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Hunt Club Property May Be Homes Under New Reston Plan

Fairfax Hunt Club/Credit: Fairfax Hunt ClubReston’s Fairfax Hunt Club may eventually be home to a subdivision when Phase II of the Reston Master Plan Special Study is completed.

Phase II, which kicked off in May, offered an opportunity to submit property-specific land use proposals to be included in the draft “strawman” Comprehensive Plan text for Reston coming up  later this year. Submissions were accepted from May 22 through July 11.

One of the proposals came from Robert Hostler, president of Fairfax Hunt Inc. He submitted a proposal to the Reston Master Plan Special Study group to rezone the hunt’s at 1321 Lake Fairfax Dr. from recreational to   residential.

“The Owner, Fairfax Hunt Inc., is considering relocating its operations and desires to have the option for this property to be converted to residential as are the surrounding properties,” the online submission states.

The Fairfax Hunt has deep, if not active, roots in Reston. A. Smith Bowman — founder of the former Reston distillery bearing his name — also founded the Fairfax Hunt Club in 1928. He later gave part of his 4,000-acre property to the club, and the clubhouse, built in 1951, remains as a catering facility today. Eventually, much of the surrounding land was sold to build Reston and fox hunting moved farther into horse country.

The clubhouse contains part of a 200-year-old log house that was formerly located a few miles away in Vienna. The club’s still owns eight acres near Lake Fairfax Park to the south and housing subdivisions on the other sides.

Phase 1 of the Reston Master Plan Special Study was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors earlier this year. Those plans set development standards in the areas within one-quarter mile of Reston’s future Metrorail stations. The first Reston such station,  Wiehle-Reston East, opens Saturday.

Phase II is expected to be a shorter process that will look at specific land use projects and Reston’s village center areas, which may be redeveloped in the future.

Only three specific land use suggestions were sent to Fairfax County in the open period. One was not specific and was disqualified. The other was to add new apartments and increase density at Colvin Woods, a 1970s apartment complex on Becontree Drive.

Photo courtesy of Fairfax Hunt Club

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Reston Master Plan Phase II Kicks Off With Community Open House

Fairfax County kicked off Reston Master Plan Phase II process Saturday.

Reston residents and community leaders came to United Christian Parish on Saturday to see what Fairfax County planners may have in store for Reston as the community undertakes Phase II of the Reston Master Plan Special Study.

What they found: mostly information about the process, which will rely heavily on input from the people who live or own businesses here.

As Reston embarks on its second 50 years, there needs to be a plan in place for redevelopment, whether that happens next year or in 30 years, says Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

“Whether we develop today or in the future, we need to determine what the county’s role will be in that plan and what the plan should be,” she said. “Phase I changed the rules. Here, we are not changing the rules.”

Fairfax County officials say the the current comprehensive plan, last updated in 1989, requires revision because 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 later this year, Reston is evolving as a community.

After four years of task force meetings, Phase I of the Reston Master Plan Special Study was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors earlier this year. Phase I maps out how development should proceed in the area surrounding Reston’s eventual three Silver Line Metro stations. Much of that area, particularly Wiehle-Reston East (scheduled to open this summer), previously had little residential development.

Phase II will mainly look at Reston’s village and convenience centers. It will also be done under Fairfax County’s new “Fairfax Forward” method of comprehensive plan review, which will rely on greater community engagement.

Reston founder Bob Simon, for one, says Reston could have fewer village centers. When Reston was planned in the early 1960s, supermarkets were about 15,000 square feet, he said. Today, they are more than 100,000 square feet.

“Since we were planning for 80,000 people, we planned for seven village centers and one town center,” said Simon. “We don’t need all of them. But I do think each village center should have a plaza.”

Phase I was organized around a task force made up of developers, community leaders and other stakeholders. Phase II will instead rely on residents and business owners to determine “what isn’t working,” said Hudgins.

She pointed out aging Tall Oaks Village Center, which has had a dearth of of tenants for years.

“Tall Oaks doesn’t work,” she said. “So we need to discuss ‘does it need to be what [the comprehensive plan] says it does?’ “

As far as neighborhood redevelopment, Hudgins said “99 percent of what is here is what it is.” However, it is not impossible for neighborhoods to be part of a redevelopment proposal if 75 percent of owners petitioned in favor of it.

County officials said Reston “will not be planned from a blank slate,” according to handouts at Saturday’s open house. “The general approach will be the preserve existing development, with the exception of the village centers.”

Lake Anne Plaza previously underwent comprehensive plan changes and is undergoing a separate revitalization process.

