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Residents, Bozzuto Once Again Square Off as St. Johns Wood Saga Continues

by Dave Emke — April 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm 24 Comments

The last time North Point residents addressed Bozzuto about the developer’s proposed St. Johns Wood redevelopment, the catchphrase was “size matters.”

At Monday night’s meeting of the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee meeting, the message was tweaked — with a nod to Johnnie Cochran.

“In order for the developer to pack in the desired density, to squeeze in nearly double the current number of units and who knows how many residents, the developer again proposes a design that simply does not fit,” said Linda Platt, one of several members of Reclaim Reston who spoke in succession in a coordinated effort to fight the latest proposal. “And if it does not fit, they must quit.”

That rhyming phrase was repeated throughout Platt’s statement and was invoked by other speakers as well as community members had the chance to speak in response to Bozzuto during the latest informational meeting on the proposal. Bozzuto was presenting to the Planning & Zoning Committee for the sixth time since the project was first proposed in 2014; tonight, the proposal goes before Reston’s Design Review Board for the sixth time as well.

Brian Winterhalter of Cooley LLP, the commercial real-estate attorney presenting the plan on behalf of Bozzuto, told the committee Monday that the proposal to put 481 mid-rise multifamily units within two buildings is suitable for a property that was originally marked in the Reston Master Plan for high-density development.

There are currently 250 multifamily units on the 14.3-acre property.

The redevelopment proposal features 33.6 units per acre, which classifies it as medium-density. Winterhalter said the proposal is for about 60 percent one-bedroom units, with a third of the units having two-bedrooms and only about 5 percent with three bedrooms.

The issue that continued to raise the most questions from members of the Planning & Zoning Committee is the possibility of increased traffic congestion in the area, particularly at the intersection of Reston Parkway and Center Harbor Road. Jake Hovermale, the committee’s first associate member, said no matter what traffic figures are provided that claim there will be little impact, he has a hard time believing there won’t be backups.

“Anywhere between the a.m. peak hours and the p.m. peak hours, there’s an increase in trips [into and out of St. Johns Wood] between 240 percent and 280 percent,” Hovermale said, citing information in the proposal’s traffic study. “I just don’t see how you can increase it by that many trips, and have the infrastructure that exists today, [and] not really piss people off.”

Winterhalter countered by saying there is already a large amount of traffic flowing through the intersection of Reston Parkway and Center Harbor Road today without any congestion. Adding a relatively small percentage of traffic from the complex, he said, would not affect that flow adversely.

But John Mooney, speaking on behalf of the Hampton Pointe Condo Association, claimed the traffic study used for the proposal was “inadequate” and “flawed.”

“[The traffic study used by Bozzuto] uses 2020 as their time horizon and seriously narrows their inquiry’s geographical scope,” he said. “It fails to consider the traffic impact on the SJW area of all future development in the three Metro station areas.”

Residents also continued to express their concerns about the overall height and mass of the project. Winterhalter showed images of medium- and high-density residential structures at Lake Anne, Tall Oaks, Hunters Woods, South Lakes and even elsewhere in North Point, and once again said St. Johns Wood is classified for such development under the Reston Comprehensive Plan, which was modified in 2014 and 2015. In addition, he said, the proposed height of the redevelopment is comparable to that of current buildings at the apartment complex.

Dabney Narvaez, though, was among the residents who spoke to say this development does not fit within the quaint surrounding neighborhood, and that all of Reston should be paying attention to what happens.

“You are setting a precedent which will affect not just the immediate neighborhood, but all of Reston,” she said. “Any residential area in Reston will be fair game for development of the kind Bozzuto is proposing here.”

The proposal is set to go before the Planning & Zoning Committee and the Design Review Board again next month, on May 15 and 16. A Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing on the project remains scheduled for May 25.

  • The Constitutionalist

    Everything will be fine if we just install more bike lanes!

    • Scott

      Or just paint sharrows, because the Leslie Knope, local govt smartniks think painting bike icons in the middle of the road will magically make people ride bikes instead of driving, which is the job and gospel of govt smartniks!

      BTW, the above was a direct quote from a wire-rimmed spectacled smartnik at the first community meeting on Reston bike lanes.

    • Greg

      Methinks that rerouting the silver line up that way will solve all that ills Reston. I mean, who wouldn’t just love an elevated train running up and down Reston Parkway? We, too, can be like Tysons!

      • vdiv

        Don’t give them any ideas, a Metro spur on VA-7 or FCP to Sterling has probably already been considered.

    • 30yearsinreston

      More Hudgin’s Charrretes

      They give the illusion of participation

      • Greg

        Maybe Cathy Hudgins has given up Charrettes? After all, many tens of millions, if not over a hundred million dollars by now, have been “invested” in Lake Anne and not so much as a spade of earth has yet to be turned. And, let’s not forget this redevelopment effort at Brutalist Lake Anne goes back to the Bob Dix and Martha Peninno regimes.

  • LaffyTaffy

    Money money money. They’re trying to maximize profits which all companies do. Hopefully with the help of Reclaim Reston, Bozzuto will be forced to adjust their plans before that area becomes FUBAR.

