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County Officials Mull How to Boost Housing Affordability

County officials are seeking the public’s feedback on how to increase housing affordability in Reston and surrounding areas.

At a meeting on September 20 (Wednesday), Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Tom Fleetwood, director of the Fairfax County’s Department of Housing and Community Development, will discuss the second phase of the county’s Housing Community-wide Housing Strategic Plan.

The meeting will take place in the lecture hall at South Lakes High School from 7-9 p.m.

The second phase of the plan aims to offer ways resources can”act as a catalyst for new affordable housing production and quality affordable housing preservation and rehabilitation,” according to the county.

The overall plan, recently adopted by the Board of Supervisors, was drafted by county staff and a group of stakeholders, including nonprofit leaders and the business community, to pitch strategies to address future housing needs. The policy is designed to reinforce the county’s economic development strategies and approaches to ensure racial and social equity across all county services.

The plan seeks to end homeless in a decade, provide affordable housing to special needs population, meet affordable housing needs for low-income, working families and increase workforce housing through creative partnerships and policy arrangements.

Phase one of the plan includes 25 short-term strategies that can help create more housing options without major policy changes or significant revenue sources. Phase two of the plan will offer longer-term strategies to develop new tools, policies, and resources to boost affordable housing options.

File photo

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More Community Charrettes Suggested on Population Density Proposal

More community meetings about a controversial plan to increase Reston’s population density may be forthcoming.

In an April 23 letter to the Coalition for a Planned Reston, a community group opposing the increase, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins suggested holding more meetings to discuss issues related to the proposal, which would increase population density from 13 to 16 people per acre in Reston’s Planned Residential Community areas.

Hudgins pitched the idea of holding another group meeting with CPR, Reston Association and the county’s planning staff. Work sessions in small groups would follow based on topics like infrastructure implementation, transportation, schools and parks.

CPR and RA declined to meet on April 2 to discuss the county’s response to their concerns. County planning staff reiterated the need to pursue the proposal in order to effectively implement Reston’s master plan. Staff affirmed their commitment to ensuring infrastructure matches the pace of development, but did not accept a number of amendments suggested by both parties.

In her letter, Hudgins acknowledged the county’s response was “slow in coming.”

“But a commitment was made to respond and the planning staff did so in a detailed and thoughtful manner. It is unfortunate that CPR and RA declined to meet on April 2 and to discuss the staff’s response and to outline next steps and the process going forward,” she wrote.

Hudgins also noted that Reston’s master plan includes protections for existing residential communities and Reston’s golf course.

Most of the potential growth is slated for village centers, St. Johns Wood apartments, the retail area north of Baron Cameron avenue near Home Depot, Reston Town Center North, parts of Reston Town Center and other parcels in Reston’s Transit Station Areas.

“As was evident again this year at the Founder’s Day celebration, Reston is a special place that we all love and I am confident that we can all work together to resolve the issue of the maximum density allowed in the PRC zoned area and the concerns of the community regarding the Reston Master Plan,” Hudgins said.

CPR met on Monday to discuss the county’s response. In a statement, Bruce Ramo of CPR said the opposition group is disappointed with the county’s response.

It is evident that in the absence of leadership by the Supervisor, Restonians must step forward directly to convince the Board of Supervisors of the need for changes in the Master Plan,” Ramo wrote.

Dates regarding when the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will officially introduce the legislative proposal have not yet been announced.

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Fairfax County Board Unanimously Approves Sunset Hills Road Realignment

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved plans to realign Sunset Hills Road this week, pencilling in planning language caught in gridlock the proposal hopes to prevent.

Although the project remains far from groundbreaking, the board’s vote approves the realignment of Sunset Hills Road to Crowell Road — a move board supervisors said preserves the character of the surrounding residential area while calming current and future traffic. A roundabout will act as the intersection control and Hunter Mill Road will be converted to four continuous lanes from the realigned area to the Dulles Toll Road’s westbound ramps. 

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the plan balances the community’s interests while calming traffic in a “critical” area long-slated for improvements. Still, Hudgins hinted much more remains to be done to calm traffic in surrounding areas. 

“I would love to say we’re finished,” she said.

The issue boasts a long and beleaguered history. Proposals have been in county’s books since 1975, when an alignment similar to the current plan was approved.

County staff pitched the plan after a two-year public engagement period yielded seven options, including a no-build alternative. Staff narrowed options to three possibilities, two of which were struck down because they fell in the path of a Metrorail power station or would have required purchasing land from Reston Presbyterian Church. 

“We wanted to come up with a solution that helped preserve the character north and the roundabout really does that,” said Kristin Calkins, who works with the county’s transportation department.

The addition of the roundabout increases the total price tag of the project by around $3 million. No comprehensive cost analysis has been conducted to date.

Some residents expressed satisfaction with the plan after the county’s Planning Commission added language to push the realignment east of the Edlin School, restrict the alignment past north of Crowell Road, and maximize the distance between the new Sunset Hills Road and the adjacent Hunting Crest Community when the road is designed.

