News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, October 20, 2017

PSA: Monday's Rescheduled Overcrowded Meeting on Overcrowding Likely To Be Overcrowded

For nonagorophobic lovers of low-density land use regulations, South Lakes High School will be the place to be on Monday evening.

After Fairfax County's first attempt to hear public input on its proposal to turn Reston into Manhattan Tysons Ballston, only with fewer bridges and bike overpasses and more paid parking, turned into an unintentional Alanis Morrisette tribute last month, county officials are try, try, trying again to hold a public meeting at 7pm Monday at South Lakes High School in the cafeteria, which apparently holds more people than the school's gym and will keep ugliness like this from happening again:


WHAT AN UNRULY MOB. LET THEM EAT WOONERF.

But fear not, silly rabbits! Apparently an overflow room has been set up as a contingency (we hope they call it the "Herndon room"), giving latecomers all the fun of watching public access teevee at home with the all after-hours ambience of a high school classroom. Can't wait!

Also, because irony is dead and nothing means anything anymore, apparently the county is worried about parking at the high school. So it's running shuttle buses to South Lakes from the North County Government Center -- one at 6pm, the second at 6:30pm. Knowing how traffic crossing the Toll Road is at rush hour these days, we'd plan on taking the earlier one if you want to get there on time.

So what is this all about, besides wearing cool matchy-matchy T-shirts? We tried to developmentsplain things a while back, complete with this helpful annotated map:

Apparently the Wegmans is going to be on the other side of town, but otherwise it's a stunningly accurate portrayal of all the places that development could happen -- to the tune of an additional 22,292 housing units already approved or in the pipeline. Our BFFs at Reston 20/20 argue that the zoning changes could add nearly 13,000 residents to our existing village centers alone. Members of the Reston Association Board of Directors have said they oppose the proposed change, and the Reston Citizens Association has come out with a statement which gets at the heart of the matter:

The County's present proposal to significantly increase the overall population of Reston without providing adequate infrastructure is harmful to the interests of present and future residents of Reston and to the County itself.

The Reston Citizens Association strongly encourages the County to withdraw its proposal and identify a way to balance infrastructure needs before proposing any increased density to ensure Reston will be a successful community for another fifty years and beyond.

We're not convinced the worst will come to happen -- 177,000 Restonians by 2050! Four times the density of Ballston! Dogs and cats on the same underfunded, smoke-filled Metro cars! -- because the region's overall strapping-bombs-to-dolphins economy seems to be a bit..... uncertain these days, and those fancy neon-bedecked mauvescrapers aren't exactly leasing themselves.

At the same time, the county has given us no confidence that they have the best interests of the people who live here (or will move here) in mind, either. Maybe if they'd just throw us a frickin' bridge or two before opening the floodgates, we'd feel a bit more confident their comprehensive zoning deliberations don't resemble those scenes in old Bugs Bunny cartoons where a character's eyes are replaced with old-timey cash register signs.

Hopefully the public hearing will result in county officials actually hearing what people in Reston have to say, and not just devolve into farce (as seems to be the hawt new trend for public meetings in our community of late, the end).

Friday, October 6, 2017

We're #29! Why Reston Is Exactly One Better Than Ashburn To Live In

ZOMG, someone rouse Kasey Kasem from his unmarked grave in Norway, because the annual Money Magazine list of the Best Exurban Sprawly Places to Live was released a few weeks back, and our beloved earth-toned community was ranked #29 -- tumbling 22 big notches since its apex in the Top 10 back in ought-twelve (frankly, we blame the decline on the loss of Reston's #1 amenity). But we could care less about that, because we ranked exactly one place above Ashburn, our Wegmans-loving, Metro-curious particleboard Nirvana to the west. Ha! Science (or at least lazy magazine listicle generators) has conclusively proven we're one better!

Here's what MoneyTimeCNNSportsIllustratedJuggs says about Reston:

Today, the thriving Washington, D.C., suburb offers a woodsy atmosphere that includes expanses of parks, lakes, golf courses, and bridle paths. Over 50 miles of pathways were designed to weave in and around its communities to increase pedestrian safety and to ensure that most residents’ homes were no more than a half-mile walk to village centers.
Or desolate stucco wastelands soon to be populated with zombielike CGI grannies. Same dif!

But who cares what they say, because of this:

Really, this should be the cover of the next Reston: The Magazine.

