The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -Day Saints has filed paperwork with the Fairfax County Planning Commission to get approval to add nearly 40 spots to its parking lot at 115 Poplar Grove Dr. in North Reston.
The church wants to expand the southern end on its existing parking lot from 121 to 160 spaces and replace an existing shed. The inquiry has not yet been given a date on the planning commission calendar.
The proposal is really a continuation of a quest that began two years ago.
In 2013, the church inquired with Reston Association about buying three parcels of land on Fox Mill Road. RA did not formally consider selling the land.
RA’s Design Review Board (DRB) did, however, give the church permission in February of 2014 to expand the lot.
That decision did not sit well with neighbors in the Birchfield Woods Cluster.
Birchfield Woods residents appealed the decision, saying it will result “in a net loss of over 80 trees which serve as a buffer between the church and the Birchfield Woods Cluster.”
The DRB initially voted down the church’s proposal in November 2013, with specifics on how the church could revise their plan: reduce the number of proposed parking spaces, reduce the number of impacted trees, and produce a traffic study.
The original proposal offered adding 51 spaces new light poles and removing 117 trees.
The new plan calls for planting of replacement trees and shrubs to provide a 25-foot buffer, as well as a relocated storage shed. The church also reduced the number of additional parking spots to 39, for a total of 160 spaces in the new lot.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission will decide Thursday whether to recommend the proposed changes to the Reston Master Plan to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The Planning Commission heard from many residents, developers and members of the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force and other interested parties in a lengthy public hearing two weeks ago.
After four years of work, the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force recently completed the comprehensive plan amendment — a massive document outlining everything from density around three Metro Silver Line station’s to street patterns to recreational facilities — and there was no shortage of opinions,
The Planning Commission will either make recommendation to move it on to the county Board of Supervisors or tell the task force to make more changes. Task Force Chair Patty Nicoson says the group will also create its own staff report.
One of the main points of the plan: where to put the people. The plan calls for ratios of 50 percent commercial/residential within one-quarter mile of the Metro stations at Wiehle-Reston East, Reston Parkway and Herndon-Monroe. In the half-mile range, the ratio should be 75 percent residential, 25 commercial.
“We focused on total amounts of residential/commercial that can be within a district,” Nicoson told the planning commission at the public hearing. “We want to see new recreation center, a performing arts center. We are committed to the environment. We want to see the principles of Reston maintained as we look to the future. This will help us build on Reston as a planned community that was built with nature in mind.
“Some are concerned we have not focused on implementation,” she added. “First have to concentrate on the vision, then implementation.
The concept of implementation — just how the plan will be executed, who will pay and other details — came up often in citizen testimony.
“Planning without implementation is empty,” said Reston Citizens Association President Colin Mills. “It is not just a planning issue, it is a political issue. We support having a single entity responsible for implementation issues.”
Planning commission member James Hart reminded Mills, and the people assembled, that implementation specifics don’t need to be in place as the new Reston will evolve over 30 years and planning will get more specific when variables such as developer proffers, population growth and economic climate are known.
“The comprehensive plan regulates nothing, ” he said. “In Virginia, we are under the Dillon Rule. It is probably inappropriate to put things in the plan like specifics if they have no force of law. The plan is intended to be a general guide. If we bear that in mind a lot of what is in this plan looks a lot better.
The task force is comprised of both developers and citizens – and all have concerns about the plan, even though they voted on the final draft. There were several criticisms of the plan that kept recurring during the public hearing:
Park space: Based on future population analysis of 35,000 new residents, there should be 12 athletic fields built in the high-population areas. The plan calls for three.
“This has been of great concern to task force members,” Nicoson said. ” We feel some of the [existing] facilities could be enhanced to accommodate additional fields and add artificial turf and lighting. What we have proposed is that we do more work on this.”
A planning commission member suggested creative thinking, such as recreation facilities on the top of buildings [such as the Kettler ice rink in Ballston] and other urban-style uses.
Parking: The limits on the number of parking spaces are too modest and won’t encourage people to take public transportation, making traffic problems worse.
“The more people who drive cars to and from [work near the Metro stations], fewer will use Metro,” said Terry Maynard, co-chair of Reston 2020, a citizens advocacy group that examines development issues. “We recommend explicit parking limits be restored to plan.”
Said Pete Ottenti, Vice President of Development at Boston Properties: “I personally advocate no maximums. and a ratio of 2.4 spaces per 1,000 people in half-mile from stations to be implemented no sooner than 10 years. Developers are are already incentivized to build less parking. Maximums could have unintended consequences.”
Open space: Task force members were hoping the plan would say “a minimum of 20 percent.” The final draft says “a goal of 20 percent.”
Reston Association: New residents should be Reston Association members, said many who spoke to the commission.
“Reston is not two communities separated by transit areas,” said RA CEO Cate Fulkerson. “In order to integrate new residents, [the plan] should provide for integration into Reston Town Center Association or RA.”
Infrastructure: The plan does not talk about who will pay for the road improvements and traffic enhancements the new Reston will need.
“The infrastructure needed to support development in this plan must be completed concurrently,” Fulkerson said. “It must be completed by those who will profit. It should be kept in forefront of all discussion of changes to recommend plan text. Metro will only accommodate less than 10 percent of all commuting trips. The people of Reston must have road, pedestrian, bike and bus improvements.”