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DRB Again Expresses Displeasure With Massing of St. Johns Wood Proposal

by Dave Emke July 26, 2017 at 11:30 am 14 Comments

Representatives of Bozzuto Group again brought a presentation about redevelopment of St. Johns Wood to Reston’s Design Review Board during a work session Tuesday.

Again, DRB members expressed the same concerns — too big.

Tuesday’s one-hour session was the latest in a long series of meetings about the proposed redevelopment of the North Reston residential community. After the project was deferred in April, the redevelopers brought new sketches to the DRB as they continue to work toward adding dwelling units to the property.

The previous proposal that had been brought for consideration featured featured 481 multifamily units within two buildings on the 14.3-acre North Point property. Two options presented by architectural firm KTGY at Tuesday’s session reconfigured the buildings and brought the number of units down to 441 or 454.

One option features a street between the two buildings, while the other has a central tree grove.

After the 20-minute presentation, members of the DRB panel shared their thoughts. The massing of the project remained a major hangup for the group, as it was in April and before. Members of the DRB asked if there is any way the developers can lower their threshold for the number of units they need on the property.

“You might have chopped off a unit here or a unit there, but these are still 450-whatever-plus units,” said Richard Newlon, DRB vice chair. “If we’re going to get anywhere with this, we have to talk turkey here and say ‘Where’s your cutoff point?’ If 450 is absolutely the smallest you can make it and still make a profit out of this project, then we’ve got a real problem.”

Some members of the panel said they would be more comfortable with the proposal if the developers would consider breaking the massing into several smaller buildings, such as what is currently on the property. Rohit Anand, of KTGY, said that may not be feasible, considering the use of parking structures in the property plan.

“People want parking in proximity to their home, and these schemes provide that,” Anand said, adding that creating smaller parking garages for each unit is also not desirable.

Brian Winterhalter, of Cooley LLP, representing Bozzuto, asked the panel if they could make a determination on what is more important to address — the height of the buildings or the overall footprint.

“It seemed like your concern was that you would prefer it to have less footprint,” Winterhalter said. “There’s only so much we can do in terms of narrowing the footprint and reducing the height at the same time.”

In response, DRB members said the concern was more about scale and overall size, not specifically about height or footprint. Winterhalter later said if some specific parameters of acceptability could be provided by DRB, the developer could begin moving in that direction.

Ken Kneuven, DRB lay member, said someone will have to break before an agreement can ever happen.

“One side or the other is going to have to give,” he said, imploring the developer to figure out how much it can do to move toward more common ground. “Otherwise we’re going to have another workshop and another workshop and continue to waste your time [and ours].”

The work session was recorded and will be made available on Reston Association’s YouTube channel this week.

  • Grrrrrr

    “Ken Kneuven, DRB lay member,”

    Oh gawd, Ken Connivin’ is still allowed to have anything to do with the RA after the Tetra fiasco? There should be a permanent ban on him showing his face in any kind of RA meeting after he helped saddle us with that white elephant.

    • Drip

      Agreed… Kneuven has no credibility and should be essentially persona non grata from any type of leadership position in Reston. He was, after all, the Tetra ringleader.

      • LeftPolitico

        Absolutely. If the Tetra review had been allowed to look into unethical behavior, the expectation would have been that Kneuven would be the poster boy. Please, other DRB members, listen to him only at your peril.

      • 40yearsinreston

        Is he the bright spark who said that 4 storey buildings impart a ‘canyon’ atmosphere

  • Donald

    Kudos to the DRB for standing firm. Looks like this is headed to the BOS.


  • Donald

    Anyone aware of any precedent here — when there is deadlock between the developer and the DRB? I assume the BOS ultimately makes the call.


    • cRAzy

      No. The developer needs RA (& DRB) approval before moving to the County level before consideration. The only option would be a probably unsuccessful law suit challenging the DRB’s decision on the premise that the developer has the legal right to build at a particular high density (Dillon Rule bullshit)–which ignores the many architectural, environmental, and other concerns the DRB still has.

      • Donald

        Thanks… are you aware if this has occurred in the past?

      • OldHunters Wood

        DRB approval is needed, but NOT RA’s.

        • Donald

          Thanks for the clarification. Assuming this is the case, has a developer ever challenged the DRB in court? I have to think the County BOS would likely find a way to edge into the conversation as well.

          Looks to me RA may need to prepare for potential court costs. Hence, another question: Would this RA board pressure the DRB to give in — to avoid a lawsuit?


      • TheKingJAK

        RA certainly has jurisdiction over this development.

  • 40yearsinreston

    The DRB are self centered bullies with no architectural or design qualifications
    They are paper tigers who will flee at the first challenge to their opinions and just pick on individual homeowners.
    If you are feeeling sleepy ot masochistic look at a video of their ‘deliberations’
    Even the scribes look bored

    they are an an anachronism of the 60s which only serve as a facade of community input
    Hudgins and the BOSare the only ones wirh planning powers

    They should be dispensed with forthright

    • cRAzy

      Again, 40Years, I don’t have any idea what rock you’ve been hiding/buried under for all that time. 2 DRB members are full-time licensed architects and the RA Deed specifies that several must be “lay” members. And, if you’ve ever looked at a rendering or plan, you’ll know that they have the power to put you to sleep in a second. It takes real concentration to wade through the bullshit to get to the central issues.

      Right now, they are protecting us from Bozzuto’s grandiose schemes for SJW. I only hope they take on other development with the same vigor–including the redevelopment of Tall Oaks and possibly other village centers.

  • gtvoegele

    There is no cluster anywhere close to 481 units in North Reston. The DRB stuck to their principles and pressed Bozzuto to reduce the scale of its plans. Our community has voiced concern over and over about problems that we think will result from such a massive project. Kudos to the DRB!


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