Three meetings in May to discuss a proposed zoning ordinance amendment for Reston’s Planned Residential Community district did not satisfy residents upset about the plan.
A fourth meeting, though, is on the horizon.
Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins has announced that the county Department of Planning and Zoning will hold another public meeting on the proposal. A tentative date of Sept. 25 was reported.
The proposal from the county DPZ would increase the limit on people per acre in Reston’s PRC District from 13 to 16. This would allow for 18,737 more people beyond the current cap in Reston over time. Reston’s PRC District is currently at about 11.9 persons per acre. The amendment would also allow for the Board of Supervisors to be able to approve individual developments in excess of 50 dwelling units per acre in Transit Station Areas within the PRC and when in accordance with Comprehensive Plan recommendations.
The PRC District does not include any of the TSA property surrounding the Wiehle-Reston East and Herndon Metro stations, nor does it include most of the property in the Reston Town Center Metro station TSA south of the Dulles Toll Road. This was pointed out by several individuals who spoke during May meetings, saying that this means the population and density estimates provided for the PRC District would in reality be much higher in Reston as a whole.
Restonians who attended the May meetings expressed their concern that the county was trying to rush the amendment through the approval process. They were especially upset when the third meeting was held in an open-house format rather than as a question-and-answer session.
“The County and the community need to understand the implications for Reston of the zoning ordinance amendment and quite possibly amend it so that it is consistent with Reston’s vision and planning principles,” said Terry Maynard, co-chair of the Reston 20/20 committee and an outspoken opponent of the proposal, at one of the meetings. “This will take time, not the headlong rush the County and Board [of Supervisors] seem to be in to get this amendment passed with three public meetings in three weeks [in May].”
The Reston Association Board of Directors adopted a resolution at its May meeting asking the County to give more time and consideration to the community’s voice.
The original plan for the DPZ was to bring the plan before the Board of Supervisors this month, followed by a Planning Commission public hearing in September and the Board public hearing in October. It now has those dates pushed back to November, December and January, respectively.
Map courtesy Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning
This letter was submitted by Reston resident Bruce Ramo, of Reclaim Reston. 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.
Last week, Reclaim Reston, a grassroots citizens group of concerned Reston residents, asked the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to issue a moratorium on proposed zoning amendments that increase density limits and the approval of new development applications not currently in process.
Our group, Reclaim Reston, and the many friends and neighbors with whom we have discussed the proposed zoning amendments to increase density in Reston, recognize the County’s priority is economic development. We welcome compatible re-development in Reston and the new and diverse neighbors that it will bring.
However, we think that the County’s push for greater density will overwhelm the current plans and funding for the schools, parks, roads and other infrastructure needed to support new and current residents. Fairfax County Superintendent Cathy Hudgins has been emphatic in asserting that Restonians should simply accept the fact that infrastructure will lag population. We should not allow that to happen to Reston.
The re-development process for Reston and the other portions of Fairfax County is a labyrinth frequently navigated by large developers in lockstep with their high-end legal counsel and County staff. One needs no more than a random peek at one of the news bulletins posted by the County to understand the symbiotic relationship of developers and the County.
For example, last fall the County announced approval by the Board of Supervisors of a relatively modest project called “Lofts at Reston Station” that will consist of 12 town homes and a 32-unit apartment building on a 1.58 acre-site near the Wiehle Metro stop. Here is a portion of the County’s statement (emphasis added):
As the second largest office market in the county, Reston features many low-density, suburban office parks are ripe for redevelopment. We reworked its land use plan two years ago to encourage more mixed use development and housing near the rail stations.
The Lofts join other approved and proposed development around Wiehle.
Under construction now, Reston Station will erect 1.3 million square feet in homes, offices and shops with direct access to the station.
The self-congratulatory tone of the announcement is a “tell” for Fairfax County’s insatiable appetite for greater density in Reston and corresponding higher tax revenue for the County. Reading through the Staff Recommendations and approvals for this and other projects you will see numerous zoning exceptions and modifications as well as developer-friendly calculations. For example, the County frequently approves modifications of open space requirements, reductions in required parking spaces and setbacks, or deviations from the tree preservation targets.
