What is going on with the Reston Master Plan Task Force, the one appointed three years ago by Supervisor Cathy Hudgins as an urgent matter to prepare the roadmap for Reston’ future development with the advent of rail to Dulles?
Their work was to be completed in one year so that a plan for development around three new rail stations in the Dulles Corridor would be in place, permitting thoughtfully planned new growth, before rail arrived. A second phase was to have followed promptly to set forth plans for future growth in other areas of Reston to proceed on an orderly basis, with community support.
Three years later, the first phase of the Task Force’s work is inexplicably
stalled. The first rail station is largely complete. Train service will begin at Wiehle Avenue at the end of next year. The train is arriving — not so the plan. The Supervisor seems oblivious to the passage of time and failure to prepare for the growth that most assuredly will come. Those who stand to profit will make sure it does.
So, what is happening in the absence of a master plan for the growth? Answer: The Fairfax County Planning Department is now telling developers that the County is open to proposals for new building in the corridor in advance of any plan!
Furthermore, one project, for a 23-story building on Reston Parkway at Spectrum, was just blessed by Hudgins’ appointee Planning Commissioner and is headed for Board of Supervisors’ approval in September - despite the fact that it is not consistent with the county’s own Transit-Oriented Development policy and would not be permitted if the proposal drafted by Task Force members nearly two years ago had been acted upon by the county.
Planning effectively has passed into the hands of developers submitting proposals designed to maximize both new construction and profit, without benefit of a plan for orderly, dare I suggest attractive, growth. What about infrastructure to support all the new growth? I guess we’ll get to that later as well.
It gets worse. Task Force Chairman Patty Nicoson, frustrated with county staff’s inability (or unwillingness) to move forward on Phase 1 planning in the corridor, told me recently that she was thinking of moving on to the second phase of the master plan while County staff ponder when to re-activate Phase 1.
But, the chairman cannot catch a break it seems. Shortly after we talked, Patch reported that Mark Looney, a prominent land-use attorney appointed to the Task Force by Supervisor Hudgins, had sent a letter to Fairfax County zoning authorities on behalf of the owners of Reston National Golf Course.
The Looney letter inquired about the zoning status of the 166-acre golf course and what would be necessary to change its current use. Reston Patch and now Washington Post stories suggest RN owners have residential development in mind. Coincidentally, Looney, who acts as unofficial developer spokesman on the Task Force, presumably will play a lead role in Phase 2 deliberations as well.
Supervisor Hudgins reaction to the news - shucks, the owners could just be curious, not necessarily wanting to build anything at all - the citizens have nothing to worry about.
A lot of folks are not buying Hudgins' soothing words. Already there has been a great uproar in the community in response to the perceived threat to this major open space, long an integral part of south Reston. In fact, a well-organized group calling themselves Rescue Reston is up and running to defend against this potential shredding of the original Reston Master Plan.
Indeed, the future use of the land that is now the RN Golf Course may emerge as the central issue in the second phase of the Task Force’s accelerated work, should it go forward as the Chairperson wishes. There is great opportunity for tremendous profit by the RN owners and developers as well. The pressure and temptation to yield to these interests may be too much for the county political apparatus.
Now would be a good time for Supervisor Hudgins to return to action. The community needs proof that she and her Task Force will serve the community interest, consistent with this once-planned community’s vision, in carrying out Phase 2 of the revised Master Plan. Perhaps she still might save Reston's future
outside the rail corridor.
It may be too late to save Phase 1 where planning already is becoming effectively the domain of the developers because of failed leadership, plain and simple.