An online submission period for land use proposals is open now through July 11. Online submission for  community comments is also now open and will remain open until the Board of Supervisors hearing expected next spring.

Tentative Phase II Timeline:

September 2014 — County will formulate “strawman” proposals on neighborhoods and village centers and present to residents in community meetings.

October 2014 — January 2015 — Community review and comment; possible additional community meetings.

February 2015 — Publish comprehensive text and staff report.

April 2015 — Fairfax County Planning Commission Public Hearing

June 2015 — Board of Supervisors Public Hearing.

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Come for the Master Plan Meeting, Stay for the Movie

Another Way of Living Logo Restonians will get a chance to see the rough cut of Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston, VA, on Saturday.

The film will be screened Saturday at United Christian Parish (11508 N. Shore Dr.) following a community open house to discuss the Reston Master Plan Special Study Phase II. The community open house will feature Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and will run from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

The film, formerly titled The Reston Story, was screened for a select audience at Reston Community Center as part of Reston founder Robert E. Simon’s birthday 100th birthday celebrations in April.

The 70-minute film directed by Peabody Award winner Rebekah Wingert-Jabi looks at Reston’s founding in 1964 as an inclusive community “in the middle of nowhere,” to the vibrant place it is today.

Wingert-Jabi and producer Suzi Jones hope to enter the movie into film festivals.

County planners are beginning Phase II of the Reston Master Plan Special Study about two years behind schedule.

Phase I, which looked at the how development should proceed in the areas surrounding Reston’s upcoming Metro stations, was completed late last year and approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in January.

Phase II will look at what kind of changes — if any — should happen to Reston’s neighborhoods, village centers and convenience centers, as well as some areas adjacent to Reston. Lake Anne Plaza, which underwent is own rezoning and revitalization process from 2006-09, will not be part of the study.

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Master Plan Phase II Will Look at Future of Reston’s Village Centers

Empty Tall OaksWhat should the Reston of the future look like?

That’s the question as Fairfax County planners are beginning Phase II of the Reston Master Plan Special Study — about two years behind schedule.

Phase I, which looked at the how development should proceed in the areas surrounding Reston’s upcoming Metro stations, was completed late last year and approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in January.

County officials say the the current comprehensive plans, last updated in 1989, requires revision for three primary reasons: 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 later this year, Reston is evolving as a community.

Phase II will look at what kind of changes — if any — should happen to Reston’s neighborhoods, village centers and convenience centers, as well as some areas adjacent to Reston. Lake Anne Plaza, which underwent is own rezoning and revitalization process from 2006-09, will not be part of the study.

Planners will pay particular attention to the commercial area just north of Reston Town Center and Baron Cameron Avenue.

This area contains retailers such as Home Depot, Silver Diner, Trader Joes and others. The county says this area is part of the original 1987 460-acre Reston Town Center rezoning, but developed with a different character than the surrounding residential areas and the retail area south of Baron Cameron Avenue. The comprehensive plan will provide framework on how this commercial area should develop over the mid-to-distant future.

Also up for discussion — Tall Oaks Village Center, which has been losing tenants for years and remains mostly empty.

Phase II will also:

Create a New Reston Land Use Map

The current Master Plan for Reston is comprised of three black and white maps (last approved in 1989) that depict a land use plan, community facilities plan, and a transportation plan. While the transportation plans now contain the latest transportation information, the land use and community facilities plans need to be updated.

Since Reston’s Planned Residential Community (PRC) will remain under the population cap of 83,000 — even with expected growth — that residential neighborhoods will not likely see much change, Fairfax County Planner Heidi Merkel said at a 2011 presentation on Phase II .

“The PRC district area will remain basically constant at currently 13 people per acre,” she said at the 2011 meeting. “Phase II will evaluate options how to address a time when it may go above where the cap is. It could be exceeded on a case-by-case basis.”

Merkel said the plan intends to “preserve the stability of residential neighborhoods in Reston. Part of the process will entail how best to do that.”

However, zoning changes could occur based on what is already built, said Merkel.

“If a neighborhood was zoned medium density and townhouses (rather than high-density apartments) were built there, the zoning might be reclassified as low to accommodate what is already there,” Merkel said.

Provide Guidance for Village Centers

The county says the “end result of this study will not be the replanning of each village center.”

What Phase II will do is provide an overall framework for redeveloping the village centers by establishing general guidance and expectations on how a village center should function. Developers will still need to apply for rezoning and concurrent plan amendment to redevelop a village center, the county says.

