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Reston Association to Discuss Zoning Proposal, Single-Use Plastic Project Plan

Tonight is the Planning Commission’s meeting on contentious proposed zoning changes that would increase the population density in Reston. Tomorrow night, the Reston Association is set to discuss that proposal.

The proposal would increase the maximum allowed population per acre in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) district — Reston’s primary zoning district — from 13 persons up to 15.

Back in December, RA’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to continue its opposition to the proposed zoning amendment.

The upcoming RA meeting will consider approval of the Litter Working Group’s pilot project to reduce single-use plastic waste with the merchants at Lake Anne Plaza.

Dubbed “The Last Straw,” the proposed project is meant to test and evaluate a target group in order to make a plan for the Reston community.

The homeowners’ association also will receive a briefing from Tom Biesiadny, the director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. FCDOT is currently seeking input on changes to Fairfax Connector service.

The public meeting tomorrow (Jan. 24) is set to start at 6:30 p.m. at RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).

The draft agenda for the meeting is available online.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Letter: Business, County Interests Push Density Despite Community Calls for Balanced Growth

This letter was submitted by Terry Maynard, who resides in 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.

As a Restonian who has worked hard on Reston planning and zoning for more than a decade, I was stunned by the letter mentioned in a recent Reston Now article. It was signed by 17 people — many of whom are associated with the leadership of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce (GRCOC) — to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

One of the most stunning claims in the letter was that “Reston’s Comprehensive Plan was the product of a five-year planning process involving the full community.” The fact of the matter is that the Reston community was marginalized throughout this timeframe, and its contributions were opposed by developers and ignored by the county.

No community representative, then or now, has opposed reasonable residential and commercial development in the transit station areas. They have objected and continue to object to the excessive development proposed by private and county land use interests.

Only six of the two dozen primary members of the RTF studying Phase 1 for the transit station areas were Reston residents who represented the interests of Reston residents. They included representatives from three community organizations — Reston Association, Reston Citizens Association and Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners — and three independent “at large” residents.

The Task Force recommended 27,932 dwelling units — homes for about 59,000 people — in the station areas based on a study of multiple density and mix scenarios — a development level community representatives could live with. That was set at 27,900 when the Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the Phase 1 plan in early 2014 — a number Reston community representatives could live with.

Then that Phase 1 planned station area dwelling unit number was raised by more than half to 44,000 dwelling units — 92,000 people — in mid-2015 by the BOS in the process of approving the Phase 2 plan without any community involvement or even foreknowledge. Yet the county insists it only revises plans every five years.

Community involvement in Reston planning was even more limited during Phase 2 for Reston’s suburban areas.  It included only four county-led and controlled community meetings and an open house. It was agreed that residential areas should remain “stable,” but the redevelopment of Reston’s village centers drew controversy. Draft county language to require a comprehensive plan amendment to redevelop village centers was dropped from the Board-approved mid-2015 Reston Master Plan because it would make the redevelopment approval process more cumbersome. This effectively shut off public comment on critical changes and eases development.

No meaningful commitment was made in the Reston Master Plan to provide needed infrastructure on a timely basis, despite the GRCOC letter saying, “The Plan requires that infrastructure be ‘phased’ with development.” In fact, that is illegal in Virginia and the RMP planning principles say it “should occur with development.” Language about specific infrastructures–transportation, schools, parks, etc., is vague and the proposals are inadequate.

Moreover, no meaningful funding has been committed to building any of the so-called “planned” infrastructure elements, which are all generally inadequate against even county policy standards, excluding the library where a $10 million bond funding may disappear in 2022.

Now the county is proposing to amend the Reston Planned Residential Community (PRC) zoning ordinance to increase allowable community-wide population density from 13 to 15 people per acre in suburban Reston and increase the allowable density on a single PRC property designated “high density” from 50 to 70 dwelling units per acre, including the village centers and several so-called “hot spots.” In its staff report on the proposed zoning density change, the county calculates roughly a quadrupling of planned housing in the village center areas from less than 1,500 to 5,800.

It also identifies three suburban residential “hot spots”– Saint Johns Wood, Charter Oaks and Fairway — for high-density redevelopment that would more than double the number of dwelling units to 1,863 residences.

The bottom line is that Restonians have had — and continue to have — limited access to the planning and zoning process throughout and their contributions and concerns have almost universally been ignored.

The cumulative effect of the new zoning in the station areas and the prospect of increasing the Reston PRC zoning density would be to allow Reston’s population to triple from its current 63,000 people to more than 180,000. At the same time, there is little or no assurance of the arrival any time soon of needed infrastructure that would maintain Restonians’ quality of life as a model planned community.

