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Op-Ed: Will Reston’s Village Centers Have Double Residential Density of Ballston?

by RestonNow.com October 20, 2017 at 2:45 pm 50 Comments

This is an op/ed submitted by Terry Maynard, co-chair of the Reston 20/20 committee. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

The County, via its proposed zoning density increases, and developers are already planning for Reston’s Village Centers to become nearly two to three times as densely populated as Arlington County’s major Ballston Transit Station Area (TSA).

The result is astounding given that Ballston is rightly a high-density mixed-use transit-oriented development area served by two Metro lines while Reston’s Village Centers are nowhere near Metro.  Moreover, the recent year-long Reston transportation development effort (RNAG) revealed that Fairfax County explicitly doesn’t plan to enhance local bus transit to serve the Village Centers or our TSAs.

Fairfax County data and US Census 2010 data for Ballston show that, with the exception of Lake Anne Village Center, where a redevelopment plan is already in place, the number of dwelling units (homes) per acre will potentially be at least twice as dense as in Ballston. Moreover, because Fairfax County anticipates a fraction more people in each household, the potential number of residents per acre runs better than two and one-half times that experienced in Ballston.   

At the risk of repeating ourselves, Reston’s Village Centers are intended to be neighborhood-serving gathering places. They are not meant to be transit station areas without the “transit.” According to US Census data, Ballston is the most populous area in Arlington County and the fourth most densely populated (people per acre). The notion that TSA residential densities should be applied in Reston’s Village Centers is preposterous and contradicts everything that the Reston Master Plan says about their development.

The current Reston Master Plan calls for the following in any Village Center redevelopment: “Enhance Village Centers as vibrant neighborhood gathering places; advance excellence in site design and architecture; strengthen connectivity and mobility; [and] protect and respect the surrounding residential neighborhoods.”

Any notion that residential density in excess of 100 people per acre is consistent with these objectives is ludicrous.  

If you don’t want your neighborhood Village Center to be blown up and replaced with one or more 12- to 14-story high-rise apartments or condos, please come to the community meeting on the Reston PRC zoning ordinance on Monday at South Lakes High School. Bring your friends and your children for a major civics lesson on local government. Learn, question, and challenge what you hear. It is our Reston and we must act to protect it by showing our revulsion with this absurd zoning ordinance proposal.  

Terry Maynard, Co-Chair

Reston 20/20 Committee

  • Willie Reston

    Ballston stinks.

    • honestly

      i think its great. if you’re rich connected and liberal

      • The Constitutionalist

        You got half of him right.

      • Nah

        Maybe it’s different now, but I lived there as a not-rich-or-connected grad student and I had a great time. Walked everywhere!

        • TheKingJAK

          The nice thing about Reston is that you can still walk everywhere, but you can do so through woodlands, and fields as well.

  • TRS

    Forgive the pun but the train has already left the station. I’m relatively new to Reston at seven years but am astounded that such a meticulously planned community has blown up this concept in pursuit of hyper development, and, unless I’m missing something, a complete lack of plan to address this growth. I personally don’t mind the growth but am astounded there’s no leadership guiding the next decades for Reston.

    • 40yearsinreston

      With Hudgins and Bulova ‘in charge’ what could possibly go wrong ?
      Planning ? Hudgins cant organize a simple meeting
      She is the one pursueing this hyper development while Plum sits on his backside and lectures us about his version of history

      • Arlene Krieger

        I can’t tell you how many times I contacted Plum on behalf of Reclaim Reston in 2016. I was told over and over again that the SJW Issue and local development was not part of his job. I put his email address on everything I sent out. We never heard from him. What is his job? As for Hudgins, when her term is over the county will pick another candidate just like her to do the bidding of the 1% developers. We need to find a better way for the people of Reston to pick a supervisor who will serve the people, one who will be accountable to us.

    • Ray Wedell

      TRS, as one who has been on “the inside” and tried so often to take things in the direction you suggest, I will say this: You are 100% on point.

      One major problem: there is no incentive for anyone paid by RA or the County to show any initiative or leadership, and they perceive possible negative repercussions in trying to push back, or if they support those who want to push back. That is not going to change. Our choice is simple: follow the independent citizens groups like those fighting this zoning change. Show up on Monday night. Override the bureaucracy and naysayers.

  • 40yearsinreston

    Hudgins is turning Reston into an urban jungle full of take away chicken joints
    The pawn shops will soon follow

    • JoAnne Norton

      Actually Reston could do with a good thrift store even though the Closet is not far away. J Crew like store could be good.

      • The Constitutionalist

        I’m fairly certain, if Reston needed a good thrift store and a void in the market existed, someone would start one.

    • Yum

      Mmmmm, Chik Fil A….

  • Constitutional Conservative

    Hopefully Reston can become as dense.

  • Donald

    Does (or will) the Reston Association Board take a stand on this?

    What is their official position?

    Will they present their position Monday evening?

