The open-house format for third public meeting on a proposed change to the population density cap in Reston’s Planned Residential Community District was not met favorably by Restonians.
The Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning came to Lake Anne Elementary School last night to once again address citizens about the proposal, which would bump the overall limit on people per acre in Reston’s PRC from 13 to 16. It would also allow for the Board of Supervisors to be able to approve individual developments in excess of 50 dwelling units per acre in TSAs within the PRC and when in accordance with Comprehensive Plan recommendations.
When they heard Wednesday’s meeting would not feature further public discussion of the plan, but rather the opportunity for attendees to ask individual questions of staff around the cafeteria, residents were displeased.
“Why can’t you change the format?” a resident shouted. The remark was echoed with calls including “It’s our meeting!” and “You work for us!”
Fred Selden, the director of the county DPZ, said staff believed the format would be a better opportunity for residents to ask specific questions about the plan. He said that at previous meetings, residents who spoke were spending a lot of time straying from the issue at hand.
“There have been opportunities for people to ask questions and also opportunities for people to make statements,” Selden said. “Quite frankly, a lot of the questions did not deal with the zoning ordinance that’s being proposed.”
Residents argued that if comments aren’t being made in front of the whole group, they aren’t useful to the overall discussion of the plan. Staff eventually agreed to a short period at the end of the meeting to reconvene and share thoughts.
Residents who spoke up during Wednesday’s meeting said the up to 25,000 additional people the change would potentially bring would choke infrastructure in Reston. Cathy Belgin of the county DPZ’s Zoning Administration Division said the amendment itself is not about approving new development.
“We are not proposing development; we are adjusting the rules such that development would not be inhibited from going through an approval process,” she said. “When any developments go through that process, the issues of traffic and open space are part of the analysis.”
Only one public meeting and a Reston Planning & Zoning public information session had originally been set by the county. Wednesday night’s meeting was later added. Belgin said staff would consider arranging a fourth meeting at a later date.
“Based on people’s availability that gets more limited in the summer, I think we would have to decide [to do that] quickly,” she said. “We would probably need to accommodate it in June.”
The current desired timeline for DPZ on the zoning ordinance amendment is to bring the plan before the Board of Supervisors in July, followed by a Planning Commission public hearing in September and the Board public hearing in October.
Belgin said it is no shock that people in Reston have been so outspoken about the proposal.
“The citizens of Reston have always been very devoted to the community and to what is important to them about it,” she said. “Having a strong reaction to proposals to change that in a way that they are concerned about isn’t surprising. We’ve been trying to reach out accordingly to make sure not only that we get our message out, but we get the comments back from the folks as far as having their voices heard.”
Anyone who did not attend the meeting but who has comments on the plan can make them at the county DPZ website.
Reston PRC map courtesy Fairfax County