New Rules on Village Centers Get OK From Planning Commission

Empty anchor store at Tall OaksReston’s Master Plan moved another step closer to new guidelines for future development as the Fairfax County Planning Commission has voted to recommend changes to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The vote came at the planning commission’s regular meeting on Wednesday. It held the public hearing portion of the changes — commonly called Reston Master Plan Phase 2 — in April.

Planning staff has been working on 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. Phase 1, approved by the Supervisors in early 2014, guides development in the areas close to Reston’s transit centers.

At the public hearing, the planning commission heard from citizens on concerns about a planned traffic interchange, changes at Tall Oaks Village Center and Reston’s future in general. It also heard from developers, who said guidelines in the plan text did not allow developers enough leeway.

Planning commission’s Hunter Mill representative Frank de le Fe said Wednesday that he supports the general draft, but made a few changes in recent weeks in response to public comments.

Among them:

Removal of the rule that Reston’s village centers would have to undergo a comprehensive plan amendment to promote redevelopment. This will help The Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG), which purchased the mostly-vacant Tall Oaks in December. JAG has preliminary plans for residential and small retail development on the site at Wiehle Avenue and North Shore Drive.

Addition of language that Tall Oaks may include a significant residential component and that any redevelopment will emphasize quality design.

Planned redevelopment at St. John’s Wood apartments will be considered.

De le Fe also suggested that a request for a special buffer at the long-lost cemetery at the Fairfax Hunt Club be treated as any other cemetery. De le Fe said adding specific language to the comprehensive plan, as citizens had suggested, “seemed like overkill.”

At the public hearing, many residents of the Polo Fields subdivision at Sunrise Valley Drive and the Fairfax County Parkway, expressed concern with a multi-lane interchange planned there.

“This suggested interchange will not significantly improve traffic issues and will cost as least as much as Fair Lakes interchange, which was $65 million,” resident John Eidson, said at the hearing. “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?”

De le Fe said the Fairfax County Department of Transportation will re-examine and re-evaluate the interchange.

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 Board of Supervisors will discuss the comprehensive plan changes on June 2.

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