    Donald

    • 40yearsinreston

      my comment their “official position” won’t pass the new comment policy

      • Donald

        One of the RA board’s primary responsibilities, as laid out by its governing documents, is to:

        “Interpret, administer, and enforce the protective covenants and restrictions of this Deed in such a manner as to CONSERVE, PROTECT, AND ENHANCE THE VALUE OF ALL REAL PROPERTY SUBJECT TO THE DEED”

        The RA board utilizes its Design Review Board to enforce these Covenants.

        The Village Centers are subject to the Deed. Massing comes under the jurisdiction of the DRB.

        It’s time the RA board takes a stand, and wields its enforcement arm in front of the County and the Developers.

        Donald

        • Ray Wedell

          Donald….we all know the facts….they are never going to take any real stand. Your last paragraph is correct. The people just need to directly rally against all of this, as the people are doing on Monday night at SLHS, sans RA. That is your working model.

          • Donald

            It would be nice to leverage the might, and the clout, of the RA Membership via their DRB.

            Every new Village Center redevelopment will have to go through the DRB as a part of the approval process.

            The Governing Documents can be used by the Membership, to their advantage.

            Donald

          • Ray Wedell

            Hi Donald.

            I agree. Of course what you say is true. I argued that point so many times on so may different issues, and did have occasional success. But more often than not, I was bashed for not being a “team player” (translation: A Group-thinker) who was incapable of playing nicely in the RA sandbox. And the new “Ethics Policy” being bandied about will make it even less likely that anyone in the future will seriously go against the status quo. Collegiality is the new buzz word.

            We are less than 48 hours from the fourth meeting on this development proposal being brought before us at SLHS. It is OBVIOUS what the right position is to take. It is OBVIOUS what most citizens believe and want to happen. But procedurally, according to whatever warped bureaucratic mentality drives their decision-making, RA has not made ANY stand on this. Leadership? You are just not going to get it from them. If their support comes late, accept it as them being a potentially powerful follower, but never concede “leadership” to them.

            For the record, I agree with you, and fought on the side you mention on many, many occasions, only to be shot down. “Leveraging the might….” is what SHOULD be done, but they simply do not act with that as a paramount guiding principle; and won’t. If people haven’t internalized the passion to do what is right, they won’t fight the good fight for you to the bitter end. And isn’t that what you want and need?

          • Donald

            Has anyone ever discussed this with the nine board members of the DRB? The heck with the RA board.

            Donald

          • Donald

            They need to rally, en masse, at the next DRB meeting!!

            Donald

          • Greg

            How effective was the DRB in dealing with AirBnB rentals in Reston?

            What enforcement tools does the DRB have to halt by right or county-approved development?

          • Donald

            The RA board and it’s DRB should express their concern and willingness to fight any changes to present zoning parameters.

            They need to do this officially as quickly as possible.

            They should argue any redevelopment, under existing zoning, of Village Centers, will be subject to extensive scrutiny. They need to share what the Reston governing documents state with regard to their ability to interpret massing and adhering to harmonious integration of the surrounding neighborhoods.

            This is one of RA’s best weapons.

            Donald

          • Greg

            Are those answers to my questions?

          • Donald

            Per the Deed, any changes or alterations to PRC property must be approved by the DRB.

            Has the RA board done good job utilizing this authority? NO.

            Can they? YES

            RA’s Members need to remind the RA board of its responsibilities. Loudly, if necessary. Go directly to the DRB board as well.

            Donald

          • Greg

            So the DRB doesn’t approve this or that and developer / homeowner does it anyway. Then what?

            And let’s not forget that the DRB approved VY — that which is quickly turning into a hideous eyesore along Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive.

          • Donald

            I think we all agree the RA Board has done an abysmal job of utilizing its DRB authority. But the deed does give RA legal jurisdiction, via the DRB.

            Yes, a developer might decide to take RA to court if the DRB did not approve a project, but that would be one hell of a visible battle for the grass roots efforts here, and a political nightmare for the county.

            Unfortunately, this RA board has been silent.

            Donald

          • Terry Maynard

            Actually, within its constraints, the DRB has done a good job of late in trying to assure that redevelopment within RA’s purview is consistent with the Reston Deed and Articles. Saint Johns Wood is an excellent example.

          • Donald

            Agree. So take that example and wield the DRB sword high. RA should take a stand — adhere to Reston’s guiding principles or be subject to its authority to stop the project.

            Donald

          • Greg

            All the DRB can do is approve or deny proposed exterior changes to lots subject to the Reston deed. It can do no more.

            The RA board can place a lien against a property with an alleged violation, but it rarely does that and has rarely, if ever, done more than that. The lien may (or may not) do no more than delay future transfers or encumbrances on the parcel.

            Moreover, the RA already spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees (and many thousands more on admin fees) — we all agree that’s been a wasteful expense benefitting no one.

            All the more reason why we should kill the RA and incorporate into a town or city.

          • Donald

            Well, by the time you get your “town” or “city” the developers will have run through Reston on their way westward.

            The DRB has a tremendous amount of leeway to approve large projects based on massing and how the project works, or fits, with its surrounding neighborhoods.

