RA Board to Vote on Lake Anne Land Swap

Controversial proposal would be part of Lake Anne Revitalization efforts.

Vote expected Thursday on land swap.
Vote expected Thursday on land swap.

By Alex McVeigh

Editor's Note: The meeting time has been changed to 6 p.m., and the story has been edited to reflect the change

The Reston Association Board of Directors will decide yay or nay on a proposed land swap involving two parcels near Lake Anne at their Thursday meeting.

The meeting will take place at the Reston Association Headquarters, 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive, starting at 6 p.m. It will also stream live on the RA’s YouTube channel.

The controversial swap would see the RA exchange a 1.01-acre parcel valued at $2,126,987 for a 1.1-acre plot valued at $2,373,604.

But while the RA’s parcel is located directly to the northeast of the plaza, the land it would receive in return is located just south of Baron Cameron Drive, and is considered by critics of the plan to have little value.

The land the RA would give up would be used by Lake Anne Redevelopment Partners, a company chosen by Fairfax County to redevelop Lake Anne Plaza and the surrounding areas.

Specifically, the parcel would be used for part of a parking facility, which would be a part of the overall consolidation of parcels around Lake Anne.

Residents were divided at the Oct. 24 board meeting, with some believing that it is time for Lake Anne revitalization to move forward, while others saw it as an unfair swap for RA members.

Patch spoke with Eve Thompson, the Lake Anne/Tall Oaks director on the RA board prior to the Oct. 24 meeting, about the swap.

What's the land swap about?

For this initial plan in the Lake Anne revitalization district, there are several landowners. Fairfax County owns the largest parcel at the Crescent Apartments. Lake Anne Condominium has their parking lot in the mix, and Reston Association  has a small, 1.014 acre, crescent-shaped parcel that runs between the sidewalk along North Shore Drive from Chimney House Road to the commercial Lake Anne parking lot entrance.

The land swap would allow RA to trade this open space in exchange for a similar piece of property owned by the developer so that the land in near Lake Anne Condominium can be included in the redevelopment.

How will RA's land be used?

The land will become a two-level parking structure for use by Lake Anne Plaza visitors.

Is the land swap a good thing to do?

Reston Association has been a longtime supporter of the revitalization efforts associated with Lake Anne. This effort has been on-going for more than 20 years. The well being of all of our neighborhoods is of paramount importance to RA. Lake Anne is the  symbolic heart of Reston, we want to do what we can to make it a thriving and vibrant community.

What will Reston get out of the land swap?

First and foremost, we'll get a thriving Village Center. Second, the revitalization will result in an additional 1,125 dues-paying households. which at current dues translates to in excess of $650,000 in RA revenue. Third, we believe we can negotiate so significant proffers as a part of this land swap. We won't be losing any open space and we'll be contributing to a landmark project that will impact the larger RA community positively for years to come.

