Reclaim Reston is upset with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, who they say are ignoring their urging to slow down development.
The grassroots activist group wrote to the Board of Supervisors last month, asking for a moratorium on proposed zoning ordinance amendments from the county’s Department of Planning & Zoning and on approval of any development projects that haven’t yet been submitted.
After receiving no response in over three weeks, the group is not happy.
“By silently thumbing their noses at the legitimate concerns of the Reston community, the Board of Supervisors sent the unambiguous message that they hold all the cards and view the Reston residents as powerless to interfere with the Supervisors’ cozy relationship with developers,” group member Bruce Ramo wrote to Reston Now.
An online petition Reclaim Reston set up in support of the moratorium has nearly 700 signatures.
Reclaim Reston is urging the Board of Supervisors to control development and ensure that planning and funding for infrastructure such as schools, roads, bridges, parks and other recreational facilities, remains in sync with the influx of new residents.
When asked by Reston Now about Reclaim Reston’s request, Hudgins provided the following statement (presented as written):
I recognize that good economics time, particular the last two years, provides more economic opportunity for new development. This does not mean the support for that development will not occur. While it would be great if all the planned transportation projects were already built, however, infrastructure improvement depend on those developing the land and a blending of federal, state and county funding. Three new Reston north/south crossings and three new rail stations scheduled to open in Reston and Herndon area, will relieve much of the traffic that travel today to Reston and Wiehle stations on many primary Reston arteries. I am working to build these sooner than planned.
My pledge is the outcome of future growth will more than conform to Reston’s planned community. Bob Simon believed people should be concentrated around Villages. Today’s village comes in a more urban form with the support of transit, retail and parks, in addition to housing. Mr. Simon voted for the Comprehensive Plan. I hope the outcome will meet his and your desires when we see it completed.
Ramo, though, says that the board’s silence on Reclaim Reston’s call for a moratorium shows that the County will go forward with its plans no matter what, leaving potential infrastructure problems to be resolved at some future time.
“Fairfax County has every intention of moving forward to convert Reston to the County’s cash cow, regardless of what it means for the education of our children, or the quality of life, safety or environment of our community,” Ramo said.
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.