            For a project to reach final Board of Supervisors approval on PRC land — it requires DRB approval.

            Has the RA Board taken any public stand to demonstrate their willingness to fight? Unfortunately, very little.

            Do the RA Board and the DRB need to demonstrate their will and courage to defend our land? Absolutely.

            Can the Membership make sure the RA Board and the DRB gather their will and courage? Absolutely.

            Should the large crowd gathering this evening demand RA take a stand, with commitments to leverage every bit of legal authority available to them? Absolutely

            Donald

          • Greg

            Blah; blah, blah. You keep droning on about what ifs.

            And, once again, look at VY for the work of the DRB. #doomed.

            Good luck with your DRB pals — the BoS does not need their approval.

          • Donald

            Fair enough Greg.

            Just throwing out ideas.

            Donald

          • Greg
  • JoAnne Norton

    I have heard Hunters Woods Village Center condemned on social media. ” I never go there.”I have seen one online newspaper actually misrepresent crime stats about it was being higher and they were much lower. People really seem prejudiced toward it even though their advocacy group has done a great job improving it. A nice apartments over stores here would be great or a high rise. Change people’s attitudes. We definitely not like we were in the ’70s and not as Bob Simon thought we would be. Terry Maynard, is Hunters Woods a gathering place?

    • Chuck Morningwood

      Where are people to gather? The parking lot?

      It’s odd that, in order to access the two truly public aspects of HWSC — RCC and the square immediately in front of it– you must walk behind the row of shops. In short, if you didn-t know those spaces were there, you might not even find them from a casual trip to HWSC.

    • Greg

      No, it’s a privately owned strip shopping center.

    • Terry Maynard

      It is supposed to be. Right now, as Greg notes, it’s a shopping center. Hopefully, the true sense of Bob Simon’s village center can be re-established there.

      • Donald

        Mr. Maynard. Like it or not, property owners can, “by right,” do whatever they want as long as the zoning permits it. Right now, on the books, significant redevelopment is already allowed.

        One factor that can be a significant thorn in Village Center Redevelopment is the Reston Association Design Review Board, as these properties are subject to DRB approval.

        The county is just placating with its own meetings.

        Why aren’t any of these grass roots groups meeting directly with RA, and more specifically, its DRB?

        Donald

        • Terry Maynard

          “…property owners can, ‘by right,’ do whatever they want as long as the zoning permits it.”

          Donald–this is exactly right, as far as it goes. The zoning ordinance puts limits on density of development, but the type of development is equally guided by the Comp Plan. So, for example, the Reston plan says that village center redevelopment should be guided by Reston’s vision and planning principles. Here’s what the planning principles say:

          “The Village Centers are important community gathering spaces that include a mix of neighborhood-serving retail and service uses, integrated with accessory office, institutional and residential uses. Redevelopment to augment and enhance the village centers will be pedestrian-oriented, should include a plaza as a central element and provide adequate transition to surrounding neighborhoods. Convenient public transportation options should link the village centers and the transit stations.”

          That’s much more than just another strip mall shopping center. In theory, village centers are much more–but the County routinely ignores its own plan guidance.

          • Donald

            Actually, I think you and I are in agreement.

            Unfortunately, I don’t see the RA board stepping up.

            Donald

    • TheKingJAK

      Let’s build another Winterthur, that would make it better.

  • JoAnne Norton

    Hold your horses and lower the anger to let Hudgins speak. I am sure she had heard you.

    • TheKingJAK

      She already has her mind made up, and the only way to change that is to be unwavering and aggressive with protest.

  • Ray Wedell

    The County officials and our own “representative” to the Board of Supervisors have no respect for the Village Center concept. I really did not get to know Bob Simon until very late in his life, but the one thing he was always passionate about was how the Village Center concept was destroyed when he had to sell out to Gulf in the 1960’s (they became shopping centers). He had a romantic vision of town squares, and areas designed after certain European cities (Madrid and Barcelona come to mind).

    We all know times change. And while I am often accused of a Don Quixote mentality, I realize that new times augur for adjusted solutions. HOWEVER, with today’s outstanding architects and great minds, I have no doubt that we could do a hell of a lot better than what the County is suggesting (in their minds there is only one equation: more units=more tax revenue). And in the process of unleashing creative artistic minds with a flair for history and yes, a little romance, we could probably create Village Centers that become enormously successful and appealing to the community.

    But then again, you can always have Ballston II.

    Restonians…..show up….Monday October 23 at 7:00 pm at SLHS. wear yellow. Ciao.

    • TheKingJAK

      To be fair, Gulf built Reston. That beautiful ice rink at RTC? My neighbor was the architect behind that, and he worked for Gulf.

  • Voters cant be wrong

    Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post is claiming that density breaching 800 people per sq mile results in a democratic voter base. So what could be wrong?

  • Ray Wedell

    I apologize to Terry Maynard for being late with this note: once again, a great piece, Terry. Thank you for enlightening us and helping to drive the community. Your team is doing a fantastic job.

    • Terry Maynard

      Thanks, Ray.

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