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Fairfax County Official in Kojo Nnamdi Segment: “We Can’t Stop Development”

by Fatimah Waseem November 16, 2017 at 11:30 am 19 Comments

A zoning change to allow for more development and accommodate population growth was discussed during The Kojo Nnamdi show Wednesday — a conversation that painted the ongoing issue as a microcosm of a perennial debate on how to manage development, growth and public infrastructure.

Leslie Johnson, zoning administrator for Fairfax County, said the zoning change, which would increase the population density per acre from 13 to 16, along with a host of other changes that implement the Reston Master Plan, a planning document that lays out the vision for the area, said Fairfax County officials are working hard to ensure development matches the pace of public infrastructure.

She also noted the county is aware of the need to preserve already stable residential neighborhoods that surround areas along the Metro that are targeted for growth.

“We can’t stop development waiting for the roads to be built,” Johnson said, adding that the county recently developed a funding plan for road infrastructure and developers are helping in tandem.

Johnson noted that the zoning change was consistent with master plans adopted in 2014 and 2015. She also said she was encouraged by vehement opposition that surfaced in two community meetings earlier this year.

“It’s a good sign that people are engaged because we get criticized for not engaging enough. I think peoples’ voices need to be heard,” she said.

Nimbyism is not the rallying point for people opposed to the zoning change, according to some residents.

Terry Maynard, co-chair of Reston 20/20, a citizen activist group that is against the proposal, said many people are opposed to the scope of development, not development itself.

Absent adequate public infrastructure for current residents, allowing more population density in pockets in Reston damages residents’ quality of life. He also noted projections about population increases as a result of the zoning change do not account for growth from affordable housing units and bonus density allowed for some developments.

“The Reston Master plan is very weak in defining infrastructure needs for the community in sharp contrast for a similarly-prepared plan for the Tysons area,” he said.

The cart-before-the-house argument has been echoed in community meetings.

But, to some extent, the zoning change is an exercise in how open communities are to change, especially as the county is in “a state of transition” in anticipation of Metro, which the county has been preparing for for the last 20 years, Johnson said.

Amendments to the zoning change are expected. The county is leaving the board with the flexibility to determine what population density between 13 and 16 per acre is most feasible, she said. Johnson also said the county was open to changing the maximum number of residential units allowed per acre.

A round of public hearings are expected to begin early next year.

Virginia, unlike Maryland, is a conditional zoning state, which means it lacks the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, a mechanism that attempts to manage growth by ensuring adequate roads, schools and public facilities are in place as development occurs. APFO laws vary by state and county.

A complete recording of the show is available online

  • Willie Reston

    “Virginia, unlike Maryland, is a conditional zoning state, which means it lacks the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, a mechanism that attempts to manage growth by ensuring adequate roads, schools and public facilities are in place as development occurs.”

    Well, there’s the problem right there.

    • BDW

      Yep, see Houston for a potential nightmare scenario.

      Of course the counter-argument to such regulations is:

      FREEEEDOMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!

    • Axis of Density

      According to a study some years back a given constituency is likely to vote Democrat if the number of people exceeds 800 per square mile.

      So what’s wrong, Willie?

      • Willie Reston

        What’s wrong is your inability to bring a relevant argument to the table. Reston’s density is already at 3,800 per square mile, so are you saying we should downsize Reston’s population by a factor of five so that Republicans can maybe stand a better chance?

        Also, your comment a total non sequitur.

  • jak1232140450

    “We can’t stop development waiting for the roads to be built” – Actually, you can by NOT increasing the density. The developers who want/need to build immediately can do it at the current density standards, the ones who don’t can wait until the appropriate infrastructure is built/accommodated for and the density limits are then raised.

    Since the whole reason for the concern is an active change that the county is making, it is definitely within their control.

    I am not opposed to growth (I generally like the new businesses that are coming to the area around the metro stations, and would like more walkable urban areas along the DTR corridor) but the county is clearly talking out of both sides of their mouth here and many residents won’t want to stay in the area if schools are overcrowded and congestion is unbearable.

  • OneReally

    “Johnson said, adding that the county recently developed a funding plan for road infrastructure”

    Sounds like the Reston Special Tax District to me.

    “But, to some extent, the zoning change is an exercise in how open
    communities are to change, especially as the county is in “a state of
    transition” in anticipation of Metro, which the county has been
    preparing for for the last 20 years, Johnson said.”

    We had rail to DC over 100 years ago. It went out of business when the automobile gained favor. Only different now is the government (via our pockets) is keeping the Metro afloat.

  • Scott

    Actually Leslie, the country CAN stop development. Do your job and build more toll road crossings in Reston to coincide with the increase in the tax base.

    Greedy politicians and administrators looking for more tax revenue to control are not looking out for constituents/residents.

  • JoeInReston

    The Fairfax BOS and their advisors would have us believe that they can’t get funding for infrastructure in anticipation of development. The process forces them into a Field of Dreams approach – develop it and the funding for infrastructure will come.

    If correct, its an awful way to do urban planning. Perhaps this is then a state matter – why is the Va process for funding infrastructure so suboptimal? Why can’t Fairfax County get the funding to develop infrastructure to meet the upcoming development. These are questions for Ken Plum and Terry McAuliffe.

    • Why do you bother?

      The Field of Dreams analogy is more appropriate than you think: If we build it, they WILL come – and be stuck in horrendous gridlock for lack of supporting infrastructure. Roads first. THEN development.

    • FollowtheMoney

      And State Senator Janet Howell, a longtime recipient of generous developer campaign cash.

  • Why do you bother?

    “We can’t stop development waiting for the roads to be built,”

    Yes, we can. And MUST.

    • OneReally

      Radical idea, but if the developers want to redevelop parts of the area.
      Then can upgrade the existing infrastructure (roads, schools, electrical grid, etc). If they don’t want to then the application isn’t approved.

      We as the taxpayers shouldn’t have to clean up their mess.

      • Why do you bother?

        Exactly.

  • RoadApples

    I support Reston becoming a mini Manhattan.

    • Mike M

      Better yet, move to Manhattan.

  • TheKingJAK

    Doesn’t anybody ever pause to ask themselves why areas such as Great Falls, where many of the developers live, never seem to have issues with overcrowding?

  • Mike M

    “We can’t stop development waiting for the roads to be built,”

    1) Actually, you can.
    2) If you think you can’t, then you are right. Think differently.
    3) These un-elected unaccountable “administrators” do not work for the people. For whom do they work?

  • Chuck Morningwood

    A vote for Morningwood is a vote against new development.

  • Don R

    Remember Evans Farm Inn?

    You could have stopped development. Unzoned, unbridled development is one of the most underrated devastators facing the world.

    Unless humanity is destroyed by a pathogen (possible) or an asteroid (highly unlikely), it will be destroyed by unchecked greed.

    Do I sound Looney Tunes? If so, put down your copy of “Atlas Shrugged,” educate yourself as much as you possibly can, about as many things as you have time for, and stop being so damned selfish.

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