Phase II was originally expected to get underway in Spring 2012, but delays with Phase I pushed everything back. Phase II is expected to take less time that Phase I, which took nearly four years.

Have an opinion on what should change and what should stay the same as Reston moves forward? Then attend a community open house with Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins at 8:30 a.m. on June 7 at United Christain Parish, 11508, North Shore Dr.

Photo: Empty Tall Oaks Village Center storefronts/file photo

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Watch This Space: What Will Happen at ‘Town Center North?’

New FCPD Reston Station under construction

The construction crews are hard at work on Fairfax County’s new, $18 million Reston District Police Station. The building, expected to be completed later this year, towers over the outdated current building, which will be torn down after the move.

Nearby, Cameron Glen Rehabilitation Center is preparing to close the 173-bed facility later this year. Most patients will move to a new facility, Potomac Falls Health and Rehabilitation in Loudoun. Both care facilities are owned by Commonwealth Care of Roanoke, but Inova owns the land parcel on which the Cameron Glen sits.

Meanwhile, voters in 2012 approved a $25 million Fairfax County Public Library Bond , $10 million of which will be allocated to building a new Reston Regional Library.

All of this could add up to an area near Reston Town Center that looks even more urban than the Reston Town Center itself.

Cameron Glen Rehab facilityEven with these developments already underway, the longterm plan for what developers call the Town Center North area is still a work in progress. The 47-acre area is bounded by Baron Cameron Avenue, Fountain Drive, and Town Center Parkway and Reston Parkway. The land is owned by two parties: Fairfax County and Inova.

The area currently sees a variety of uses — from Embry Rucker Community Shelter (and a few people living in the woods across the street) to open space to the soon-to-be empty nursing home — planners will take the next steps to determine what the best use is as Reston moves forward as a dense, transit-oriented community.

But at more than one-quarter mile from the future Reston Parkway Metrorail Station, how urban should it be?

“Town Center North is an appealing area for redevelopment, since it’s a fairly large area with two major landholders, Inova and and the County, which makes the process easier,” said Reston Citizens Association president Colin Mills. “Supervisor [Cathy] Hudgins supports expanding Reston’s urban core, and Town Center North is a prime location for that.”

The Town Center North area still must go through the county master plan process, but Mills says an interim report might be completed later this year.

In the Reston comprehensive plan amendment, which the county planning commission will revisit on Jan. 9, the area is “planned for up to a .90 FAR for non-residential uses, which should include office, public, institutional, medical care, hotel, and retail uses, and a minimum of 1,000 residential units. The public uses may include public safety uses, libraries, shelters, schools, a recreation center, government offices, a performing arts center, and institutions of  higher education. Some of the existing residential uses may maintain their current use, density and character.”

In 2010, the Town Center subcommittee of the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force, outlined its vision for Town Center North:

“Town Center Metro North should become an extension of the Town Center urban core – rich with nightlife, signature restaurants and retail, perhaps a hotel with convention capability, an augmented office presence, a strong residential component consistent with transit-oriented development, and potentially at least one prominent civic use,” the subcommittee report reads. “In combination, these additions to the Town Center will make it a rich and balanced destination-origination station that will be a unique asset to Reston.”

Around the same time, Reston architect Guy Rando and a citizen committee released a report envisioning the land as a vast Galleria-style, climate-controlled park and city center featuring butterfly  gardens, a Shakespeare theatre and shopping.  Another suggestion was for Cascades Park with a large water feature.

On a less grand scale, community members (also in 2010) gave feedback to the county about the area. The consensus:  They would like an environmentally excellent area that is an extension of the Town Center uses with a prominent urban/municipal focus and ample open space.  The land should include the new government center, a recreation center, better bike access, adequate circulation to the Metro station. The citizens also said the Embry Rucker Shelter should remain.

More recently, the Town Center North area has been mentioned as a potential spot for building a new Reston Community Center. RCC, seeking to build a new facility with a 50-meter indoor pool, did a feasibility study of building the $35 million facility at Baron Cameron Park, where land would be free as part of a partnership with the Fairfax County Park Authority.

After garnering community feedback, the RCC Board of Governors looked at 10 other nearby spots, and eliminated all but Town Center North as possibilities.

Would open land by Cameron Glen make a good park?The RCC Board said 22-acres of the Town Center North site – the current site of the library, police station, open land and Inova buildings, is a good alternative because it is located close to other public facilities, is in the center of Reston growth and is easily accessible.

