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Op-Ed: A Look at the Numbers

by RestonNow.com September 11, 2018 at 1:30 pm 64 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.

Reston’s future lies largely in the numbers that define the county’s plan for Reston’s transit station areas (TSAs)–the areas roughly within a half-mile of each Metro station.  The results of looking at those numbers are shocking, but not really surprising.

The Board of Supervisors-approved Reston Master Plan calls for 44,000 dwelling units (DUs) in Reston’s TSAs, virtually all of which will be high-rise (“elevator”), high-density DUs–condos and apartments.  

County planning assumes 2.1 people will live in each high-rise, high-density DU.

Put together, that means a potential population of 92,400 people in Reston’s station areas.   That’s without any affordable housing “bonuses” or development waiver approvals or other uncounted DUs or people, a frequent fact of life in Fairfax County.  

When the Reston Master Plan Task Force was working on a new plan for the station areas, the county provided several different numbers for the actual acreage of the study area.  These ranged from 1,232 acres (1.925 square miles) to 1,683 acres (2.630 square miles) of land in Reston’s TSAs.  The county provided no explanation for the range of values.

Dividing the number of people by the acreage, the resulting number is somewhere between 55 and 75 per acre.  On a square mile basis, that Reston TSA density is between 35,200 and 48,000 persons per square mile (pers/SM). 

According to Wikipedia, Manhattan has a density of 26,403 pers/SM.  That makes the planned population of Reston’s TSAs at least one-third denser than and potentially nearly twice as dense as Manhattan is today.  

Wikipedia adds that Manhattan’s residential density “makes it the densest of any American municipality with a population above 100,000.”  And Reston’s TSA population may well exceed that 100,000 number if the county continues its bonus and waiver giveaways to developers.

I don’t think anyone who lives in Reston thinks that two square miles of super-density in Reston’s TSAs cutting through the middle of our community is consistent with any definition of preserving, much less improving, Reston’s quality of life. And the county has no meaningful plans or means to meet the infrastructure requirements of this population or the needs of the surrounding Reston community.

  • James

    Eh, I’m fine with it contained around the toll road. It will be like a better Arlington eventually. I feel like you’re more worried about property values sinking, but again in Arlington the houses behind the high-rises have only grown in value. Let us embrace the future and we will all reap the benefits.

    • Hey James

      I dont think it’s a question whether you like it or not. Incidently you re one of the very few that I talked to who is fine with this. Great.

      However, most people are more.upset over the fact that the county did not give us much voice when we told them otherwise. Also, people are upset how the county ignored the master plan.

      Lastly, people are also not happy with how things were planned because they were not. And a whole list of things come to mind, mostly related to infrastructure.

      Anyways, just based on your past responses and the feedback you ve received – my guess, trolling?

      • James

        I only troll those that think Hudgins is a witch and out to steal their souls. Seriously though, what did everyone expect when the Metro was being built? For it to service the handful of people that live out in Reston? The world is growing and we need to work to accommodate them and this is a good plan.

        • Mike M

          Yes. We must all bow to metro because, . . . it happened. So, we should all give in to development because, . . . it’s happening?

          By the way, there is no guarantee we’ll all reap the “reward” of higher home values. You may be in for some surprises in the coming years. Rent controls. Sales taxes. Neighborhood buyouts are already under way.

    • Terry Maynard

      Actually, the R-B corridor had a density of 35.1 pers/ac in 2010 and is forecast to reach 44.5 pers/ac by 2040, according to MWCOG–both substantially less that the minimum 55 pers/ac planned for Reston’s TSAs.

      30-35 pers/ac would be a good range for Reston’s TSAs.

      https://projects.arlingtonva.us/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2014/03/Forecast8-0-Density.pdf

    • restonista

      It’s not just around the Toll Road. Consider other projects like St. John’s Woods, Tall Oaks, the pursuit of trying to redevelop the two golf courses and I’m sure there is more and even more we aren’t aware of.

      • James

        Those are not part of the plan now.

      • Two course town?

        These were seriously under consideration.
        Meanwhile the slum areas of Reston are not under consideration.

        “Affordable” housing /workforce housing and permits, stick and carrot approach to how the county “plans” development.

        Study groups are the new reeducation programs, for the non believers.

