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Taking A Look at Next Phase of Reston Master Plan Special Study

Phase II, slated to begin in late spring 2012, will concentrate on neighborhoods and village centers.

Residents eager to hear about Reston's future came to S on Wednesday to Fairfax County Planner Heidi Merkel outline the next part of the Master Plan Special Study process, which will concentrate on residential and village centers.

Merkel says the Master Plan Special Study Phase II process will likely begin late next spring after Phase I is expected to be completed. , has been going on for more than 18 months.

Ideally, Phase II will take three months, Merkel said.

Merkel says both phases are necessary to accommodate changes as the original Master Plan was formulated nearly 50 years ago.

"The bottom line, is future growth is going to happen," said Merkel. "We need to figure out how to give places for that growth to happen in Reston in a way that is still respectful of the original idea and concepts of Reston."

Merkel also said most of the residential neighborhoods are not likely to see drastic change.

"We are not planning from scratch," she said. "I am not saying going to take existing map and start over. Really, we are building on fine tradition of Robert Simon’s original master plan."

Key points of the presentation:

* The population of Reston (58,404 in the 2010 U.S. Census) is not likely to radically change in residential neighborhoods, keeping them well under the Planned Residential Community population cap of 83,000.

"The PRC district area will remain basically constant at currently 13 people per acre," she said. "Phase II will evaluate options how to address a time when it may go above where the cap is. It could be exceeded on a case-by-case basis."

Merkel said the plan intends to "preserve the stability of residential neighborhoods in Reston. Part of process will entail how best to do that."

The task force will look at how neighborhoods were zoned originally and what ended up being built there. For instance, if a neighborhood was zoned medium density and townhouses (rather than high-density apartments) were built there, the zoning might be reclassified as low to accommodate what is already there, Merkel said.

Redevelopment projects already under consideration, said Merkel.

* The other part of Phase II will look at South Lakes, Hunters Woods, North Point and Tall Oaks Village Centers, as well as smaller shopping centers at Baron Cameron and Reston Parkway (Home Depot), on Sunrise Valley at Soapstone (Reston Barber Shop) and on Soapstone near Glade (7-Eleven).

has already been the subject of a study, so it will not be a part of Phase II, Merkel said.has also been under consideration as part of Phase I, so it will not be included in Phase II.

"I think there is merit about what village centers should evolve into in the future," said Merkel.  "What should village centers be? Should they be retail strip centers? That has a place, perhaps, in Reston, or should they evolve, as Mr. Simon has said, to make them community gathering places – places where residents can come together around a variety of activities?"

Discussions will include residents as well as property owners, but any action might not happen for a long time, Merkel said. Rather, ideas could be in place for whenever the owner decides it is time to redevelop.

There might be charrettes (design study work sessions with a variety of input) for envisioning redevelopment. Charrettes were used in 2002 to work on the areas around the Metro stations and in 2006 at Lake Anne.

Merkel mentioned that a charrette may be helpful for

 To see Merkel's presentation, click here.