And as for those developer-friendly calculations, how realistic are the estimates of the number of students to be added by each development? According to those calculations a 500 unit multi-family high-rise will yield only 57 students, elementary school through high school. Such calculations are the basis of the developers’ proffers to “offset the impact of new student growth” at approximately $12,000 per student. Lower calculations of the number of new students reduce the developers’ costs and increase the likelihood that the citizens of Reston will be stuck with over-crowded schools and the tab for school expansions.
Similar developer-friendly calculations by the County also understate the impact to existing infrastructure, such as roads and parks, as is well documented in the recent report by the Reston 20/20 Committee (The Proposed Reston PRC Zoning Amendment: The County’s Rush to Ruin Reston). Also, keep in mind that the developers do not pay their promised “proffers” until the issuance of the first “Residential Use Permit” when their projects are suitable for occupancy. Thus, the funds to help fund infrastructure are not available to the public until new residents are moving in, essentially guaranteeing that the supporting public infrastructure will lag far behind the impact of the higher density.
The sharp increase to the Reston density cap being pushed by the County planning and zoning staff would empower the County to keep approving developer-friendly re-development applications without reasonable attention to the infrastructure needed to support the new residents. Restonians can push back by signing the Reclaim Reston petition to insist that the County keep development and infrastructure more closely aligned.
Reclaim Reston, a grassroots organization comprised of Reston residents, on Monday asked the Fairfax Board of Supervisors to issue a moratorium on proposed zoning ordinance amendments from the county’s Department of Planning & Zoning, as well as on approval of any development projects that haven’t yet been submitted.
“Many of the members of the public who have already signed the Reston Moratorium petition have expressed concerns that the things that attracted them to live in Reston, such as ample parks, trails and recreation facilities, quality schools, and reasonable commute times, are at risk as new development proceeds apace,” said Bruce Ramo, a member of Reclaim Reston.
The proposed zoning amendments would change the population density cap in Reston’s Planned Residential Community District, bumping the overall limit on people per acre in Reston’s PRC from 13 to 16. It would also allow for the Board of Supervisors to be able to approve individual developments in excess of 50 dwelling units per acre in TSAs within the PRC and when in accordance with Comprehensive Plan recommendations.
Reclaim Reston fears that the proposal would harm the safety, health, well-being and property values for citizens in the area. Ramo explained that he recognizes the County’s priority is economic development, but said other things are suffering because of this hyper focus.
“The engine driving greater density is far more powerful than that for the schools, parks, roads and other infrastructure needed to support the new residents and to maintain the overall safety and quality of living for the existing population,” Ramos said.
The DPZ says the current limitation of 13 persons per acre in the Reston PRC “cannot support the amended Master Plan.” It says an increase to 16 persons per acre would allow for up to 18,737 more people in the long term, beyond the current cap.
Reston’s PRC District is currently at about 11.9 persons per acre.
The letter from the group to the county states the following:
“We believe that it is critical for the Board of Supervisors to invoke a temporary moratorium on both zoning changes for increased density in Reston, and approval of new Reston development projects (not yet submitted to the County), pending a firm plan linking planned growth and infrastructure funding.”
When asked if Reclaim Reston is willing to comprise with the County and increase the population cap incrementally, Ramo said no.
“A moratorium means a moratorium,” he said. “Keeping the community’s hand on the spigot of density is the best means currently available to us to assure that that the County complies with the requirement of the Reston Master Plan for phased development and infrastructure.”
People in agreement with Reclaim Reston can sign the petition online.
The Reston Association Board of Directors is asking Fairfax County for another opportunity for residents to learn more about a proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would increase Reston’s population density cap.
At its meeting Thursday, the Board adopted a resolution calling for the public meeting, which would be the fourth on the topic. A meeting last week was scheduled to be the last hosted by the County and Supervisor Cathy Hudgins on the subject; however, numerous residents in attendance expressed their displeasure with the meeting’s open-house format, which they claimed was designed to limit public input.
The first two meetings were held May 3 and May 15, a time frame that has led residents to ask why the County is rushing the issue. The County seeks to bring the plan before the Board of Supervisors in July, followed by a Planning Commission public hearing in September and the Board public hearing in October.
The proposal from the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning would bump the overall limit on people per acre in Reston’s Planned Residential Community (PRC) District from 13 to 16. It would also allow for the Board of Supervisors to be able to approve individual developments in excess of 50 dwelling units per acre in TSAs within the PRC and when in accordance with Comprehensive Plan recommendations.