        • 30yearsinreston

          Charettes are the opium peddled by Hudgins

      • Terry Maynard

        Agree, Restonista, but my points are based on the specific plan to put 44,000 DUs in the Reston TSAs. The village centers and a few other developments (such as SJW) are also targets for major high-density redevelopment.

    • Michael Gandolfo

      James gets it. This planned development will clearly have a positive effect on property values and the local economy, just like it has in Arlington. The “boggy man” that this development is wrong or unplanned is without merit or evidence. These arguments always relay on false equivalencies and other logical fallacies.

      • Mike M

        See you in traffic. Shall we compare tax bills in 2020 with 2015?

      • wasINWDC

        Actually Michael, I don’t think anyone is saying development is wrong, but they do want control over how things are developed and to what extent development occurs. On top of the poorly planned development that has already happened, the additional runaway development planned for Reston will dramatically transform an area that is already going through considerable transformation (right now projects planned for this area are the second largest by cost in the DC metro area ). One of the main reasons people find Reston appealing is the abundance of greenery- take that away and it’s going to be another paved-over, congested, ugly suburb with a bunch of poorly designed buildings.

        • Michael Gandolfo

          While many say that they support development, I respectfully disagree with the intentions of organizations like Rescue Reston and Reston 20/20. Such as in with this editorial, I have continually seen these organizations use misleading or straight-up wrong information to further their agenda. Perhaps I am wrong, or perhaps I am lumping a few in with the whole, but these are not tactics of genuine individuals.

          • The Original Drive By Critic

            “…I have continually seen [Rescue Reston and Reston 20/20] use misleading or straight up wrong information to further their agenda.”
            These groups don’t need me to defend them, but that is a straight-up wrong statement, unless of course you choose to list all the wrong stuff that you claim to have seen over time? Stop trying to buffalo us.

          • Michael Gandolfo

            See my post above. I’ve already provided an example. This editorial, with its faulty comparison to Manhattan, is, at best, misleading and, at worst, manipulative. Then there was the editorial awhile back that cited a Washington Post article that Amazon passed on Tyson’s Corner as their new HQ because of the population density, using that as an argument that this development in Reston would negatively effect growth. Problem is, if the author had actually read the article from WP, there was no mention of the editorial claim and there was a statement from Amazon that the Tyson’s bid was substantially short of the square footage office space requirement. Need I keep going?

            So, who exactly is trying to buffalo who? You’re right that these groups don’t need you to defend them because there is no defense for that type of manipulation. Unlike these groups, I back up my claims with facts. Good day.

          • wasINWDC

            We can parse each others’ words with pedantic zeal all day, but really what this discussion is about, and a very good one to have, is regulating development. Unregulated, untethered development is not good for any community. And while one can certainly question the intentions of groups fighting the development, I don’t question the intention of developers – their number one priority will always be how to make the most money…if the development is good for the community then great, but if it’s not developers certainly won’t care unless they are regulated. Simple as that.

          • Michael Gandolfo

            Pedantic? These aren’t “alternative facts”. These are blatant misrepresentations. I am stopping short of calling them lies because I do not know the intent. Spreading such is dangerous. Have we learned nothing from the 2016 election?

            This is, by definition, not unregulated development as the county is going through the process. I have yet to see an economic study that shows where development is bad for a community, economically speaking, as long as there is a need. With the new metro and currently elevated housing prices in the Reston area (Hell my home, ~1 mile from the metro, value has increased over 20% since the metro opened up), there is clearly some level of need. Simple as that.

          • Greg

            “Unregulated, untethered development is not good for any community.”

            Untethered to what? The entire process and plan is tethered to the Silver Line. Nothing new — that’s always been the plan here and everywhere else Metro (or any rail system) is. We’ve all been on notice it would someday arrive since Dulles (and Reston) were built in the early 1960s.

            The original 1968 Metrorail plan included an eventual extension to Dulles airport. (“Metro to Have Eight Major Routes in District, Suburbs: Plan Is Result of Ten Years of Study, Discussions, Revisions by Areas”. The Washington Post. March 2, 1968. p. B7.)

            Nearly all of the current development is planned for and constrained to the town center and the areas between Sunset Hills and Sunrise Valley. Few, if any, of these areas are actually part of Reston (the POA).

