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Op-Ed: A Look at the Numbers

This is an op/ed submitted by Terry Maynard, co-chair of the Reston 20/20 committee. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

Reston’s future lies largely in the numbers that define the county’s plan for Reston’s transit station areas (TSAs)–the areas roughly within a half-mile of each Metro station.  The results of looking at those numbers are shocking, but not really surprising.

The Board of Supervisors-approved Reston Master Plan calls for 44,000 dwelling units (DUs) in Reston’s TSAs, virtually all of which will be high-rise (“elevator”), high-density DUs–condos and apartments.  

County planning assumes 2.1 people will live in each high-rise, high-density DU.

Put together, that means a potential population of 92,400 people in Reston’s station areas.   That’s without any affordable housing “bonuses” or development waiver approvals or other uncounted DUs or people, a frequent fact of life in Fairfax County.  

When the Reston Master Plan Task Force was working on a new plan for the station areas, the county provided several different numbers for the actual acreage of the study area.  These ranged from 1,232 acres (1.925 square miles) to 1,683 acres (2.630 square miles) of land in Reston’s TSAs.  The county provided no explanation for the range of values.

Dividing the number of people by the acreage, the resulting number is somewhere between 55 and 75 per acre.  On a square mile basis, that Reston TSA density is between 35,200 and 48,000 persons per square mile (pers/SM). 

According to Wikipedia, Manhattan has a density of 26,403 pers/SM.  That makes the planned population of Reston’s TSAs at least one-third denser than and potentially nearly twice as dense as Manhattan is today.  

Wikipedia adds that Manhattan’s residential density “makes it the densest of any American municipality with a population above 100,000.”  And Reston’s TSA population may well exceed that 100,000 number if the county continues its bonus and waiver giveaways to developers.

I don’t think anyone who lives in Reston thinks that two square miles of super-density in Reston’s TSAs cutting through the middle of our community is consistent with any definition of preserving, much less improving, Reston’s quality of life. And the county has no meaningful plans or means to meet the infrastructure requirements of this population or the needs of the surrounding Reston community.

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Friday Morning Notes

Child dies after medical emergency on school bus — A young boy died in Herndon Thursday after experiencing a medical emergency on a Fairfax County Public Schools bus in the 2300 block of Dulles Station Boulevard. The boy was pronounced dead at the hospital and no other kids were on the bus at the time. [NBC 4]

A back to school report — School principals in Reston give an update on what’s new this year and their one-sentence message to the community. [The Connection]

The fight for control — Canaan Merchant writes about how Reston Association is asking Fairfax County to give it more control over future growth. Although the Silver Line has brought growth to the area, many residents aren’t happy, Merchant writes. [Greater Greater Washington]

Dog paddle set for today from 4-7 p.m. — Bring your dog for a dip in the pool before it’s shut down for the season. A current dog license is required and registration is $6 for Reston Association members and $8 for all others. [Reston Association]

Photo by Twitter user Mary Dominiak

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Tuesday Morning Notes

First day of school — Fairfax County Public Schools are back in session today. Local police are reminding commuters to be wary of school traffic and buses. [Herndon Police Department]

Reston 101 — In case you need a basic primer, Mercia Hobson offers a brief description of the Planned Residential Community and its five village centers. [The Connection]

Something different at the end of the tunnel — Lake Anne students and staff painted a community circles mural at the entry to a tunnel on Fairway Drive on August 17. [Patch]

Nearby: Man who exposed himself found — Local police have found a man who exposed himself to a woman in a church parking lot over the weekend. Police released an image of the suspect yesterday. [WJLA, Fairfax County Police Department]

Photo by Ruth Sievers

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Wednesday Morning Notes

10,000+ pull-ups — A student from Great Falls may have set new world records by doing 10,020 pull-ups in less than 20 hours at a Reston gym. [WTOP]

Reston Association sends PRC letter — The organization has penned a letter to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins detailing the Board of Director’s standing after a series of meetings with the county. [Reston Association]

Let’s talk acquisitions — “Reston-based SOC Telemed (SOC), an acute-care telemedicine company, has acquired Houston-based JSA Health, a behavioral health telemedicine firm.” [Virginia Business]

Photo by Beth Allgaier

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Coalition for a Planned Reston Requests County to Hold Off on PRC Zoning Amendment

After a round of meetings with county officials about a plan to increase Reston’s population density, the Coalition for a Planned Reston is asking Fairfax County officials to hold off on officially proposing the amendment until specific issues raised in the meetings are addressed.

A series of workgroup sessions concluded on July 30 regarding the proposal, which would increase the overall per person density in Reston’s Planned Residential Community from 13 to 16 people per acre.