Staff from the DPZ say these changes are necessary in order to ensure the community can grow in accordance with changes made to the Comprehensive Plan in 2014 and 2015. Residents, however, question the motives of making such a swift change to the density cap and have concerns about its effect on Reston’s infrastructure, open space and more.
During the board’s meeting, land-use attorney John McBride addressed directors on the county’s proposal. McBride said the “virtually unprecedented pace” of zoning applications in Reston is a “tribute to what a great community this is.” However, he added, public scrutiny and input is important on each application as growth booms.
“Although these changes to the current regulations are very limited — two little areas, two sentences — they are also very important,” McBride said. “More residents of Reston should become aware of these changes and should become engaged in the County’s zoning text amendment process.”
At the May 24 meeting on the amendment proposal, Cathy Belgin of the county DPZ’s Zoning Administration Division said staff would consider holding a fourth public meeting, potentially at some point in June. Residents have also been encouraged to submit their feedback through a form on the DPZ website.
In its resolution, the RA Board goes on record saying it does not currently support the proposed changes to the ordinance. In addition, the resolution states that the Board “does not condone Fairfax County staff withholding any information and not fully answering questions from the Reston community.”
Map courtesy Fairfax County
This letter was submitted by Reston resident Bruce Ramo. 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.
Too much, too soon.
This is the crux of the community’s concern with the proposed zoning amendments, which were the subject of a community meeting with Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins on May 24.
- Too much emphasis on promoting economic growth, without firm commitments for the infrastructure to support it.
- Too much willingness to give legal priority to the quantitative possibilities of increased density presented by the Master Plan, without addressing the qualitative conditions of the Plan’s Vision Statement and Planning Principles.
- Too much form over substance in engaging the public in three quick presentations rather than collaborating to develop a balanced approach for the future growth of Reston.
- Too much hubris in assuming that the County’s evaluation and analyses of the impact of increased density, without a willingness to consider other thoughtful analyses of the impact to roads, safety, schools and recreational facilities.
- Too much commitment to the County’s internal work plan for modifying the zoning ordinances.
- Too much emphasis on getting it done now instead of getting it done right.
Each day, many of us pass a dangerous portion of Wiehle Avenue near Sunset Hills Road where a pedestrian bridge is slated to be built someday. The area is the gateway between the Planned Residential Community of Reston (PRC) and the Metro station area with its thousands of new apartments and townhouses.
The missing pedestrian bridge is a symbol of all that is wrong with the County’s zoning amendment and the manner in which it would facilitate growth without the infrastructure to support it.
The proposed amendment would allow even more development throughout the PRC and elsewhere, but where is the pedestrian bridge? Where are the other new or improved parks, roads, schools and paths to service the higher density? Why is the County pressing to facilitate more growth in Reston, but not balancing the growth with near-term action to make that growth safe, convenient and sustainable? Why is Supervisor Hudgins content to tell Restonians that infrastructure is not her job, as she did [Wednesday] night?
This is the essence of the community’s challenge to the proposed zoning amendment. The County’s approach simply enables far too much development too soon. Please urge the County Planning Staff and Supervisor Hudgins to step back, table the proposed zoning amendment, and work with the community on a more sensible zoning plan to support the future growth of Reston.
The open-house format for third public meeting on a proposed change to the population density cap in Reston’s Planned Residential Community District was not met favorably by Restonians.
The Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning came to Lake Anne Elementary School last night to once again address citizens about the proposal, which would bump the overall limit on people per acre in Reston’s PRC from 13 to 16. It would also allow for the Board of Supervisors to be able to approve individual developments in excess of 50 dwelling units per acre in TSAs within the PRC and when in accordance with Comprehensive Plan recommendations.
When they heard Wednesday’s meeting would not feature further public discussion of the plan, but rather the opportunity for attendees to ask individual questions of staff around the cafeteria, residents were displeased.
“Why can’t you change the format?” a resident shouted. The remark was echoed with calls including “It’s our meeting!” and “You work for us!”
Fred Selden, the director of the county DPZ, said staff believed the format would be a better opportunity for residents to ask specific questions about the plan. He said that at previous meetings, residents who spoke were spending a lot of time straying from the issue at hand.