            What were the vast majority (95% plus) who eagerly sought to bring Metro to Reston thinking would happen?

            The only thing that is poorly arbitrated (or unregulated) is design. Also, Reston’s design standards are moribund and certainly don’t result in iconic structures or design.

          • Umust B Kidding

            You keep saying you back up your claims with facts. I have yet to see one. Just opinion.

          • Michael Gandolfo

            I can lead you to water, but I can’t make you drink. I was accused of making a “straight-up wrong statement” about Reston 20/20 using misleading or wrong claims. I then provided two detailed citations defending my so-called “wrong statement”. I literally backed up my claim with facts. Reading comprehension is an important skill. I am not sure how this could be more clear, unless of course you are just trolling which, considering everything else these groups do, is the likely excuse.

          • wasINWDC

            Michael we get your point, and the comments section isn’t some court of law, And you can pound your fist all you want but still doesn’t make your opinion anymore valid/invalid. It’s your opinion, period. I’m starting to wonder if you aren’t some shill for a developer involved in one of these projects…

          • Michael Gandolfo

            I can’t even. I have provided literal facts, and then subsequently explained why they are facts. unlike the editorial. These comments make me really concerned about the state of reading comprehension and critical thinking in this country.

            Funny that YOU call ME the shill: I don’t hide behind my keyboard with a fake user name and no profile picture, Mr. wasINWDC. I proudly stand behind my comments with my full name and picture. Now I know you are trolling and I will no longer engage your prattle.

          • Terry Maynard

            I am a genuine individual and I have never knowingly provided inaccurate information on things Reston. I even re-drafted this op-ed when I found the county had given us different values for the size of the TSAs. Originally, I just had the lowest acreage, meaning the highest density.

          • Michael Gandolfo

            And yet, when I point your logical and statistical error in the top rated reply, you continue to say it makes “no difference”.

            You may believe your intentions noble, but you are blinded by your bias. You may not be willfully manipulative, but this editorial is ignorantly misleading.

          • Terry Maynard

            No more blinded than you, Michael.

          • Michael Gandolfo

            Yet I am not the one who wrote a editorial using a false premise and statistical aberration. I only sought out to correct your record. There is no bias in that.

  • Fact

    Terry, you went on record saying you are not against development. There is no ambiguity in that statement.

    • Terry Maynard

      Still there, Fact. That doesn’t mean putting Shanghai in the middle of Reston. There is a number less than 92,400 and greater than 0 that would acceptable.

      • restoner

        Hi Terry do you know if these new condo owners will pay the RA yearly fee? I heard RTC condos do not pay Reston tax.
        I am of the opinion density is a good thing. I do care and want green space and “PUBLIC” park/walking/sitting spaces. However, I do not consider a golf course green space. And luxury condos that do not pay RA fee would really piss me off.

        • Terry Maynard

          With the exception of the small area near the International Center that is in the PRC, new property owners won’t be required to pay RA fees automatically. RA routinely (and, to my mind, without thinking about costs) negotiates deals with developers to include new spaces in RA. That gives them some rights to our facilities (depending on the deal). Not having them in RA means that can’t use RA’s pools, tennis courts, etc.

          • restoner

            I don’t think that should be a negotiation. The RA should be touting our little tax status as a badge of honor to live here. Let’s force the RA to demand that new tenants put there money where there mouth is; if they want to say they live in Reston. Maybe that would make smarter growth. Force developers to buy into the culture before even getting to the table.

          • Greg

            Not a bad idea, but avoiding RA’s poorly executed “negotiations” would require town or city status. Tried several times over the decades, but never succeeded.

            Reston is nothing more than an unincorporated part of Fairfax County. The RA, as a property-owners’ association, has very limited authority, and virtually no influence over county matters, as set forth in its governing documents and recorded instruments.

            Moreover, vast parts of what many refer to as “Reston” have nothing to do with the RA and its limited authority and influence.

            Finally, the RA has demonstrated great and gross incompetence by overpaying for unneeded assets; poorly maintaining and using existing assets; and retaining poorly performing staff — many of them unneeded, at any cost, as Fairfax County staff perform the same functions.