Constance Rue Hartke November 20, 2013 at 09:31 PM
RA Board meeting starts at 6, not 7. I think land swap is on agenda at 6:20.
Wildcat Mack November 20, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Copy and paste from other articles, numerous factual errors besides the time being wrong, the Connection's writer doing your work.....really Patch? (or what is left of Patch)
JT November 21, 2013 at 07:31 AM
It's a land "grab" not "swap". Who values the parcel on Baron Cameron at $2 million?
Laura Calacci November 21, 2013 at 07:37 AM
Patch was never great, and RestonNow.com is copying what was not working.. Lake Anne Plaza will never again be a thriving Village Center if RA & Fairfax County insist on filling the area with subsidized housing units. They have to pay to relocate these people and then move them back? REALLY? I know my opinions are not popular. But I don't care. How many units will be subsidized in this scheme? Think of how much more in exorbitant RA fees we could collect if all of those units were market rate. There is a loitering & crime problem in the area that everyone is scared to talk about for fear of being called anti-immigrant. I am not anti immigrant. I am a realist. And enough about the "original vision". There is nothing so eternal as change. The land swap is irrelevant to most people in Reston.
Kate Peterson November 21, 2013 at 09:18 AM
Laura- the subsidized housing is basically rental property- the RA dues are paid by the owner, in this case the County. I do hope you'll come to the meeting to state your views in person. I for one would love to put a face with the name.
Kate Peterson November 21, 2013 at 09:21 AM
Todd- there's a lot of updated information on the RA website about the new offer from the developer, perhaps you could incorporate that information into an update?
Laura Calacci November 21, 2013 at 09:36 AM
Kate, I am fully aware of what subsidized housing is. And when the County pays, where is that money coming from? It is coming from the taxpayers. And I am a taxpayer and I assume you are as well.
Diane Lewis November 21, 2013 at 11:08 AM
This land swap would be setting a terrible precedent. Want to pave over some community-owned open space or parkland in a planned unit development? Get a company in with deep pockets to proffer some unusable land for the area you want to concrete over. Meanwhile, stir up a local interest group that needs some small part of what is proffered. Keep the plan very quiet and spring it on the community with a short deadline, offering no alternative. In the sustainability community, this is called "TINA" [There is no alternative]. The playbook is familiar and used all over the world when corporate powers want to bamboozle the people out of their commons.
Pamela Findley November 21, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Patch only cites someone who is in favor of the land swap, and she doesn't address what is currently on each parcel concerned in the swap. From a related article or blog: "The land swap is counter to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, 2013 edition, page 162 which applies specifically to this parcel of mature trees that is located mostly in Land Unit C and partly in Land Unit A. The plan states: “Tree preservation and/or tree cover should be a key condition of redevelopment in this Land Unit, in accordance with guidance in the Environmental section of the Fairfax County Policy Plan. The existing tree canopy in this Land Unit should be preserved to the greatest extent possible.” While revitalization of the Lake Anne area is imperative, it can be done without the loss of this beneficial green space. Consultation with our excellent environmental staff would certainly seem to be a vital step in any "land swap" of this nature.
Tammi Petrine November 21, 2013 at 12:11 PM
The whole RA LA land swap affair is sad. 1. Plan was kept secret from RA stakeholders, public and even some RA board members until recently by former RA CEO and at least one other board member who was privy to plan as a result of being a LARCA owner. RA's own environmental experts who highly value grove were kept in the dark until the secret deal leaked out. 2. "Swap" is terrible for RA; new land is a liability as it is worthless and difficult to maintain. Therefore it would COST RA (us dues payers) MORE to maintain. It would never be developed anyway so let the developer be responsible for expensive upkeep. 3. As stated by Ms. Lewis, RA is setting terrible precedent here in allowing valuable natural area with environmentally rare vegetation be razed. Very recent amendments to the design of parking structure to be located on it attempt to save some of trees has just been proposed. The reality is that trees have large root systems that will be fatally damaged by the construction so ultimately any disturbance of the grove will result in its demise. Who pays for the tree care as the grove is dying is being debated but the result is dead trees. 4. Most important of all is that OTHER locations for needed LA parking (and parking IS very important!!!) EXIST and have been overlooked. One is a large parking lot west of plaza and Heron House owned already by LARCA, the condo owners of HH and the LA plaza condos including merchants. The other is the existing LA parking lot where the Farmers Market is located. Guy Rando, an architect and long-time LA resident has challenged the premise that underground construction of parking there is impossible. Guy asserts that indeed more than enough parking can be built on and under the existing lot as was explored by none other than Fairfax County when LA revitalization was being studied several years ago! This is VERY exciting news as the parking lot is also owned by LARCA who will be leasing it to the new developer who has planned many new buildings on it above grade. (The existing parking lot had been dismissed as unsuitable due to a sewer line, a box culvert and utilities running through it. None of these are insurmountable obstacles. Utilities can be re-routed and the sewer and box culvert can be accommodated with proper design of the parking garages which would have multiple entrances, another great feature. In fact, the garages could also have entrances CLOSER to the original merchants than the RA grove parcel proposal which would favor NEW merchants exclusively. 