But how did the Money listicle-elves make this highly scientific calculation that put us one step above Ashburn? Their metrics change a bit each year and are somewhat opaque, but we do know that it's not the number of clear days a year (197 in both places). Here's our own take:

RestonAshburnWinner
Stucco and T-111 plywoodParticleboard and one-sided brick frontsTie
Bocce dadsSoccer momsAshburn
"We're not dead, we're Reston""Ca$hburn"Ashburn
Beer available lakesideBeer available in dark movie theaterReston
WoonerfWinding cul-de-sacsReston
Transit-oriented developmentHanding out building permits like candy on HalloweenUm, Reston, we guess?
Reality of deteriorating, unreliable MetroSilver Line fever!Ashburn
Giddy anticipation of Wegmans comingEnnui, bloating from one too many prepared Wegmans mealsReston
Historical markerTotally fake historyReston
Elite Town Center as key amenityLoudoun One, obviously less elite because parking is freeReston

Honestly, it looks like elite paid parking put us over the top, the end.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Like Rain On Your Wedding Day: Meeting On Reston Zoning Proposal That Would Lead to Overcrowding Postponed Because of Overcrowding (Updated)

How's this for a black fly in your chardonnay?
After hundreds of Restonians crowded into the cafeteria at Lake Anne Elementary School for the forum, Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and staff from the Department of Planning and Zoning told them the meeting would have to be postponed until a larger venue could be booked.

“It is a safety issue and a code violation [to have so many people in the cafeteria],” Hudgins said to a chorus of boos from the crowd, many of whom were wearing yellow-shaded Reclaim Reston and Rescue Reston T-shirts. “You did come out and that’s important, and I’m glad that you did, we appreciate that.”

Good on people -- hundreds of them, by all accounts -- for actually showing up to this would-have-been meeting on the proposed fun changes to Reston zoning under consideration by Fairfax County. The more this keeps happening, the less likely we'll just get developmentsplaining with no actual consideration of what the impact of increased density without concurrent infrastructure improvements would mean to Reston.

Still, we can imagine what just might happen next:

1. To address the potential of overcrowding, the county immediately starts construction on the Soapstone bridge over the Toll Road institutes a Very Special Public Meeting Tax District to fund future improvements to meeting spaces, someday.

2. The county announces that because "a couple of those big elementary school cafeteria tables with wheels on them got, uh, stuck, and we couldn't move them out of the way," the rescheduled public hearing will be pushed back to 2025.

3. The county passes the zoning ordinance anyway, the end.

Update: The meeting has been rescheduled to 7pm October 23 at South Lakes High School, which can hold up to 650 people in its cafeteria.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

From A to (Re)Zoning: A Helpful, Possibly Vaguely Accurate Developmentsplainer of Fairfax County's Planned Reston Rezoning

This fancy map from Fairfax County, which has made the rounds in recent weeks, is causing a bit of consternation in our otherwise tranquil planned community. Part of a response to questions posed by the Reston Association about exactly how many places we might expect awesome bollardy residential development if the county goes ahead with its long-desired plan to increase zoning limits through much of Reston, it turns out the answer is "25," if only because Fairfax County ran out of letters to use on their fancy map except for "Z," which apparently stands for Zoning, Massive Re-. Check the fancypants chart below:

All told, the county says that 8,189 residential units have been planned or approved in the Orange Bollard Zones in that fancy map, with another 14,103 units biding their time in the planning pipeline awaiting the construction of sufficient infrastructure to accommodate all those new Restonians and their Ford Foci. Oops, that was a typo, silly rabbits, because in county planners' minds, none of those new residents will need cars, because they'll just hop on the Metro at Wiehle and go one stop to Reston Town Center to enjoy their midscale chain eatery fare and stick it to the paid parking regime at our favorite "stressful, city-like shopping center," leaving the rest of us non transit-oriented flatlanders with beautiful, congestion-free streets to get our woonerf on.

Makes sense, except for one little thing: When you look at that fancy map, most of the Orange Bollard Danger Zones are well out of the concentric rings around the Metro stations that suggest how far people might be willing to walk. Some are part of the revisioning of big box nirvana and Macaroni Grill graveyard Reston Spectrum into mixed-use awesomeness that will extend Reston Town Center northward, and Lake Anne... well, we know how well that worked out the last time around. The rest, for the most part, are concentrated in and around the village centers -- developments like the CGI granny-infested plans at Tall Oaks, now approved and awaiting construction to begin in earnest, as well as all our other favorite strip mall locales.