Lauding community engagement by Hudgins and Planning Commissioner John Carter, Raj Jain, president of the Hunting Crest Homeowners’ Association, said the changes addresses the community’s concerns about traffic noise and safety. He suggested completing a noise impact and mitigation study during the design phase of the project.

But others like Benise Ungar, vice president of the Hunting Creek Homeowners’ Association, said amendments to allay community concerns carried no legal weight.

Citing her appreciation for the county’s “good faith efforts,” Ungar said the roundabout “will be massive and not compatible with the surrounding area.” She also said residents and property owners impacted by the plan have publicly stated they will not sell their land to make way for the project.

Staff conceded the plan was an imperfect solution. The approved plan adds language into the county’s comprehensive plan. The roundabout is not a prescriptive solution — only  the “preferred solution.”

Information on the following phases, including designing, was not immediately available.

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Fairfax County Board Defers Decision on Kensington Senior Development Again

County officials have not reached a decision on a controversial plan to bring an assisted living facility to 11501 Sunrise Valley Drive.

For the second time this year, the county’s Board of Supervisors unanimously deferred a decision to Feb. 20 at 3:30 p.m.

At a Tuesday board meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins did not explain why the decision was delayed. In January, Hudgins said she wanted to work with residents and the developer of Kensington Senior Development to tackle concerns raised by residents over several months.

Neighboring residents have expressed staunch opposition to the plan, which they said shoehorns a large, incompatible facility in an established, residential area.

The building, which would include up to 125 beds and 91 rooms, is more than eight times larger than the current child care facility on the site.

Rendering via handout

This story may be updated. 

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Tuesday Morning Notes

County Set to Decide on Assisted-living Facility Today – A decision on a proposal to bring the 91-unit project, called Kensington Senior Development, to 11501 Sunrise Valley drive is expected today at around 3:30 p.m. The project has drawn backlash from neighboring residents. [Fairfax County Government]

One-on-One Time with Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins – On Wednesday, Hudgins will be available to discuss issues with residents. No appointments are necessary for the drop-in time from 4-6 p.m. at Reston Regional Library.

Watch Capitol Steps Perform Live – Reston Association is organizing a trip on Feb. 23 to watch a live performance by Capitol Steps at the Ronald Reagan building. The group has “been putting politics and scandal to music” for the last 30 years, according to an event description. [Reston Association]

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

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Thursday Morning Notes

South Lakes High School Collaborates with Lake Anne Service Center — The high school’s Parent Teacher Student Association has partnered with the center on 11410 North Shore Drive. For every gallon of gas pumped, the service center will donate $0.005 to the PTSA. Customers should save their receipt and drop it off at the school’s main office. [South Lakes High School PTSA]

Donate New or Gentled Used Coats and Winter Clothes Through Jan 31. — The office of Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins is collected new or gently used men’s, women’s and children’s coats, hats, gloves, scarves and mittens at the office on 1801 Cameron Glen Drive. Items can be donated in a 24-hour drop off box or during operating hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 – 7 p.m. [Cornerstones]

Tour de Lights Holiday Bike Road on Saturday — Reston’s Multimodal Transportation Committee will take a bike tour around north Reston to experience the holidays lights on Saturday from 5 – 7 p.m. Participants must be able to keep a pace of around 10 miles per hour over a 1.5-hour drive. [Reston Association]

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RA President Suggests Changes to Reston Master Plan

In a draft letter to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Catherine Hudgins, Reston Association President Sherri Hebert has proposed a series of amendments to Reston’s Master Plan, a document that lays out a vision for the planned community.

The suggestions broadly push for more mechanisms to ensure public infrastructure matches the pace of development.

Some have estimated that the Reston Plan will result in more than doubling the current number of residents, not counting increases in employment population and visitor/pass through populations. If commensurate planned infrastructure can no longer be provided, then the level of residential development must be reduced to maintain the balance between land use and infrastructure,” she wrote.

A summary of each recommendation is below:

  1. Add an overall residential population cap that includes affordable housing units and work-force housing.
  2. Clearly state Reston’s village centers, except Lake Anne and Tall Oaks, will have the same land uses as they have today.
  3. Add periodic plan updates that tie specific development milestones with infrastructure improvements. A similar method to condition development on the availability of public infrastructure was included in the Tysons Master Plan.
  4. Request the Reston Network Analysis Advisory Group to review its transportation network analysis assumptions and methodology.
  5. Establish a realistic plan to increase the scope of recreational activities in Reston. The plan should account for space and funding.
  6. Add clearer statements that assertively state infrastructure capacity must increase as new development rather than “lag decades behind.”
  7. Establish a realistic plan for increased school capacity in Reston.
  8. Remove a “grid of streets” road connection between American Dream Way and Isaac Newton Square because it hurts environmentally sensitive areas and the Hidden Creek Golf Course.
  9. Change the dwelling unit density of lands with the high-density multi-family zoning from an unlimited amount to the maximum number of units per acre necessary to accommodate the two parcels that designation covers.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) to discuss the draft letter. The meeting will also be streamed on Reston Association’s YouTube channel.