Kathy November 17, 2011 at 03:59 PM
A zoning change that allows redevelopment of residential neighborhoods on a "case-by-case basis" may mean a blanket zoning change of the whole planned residential community of Reston to high-density. Certainly, an across-the-board increase in zoning will allow infill development in which a few homes in a residential neighborhood could be removed and replaced with a high-rise apartment building. RA Board President Kathleen Driscoll-McKee in her article, THE ESSENTIAL RESTON AND MANAGING FOR CHANGE, Fall 2011 issue of RESTON magazine, states, "So what does this mean for us as we face the coming of Metro as we decide what to do about our 47-year-old infrastructure and figure out ways to allow quality redevelopment WITHIN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS? What do you think the president of our homeowners association means by this comment? When Heidi Merkel states that "ideas" could be in place for whenever the owner decides it is time to redevelop, she means "zoning" could be in place. Once all of Reston is rezoned high-density, developers will be able to pick off neighborhoods one at a time--as soon as they have money available to make offers to homeowners. In the Dulles corridor and Town Center there are thousands of acres, ample room for high-density residential development in Reston. Our neighborhoods do not need to be redeveloped to increase revenue for Fairfax County. Kathy Kaplan Reston
Orlina November 17, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Given the high vacancy rates at Tall Oaks, it seems more likely that a developer would target Tall Oaks village center for purchase, before trying to buy out clusters full of homeowners. The homeowner buy out would be both very expensive and very messy compared to the dealing with one corporate owner. I just can’t see this happening. Based on the mere 20 minutes allowed for Q & A at last night’s public meeting, I'm doubtful that residents will have any significant opportunity for input on the plans. Developers have far greater access to the RA, DRB and FFX Co Board of Supervisors (i.e. the people who make the decisions). Isn't it interesting that they deferred deciding on the Fairway project back until after the election?
Kathy November 17, 2011 at 06:59 PM
I hear that phrase "I just can't see this happening" over and over. I think it is somehow comforting to people to think it. Don't be comforted. A developer floated such a buy-out to a cluster in the Lake Anne district about a year and a half ago. The interesting thing isn't the offer--developers want to make money and they make offers wherever they think they have an opportunity to make money--it's the fact that the cluster they were offering on is currently zoned medium-density. The developer was proposing replacing the townhouses with four high-rise apartment buildings and that clearly is high-density. Would the developer have bothered to bring all the residents to the table without a reasonable expectation that they would get the zoning they needed for this project from the county? The people in democracies are the final decision makers. If the people of Reston refuse to allow the county to rezone our neighborhoods, they won't be rezoned. Kathy Kaplan Reston
John Farrell November 17, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Enough with the baseless hysteria already. I do not understand what is accomplished by fomenting fears that are contrary to all available evidence. As far as the PRC portion of Reston, what you see is what you get for the next 20 years at least. That's a standard land use planning horizon. If the existing development is less than the authorized zoning or comp. plan, Phase 2 will harmonize the Comprehensive Plan to reflect what exists on the ground. That's it. The only open question is Tall Oaks. And any proposals for Tall Oaks will have to have a "buy in" by the owner of the center and the neighbors or it's not going anywhere. Every Sunday, we Catholics pray to be saved from "useless anxiety." Please stop creating 'useless anxiety" for your neighbors.
Kathy November 17, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Mr. Farrell, Why should the people of Reston be kept in the dark? My comments are not hysterical nor is my evidence baseless. There is plenty of room for residential development in the Dulles Corridor and Town Center. Our neighborhoods do not need to be on the table. Heidi Merkel stated with her own lovely voice October 2008 that many of the old clusters needed to go. I wouldn't call that baseless. I hope the people of Reston will continue to pay attention to Phase 2 and not be persuaded to ignore the process by your comments, prayerful or otherwise. Kathy Kaplan Reston
John Farrell November 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM
There yo go again. No one is being kept in the dark. No one's neighborhood is "on the table." Ms. Merkel said nothing of the sort last night. I wasn't at the meeting in 10/'08. No one said not to pay attention to the Phase 2 process. I did ask for the hysteria to be toned down. Uselessly.
NinosListos November 18, 2011 at 01:17 AM
I asked the question last night about whether they would postpone any redevelopment (such as Fairway Apts or Colvin Woods) until Phase II was completed. I took away that the if the area was already zoned for higher density even though it isn't currently built that way, the developer would be able to redevelop it because they already had that right. That is the explanation for allowing Fairway Apartments redevelopment to go through. NOTHING was said about changing any zoning to lower existing density. They also stated that the Phase I area isn't subject to the 13 per acre limit currently in force for the rest of Reston. They hinted at increasing this density limit in the PRC areas. If everyone is telling us that growth is inevitable and the revising the Master Plans so that we stare where it is to happen, we have to believe that redevelopment of existing neighborhoods is in the pipeline unless it is strictly forbidden.
NinosListos November 18, 2011 at 01:19 AM
No "drastic change", Depends on the definition of drastic.
NinosListos November 18, 2011 at 01:24 AM
The 2002 Charrette is the excuse for allowing sky-high density along Sunrise Valley and Sunset Hills. I wouldn't trust any group of "experts" from LA to tell this Tall Oaks area resident what Tall Oaks needs. The last two grocery stores failed at Tall Oaks not because of lack of visibility but because they didn't match the wants or needs of our neighborhood or most commuters that travel Wiehle daily.
Kathy November 18, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Fairfax County DPZ head Fred Selden came to the Reston P&Z as the task force was getting started about two years ago. One of the issues Selden discussed was that of downzoning. He said that Fairfax County would not be downzoning, that is, taking an area zoned at a higher density and changing it to a lower density. Arthur Hill had been calling for a category of zoning he called, "as built," which would have protected neighborhoods that were built at densities lower than their current high-density zoning (up to 50 neighborhoods). Karen Goff has written in the article above that Heidi mentioned something like that might be tried to preserve the stability of Reston's neighborhoods. There might be legal issues that could make that difficult, especially if a developer already owns the land and intends to redevelop at higher density, as in the case of JBG Fairway Apts. Downzoning would devalue their property. They could sue the county. Arthur Hill suggested another strategy to Fred Selden to protect Reston's at-risk clusters. He suggested that the cluster could vote to create a covenant declaring that the cluster had fulfilled its density requirement and therefore could not be redeveloped. Fred Selden said that would not work until Reston was built out enough to reach the current density cap. With Spectrum and Fairway developments we are not far from fulfilling the density cap so perhaps it is time to revisit Arthur Hill's idea of such a covenant. Kathy Kaplan Reston
The BSD Guy November 18, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Development in Fairfax County is a CLASSIC example of why we now have the 99 percenters and OWS movements...it's an example fo "Governement by the special interests and for the special interests...with taxpayers footing the bill." In one of the recent posts, a writer referred to a Fairfax County official ... you know, one of those people that's being paid by US, as stating essentiallly every old neighborhood in Reston needs to go. You see, fellow neighbors, even in small governments like the county we now have billionaire elites in the development industry essentially dictating through their subordinates in the County Government (being paid by us) what they are going to do to us to line their pockets with more and more money. It's a cool trick when you think of it - Get taxpayers to fund their own destruction. The only way this will EVER change is to start REMOVING people from both county positions and elected office if need be. Until these people are fired or removed from office, the same old dedication to the billionaire elites will continue, and county residents will continue to have more and more and more ludicrous ideas shoved down their throats (and partially funded through their tax dollars) against their wills. Playing "nice" or attempting to compromise with developers when no compromise is due is to follow the exact same recipe for failure that has always existed.

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