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Title Issue Protecting Natural Space May Impede Town Center North Process

by Karen Goff — January 4, 2016 at 10:30 am 11 Comments

Fairfax County may find an issue as it presses forward with the development of Reston Town Center North. Original county documents show that according to the Reston Deed, 10 acres of the 50-acre project must remain in its natural state.

The county approved a land swap with Inova last fall, clearing the way for future development of the area from Baron Cameron Avenue to New Dominion Drive.

County planners have held several community meetings to discuss future plans, which are likely to include a new Embry Rucker Community Shelter;  a new Reston Regional Library; a new building for community health, social and mental health services; a 90,000-square-foot indoor recreation center; and more housing and retail. A multi-acre park is planned for the center of the parcel.

While Reston Town Center North still has to go through a lengthy rezoning and approval process and is not expected to be completed for a decade, it may run into a problem soon.

The entire parcel is subject to the Reston Deed. In 1974, 50 acres of land were sold and conveyed to the Board of Supervisors by Gulf Reston, the developer of Reston at that time, county records show.

However, the 10 acres running along Baron Cameron Avenue and is subject to many restrictions, that say the space must remain in its natural state.

“No building, structures or improvement shall be built or placed on the property conveyed herein, except structures which may be required for storm drainage or sanitary sewage purposes, or  any building, structure or improvement which, in the aggregate, covers no more than 10 percent of the land area of this parcel and which is intended for recreational uses,” 1974 county documents state.

“The property shall otherwise be left in its natural state,” the document reads. “This covenant shall run with the land and be binding on the Grantee and its successors and assigns, for a period of ninety-nine (99) years from the date hereof.”

When that land was designated as open space — at a cost of 10 cents per acre — the restrictions were not intended to be permanent because the Reston Master Plan at the time designated this area for a future hospital, library, police or other governmental facilities. It also granted the land to the county for those county facilities rather than to Reston Association.

Reston Association’s Board of Directors discussed the issue at its Aug. 15 meeting and said that any development on the land will be part of RA — and recognized that the 10 acres designated natural space may be a title defect.”

“The Board has found no action taken by its predecessor boards or RA members to remove this land from the deed, it is the position of the Reston Association that the referenced land remains subject to Reston deed covenants. This means the land is subject to RA Design Review Board review and its residents shall be new Reston Association members,” RA President Ellen Graves said at the time.

About the county land, Graves said: “While the restrictive covenant limits the use and development of this 10-acre portion of land to natural, open space, none of this land was ever deeded to Reston Association or designated common area by Reston Association. The restrictive covenant presents a title defect which may impeded or hinder the development anticipated by the county.”

The board passed a motion to that RA attorneys work work with Inova and Fairfax County to “work around this restrictive covenant, but only in a manner that preserves and/or enhances open space.”

What will happen to the acreage and the natural space? Time will tell. But expect the issue to be addressed as the project moves forward.

Planners have given this estimated timeline for redevelopment: Rezoning and and a Request for Proposals will take place in 2016, followed by individual rezoning of Blocks 7 and 8 (closest to the town center) in 2018. The design and permit process would take about 18-24 months in 2018-2020. Construction would take several years, with the final product being delivered in 2023.

Graphic: Map of RTC North land/Credit: Fairfax County

  • LaureenMT

    I am interested in this subject but hope the article can be edited to clarify. For example, I don’t know what this means: “However, the 1o acres running along Baron Cameron Avenue and is subject to many restrictions, that say the space must remain in its natural state.”

  • concordpoint

    Important to remember that three existing buildings and the nearly completed police station and new Supervisor’s office encroach upon the open space easement. I guess the County doesn’t run title reports before they spend $20 million of bond money. Very bad practice. I wonder if a private entity would be allowed to occupy a building that encroaches (big-time) into open space?

  • Terry Maynard

    The structure of the article appears to suggest that the 10 acres of open space had alternative uses. I don’t believe the 10-acre Deed stated these specific ten acres “were not intended to be permanent because the Reston Master Plan at the time designated this area for a future hospital, library, police or other governmental facilities. It also granted the land to the county for those county facilities rather than
    to Reston Association.” Those facilities (and others) were meant to be built on the other 40 acres sold by Gulf Reston to the County and covered in a separate Deed.

    Adding to the considerable confusion, however, is the fact that the 10-acre patch could be developed after 99 years (2073). So permanent is never quite that. (sigh)

    From this person’s perspective, RA’s involvement in this only complicates the issue. True, the 10-acre plot, like the separately deeded 40-acre plot, is to be covered by the RA Deed (RA membership, covenants, design, etc.), but that does not seem to be a “title defect” or a requirement that the property should be transferred to RA. It would actually serve RA interests if the 10-acre parcel were a County park rather than an RA facility since the whole county would be paying for its development, operation, and maintenance.

    Nonetheless, RA should continue to press for application of the RA Deed to all the developed areas of Town Center North (the other 40 acres) to help meet community standards and expectations as well as adding new assessment money to RA coffers.

    What is MOST IMPORTANT is that Town Center North (including the Spectrum area east of Fountain Drive) have at least 10 acres of park space–natural and/or recreational for use by its projected 7,000 residents and 10,000 workers. The 2.6 acre park proposed in the County PPP plan is woefully inadequate.

    To meet the guidelines of the Fairfax County Urban Parks Framework, Town Center North should actually have at least 11 acres, and to meet county park facilities requirements for this many requirements would require 18 acres to provide space for the 10 athletic fields, multi-purpose courts, and playgrounds for the projected population there. And that doesn’t even consider the hugely underserved park area requirement for Reston Town Center core.

    • concordpoint

      Agree with several of your points. One point of clarification, the 10 acres area is not fungible; it is defined by metes and bounds and Gulf Reston LLC gave the 10 acre portion to the County with the 99 year open space requirement. Today roughly 50% of that area is impervious due to County encroachments. I have heard that the 10 acres was part of a plan from Simon for a Central Park in the Town Center District. May be some long term residents may remember that.

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