Now it is imperative that Restonians rise up and stop the county’s ill-considered PRC density increase proposal driven by Supervisor Hudgins. Attend the Planning Commission hearing on the PRC amendment at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23 in the Fairfax County Government Center wearing a yellow shirt. The presence of hundreds of Restonians will be as great a message to the Planning Commission as the testimony of Reston’s representatives and residents.

— Terry Maynard

File photo

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Tuesday Morning Notes

FCPS opening two hours late today — Fairfax County Public Schools will open two hours late today due to the “very cold weather.” [Tysons Reporter]

Networking night — Tall Oaks Assisted Living is hosting a networking tonight from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Registration will close at noon today. [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]

DARPA’s subsidiary scores satellite Bus development — The Herndon-based subsidiary of Airbus Group recently received a contract to develop a satellite bus intended for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency demonstration program. [ExecutiveBiz]

Response to PRC letters to the editor — A Reston resident writing for Greater Greater Washington argues that “it’s not a lack of coordination or communication from the county that leaves people wondering what will happen. It’s the simple fact that no matter what the PRC limits are, the county can’t zone its way to a specific vision of the future. It would be disingenuous for it to say that it could.” His article responds to two letters to the editor published on Reston Now. [Greater Greater Washington]

Winter Restaurant Week extended — Slated to end on Sunday (Jan. 20), Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) decided to push the end date. Diners now have until Sunday (Jan. 27) to enjoy the prix fixe meals at several Reston restaurants participating in the event. [RAMW]

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Friday Morning Notes

RA urges members to attend PRC meeting — In the latest Reston Today video, Reston Association’s Board President Andy Sigle urges RA members who are concerned about population density to attend a Jan. 23 meeting related to the county’s proposed amendment to the Planned Residential Community zoning ordinance. [YouTube]

Dense fog alert — This morning the National Weather Service issued a dense fog advisory until noon today for portions of the region, including Fairfax County. Drivers are encouraged to slow down, use their headlights and leave plenty of distance ahead of you. [National Weather Service]

“Superior Donuts” opens tonight — Reston Community Players’ production opens tonight at RCC Hunters Woods at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28. [Reston Community Center]

Ed-tech merger — Herndon-based Real Time Cases merged with Delray Beach, Fla.-based Elearis. The Herndon startup’s ideo-based business case studies paired up with the technology platform from Elearis for a new Herndon-based firm. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo via Marjorie Copson

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Letter: Why You Should Care About the Reston Zoning Cap

This letter was submitted by Bruce Ramo, a member of community groups Reclaim Reston and Coalition for a Planned 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.

It’s a lot to ask of everyone in Reston to understand the minutiae of land use law. We have families and jobs and other responsibilities. And, after all, we chose to live in a planned community with loads of covenants and design guidelines. We can leave it to the “experts.” Except we can’t.

Like it or not Restonians have little say over how our community is being developed, and the elected official who should be watching out for us, our county supervisor, has retreated to a defensive posture. She frequently tells us “we just don’t understand” and has suggested that Reston, perhaps the most progressive community in Virginia, opposes the proposed increase in the density cap out of fear of “the other” sharing our neighborhoods. This is simply untrue. The community group Coalition for a Planned Reston proposed an increase in the required affordable housing levels for Reston–our supervisor did not support us.

So what’s the big deal about increasing the density cap, from 13 to 15 persons per acre, in the primarily residential areas of Reston called the Planned Residential Community district? The supervisor and county staff tells us that the increase is necessary to implement 2015 changes to the Reston Master Plan. Those changes allow significantly increased density in the Village Centers and other “hot spots” throughout established neighborhoods of Reston, far from the Metro stations.  We are also scolded about speaking up now because, as the story goes, the public had lots of opportunities back in 2014-15 to comment on changes to these portions of the Reston Master Plan changes called “Phase 2.” (Phase 1 involved only the transit station areas.)

Our supervisor and county staff frequently repeat the myth of significant community involvement in Reston Master Plan Phase 2.  However, the county disbanded the citizen “task force” set up for community review before the Phase 2 review. There simply was little in-depth public review of the changes that are the driver for increasing the density cap.

Why should you care? Because if the zoning density cap is lifted, the ability of the community to push back on significant high-density development in our established residential neighborhoods effectively will be eliminated. Sure, each of us can watch out for individual development applications, but the force of overall community oversight based on a reasonable density cap will have been taken from us forever.  

We have invested our financial resources, identities and emotional loyalty to Reston as a planned community. The density increase is an existential threat to those investments.

Take action to protect your hometown. Help maintain the current density cap and the modicum of control it provides over those who would rob us of a community grounded in diversity, environmental stewardship and quality of life.

Attend the Jan. 23 meeting of the Planning Commission at the Fairfax County Government Center at 7 p.m. (and wear your yellow shirts!)