CPR is requesting the following actions, agreed upon by stakeholders involved in the discussions, go into effect:

“Clarification and correction of the Reston Master Plan (RMP), identification of additional information that the County intends to share with the public, and acknowledgment of areas that require further dialogue.”

No dates for the formal introduction of the proposal have been set yet. CPR plans to hold a community meeting after Labor Day to discuss the outcome of the county meetings and seek additional community feedback.

File photo

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Longterm Planning in Reston Comes Under Focus in Last PRC Workgroup Meeting

At the last workgroup meeting on a controversial zoning amendment, county officials stressed that population density increases proposed in Reston’s comprehensive plan are broad targets that will be gradually implemented over the next 30 years.

The meeting, held Tuesday night, was the last in a series of discussions on the county’s proposal to increase Reston’s population density from 13 to 16 people per acre in the community’s Planned Residential Community district.

Representatives from the Coalition for a Planned Reston and Reston Association said that while they were not opposed to development, the cumulative impact of increased development without the infrastructure to manage it was a major concern.

Tammi Petrine, co-chair of Reston 2020, said increasing the density cap only invites more developers to push harder for development — a trend that she said is already clearly evident in the streak of major mixed-use projects approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Fred Selden, director of the Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning, said the community has multiple opportunities between when a development plan is proposed and passed to voice their concerns, suggest alternatives and raise critical issues.

“The community, quite frankly, has to give its judgment,” Selden said.

But others felt that concerns raised by community members have little sway in the overall planning process.

Selden said his office would be open to discussing possible changes to Reston’s comprehensive plan if pressing needs arose. In Tysons, the plan was updated seven years after its passage when the planned grid of streets did not align with what was actually being built.

But Selden also noted that major changes to planned land use intensities are rarely incorporated within five years of a plan’s passage. Late last year, CPR and RA suggested altering Reston’s master plan to make specific changes. He repeatedly stressed that Reston’s plan envisions possible future growth, which may or may not be realized given economic and market constraints.

Redevelopment of Reston’s village centers was also a hot topic during Tuesday’s discussion. Selden stressed that the plan already leaves the door open for high-density redevelopment potential — an element of the plan that was supported by some residents during earlier planning discussions.

“We could have said that there’s no redevelopment potential in the village centers,” Selden said. “But that’s not what we heard from the community.”

Others like John Mooney, a member on RA’s Board of Directors,  said planning processes focus on the impacts of development in Transit Station Areas without considering the impact on development in all of Reston.

He said traffic studies have not considered the impact of traffic in Transit Station Areas on the rest of Reston.

“I see no evidence, although I’m awaiting further information,” Mooney said.

Photo via YouTube

(This story was updated on Wednesday at 6:27 a.m. to clarify a quote by John Mooney.)

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Monday Morning Notes

Last PRC meeting tonight — A series of workgroup sessions between Reston Association, the Coalition for a Planned Reston and county officials concludes tonight with a meeting on general planning and zoning. Growth in village centers will also be discussed. [Reston Today]

Don’t head North — “North Shore Pool will be closed until 1 p.m. due to water contamination. The deck and spa will remain open.” [Reston Association]

Missing child alert — Local police are still searching for a 12-year-old girl who went missing on Friday. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Nearby: Shooting reported — “An investigation is underway after authorities say there was a reported burglary and shooting in Fairfax County Monday morning.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Schools and Future Development Come Under Focus at PRC Workgroup Meeting

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. to remove unclear information about the number of total available seats in the South Lakes Pyramid.)

Local citizen representatives pressed county and school officials on how the school system will mitigate the impact of planned and future development on Reston’s public schools Tuesday night.

The meeting, the third in a series on the county’s proposal to increase the community’s population density, highlighted a major obstacle in managing increased school enrollment: limited and uncertain funding to meet future needs.

Kevin Sneed, who oversees design and construction services for the school system, said new development is not expected to generate many students because of the style of new multi-family units.

Two residential buildings recently built in Tysons generated only 21 students, Sneed said. Student enrollment from new residential development in Reston is expected to increase in the next 20-25 years, he said. Meanwhile, the school system must balance the need for renovations at several schools. 

The site for a new high school in the area — especially along the Dulles Suburban Corridor where McNair, Coates and Hutchison Elementary Schools are served — is critical. However, the school system is constrained by lack of funding to purchase a new property. And current plans to mitigate the future impact of development on schools likely will not kick in until development actually takes place, Sneed said.  Development may go live years after it is approved by the county, he said.