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RA Shares Letter Sent to County Supervisors Opposing PRC Density Cap Increase

Reston Association staff posted a copy of a letter sent to Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins officially opposing the county’s proposed increase in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) District Residential Density Zoning Ordinance Amendment, following last week’s community meeting.

The amendment would increase the maximum allowed population per acre in the Reston PRC from 13 persons up to 16.

The zoning change could also open up Reston’s village centers to increased major residential development. The proposal would allow the Board of Supervisors to approve developments above 50 residential units per acre within the district’s Transit Station Areas (TSAs) — so long as the projects comply with the area’s master plan that guides development.

The letter comes in response to spirited opposition from several hundred people who attended a public meeting on Monday, Oct. 23 at Reston’s South Lakes High School. Passionate residents spoke out for roughly two hours against the proposal. The auditorium’s 600+ seats were full, with a solid perimeter of standing audience members as well, plus an overflow room nearby was full of even more people, following along on video. A video of the meeting is available to watch on RA’s YouTube channel.

The letter thanks Sup. Hudgins and the other board members for providing detailed information and holding the community meeting, which RA staff said were “crucial in order to reach an informed decision regarding whether or not to support the amendment, proposed by County staff.”

“The Community Meeting held at South Lakes High School on October 23, 2017, with well over 900 in attendance, was informative. Based on both the County staff panel discussion and the community comment, the Reston Association Board of Directors opposes the County Staff’s proposed PRC District Residential Density Zoning Ordinance Amendment,” the letter reads.

In the letter, the RA staff also asks county supervisors to hold off on any further consideration of the PRC density cap increase until RA staff and county staff together can examine the Reston Master Plan portion of the county’s Comprehensive Plan:

“The Reston Association Board acknowledges and greatly appreciates your willingness, as stated at the conclusion of the Community Meeting on October 23, to initiate a review of certain elements of the Reston Master Plan portion of the Comprehensive Plan. Accordingly, the Association respectfully requests that the County defer further consideration of the proposed PRC amendment until certain elements in the Reston Master Plan portion of the Comprehensive Plan can be reviewed.

Next month, the Association will provide you with a detailed outline of the important areas the Reston community believes need to be reviewed in the Reston Master Plan before the PRC Ordinance matter is again considered by County staff and the Reston community.”

In conclusion, RA staff said they would like to work collaboratively with supervisors and county staff on matters that affect Restonians’ futures.

“Your reply to these requests is eagerly awaited by Reston Association and its members. We look forward to hearing back from you
soon on next steps,” the letter concludes.

RA President Sherri Hebert signed the letter, and said in a statement regarding it on the RA website, “The sustainability of Reston’s unique planned community structure is everyone’s goal. Because we share this common goal, I am confident we can work together to attain it.”

In addition, the statement said that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has voted to direct RA staff to “work with Fairfax County staff to exclude Reston from the proposed Building Repurposing Comprehensive Plan amendment as it applies to the conversion of office to residential.”

Read a full copy of the letter on the RA website.

Documentation regarding the Land Use Agreement and Board discussion is available on the RA website.

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Weekend Discussion: How Will You Vote on the Meals Tax?

Burger at The Counter/Courtesy of The CounterThe Meals Tax referendum is coming Nov. 8. Do you know how you will vote?

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins is sponsoring a forum in Reston Oct. 24, where panelists will discuss the upcoming Fairfax County Meals Tax referendum. The forum is at South Lakes High School, 7 p.m.

The meals tax question will be posed to voters on the Nov. 8 ballot. If passed, the 4 percent tax on restaurant meals and other prepared food will add close to $100 million annually Fairfax County’s tax base. Seventy percent of that will go to Fairfax County Public Schools. The school system has been facing an annual shortfall, which has resulted in a rise in property taxes.

Thirty percent of the meals tax money will go to other county services.

Surrounding jurisdictions such as Alexandria, Arlington, the District, and the towns of Herndon, Vienna already have meal taxes. The Virginia jurisdiations that already have a tax will not be taxed twice; the new tax would affect areas of the county, such as Reston, Great Falls and unincorporated Herndon, that do not currently have a tax.

Fairfax County last held a referendum on a meals tax in 1992. It failed.

Proponents say it is a necessary way to diversify revenue without continuing to raise property taxes. Opponents say it will hit lower income people the hardest and it is unfair to the restaurant industry, among other issues.

Read more in these previous Reston Now posts:

Food Fight: New Groups Taking Sides in Battle Over Fairfax Meals Tax

Op-Ed: PTA Urges Passing Meals Tax

Op-Ed: Vote No on the Meals Tax

And see other info:

Fairfax County Meals Tax Referendum page

Stop The Food Tax page

Photo courtesy of The Counter

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