            Also, the RA assessment is not a tax, and tenants never directly pay it. In general, only properties subject to the Reston deed pay the non-tax-deductible assessment.

          • restoner

            Blah… my socialist dream is over. I appreciate your succinct civic information.

        • Michael Gandolfo

          Reston Town Center is NOT in the Reston Association footprint. Any condos built in the RTC footprint don’t pay RA dues, but also not RA members.

  • George

    I haven’t seen much talk about how schools are going to be impacted. Seems schools always lag far behind the improvements needed to accommodate such density growth.

    • Terry Maynard

      92,400 residents in high-rise DUs would generate 8,039 school-age children using FCPS’ forecasting methodology (.087 students per hi-rise DU). In rough terms, that’s about 4,300 in ES, 1,200 in MS, and 2,500 in HS.

  • Ray Wedell

    It is highly unlikely that if this planned development actually occurred that the units built would actually be sold/rented. “Build it and they will come” has never been a viable development strategy, and especially not at the rich price points being discussed here. But you know what, Terry? They likely are hell-bent-for-leather to just keep on building, regardless of community interest or common sense. You likely agree that what we are seeing mapped out is not “progress” nor is it “visionary.” But they don’t care what you think or what I think. I wish you only the best to accomplish as much good as you can on this one.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    No development is good development.

    Vote for Chuck for BoS.

  • Michael Gandolfo

    False equivalency. You are trying to compare a landmass that is ~2 square miles (Reston TSA) to an area that is 22.8 square miles (Manhattan). Manhattan has some really, really dense areas and some really, really underpopulated areas (hell, Central Park is almost 1.5 square miles itself). By your logic, I could say all of the United States has a greater population density than parts of Manhattan, if I pick the part of Manhattan that is Central Park which has 0 population density/ square mile.

    You are picking and choosing data sets to fit your narrative. Reston will be nowhere near the population density of Manhattan even if both are fully occupied.

    • Mike M

      Nonsense. Reston is smaller and contained. The analogy with respect to Reston holds.

    • Terry Maynard

      Michael–My Reston data does not include ANY land that is currently parkland, public or private. By my calculation based on the current Reston Plan, the county and developers may provide as much as 80 acres in the TSAs (however reluctantly) as parkland, including the W&OD trail and the 7-acre Town Green in RTCN. Excluding these 80 acres would INCREASE Reston’s density by a meaningless a modest five percent.

      OTOH, it’s not clear whether the Manhattan data does or does not include parkland. I studied the parks issue in some depth during the master plan task force process, including comparisons with Manhattan. My key points:

      If the Manhattan data does NOT include parks, then my argument stands as is with the minor adjustment of deleting Reston’s TSA park areas making the comparison slightly more stark.

      If the Manhattan data DOES include parks, the story changes some. According to the Trust for Public Lands, Manhattan has 2,686 acres of parks comprising more than 18% of its 14,694 and area. Going with the 18% number, that would increase Manhattan’s density to about 32.3K people per square mile. That’s still lower than the lower planned density of Reston’s TSAs at 35.2K per square mile.

      More broadly, I don’t think the size difference between Manhattan and Reston’s TSAs makes any difference. My whole point is to try to show Restonians in fairly direct terms what kind of density may be expected with the current plan–and Manhattan is the only location that comes close.

      • Michael Gandolfo

        Terry, I think you may be misunderstanding what I am saying: parkland is irrelevant. As someone with two young boys who go to the park often, FFC has plenty of unused park space as it is. What I am trying to say is that you are trying to compare a hyper-localized area and an entire county that is nearly 10 times larger. Statistically speaking the two are incomparable. I believe my mentioning of Central Park (as an example of a hyper localized area) distracted you: the fact is there are parts of Manhattan that are far more densely populated than the Manhattan county average of 26k, such as mid town and parts that are far less density populated than the country average of 26k, such as uptown. You are trying to invoke a response in your reader that Reston will become worse than Manhattan, but that is misleading at best. When people think Manhattan, they think Midtown. But as someone from there, that isn’t the full picture. Just as the Reston TSA is not the full picture of Reston. Which is exactly why the size difference between Manhattan and Reston’s TSA DOES make a difference.