“There have been opportunities for people to ask questions and also opportunities for people to make statements,” Selden said. “Quite frankly, a lot of the questions did not deal with the zoning ordinance that’s being proposed.”
Residents argued that if comments aren’t being made in front of the whole group, they aren’t useful to the overall discussion of the plan. Staff eventually agreed to a short period at the end of the meeting to reconvene and share thoughts.
Pair of Meetings Set for Tonight — The third community meeting on the County’s proposed zoning ordinance amendment to increase the density cap in Reston’s Planned Residential Community District is tonight at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Lake Anne Elementary School (11510 North Shore Drive). In addition, the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District meeting with RA Board Director Victoria White is tonight from 7-8:30 p.m. at Southgate Community Center (12125 Pinecrest Road).
RTC Rooftop Video Being Investigated — Boston Properties says it is working with police to investigate after a video posted to YouTube shows someone sneaking onto the roof of the One Freedom Square building at Reston Town Center. The individual is also seen in the video going into rooms that appear to be for staff only. [Reston Patch]
Sobriety Checkpoint Scheduled — County police will have a checkpoint set up within the boundaries of the Reston District on Friday night, from 11:15 p.m. to 2:15 a.m. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Pool To Be Closed for Four Days — In an emailed announcement, Reston Community Center says the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center will be closed from Tuesday, June 6 to Friday, June 9 in order to conduct soil testing around the pool. According to the announcement, “this testing is necessary for proper maintenance and improvement of the aquatics center. The pool and spa will resume their regular schedule of rentals, classes and drop-in programs on Saturday, June 10. Reston Community Center Hunter Woods will remain open for non-pool activities during the closure.”
The dozens of residents in attendance at Monday’s Reston Planning & Zoning Committee meeting were asked to raise their hands if they oppose the county’s plan to increase density limits in the Reston Planned Residential Community District.
The response was practically unanimous.
After hearing — many for the second time, after a May 3 meeting — the Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning’s presentation, numerous attendees spoke up to share their concerns. One of the most repeated was a thought about the seemingly short timeline of the county’s plan to amend the zoning ordinance.
“The County and the community need to understand the implications for Reston of the zoning ordinance amendment and quite possibly amend it so that it is consistent with Reston’s vision and planning principles,” said Terry Maynard, co-chair of the Reston 20/20 committee and an outspoken opponent of the proposal. “This will take time, not the headlong rush the County and Board [of Supervisors] seem to be in to get this amendment passed with three public meetings in three weeks this month.”
The third public meeting on the DPZ’s proposal is slated for Wednesday, May 24, at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Lake Anne Elementary School (11510 North Shore Drive). The DPZ says it is hoping to bring the plan before the Board of Supervisors in July, followed by a Planning Commission public hearing in September and the Board public hearing in October.
The DPZ says the current limitation of 13 persons per acre in the Reston PRC “cannot support the amended Master Plan.” It is planning to recommend the Board of Supervisors change that limit to 16 persons per acre. It says that would allow for up to 18,737 more people in the long term, beyond the current cap.
Reston’s PRC District is currently at about 11.9 persons per acre.
Last Wednesday evening may have seen a watershed moment in Reston’s development, as about 150 residents confronted the County’s planning staff and Supervisor Cathy Hudgins at a community meeting on the Board of Supervisors plan that, in addition to other changes, would eliminate any limit on the density of residential redevelopment in Reston Town Center under the Reston Planned Residential Community (PRC) zoning ordinance’s “high” density area category, as long as those plans were consistent with the Reston Master Plan.
Power unchecked is power abused. That is what Reston is looking at with the Board’s Reston PRC zoning proposal.
Moreover, increasing the zoned density of any property in Virginia creates a “by right” authority for developers to build at that density. It cannot be revoked by the Board, even if experience shows the density is excessive.
High density is a gift to developers that often costs residents increased taxes (such as the new station area Transportation Service District tax), traffic congestion, school crowding, environmental deterioration; reduced livability from overtaxed open space, park facilities and libraries; and greater demands on police, fire and emergency services.
A more specific look at the implications for Reston Planned Residential Community (PRC) areas of Reston Town Center as shown in the enclosed map highlights where those changes would occur. The PRC zoning area subject to this zoning amendment proposal includes virtually all of Reston Town Center north of the toll road, and the Reston Heights — Westin Hotel — area of the Town Center station area south of the toll road.
