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RA Board Stands in Opposition to St. John Woods’ Redevelopment Plan

by Karen Goff September 15, 2016 at 10:00 am 16 Comments

St. John's Wood/BozzutoReston Association’s Board of Directors has joined in support of North Reston residents in opposing a massive redevelopment of St. Johns Wood apartments.

Developer Bozzuto is proposing to nearly double the size of the garden apartments, from 250 units to 467 units and 46 townhouses. Residents have spoken out at several meetings that the plan is out of scale for Reston Parkway and Center Harbor Road, which is more than a mile from the future Reston Town Center Metro station.

Residents — more than 500 of whom have signed a petition — also have concerns about traffic impact, effect on the tree canopy and forcing lower-income residents to move.

Here is the motion the RA Board unanimously passed at a special meeting on Wednesday:

The board moved to oppose the current St John’s Wood Redevelopment Application for the following reasons related to its consistency with the adopted County Comprehensive Plan with specific focus on:

1. Environmental impacts including but not limited to such impacts on RA common area and natural areas.
2. Transportation impacts and parking/overflow.
3. Density and intensity of redevelopment proposal.
4. Mitigation of impacts to RA community amenities/facilities.
5. Impacts to county schools.

The application has not met the express conditions required in the adopted Comprehensive Plan to justify the medium density, multi-family residential use option.

RA says it will send a letter delineating the association’s position, including the written comments received during the special board meeting, on the current application to the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee, the Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Hunter Mill representative, and the Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

The board also encouraged citizens — some of whom have been visibly angry at recent meetings on St. Johns Woods — to do the same. In the end, RA can take a stand on its opposition, but does not have much power in stopping development, RA’s land use attorney John McBride reminded them on Wednesday.

The approval of a development application ultimately comes from the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. McBride spent more than an hour at Wednesday’s meeting explaining the process to the room packed with residents.

He also pointed out that according to the Reston Comprehensive Plan, which was modified in 2014 and 2015, Bozzuto is within its rights to propose the redevelopment plan. The plan actually downgraded the parcel from high density to medium density, and Bozzuto has amended the proposal accordingly. The redevelopment plans began in 2014 with 659 units.

Even with that explanation, residents were still fired up on Wednesday.

One attendee heckled McBride, yelling “You take me for a fool when you lecture me like this! I don’t need a line-by-line explanation. I need to discuss the plans that are affecting my life. All you want to do is let developers run roughshod over Reston!”

Another resident said he was tired of hearing RA say it has not impact on development decisions.

“RA has indicated it has no power to stop this,” said resident Stephen Canner. “The RA Board has to think and act more creatively. You have the power of the bully pulpit. Issue a statement to the public, the supervisors that proposed development DOES NOT provide benefits to its inhabitants. It is not in compliance with basic tenets of Reston’s governing deed. It is time to step up to the plate. Do the right thing:  tell the authorities that this community does not want to development.”

The Fairfax County Planning staff report on the application will be available on Oct. 11. The application is set to go to the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee on Oct. 17 before being presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 26.

Canner also expressed anger at the lack of notice residents’ received concerning previous RA meetings on this topic, including a July meeting of the Design Review Board. He said residents only knew about it six days in advance.

That led RA to pass another resolution Wednesday. Residents will now have 21 days advance notice of on new development and redevelopment information sessions, as well as applications including conceptual plan applications.

Graphics: Rendering of new St. Johns Wood/Credit: Bozzuto

  • cRAzy

    “…RA can take a stand on its opposition, but does not have much power in stopping development, RA’s land use attorney John McBride reminded them on Wednesday.”

    With development advocacy like McBride’s, who needs him–or even RA!

    • Overrunhell

      But, I believe it was RA and McBride that saved Reston National in the courts. Not diminishing Save Reston efforts, but the heavy lifting was in the courts.

      • cRAzy

        Actually, Rescue Reston’s attorney was the lead dog in the preservation of RNGC. RA and the County followed.

        • Overrunhell

          Interesting, not the way I read it. I wonder what Ms. Hartke would say if RA did not participate with their legal prowess? What was Rescue Reston’s attorney’s name?

  • Arielle in NoVA

    tenets, not tenants

  • Arielle in NoVA

    It’s time for Reston to become a town, or the rest of it will go the way of RTC and the Breuer building: whatever the developers and BoS want, they’ll get.

    • vdiv

      A township is not a panacea, but we’ll take it over the predatory county. A good day yesterday.

      • Arielle in NoVA

        Very true, but at least locals would have some chance of control rather than the BoS making the decisions.

  • Reston Realist

    Can someone explain to me how the ARB has no control over this project? I’m sure if it did, we would have heard to what extent…

    I guess my question is: If the ARB has architectural control over how big a deck I can build and what my railing must look like, why cant’t they tell bozzuto that they don’t like their plan because it is too dense and not in keeping with the architecture in the neighborhood.

    • Scott H

      It’s likely they input on paint colors or the mandatory $12 globe light on the porch, but not the actual zoning and project approval

      • UStifosi .

        Just get Bozzuto to do your next refurb and paint job to your house…evidently RA/ARB can’t touch them.

    • chris elsaesser

      The ARB was neutered years ago by people who wanted to paint their houses purple (not making that up) and a couple RA Directors, one who like to wear a t-shirt saying “Peoples Republic of Reston”

      I suggest that we fight for a compromise: move the ingress/egress to Center Harbor and off North Village. Or better, to Reston Avenue for “traffic calming.”

  • Takingthelongview

    The decision by the RA Board to oppose the St. John Woods redevelopment application is a welcome small step in reclaiming control of the destiny of our community. The safety,
    character and property values of Reston are under attack, one developer application at a time. As I sat through the long RA meeting on Wednesday I was both dismayed by the blatant over-reach by the developer, Bozzuto, concerned with the inexplicable (and unrecorded) decision of the Design Review Board, and heartened by the grit and intelligence of neighbors fighting for a fair and open review of the impact of the proposed project.
    It bears repeating that community action is the only weapon, short of litigation, available to Restonians to protect our families, property and quality of life, as our community’s governance structure is being exploited by developers to their greedy, self-serving ends.

  • John Lovaas

    The only way we will truly be the masters of our own future development and many other dimensions of our daily lives is be incorporating as a Town—- a Town with a charter that we get together and shape.
    The RA Board had to be beaten into submission on this issue. Kudos to the SJW neighbors for sticking with it and not letting slip away again. Let’s get a Mayor we elect with a Town Council responsive to us.

  • LeftPolitico

    Yes, RA may not have any direct power in stopping development. And, yes, Reston citizens need to continue to put pressure on the Fairfax County people, particularly Cathy Hudgins. But RA can do far more than express opposition and “send a letter.” During the meeting, citizens offered other steps that RA could be doing and urged RA
    to take them. But the discussion by RA board members after the comment period did not give me a warm feeling that they intend to take any actions other than sending the letter. We need to continue to pressure RA to do far more.

    And what about RA board president Ellen Graves? She holds the board position that is elected by the apartment owners. Her bio on the
    RA website says that she is the “Apartment Owners’ Representative.” Is she the person we want leading the board on the SJW issue when her allegiance by definition is to the developer?

  • chris elsaesser

    will all those new residents be using the North Hills pool, tennis courts and park? It seems that alone should give RA standing. Will the new residents pay RA dues?

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