        • Terry Maynard

          Michael–The issue is whether you want Reston’s TSAs to have the kind of density that exists in Manhattan. After that, it’s all just diversion.

          • Michael Gandolfo

            And your ‘issue’ (that you made-up and created) is categorically and statistically wrong, as discussed and proved above. Now, I have to believe you are intentionally trying deceive in order to fear-monger to get your way. That is disgusting. You are no better than perpetrators of “fake news” and you should be ashamed.

          • Umust B Kidding

            I’ve been tracking this “dialogue” with Mr. Maynard since it was published. So far, I have not found that he has written anything inaccurate, deceptive, or fear mongering. And yet, you keep adding value-laden criticisms like the comment above, not alternative facts or logical arguments. Please stop before you really embarrass yourself.

          • Michael Gandolfo

            Then you need to learn to read the full comments. He is comparing a 22 square mile diverse area to a 2 square mile hyper localized area. Apples and oranges. Statistical fallacy. Again, I don’t know how else to explain it more plainly. Troll elsewhere.

          • Terry Maynard

            I think we’ve both said enough Michael.

    • cRAzy

      I see you are upvoting your own comments, Michael. Wow, that’s ballsy!

  • Stormy_Fireriver

    I moved to Reston because it was green and beautiful now it’s a hot mess. The high rises aren’t even in keeping with the green theme. They are ugly and tacky looking. Don’t get me started on the gd traffic either and of course all the the one lane roads we are now forced to drive on. Yes. Development is wonderful. People that own are reaping benefits to their home prices but you forget there is a population of people that do not own their own homes they rent and guess what? We are getting priced out of everything! Not that I’m against progress but my kids have gone to these schools their whole lives and as much as I hate South Lakes High I don’t want to move to . . . where would I go to find affordable housing? And yes let’s also talk about the dumb way they do the bus schedules around here in circles instead of east/west or north/south. Mini rant over.

    • Why do you bother?

      And property value is only relevant if you are planning to sell soon. If not, it just means higher property taxes.

      • David Romero

        It is relevant to renters which Stormy_Fireriver claims to be.
        “…you forget there is a population of people that do not own their own homes they rent and guess what? We are getting priced out…”

      • Michael Gandolfo

        That isn’t true. There are benefits to building equity in your home through increased property values while still living in your house. Any wealth manager would tell you this.

        • Why do you bother?

          Yes, but you don’t reap those benefits unless you sell, refi, or take out a home equity loan.

          Your wealth manager is looking at your net worth, which is a nice number, but doesn’t necessarily have a practical value. A lot of folks with high net worth have expensive houses but don’t have an actual penny to their names.

          • Michael Gandolfo

            So, you admit to being wrong. Your original statement was “property value is only relevant if you are planning to sell soon”. Yet, you admit now, “but you don’t reap those benefits unless you sell, REFI, or TAKE OUT A HOME EQUITY LOAN.” (emphasis added) Thanks for making my case for me.

  • PondViewer

    Well stated!

  • 30yearsinreston

    Is there any further doubt that Hudgins is bent on turning Reston into an urban slum?
    Thats the thanks we get for ‘welcoming’ her

    • Why do you bother?

      I don’t think there’s ever been any doubt about that.

  • FLEABttn

    “I don’t think anyone who lives in Reston thinks that two square miles of super-density in Reston’s TSAs cutting through the middle of our community is consistent with any definition of preserving, much less improving, Reston’s quality of life.”

    I do.

    • 30yearsinreston

      Then move to St Louis

  • Peanut

    I’ll summarize… “In 30 years, when all the planned development is complete, Reston will have almost enough people in the TSA to meet the minimum threshold to compare itself density-wise to current-day Manhattan”

    What a bunch of nonsense. There is a reason why a threshold of 100,00 was chosen for that statistic.

    • Why do you bother?

      Yep. If I wanted to live in Manhattan, I’d move to Manhattan.

  • Drup

    Citing to Wikipedia is a bit lazy and hinders your credibility to some degree. But yes, all this development will likely overwhelm the roads and make an already congested area so much worse.

  • scooterj2003

    Hi Terry. Your figures are incorrect. Manhattan has a population density of about 73,000/square mile, not 26,000. Maybe you were looking at population per square kilometer?

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