RCC Executive Director Lelia Gordon last fall sent a letter to Deputy County Executive Rob Stalzer asking the county to consider planning for a recreation facility  for the Town Center North area.

“Our assumption is the land — whether at Town Center North or Baron Cameron — would be contributed,” she said. “That’s what elevates these two locations above others.”

Additional contributions is a recreation center at Town Center North could come in the form of developer proffers as the center could potentially be part of a bigger mixed-use project, said Gordon.

Mills says RCA supports the recreation center being built at Town Center North.

“We strongly support Town Center North being considered as a location for the rec center, if it’s built,” he said.  “It’s a central location for Restonians generally, and it will be close to the growth we’re anticipating in the coming years.  If the rec center is being built (at least in part) to address the recreation needs of our future citizens, it makes sense to put the facility where the new residents will be.  And a lot of them will be in or near the Town Center.

“Beyond that, we’d like to see the redeveloped area contain a large central park.  Open space is a vital part of Reston, and we’ll need more than pocket parks if we’re going to live up to the “Play” part of “Live, Work, and Play.”

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UPDATE: County Planning Postpones Decision on Reston Master Plan

Midtown at Reston Town Center The Fairfax County Planning Commission has deferred making a decision on the amendments to the county master plan that will affect development around Reston’s transit stations.

After a public hearing last month, the planning commission was scheduled to decide on Thursday whether to recommend the changes to the Fairfax  County Board of Supervisors. However, the commission says it needs more time to consider the changes and public comments and postponed its decision until Jan. 9.

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. Dozens of citizens spoke at the public hearing with a variety of opinions on the plans.

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.

The concept of implementation — just how the plan will be executed, who will pay and other details — came up often in citizen testimony at the public hearing.

“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 Nov. 13, 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.”

Read more from the public hearing here.

More:

Comprehensive Plan Goes to Planning Commission, With Caveats and Complaints

Proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment

RCA: Plan Gets a ‘D’

Letter to Planning Commission on Reston’s Future

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On the Docket: Planning Commission Takes on Reston Plans This Week

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.”

More:

Proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment

RCA: Plan Gets a ‘D’

Letter to Planning Commission on Reston’s Future

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Comprehensive Plan Goes to County Planning, Along With Caveats, Complaints

The Fairfax County Planning Commission did not vote on the future of Reston development on Wednesday, but heard from many residents and other interested parties who are concerned about what that future will look like.

After four years of work, the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force’s comprehensive plan amendment — a massive document outlining everything from density around three Metro Silver Line station’s to street patterns to recreational facilities — has been presented to the planning commission, which will now further review it before making a recommendation to move it on to the county Board of Supervisors or tell the task force to make changes. Task Force Chair Patty Nicoson says the group will also create its own staff report.

The planning commission says it will vote on the plan on Dec. 5.

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. “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 last night’s testimony:

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, many who spoke said.

“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.”

More:

Proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment

 RCA: Plan Gets a ‘D’

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Colin Mills: A Tough Night For Reston

colinmillsColin Mills is the president of the Reston Citizens Association. He will write a weekly opinion column on Reston Now. 

Last night, four years of work on the Reston Master Plan Task Force came to a frustrating and disappointing conclusion.  The Task Force voted to send the new Comprehensive Plan to the Planning Commission, starting it down the road to approval before the Board of Supervisors.  RCA’s representative, Terry Maynard, voted “no” on the final product. I did not have a vote on the Task Force, but if I had, I would have voted the same way.

RCA was not satisfied with the latest draft of the Comp Plan, as evidenced by the report card that our Reston 20/20 Committee prepared this week, which gave it an overall grade of D.  We felt that the plan was seriously lacking in many areas, most notably parks and recreation, transportation, and implementation. We joined with ARCH and RA to produce a joint comment describing the areas that we felt needed improvement.

Unfortunately, the few changes approved by the Task Force last night did little to improve the plan. Therefore, we felt that we had no choice but to oppose it.

The lack of changes to the draft plan was not for a lack of suggestions. By my count, there were 15 sets of comments submitted suggesting changes to the plan, including ours. Unfortunately, the discussion last night was limited to a handful of subjects selected by the Task Force chair, Patty Nicoson. The Task Force did not even consider all of the comments made by its members.  Major topics such as transportation and implementation weren’t even discussed at all!  Since those were two of the areas that needed the most work, I was extremely disappointed that they weren’t even raised.

In fairness to Patty, the meeting lasted over three hours as it was; discussing all of the comments in detail would have taken forever. But this only underscored the problem: The fact that such major disagreements still existed among the Task Force after four years of work is baffling. We were trying to have debates in one night that should have been had over weeks and months long ago.