    • North Reston Guest

      Why is it wrong for a developer to develop the land per the comprehensive plan the county put in place? They took substantial risk buying and spending money on development that is allowed per the law. They aren’t doing anything wrong.

      • South Reston Guest

        I would venture to say that residents who are opposing it are doing nothing wrong either.

        • Heh

          Other than wearying everyone’s ears with stupid rhymes that only prove how old they are.

          • Takingthelongview

            Oh brother.. perhaps it is you who missed 2016. By any chance did you hear about the Emmy award winning series The People v. O.J. Simpson?
            More importantly, don’t despair for the St. Johns Wood owners. They were active in placing the conditions in the Comprehensive Plan that they are now struggling to meet in order to redevelop the property, with a higher density and a massive, three football field-long, five story urban design. Massive re-development could be on its way to your neighborhood too if the North Point folks are not successful in insisting that the SJW developer comply. Ms. Platt is right: it does not fit, Bozzuto should quit!

      • Reston Realist

        You are kidding, right? They bought that property with the understanding that they need all the appropriate approvals. These interlopers are not being mistreated, but rather are encountering some of the substantial risks which you are referring to.

  • North Point Neighbor

    More importantly, the traffic study fails to take into account the future redevelopment of North Point Village Center. Piecemeal redevelopment will be the death of Reston.

    • Mike M

      Oh? I thought Reston died in 2016. But, hey, I am that way with celebrities too.

      One thing I do know, lots of celebrities checked out last year.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Sorry, but your comment fails to take into account the upcoming cure for all our traffic woes.

      Bike lanes!

  • Ann O’Nymous

    I have a hard time telling how much of this is North Reston not-in-my-backyard type objections, and how much is Bozzuto being cute in the way that Boston Properties are mis-handling the parking debacle in RTC. The North Point strip mall could do with an infusion of young adults with disposable income. If Reston calcifies into a bunch of old people who’ve lived there since Bob Simon invited them in it ceases to be Reston after all. It’s a community for people of all ages and income levels. On the other hand, Bozzuto do need to think critically about traffic and noise and not rely on their own positive estimates.

    FD: I used to live in SJW.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Is Reston truly a community of all income levels?

      • Ann O’Nymous

        Not really, certainly not in the sense of Section 8 cheek by jowl to McMansions. But then (Bob Simon notwithstanding) it never really was. But it was quite successful at having a good range within the middle-class bracket: young professionals in apartments next door to families with school age kids next to aging hippies in quaint million dollar houses they bought in 1975 next to our military-industrial complex overlords in their super-$ houses. My point is that making it harder for young adults to put down roots in Reston ultimately dooms the place.

        • Greg

          There are plenty of $1500 a month apartments and $200k condos available in Reston. And, of course, section 8 units everywhere for the youngest to oldest with more on the way. For example: North and South Gate, Shadowood, Parc Reston, even North Point Villas.

        • The Constitutionalist

          Unfortunately, as much as we all hate new development here in our little Northern Virginia sanctuary, the only thing making it harder for young adults to put down roots in Reston is our very hatred of redevelopment.

          Reston was doomed the second we decided to try and force our imagination upon supply and demand.

          It’s growing more expensive because it can’t grow fast enough.

          • Donald

            Hopefully not everyone is against redevelopment. In my humble opinion, it’s a necessity for any community to sustain itself. Renewing housing and multifamily stock makes sense as long as it’s done well and within prescribed guidelines. Historic districts may make sense when and if applicable.

            What does concern me in Reston, is the potential threat to our open spaces.

            Donald.

    • Amy Sue

      Don’t get your logic. Why would redeveloping SJW’s lead to an infusion of young adults? And especially young adults with disposable income as you describe them. There are plenty of options for young adults in Reston now. And if you are a young adult with disposable income, you have even more options. My opposition to SJW has nothing to do with ageism. It has to do with putting a large development in an area where it does not fit.

  • restonresident

    I live in North Point not that far from SJW. Have not followed this topic that closely but if the Fairfax County comprehensive plan allows for redevelopment it should go forward. The community has the right to provide input but not to prevent it.
    We do need options for young adults to live in Reston and to keep on revitalizing the community otherwise we turn into a retirement community.

    • takingthelongview

      The Comprehensive Plan places conditions on the possibility of increasing the density of the St. Johns Wood property. So the point is not that the Comprehensive Plan “allows for redevelopment” but instead, that in order to redevelop the SJW property with twice the current density Bozzuto must demonstrate that all those conditions are met, plus those of the Reston Deed and the Reston Redevelopment Guidelines. The tall, massive, urban style structures Bozzuto proposed pretty obviously are not meeting those requirements.
      We all understand that smart, compatible redevelopment is important to keep Reston vital. But, the plans proposed by Bozzuto simply have not complied architecturally, environmentally, or by sheer mass. Bozzutto’s inability or refusal to put forward a plan that meets the requirements is what prevents this redevelopment. The community has every right to insist that Bozzuto fully comply.

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