

    • 30yearsinReston

      What has that to do with the price of $3M ?

      • ThinkPeopleThink

        The price was never 3M– over exaggerating things doesn’t strengthen your position it weakens it. The price is down to 2,380,000 with the repairs sited a couple of articles ago.

        • Ming the Merciless

          So… still twice what it is worth… for something that only has value to a few people on Lake Newport not everyone in Reston who will be on the hook to pay…

  • JCSuperstar

    So — we agree this OpEd died before it arrived. Who’s next? My 2 cents, Farrell again.

  • Ray Wedell
  • east297

    Finally a common sense response to this insane plan by RA to purchase the Tetra property. Thank you Ed Abbott…


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