The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a workshop tonight on a proposed zoning amendment opposed by several local groups.
The proposal would increase the maximum allowed population per acre in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) district — Reston’s primary zoning district — from 13 persons up to 15.
While county planning officials say the change is needed to put into action Reston’s Master Plan, which allows for future growth over the next 40 years, critics argue it is rushed through and under-explained. Several opponents reaffirmed since the New Year why they think the proposal should get axed.
Reston Association’s Board of Directors, which opposes the proposal, held their own workshop last week on Jan. 2 where the board considered various options to try and prevent the county from passing the amendment. The RA does not have legal jurisdiction in the matter, yet the board voted to send a letter to tell the county that RA membership, which includes 21,000 residential units, need a prominent voice in the decision.
Less than a week later on Tuesday (Jan. 8) RA President Andy Sigle, on behalf of the Board of Directors, sent a letter to the Fairfax County Planning Commission, reiterating RA’s opposition to the proposed PRC zoning amendment. The letter outlined initiatives the association could take to potentially stop the adoption of the amendment and strongly urged the commission to ask the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to not approve the amendment.
“As we have often stated, our primary basis for our opposition stems from the repeated failure of Fairfax County’s staff to provide a thorough and convincing explanation of the need for the proposed ordinance amendment at this time,” Sigle wrote in the letter.
RA’s position is that any potential change to the density cap must be done concurrently with the next upcoming review of the Reston Master Plan. Sigle said the Reston Association “has no choice but to vigorously pursue any and all options available to us to inform and engage its members, including, but not limited to, a ballot initiative adjunct to its upcoming elections as well as a strong and substantial social media campaign about the proposed PRC zoning amendment.”
Reston 2020 wrote in a post on Monday (Jan. 7) that Reston would get crowded if the proposal is approved. “At the same time, the county has not funded plans to meet Reston’s transportation, school, park and other needs associated with this growth, even as required by its own county policies,” the post says, adding that the “massive unplanned imbalance between growth and infrastructure will be a dramatic loss of quality of life in Reston.”
Also on the same day, Coalition for a Planned Reston encouraged locals to write to the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission and also to wear yellow clothing to the upcoming Planning Commission public hearing scheduled for Jan. 23.
Dennis K. Hays, the president of the Reston Citizens Association, outlined 10 reasons to leave the cap alone in a letter to the editor posted on Reston Now last week. (Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.)
Amid the many concerned voices, the proposal has still found supporters.
On Jan. 2, 17 people, including Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Ingrao and Reston Master Plan Study Task Force Chair Patricia Nicoson, sent a six-page letter to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins supporting the Reston PRC District Residential Density Zoning Ordinance Amendment.
They wrote the following in the letter:
The intent of this letter is not to prejudge or determine what if any changes may be appropriate to address specific issues discussed in the extensive community meetings the county pursued in recent months. But we think it [is] important that there be greater understanding and appreciation for what is actually contained in the Comprehensive Plan and the rationales that underlie those decisions. We all appreciate that growth is not universally accepted and is not without challenge, but the decision to embrace very significant growth, with an accompanying process and plan for necessary infrastructure development, was incorporated into the Reston Comprehensive Plan as the result of an extensive and participatory community process that had the widespread support of community representatives intimately engaged in that process…
Reducing or disincentivizing residential growth is at odds with the comprehensive vision the Task Force so powerfully (and almost unanimously) endorsed. These issues were exhaustively discussed throughout an arduous, inclusive, five-year Task Force and Village Center process; revisiting and endlessly debating these issues will create uncertainty about the Plan’s stability and risks halting needed development or creating uneven or disjointed results, which we don’t think is in Reston’s interests. There will be numerous opportunities for community input as this process evolves over the next several decades, and individual projects will be subject to multiple approvals and community input before they can proceed. For all these reasons, we support County Staff’s pending administrative recommendations, which we think are broadly consistent with implementation of the vision adopted in the Comprehensive Plan.
The letter included eight points “that are sometimes missing from the ongoing dialogue about staff’s proposals,” arguing that adding significant new residential development is central to the Task Force recommendations and essential to ensure balanced growth. The letter also said that build-out — along with “phased-in infrastructure” — of the plan will take decades and that the community’s ability to participate throughout that process is protected.
Hudgins has supported moving forward the zoning proposal’s consideration. Meanwhile, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and Braddock District Supervisor John Cook have expressed frustration about the process.
The Planning Commission workshop takes place tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Board Auditorium of the Government Center at 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax, Va. The workshop will be for the commissioners’ questions and discussion only and will not be an opportunity for public input.
People can watch it remotely via online streaming.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ public hearing is set for March 5. The Planning Commission must say “yea” or “nay” to the proposal by March 15, according to county rules.
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