Stu Gibson, a former school board member of 16 years, said building capacity only once the students impact the system is a “disturbing” strategy. Gibson said he was concerned that the county is planning for additional residences before the infrastructure is in place to handle additional growth — a mode of operation that he said goes against Reston’s comprehensive plan.

Instead of purchasing land, the county and the school system are relying on proffers from developers and negotiating with applicants to see if land for a new high school can be provided, according to Leslie Johnson, the county’s zoning administrator. So far, those negotiations have been unsuccessful. But talks are underway on the county-level to change the formula used to determine how much developers pay based on the expected impact of the development on area schools.

Others worried that viable land for a new school may be limited, especially when parking lots and aging office parks that could be the site for a future school are redeveloped into mixed-use projects.

Johnson said the county is closely evaluating the impact of each development proposal on fire services, schools, parks and other public infrastructure.

“We are keeping track of the cumulative impact, but, at some point, there will be a trigger for some type of development,” Johnson said.

When and how that trigger comes forward remains unclear.

File photo

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Road closures in Reston — Browns Mill Road at Windstone Drive and Browns Mill Road at Rosewood Hill Drive are closed due to water in the roadway. One lane is open near Lee Mill Road at Kelso Road. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Town of Herndon job opening — Town officials are looking for a new director of public works. The position pays between $120,000 and $140,000. [Town of Herndon]

PRC exchanges continue — The Coalition for a Planned Reston penned a letter to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins about a recent parks and open space meeting with the county. [Reston 20/20]

Nearby: Tornado touches down on Tuesday — “The National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday evening that an early morning tornado touched down for about a minute in the Lincolnia area.” [WTOP]

Photo by Ruth Sievers

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Monday Morning Notes

Flash flood watch in effect — Grab an umbrella if you’re heading out today. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch from noon today to 4 a.m. tomorrow. [National Weather Service]

Seizing family heirlooms — “Several Fairfax County Police officers spent five hours at a Reston home, not carrying out drugs, guns, or dangerous materials. Instead, police carried out china, vases, and teapots.” [WJLA]

Artwork by inmates — Reston artist Kelli Schollard-Sincock runs a program that features the artwork of about 55 Fairfax County inmates at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. [The Washington Post]

PRC meetings continue — Tomorrow, schools and public facilities will be the focus of the third workgroup meeting between representatives from Reston Association, the Coalition for a Planned Reston and county officials. [Reston Now]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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In PRC Meeting with County, Reston Representatives Push for Specifics on Future Athletic Fields

Piqued by a plan to increase Reston’s population density in select areas, residents pressed county officials to identify specific athletic field options and open space commitments at a work session this week.

During the meeting, the 10-member panel, which included representatives from Reston Association, the Coalition for a Planned Reston and three county officials, discussed how the county plans to ensure future development in and around Reston’s future urban core will incorporate athletic fields and open, community spaces.

While citizen members lauded the county’s efforts to work with developers, some noted that county plans lacked specific assurances on how and when broad commitments would come to reality.

The meeting is the second in a series of work sessions on topics of concern raised by local residents and community organizations as the county mulls a plan to increase Reston’s population density in its Planned Residential Community district planned from 13 to 16 people per acre.

County officials said planning processes are in place to ensure athletic fields and open space requirements are met. Generally, once major developments are built and occupied overtime and needs are generated through pressure created by development, specific requirements for athletic fields will kick in. 

However, they remained mum about the location of future athletic fields, noting that negotiations with developers are ongoing and that, once property owners learn a land is being considered for an athletic field, the property’s price is often hiked considerably. 

Asked by a member to point to possible locations for fields, Fred Selden, the director of the county’s planning and zoning department, said, “Right now, we can’t.” 

In Reston, one athletic field is required for each Transit Station Area and nine are required outside the TSA areas. Upgrades to existing fields may also be considered. Thus far, the developers have committed $10.3 million to go toward athletic fields in the greater Reston area.

So far, funds have remained untouched.

Others called on county officials to aggressively push developers of major mixed-use proposals — like the 36-acre Reston Crescent project — to identify specific plans for athletic fields.

“Those are the examples where the community feels we were being passed by in some way, shape or form,” said Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO.

Dennis Hays, president of the Reston Citizens Association, said he was concerned no immediate plans were on the table.

“Everything that we keep talking about is down the road,” Hays, who led the meeting, said.

Andrea Dorlester, manager of the county’s park planning branch, said the county has been aggressive in pushing developers to identify plans for nearly two years. When working with Brookfield, the developer of the Reston Crescent, county staff said they rejected a proposal by the developer to include a small athletic field suitable for children up to the age of eight.

