Dear Fellow Restonians,
As RCA’s representative to the Reston master planning task force, I want to bring you up to date on this four-year effort that is nearing a destructive result for Restonians’ quality of life in December.
RCA has been an active and positive contributor to the Reston master planning process since its beginning, and enthusiastic about the vibrancy urbanizing the Dulles Corridor could bring to Reston. We have participated in every meeting. Through RCA’s Reston 2020 Committee, we have presented more than a dozen well-researched studies for the task force on planning topics we believe are important. And we have met with County staff along the way. Presenting the goals and concerns of Reston’s citizens has been challenging, but we have done so in good faith in the belief that the right Comprehensive Plan would serve Reston well.
Last November, the task force arrived at a development scenario—“Scenario G”—that appeared to dis-satisfy everyone about equally. It would not allow as much development as developers would like, especially office space, yet it offered only 5% less overall density than the previous lead scenario (“Scenario E”). We believe the scenario still puts too much emphasis on traffic generating office space and does not address phasing issues (matching development with infrastructure improvements) generated by 40,000 new residents and 30,000 new employees.
Over last winter, County staff conducted a series of “impact analyses,” assessing what the population and workforce growth would mean for Reston. The results on issues of concern to Restonians were not surprising, but are of deep concern:
We will need one, possibly two, new elementary schools in the Metro station areas, according to FCPS. We will also need an intermediate and high school, probably located near Rt. 28 where even greater growth is planned. The implication is that upper school boundaries in Reston will shift westward.
We will require more than 100 acres for additional parks and recreation facilities, largely playing fields, to meet station area growth needs according to FCPA, even against the low expectations of the County’s Urban Parks Framework. (You may read our critique of the framework in our response to the third draft of the Reston Comprehensive Plan. The County responded that it thinks its framework is fine.) The latest draft infers that Reston Association should shoulder the space and facilities burden, not the station areas despite the fact that the Urban Parks Framework includes, “urban scale parkland integrated into developments….”
The huge traffic increases at gateway intersections along the Corridor would mean average rush-hour delays up to four minutes at each intersection according to FCDOT. While some roadway improvements could be added, most potential Plan relief from gridlock would come from shifting people to buses, walking, and biking, as well as traffic demand management (TDM) techniques that limit parking and driving in the station areas.
This spring, County staff began to draft the Comprehensive Plan guided by Scenario G and the impact analyses. The initial drafts addressed overarching guidance for the Reston community, including the vision and planning principles the task force agreed upon two years ago.
Then things went downhill. By the fifth and first complete draft plan (103 pages), presented to the task force three weeks ago, the draft language was so bad that RCA decided to make a strong statement critiquing it at last week’s task force meeting. The following is from that four-page statement:
. . . At this point the draft language has no spine or muscle to achieve the goals and limits it professes.
The latest draft, even more than its predecessors, includes numerous weasel words and phrases that undermine achievement of the planning goals of Scenario G, such as extending the TOD walking distance by five minutes in direct contradiction of County TOD policy.
It omits or minimizes vital details for critical planning elements, such as phasing, implementation, financing, and incorporating parks and recreation to serve future residents and employees in the transit station areas.
It overlooks opportunities that would serve the longer term development of the station areas, including moving now to acquire air rights along the Dulles corridor and calling for a recreation center in one of the station areas.
It generally calls upon the current Reston community, and specifically Reston Association, to provide space and financing for amenities that serve station area residents and workers without any commitment that the new residents would become members of RA.
The statement concludes, “. . . this draft plan states that what the developers and County have is theirs; what Reston has is negotiable if not outright takable.” It states that RCA will be unlikely to support this plan and that it will seek community support in improving it.
I ask you to read RCA’s statement, our detailed critique of the latest draft, and even the latest plan draft. The draft plan, if approved, will “guide” future development of Reston and is woefully inadequate in protecting the 60,000 people who live here.
The completed Comprehensive Plan draft is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission (email@example.com) on October 30 and the Board of Supervisors Board of Supervisors (firstname.lastname@example.org) on December 5.
If you share our deep concern, we urge you to contact the County staff lead (Heidi.Merkel@fairfaxcounty.gov), task force chairman Patty Nicoson (email@example.com), and even Supervisor Hudgins (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your thoughts now before this plan becomes our future.
RCA Representative to the Reston Task Force
Member, RCA Board of Directors
Co-Chair, RCA Reston 2020 Committee