5. This whole affair has been handled very badly and the RA board will be pressured tonight to vote on a brand new amended motion. Neither they nor RA members have had sufficient time to absorb impacts of amendments OR Guy Rando's plans which would be a huge win/win for EVERYONE. 6. Delaying the vote should not jeopardize the developer's status as the favored party to revitalize Lake Anne. The county AND community embrace his design (exclusive of grove destruction) and can easily relax performance dates to allow time to engineer new plans per Rando idea. Doesn't this make the most sense? Please attend tonight's RA board meeting to express your views, learn about Rando's plan and watch our RA board as they manage this most critical, precedent setting decision. Hopefully they will defer decisions until developer has time to weigh in on the plans which would preserve our wooded parcel for generations to come. Although RCA has passed a resolution asking RA and Fairfax County to give the developer more time to investigate options to save the grove, the views expressed here are my own.
Skip Endale November 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM
A cool quarter million and the elimination of crime and underground economy is what we are talking about. True. Some squirrels have to die.
Kate Peterson November 21, 2013 at 01:39 PM
There are few flaws with this premis. 1. Guy Rando didn't win the County's solicitation. 2. If you look at Table 7 of LADP's design it shows that there is an in ground parking structure. 3. Mr. Rando's design would put temporary parking across No Shore. Hardly a winner for the shops as they get through the construction. If you look at the new LOI it has reduced the amount of land needed by close to 40% and they've created an escrow account to purchase additional property or easements for RA. Given what the community will gain while its a hard choice it is a balanced choice and I for one have asked my representative to vote YES for the land swap.
Connie Hartke November 21, 2013 at 03:13 PM
In a document regarding Parking Strategy delivered to the Board LATE yesterday, Lake Anne Development Partners says this about the Crescent Apartment Site – "The Crescent site contains approximately 1,500 parking spaces to service the residential community to be located on the site. An alternative was suggested along the northern edge of North Shore Drive, generally across from Chimney House Road, but the plans for the Crescent property have evolved to achieve the density anticipated and the townhouses will be built into this hillside." I say change those plans and make room for parking for the Lake Anne merchants. This is a viable solution and so is "Under the Existing Millennium Bank Parking Lot – This location is also part of the planned expansion of the plaza and is similarly located in the middle of the 925’ long development. We are already planning parking under this lot, but not for general public or retail use. This parking would be dedicated to serving the office and residential uses in the building proposed on this portion of the site."
Diane Lewis November 21, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Swapping mature trees for a weedy ravine is a balanced choice? RA's costs in maintaining the latter is a scary unknown. Our dues would be better spent on adding to or improving existing open space areas. The folks who are going to swell our population very soon will require recreation spaces. We are past our limit now--trying to book a soccer field is very difficult, to take just one example.
Jen O'Neill November 21, 2013 at 03:18 PM
The RA Board should vote against this. They are responsible to the homeowners. Giving the land away is a breach of trust. And they can be held liable individually.
Diane Lewis November 21, 2013 at 03:21 PM
BTW, most folks in Reston seem to be unaware of this issue. Talked with two friends this afternoon at their workplaces. They were aghast and couldn't believe RA would allow this.
Laura Calacci November 21, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Diane, I really don't care one way or the other, but RA loves to spend money & man power that we pay for on removing invasive plants from wooded areas. Its one of their favorite things to do and they use volunteers for the same purpose. That damned English Ivy is certainly a problem. So that weedy ravine will get lots of time, money & attention and trash will still line the streets.
Kate Peterson November 21, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Connie- you say you are in favor of revitalization but yet you are in favor of creating a failure for the new and future businesses. How do you defend that?
Connie Hartke November 21, 2013 at 04:03 PM
There are parking alternatives. RA needs to respect its own policies and guidance and respect all Restonians. From the spring 2013 RA community survey: ". . . priority initiatives (considered “essential” or “very important” by about 9 in 10 residents) were:  protecting air and water quality;  preserving natural areas, habitats, and open land;  keeping the scenic beauty of Reston;  enhancing public spaces, parks and trails;  reducing traffic congestion; and  making the communities more walkable.
Connie Hartke November 21, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Now I must finish my day job and get ready to attend the hearing. Signing off.
Laura Calacci November 21, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Connie & Kate, Ever seen an episode of Parks & Rec? Although RA thinks and acts like a big government entity, it is not the EPA (thank God), and therefore nothing it does can protect air and water quality. As far as the scenic beauty and enhancement of parks, trails, and public spaces, they could concentrate on picking up the garbage. I think I may come to the meeting in disguise. I'll be the one smoking my electronic cigarette on the path closest to RA big beautiful Class A office space.


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