Now, the plan, which is barreling towards final approval later this month, includes a proposal for the developer to purchase seven acres outside the property and convey it to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Part of the challenge in securing athletic fields is that Reston’s master plan does not mandate the creation of athletic fields in Reston’s planned downtown core, officials said.

As additional development waits in the pipeline, others worry that challenge may already be difficult to overcome. One question, they say, hovers: As land becomes limited in the area, where will the future athletic fields go?

File photo

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PRC Amendment Workgroup Sessions Begin This Week

Fairfax County officials begin small workgroup sessions with representatives this week to discuss a controversial plan to increase Reston’s population density in areas targeted for growth.

The sessions are hosted by the Coalition for a Planned Reston, a grassroots organization and Reston Association. Staff from the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning and Fairfax County Public Schools will be on hand to discuss questions.

The plan would increase density in Reston’s Planned Residential Community areas from 13 to 16 persons per acre. CPR and RA have opposed the plan, as proposed, amid concerns about the overall impact on infrastructure.

The schedule for the meetings is below. All workgroup meetings start at 6 p.m.

  • July 17 – Transportation – 12005 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston – Terrace Level (Live stream is not available. Recording will be uploaded).
  • July 18 – Parks and Open Space – 12005 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston – Terrace Level

  • July 24, 2018 – Schools/Public Facilities – 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston – Conference Center

  • July 30 – Planning and Zoning -12001 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston – Conference Center

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Monday Morning Notes

RTC West+ — JBG Smith plans major additions to RTC West, which, for now, is essentially an office park with a touch of retail. [Washington Business Journal]

Death ruled a drowning – An autopsy determined that Kevin Ruby’s cause of death was drowning, with the contributing cause of cardiovascular disease. Ruby drowned during a popular race on Lake Audubon in late May. [Fairfax County Police Department]

First PRC work session tomorrow — The first workgroup meeting regarding transportation as the county considers a plan to increase Reston’s population density is set for tomorrow at 12005 Sunrise Valley Drive. [Reston Today]

Twitter user @MrErrett

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Save the Date: Work Sessions Scheduled for PRC Proposal in July

Amid concerns about a proposal to increase Reston’s population density in the Planned Residential Community district, the county is kicking off a series of work sessions with stakeholders this month.

The meetings will address four areas of concern highlighted by Reston Association and the Coalition for a Planned Reston, a grassroots umbrella organization. The concerns were voiced and rebuffed in letters to the Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning earlier this year.

The schedule for the work sessions, which each focus on one subject area, is below. Each session will be held at 6 p.m.:

  • July 17 (Transportation): 12005 Sunrise Valley Drive
  • July 18 (Parks and Recreation): 12005 Sunrise Valley Drive
  • July 24 (Schools, Infrastructure, Fire and Rescue):  12001 Sunrise Valley Drive
  • July 30 (Planning):  12001 Sunrise Valley Drive
File photo
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Work Sessions Planned as County Mulls Increasing Density Cap in Reston

County officials will conduct small working sessions in the coming weeks with representatives from the Coalition for a Planned Reston, a grassroots umbrella organization, and Reston Association.

The meetings are intended to encourage dialogue between county staff and other organizations as the county mulls a controversial plan to increase Reston’s population density in Reston’s Planned Residential Community district from 13 to 16 people per acre.

The working sessions will cover planned future growth and its impact on transportation, schools and public facilities, parks, recreation and open space and overall planning.

CPR, which includes residents from the Reston Citizens Association, Reclaim Reston and Reston 20/20, hopes talks will allow the organization to “further clarify the modifications to the Reston Master Plan proposed by CPR and [RA]” said Lynne Mulston, a spokesperson for CPR.

Ultimately, CPR hopes changes to the Master Plan will eliminate the need or perceived need to boost the density cap.

In March, many suggestions pitched by both organizations were rebuffed by county staff, who argued that proposed changes to Reston’s PRC simply implemented the Master Plan, which was formed with community and stakeholder input.

Most recently, CPR and RA met with Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and county staff to resume discussions on May 14.

The working sessions’ statement of purpose, proposed by Fred Selden, Fairfax County Director of Planning and Zoning is as follows:

The purpose of these small group meetings is to continue the dialogue between Fairfax County staff and representatives of both Reston Association (RA) and Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) regarding the proposed changes to the PRC zoning district. Each small group will consist of representatives from County staff, RA, CPR and other Reston stakeholders. They will discuss future growth and its implications or impact on public facilities and infrastructure that serves Reston. 

The schedule of meetings has not been finalized. CPR and RA are reaching out to subject matter experts to participate in the sessions.

File photo

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