As an example, one of the few subjects that did receive healthy discussion last night was athletic fields. Terry, with the support of some other Task Force members, pushed for more athletic fields to serve the new development and to locate them closer to the corridor. The Park Authority’s representative explained the process by which they arrived at the language in the plan. A thoughtful discussion ensued, involving Terry and other citizen reps, the Park Authority, and developer representatives.  In my view, everyone made good points.

But in the end, the Task Force had to punt, calling for a follow-on motion to address the question later. Of course we weren’t going to be able to resolve such a complex issue in one night.  But why didn’t we have this discussion a month ago, or a year ago?  Why were we having to cram this topic into a frenzied back-and-forth at the very end?

That’s a failure of process, and illustrates my overall frustration with the Task Force. For too long, we weren’t having discussions about the real disagreements that existed among the members.  Instead, we chatted amiably but aimlessly among ourselves, smiled and nodded. By the time the Task Force started having the discussions we needed to have, it was too late.  And that brought us to last night. The Task Force had to hold a rushed vote, because the Planning Commission deadline was a ticking clock, and everyone is so sick of the process that many members were probably grateful just to pass something and move on.

I can understand that. And I can understand and respect those (including the representatives from RA and ARCH) who voted “yes” because they wanted to lock in the positive things in the plan, or felt it was the best they could get. And there were positives in the plan: after our successful joint community forum, County staff listened to our concerns, and addressed some of them, especially on environmental issues.  I’m proud of the collaboration with RA and ARCH, and I think we made the plan better than it would have been otherwise.

But transportation and parks & rec have been two of RCA’s biggest issues with the plan, ones that we’ve been concerned about for years now. And we weren’t satisfied with where the plan ended up on those issues. Therefore, we just couldn’t support the plan as it was.

Sounds like a lot of bad news, doesn’t it? It was, and I’m not going to sugarcoat that. I left the meeting last night feeling gloomy.  But there is some good news: This isn’t over, and we’re not done fighting for the community.

As I mentioned earlier, this plan has to go before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors before it’s approved.  We at RCA are going to continue pushing for the changes that we feel are important, and our colleagues at RA and ARCH have vowed to do the same. It will likely be a more uphill battle at this stage, but we’re not going to let that dissuade us.

Also, we’re interested in that follow-on motion about the fields. The question of how many fields we need, where they’ll be located, and how they’ll be paid for is very important for our community. We need to find a solution that works for everyone. I certainly intend for us to take a leading role in the discussions, and if we can help guide the way to a good solution, that will be an important accomplishment.

So yes, last night was a disappointment on a lot of levels; there’s no disputing that. But we’re not out of the game, and we’re not going to let this setback take us down. We’ve got a lot of work left to do, and we’ve got three committed community organizations that are ready to do it. Let’s get started.

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RCA: Master Plan Draft Gets a ‘D’

 The Reston Master Plan Task Force is about to publish what could be its final draft  for the future of development around Reston’s Metro stations, and the Reston 2020 Committee is giving those plans a ‘D’ grade.

Reston 2020, the community planning entity of the Reston Citizens Association, presented the findings to RCA at its regular meeting on Monday.

Reston 2020 co-chair Terry Maynard  says the group examined each section of the draft Plan in terms of its impact on Reston’s quality of life and the community’s vision and values.

“The overall grade was based on the compilation of grades for each of the draft Plan’s sections,” Reston2020 said in a press release. “The highest grade given, a “B”, was awarded to the Overview, which covers Reston’s Vision and Planning Principles, and to the Environmental Stewardship section. Grades of “F” — which meant the section met virtually none of Reston’s expectations—were earned by the Urban Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Facilities section and the Implementation section.

“We’ve worked as hard on this as anyone over the last 4 years,” said RCA President Colin Mills. “I’d hoped that by now, we’d have something we could all be proud of. But we’ve got to call it like we see it, and there are major issues that haven’t been addressed yet. We need a plan that meets our community’s expectations for the future.”

Said Maynard: “Restonians deserve a draft Plan that is much more responsive to their needs now and in the future.  This draft Plan generally focuses on the needs of developers and the County although we appreciate its relative strength in environmental stewardship, an important concern to Restonians.”

The RCA Board voted unanimously to direct Maynard, RCA’s representative to the Special Study Task Force, to vote “No” on the draft plan in its current form if a vote is taken as planned at the task force’s meeting Tuesday.

To see the full report card click here.

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