Write to our County officials: Supervisor Hudgins: [email protected]; other Fairfax County Supervisors:  [email protected]; and the Fairfax County Planning Commission: [email protected].

File photo

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Planning Commission to Tackle Controversial Zoning Proposal

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a workshop tonight on a proposed zoning amendment opposed by several local groups.

The proposal would increase the maximum allowed population per acre in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) district — Reston’s primary zoning district — from 13 persons up to 15.

While county planning officials say the change is needed to put into action Reston’s Master Plan, which allows for future growth over the next 40 years, critics argue it is rushed through and under-explained. Several opponents reaffirmed since the New Year why they think the proposal should get axed.

Reston Association’s Board of Directors, which opposes the proposal, held their own workshop last week on Jan. 2 where the board considered various options to try and prevent the county from passing the amendment. The homeowners’ association does not have legal jurisdiction in the matter, yet the board voted to send a letter to tell the county that RA membership, which includes 21,000 residential units, need a prominent voice in the decision.

Less than a week later on Tuesday (Jan. 8) RA President Andy Sigle, on behalf of the Board of Directors, sent a letter to the Fairfax County Planning Commission, reiterating RA’s opposition to the proposed PRC zoning amendment. The letter outlined initiatives the association could take to potentially stop the adoption of the amendment and strongly urged the commission to ask the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to not approve the amendment.

“As we have often stated, our primary basis for our opposition stems from the repeated failure of Fairfax County’s staff to provide a thorough and convincing explanation of the need for the proposed ordinance amendment at this time,” Sigle wrote in the letter.

RA’s position is that any potential change to the density cap must be done concurrently with the next upcoming review of the Reston Master Plan. Sigle said the Reston Association “has no choice but to vigorously pursue any and all options available to us to inform and engage its members, including, but not limited to, a ballot initiative adjunct to its upcoming elections as well as a strong and substantial social media campaign about the proposed PRC zoning amendment.”

Reston 2020 wrote in a post on Monday (Jan. 7) that Reston would get crowded if the proposal is approved. “At the same time, the county has not funded plans to meet Reston’s transportation, school, park and other needs associated with this growth, even as required by its own county policies,” the post says, adding that the “massive unplanned imbalance between growth and infrastructure will be a dramatic loss of quality of life in Reston.”

Also on the same day, Coalition for a Planned Reston encouraged locals to write to the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission and also to wear yellow clothing to the upcoming Planning Commission public hearing scheduled for Jan. 23.

Dennis K. Hays, the president of the Reston Citizens Association, outlined 10 reasons to leave the cap alone in a letter to the editor posted on Reston Now last week. (Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.)

Amid the many concerned voices, the proposal has still found supporters.

On Jan. 2, 17 people, including Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Ingrao and Reston Master Plan Study Task Force Chair Patricia Nicoson, sent a six-page letter to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins supporting the Reston PRC District Residential Density Zoning Ordinance Amendment.

They wrote the following in the letter:

The intent of this letter is not to prejudge or determine what if any changes may be appropriate to address specific issues discussed in the extensive community meetings the county pursued in recent months. But we think it [is] important that there be greater understanding and appreciation for what is actually contained in the Comprehensive Plan and the rationales that underlie those decisions. We all appreciate that growth is not universally accepted and is not without challenge, but the decision to embrace very significant growth, with an accompanying process and plan for necessary infrastructure development, was incorporated into the Reston Comprehensive Plan as the result of an extensive and participatory community process that had the widespread support of community representatives intimately engaged in that process…

Reducing or disincentivizing residential growth is at odds with the comprehensive vision the Task Force so powerfully (and almost unanimously) endorsed. These issues were exhaustively discussed throughout an arduous, inclusive, five-year Task Force and Village Center process; revisiting and endlessly debating these issues will create uncertainty about the Plan’s stability and risks halting needed development or creating uneven or disjointed results, which we don’t think is in Reston’s interests. There will be numerous opportunities for community input as this process evolves over the next several decades, and individual projects will be subject to multiple approvals and community input before they can proceed. For all these reasons, we support County Staff’s pending administrative recommendations, which we think are broadly consistent with implementation of the vision adopted in the Comprehensive Plan.

The letter included eight points “that are sometimes missing from the ongoing dialogue about staff’s proposals,” arguing that adding significant new residential development is central to the Task Force recommendations and essential to ensure balanced growth. The letter also said that build-out — along with “phased-in infrastructure” — of the plan will take decades and that the community’s ability to participate throughout that process is protected.

Hudgins has supported moving forward the zoning proposal’s consideration. Meanwhile, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust and Braddock District Supervisor John Cook have expressed frustration about the process.

