This letter was submitted by Dennis K. Hays, the president of the Reston Citizens Association. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. We publish article and opinion contributions of specific interest to the Reston community. Contributions may be edited for length or content.
Fairfax County has proposed to increase the population cap of the Reston Planned Residential Community district (PRC) from the long-standing 13 persons per acre (ppa) to as many as 15 persons per acre — which when combined with already approved projects would add an additional 30,000 people above our current population for the established, primarily residential areas of Reston. Please keep in mind this doesn’t include the areas around the Metro, where the county is on track to authorize building enough high rises to add an additional 80,000 residents.
Here are 10 reasons why the cap should be left alone. There undoubtedly are more.
1. If the ceiling (13) is shattered, there is no new ceiling: Fourteen or 15 today will be 16 tomorrow, 17 the day after and 20 down the road. The current 13 ppa has been in effect since Robert Simon created Reston. Does anyone believe the county will stop at 15?
2. The county bases its proposal on numbers that are rough estimates at best, gross misrepresentations at worst. The county has provided no established methodology that can be used to arrive at accurate numbers. The county promised to meet with the Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) and the Reston Association to agree on a methodology before any action would be taken. We’re still waiting.
3. There are thousands of dwelling units (what the county calls where we live) that have been approved but not yet built (1,400 at Spectrum alone). How will all these already authorized residences affect roads, schools, first responder services, and parks? The county counts them for cap purposes, but not for the provision of services.
4. The county doesn’t count people who live in affordable or workforce housing as part of the cap, despite CPR’s frequent complaints. These neighbors of ours have kids in school, drive to work, go to the library and play ball in the parks just like everyone else. So why are they second-class citizens in the county’s eyes?
5. Although the county is in a frenzied hurry to authorize new high-density construction, they are in no hurry to provide the needed infrastructure that should go along with it. Reston has received no funding from the county in its current transportation budget. There is no land for additional athletic fields or open space confirmed. The Master Plan calls for infrastructure to be phased in with development. County officials talk for hours about their “plans” for roads, schools, parks, etc. but when pressed they are forced to admit they have no funds, no identified land and no timetable for the required infrastructure.
6. Why the push to raise the cap now? Even using the county’s questionable numbers there aren’t any development proposals that take us over the 13 ppa limit. So what is the rush? Why not use this time to assess how we grow in phase with the services needed to support our neighborhoods?
7. Until five years ago the county had an official on the Planning staff dedicated to working on Reston proposals. This provided some coordination. They haven’t replaced that official. Now the county can’t say specifically where the development allowed by their increased cap will go, although it doesn’t take much to figure this out — initially it will go to build high rises in the Village Centers, take parking spaces away from the library and push again on St. Johns Wood and the other “hot spots” the county believes should be more urban. And by urban they mean you will only walk, bike or Metro to work, the grocery store, the movies, to see family and friends and everywhere else. And then they will come for the golf courses.
8. The Reston Master Plan was changed in significant ways after community representatives had signed off on what they believed to be the final version. Leaving that aside for the moment, the Virginia Code calls for Master Plans to be reviewed and updated at least every five years. The Master Plan for the Metro areas is up for review next month. The PRC portion must be updated no later than next year. Yet the county has taken no steps to begin the review process. Given all that has happened, isn’t it time to pause and take stock?
9. The more you dig into the county’s assertions, the shakier they become. The CPR and the Reston Association met with county officials in four sub-groups last summer. It became immediately apparent that a lot more information and data was needed to properly review and assess the issues surrounding the cap. We had agreement coming out of all four meetings that the additional information would be developed before any action on the cap was taken. CPR and RA asked over 30 specific questions. On Dec. 11 the county responded by sending a blizzard of paperwork — that restated what we had already been told but provided no new information. Why hasn’t the county met its commitment to answer these questions? Could it be that the answers would be more damning than not answering?
10. The county speaks often of the need for “community involvement” and the Master Plan lists community participation as the foundation stone on which all else rests. So why has the county refused to meaningfully engage with its citizens? We remain ready to work with the county to further the unique vision of Reston as a balanced, welcoming community that takes to heart our motto of “live, work, play.” Is that too much to ask?
If you agree that raising the cap is unneeded and counterproductive, please let our Fairfax County Supervisor ([email protected]), the other supervisors ([email protected]), the Planning Commission ([email protected]) and the Department of Planning and Zoning ([email protected]) know. We can make this a Happy New Year if we act together.
— Dennis K. Hays