The Reston Town Center area of the zoning code does not explicitly use the high/medium/low residential designation used in the suburban areas. Instead, the PRC land use map calls for them to be related to transit station area mixed-use. Nonetheless, the “high” density limit of 50 DU/A has been used as the upper limit in RTC. Moreover, the Reston plan that theoretically limits development generally identifies “target” residential goals for each of the districts and subdistricts within the Town Center.
Only one of these districts with an explicit “target” number of DUs proposes an overall density greater than the existing “high” density limit the Reston PRC. That’s the area immediately next to the Metro station on the north side, where the plan’s “target” residential density would lead to 88 DU/A, with 2,600 units as laid out as a target in the plan.
A plan by the Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning to increase the population density limit in the Reston Planned Residential Community District by three people per acre will go before the public another time.
The DPZ will share information about the proposal during a community meeting Wednesday, May 24, at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Lake Anne Elementary School (11510 North Shore Drive). In addition, the public is invited to see the proposal presented to Reston’s Planning & Zoning Committee on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive).
Residents first had a chance to hear about the plan during a public meeting on the proposal on May 3.
The DPZ says the current limitation of 13 persons per acre “cannot support the amended Master Plan.” It is planning to recommend the Board of Supervisors change that limit to 16 persons per acre. It says that would allow for 18,737 more people in the long term.
“The adopted Comprehensive Plan, which includes the Master Plan for Reston, cannot be implemented without also updating the density limits contained in the Zoning Ordinance to support the Plan,” the DPZ says.
According to the presentation, the proposal is to “increase the overall persons per acre limitation to continue to accommodate planned development in accordance with Plan.” To make that happen, the department is “recommending that the Board be able to approve individual developments in excess of 50 [dwelling units/acre] in TSAs and when in accordance with Comprehensive Plan recommendations.”
Changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Master Plan made in 2014 and 2015 focused growth around Reston’s three Transit Station Areas, Reston Town Center and the community’s village centers.
Reston is currently at about 11.9 persons per acre, according to information provided by the DPZ. The plan does not propose to change the persons-per-acre limitations in low-density (3.8), medium-density (14) or high-density (60) residential areas; nor does it propose changing the dwelling units-per-acre limitations on individual properties in low-density (5) or medium-density (20) residential areas.
Anyone seeking further information about the proposal is encouraged to contact the DPZ’s Zoning Administration Division at 703-324-1314 or [email protected].
Reston PRC District map via Fairfax County Planning & Zoning
The Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning will host a community meeting next week to discuss proposed zoning ordinance changes that could increase the residential density limit in Reston.
The current zoning ordinance limits residential density in Reston’s Planned Residential Community District, which encompasses most of the community, to an average of 13 people per acre. The Comprehensive Plan for Reston was updated by Fairfax County in 2014 and 2015, guiding redevelopment in Reston’s Transit Station Areas, Town Center and village centers.
The community meeting will be held Wednesday, May 3 at 7 p.m. at the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive).
A representative for Supervisor Cathy Hudgins’ office said the county DPZ is reviewing data to determine what changes to the ordinance may be necessary to accommodate for the growth approved by the changes to the plan. The meeting May 3, as well as a Reston Planning & Zoning Committee meeting May 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the same location, are opportunities for the community to share their thoughts, she said.
Map courtesy Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning
The Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning asks that any citizens/citizen groups with suggestions for Phase 2 email them to the county at RestonMasterPlanSpecialStudy@
DPZ reps say changes to the second version of the working draft that will look at the future of Reston’s neighborhoods and village centers will be incorporated into the Final Draft of the Reston Plan text. This Final Draft will be part of the Staff Report which is submitted to the Planning Commission in April.
DPZ hopes the staff report will be published in order to go before the county planning commission April 22, with a tentative date for the Board of Supervisors hearing in June.
The process for Phase 2, using the new Fairfax Forward method, is moving at a much faster pace than Phase 1, which planned for future development around Reston’s transit centers. That process took four years before it was adopted by the supervisors in early 2014.
The Phase 2 process began last June. The reason for Phase 2 of changes to the master plan: the current comprehensive plan was last updated in 1989; Reston no longer has a master developer to update the plan for Reston; the plan for Reston has outdated elements; and with population expected to grow with the arrival of Metro, Reston is evolving as a community.