The Planning Commission workshop takes place tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Board Auditorium of the Government Center at 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax, Va. The workshop will be for the commissioners’ questions and discussion only and will not be an opportunity for public input.

People can watch it remotely via online streaming.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ public hearing is set for March 5. The Planning Commission must say “yea” or “nay” to the proposal by March 15, according to county rules.

File photo

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Letter: The Folly of 15

This letter was submitted by Dennis K. Hays, the president of the Reston Citizens Association. 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.

Fairfax County has proposed to increase the population cap of the Reston Planned Residential Community district (PRC) from the long-standing 13 persons per acre (ppa) to as many as 15 persons per acre — which when combined with already approved projects would add an additional 30,000 people above our current population for the established, primarily residential areas of Reston. Please keep in mind this doesn’t include the areas around the Metro, where the county is on track to authorize building enough high rises to add an additional 80,000 residents.

Here are 10 reasons why the cap should be left alone. There undoubtedly are more.

1. If the ceiling (13) is shattered, there is no new ceiling: Fourteen or 15 today will be 16 tomorrow, 17 the day after and 20 down the road. The current 13 ppa has been in effect since Robert Simon created Reston. Does anyone believe the county will stop at 15?

2. The county bases its proposal on numbers that are rough estimates at best, gross misrepresentations at worst. The county has provided no established methodology that can be used to arrive at accurate numbers. The county promised to meet with the Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) and the Reston Association to agree on a methodology before any action would be taken. We’re still waiting.

3. There are thousands of dwelling units (what the county calls where we live) that have been approved but not yet built (1,400 at Spectrum alone). How will all these already authorized residences affect roads, schools, first responder services, and parks? The county counts them for cap purposes, but not for the provision of services.

4. The county doesn’t count people who live in affordable or workforce housing as part of the cap, despite CPR’s frequent complaints. These neighbors of ours have kids in school, drive to work, go to the library and play ball in the parks just like everyone else. So why are they second-class citizens in the county’s eyes?

5. Although the county is in a frenzied hurry to authorize new high-density construction, they are in no hurry to provide the needed infrastructure that should go along with it. Reston has received no funding from the county in its current transportation budget. There is no land for additional athletic fields or open space confirmed. The Master Plan calls for infrastructure to be phased in with development. County officials talk for hours about their “plans” for roads, schools, parks, etc. but when pressed they are forced to admit they have no funds, no identified land and no timetable for the required infrastructure.

6. Why the push to raise the cap now? Even using the county’s questionable numbers there aren’t any development proposals that take us over the 13 ppa limit. So what is the rush? Why not use this time to assess how we grow in phase with the services needed to support our neighborhoods?

7. Until five years ago the county had an official on the Planning staff dedicated to working on Reston proposals. This provided some coordination. They haven’t replaced that official. Now the county can’t say specifically where the development allowed by their increased cap will go, although it doesn’t take much to figure this out — initially it will go to build high rises in the Village Centers, take parking spaces away from the library and push again on St. Johns Wood and the other “hot spots” the county believes should be more urban. And by urban they mean you will only walk, bike or Metro to work, the grocery store, the movies, to see family and friends and everywhere else. And then they will come for the golf courses.

8. The Reston Master Plan was changed in significant ways after community representatives had signed off on what they believed to be the final version. Leaving that aside for the moment, the Virginia Code calls for Master Plans to be reviewed and updated at least every five years. The Master Plan for the Metro areas is up for review next month. The PRC portion must be updated no later than next year. Yet the county has taken no steps to begin the review process. Given all that has happened, isn’t it time to pause and take stock?

9. The more you dig into the county’s assertions, the shakier they become. The CPR and the Reston Association met with county officials in four sub-groups last summer. It became immediately apparent that a lot more information and data was needed to properly review and assess the issues surrounding the cap. We had agreement coming out of all four meetings that the additional information would be developed before any action on the cap was taken. CPR and RA asked over 30 specific questions. On Dec. 11 the county responded by sending a blizzard of paperwork — that restated what we had already been told but provided no new information. Why hasn’t the county met its commitment to answer these questions? Could it be that the answers would be more damning than not answering?

10. The county speaks often of the need for “community involvement” and the Master Plan lists community participation as the foundation stone on which all else rests. So why has the county refused to meaningfully engage with its citizens? We remain ready to work with the county to further the unique vision of Reston as a balanced, welcoming community that takes to heart our motto of “live, work, play.” Is that too much to ask?

If you agree that raising the cap is unneeded and counterproductive, please let our Fairfax County Supervisor ([email protected]), the other supervisors ([email protected]), the Planning Commission ([email protected]) and the Department of Planning and Zoning ([email protected]) know. We can make this a Happy New Year if we act together.

— Dennis K. Hays

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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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