That's not exactly new. Redeveloped, more dense and mixed-usey village centers have been part of the plan for ages. And beyond the green zones that RA controls, there's been talk about building apartments above Plaza America for years to draw the lucrative fans of mass transit and glitter guns from Michaels. And it definitely makes sense to concentrate development around the village centers -- if done right, it could make them more vibrant, less generic and strip-mally, maybe. We could even get a Wegmans! But it flies in the face of the idea that we can wait on infrastructure improvements.

So as the county continues making its plans, the Reston Citizens Association, Reston 2020 and Reclaim Reston are holding an informational meeting tomorrow to explain the proposal in better, less alarmist detail than, say, a filthy "web log" might. It's at 7pm at the Reston Association headquarters and you might want to check it out, as the kids could conceivably have said back in the '70s.

As for the RA, they created this fancy YouTube video explaining the issues:


Next Monday, the 25th, the county will hold its own public meeting at 7pm at Lake Anne Elementary. It's hard to say what the listening vs. developmentsplaning ratio will wind up being, but efforts to push back on development already have had some impact. The original plans for the zoning change were to have the county board of supervisors vote on this next month. Now it's looking like February. Maybe there's still time to speed up the timetable for infrastructure development now that the Very Special Tax District is in place and bringing in some ducats for the county. Crazier things have happened.

Buckle up, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride -- at least when traffic is actually moving, the end.

Update: Coverage of the Sept. 20 community meeting.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

At RTC, Your Paid Parking Dollar$ At Work

Despite a few small bumps in the road, paid parking at our favorite ersatz downtown "stressful city-like shopping center" appears to be doing just swimmingly, thanks for asking. But now that everyone has learned to stop worrying and love the ParkRTC app and the elite crisis managers have moved on to their next Enron-level PR disaster and all the whining about revenues falling by 40 to 50 percent have died down to a dull roar, where is all that sweeeeeeet parking moneys that were promised to be used to "enhance the RTC experience" going?

If you said nonsensical uncrowded Instagram frames and improving the overall elite vibe, you'd be wrong, silly rabbits! True to their the crisis managers' word, the busy elves at Reston Town Center have been hard at work enhancing the paid parking experience to ensure that it's not only a convenient form of revenue enhancement, but a colorful one to boot! Check out this awesome chart in the garages making it crystal clear exactly how fun and easy it is to have your parking cheerfully validated by various retailers and eateries:

That's a little... overwhelming. Let's take a closer look:

You might think that this is the result of blurry cellular telephone photography, and not because RTC management simply pushed the enlarge button on whatever cheap color copier they had lying around the office to produce an amateurish, difficult to read piece of public signage. You might think.

But we digress. Alls you have to do is park, walk down the stairs to the garage exit and check this helpful chart to confirm that you probably parked in the wrong freaking garage to validate at your midscale chain eatery of choice, giving you the awesome opportunity of reparking your Ford Focus or cursing under your breath as you head off for some midscale chain fare. Unless, of course, you had the foresight to have picked the one eatery which hired decent lawyers read its lease:

It might not matter anyway, since some of our favorite retailers are either jumping ship -- or being pushed. Here's what the owner of Red Velvet -- a vocal opponent of paid parking -- said he was allegedly told when discussing renewing his lease:

"Basically they told us that for all intents and purposes, they're looking for newer, younger, and hipper brands, and if we wait until the end of the year, they might consider us."
Hipper than a cupcakery? Unless BXP can find a midscale chain eatery that specializes in serving locally grown cage-free salad on top of avocado toast inside poke bowls out of the back of a food truck, we think that's about as hip as Reston gets.

One of Boston Properties' other big promises about paid parking was that it would provide opportunities to enhance the safety of RTC for its visitors customers. And if you thought that was a cynical piece of PR crisis management, you'd just be a hater. Here's the photographic proof that they're taking this promise very seriously:

We feel safer already, the end.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Just a Totally Normal RA Community Meeting About Hook Road, At Least Until The Cops Showed Up (Updated)

It's not a party community input meeting until the cops show up.

Discussion over plans to build a 30,000-seat baseball stadium and boccedrome improve facilities at the Hook Road Recreation Area near Lake Anne got a tad heated last night, in large part due to an RA board member's suggestion to take out the existing tennis courts and basketball courts altogether and pave them over for parking, maybe? Alls we know is that RA board members bickered with each other, one got into an altercation with a little league president, and at some point the cops got called. Give us some Roberts Rule of Order-inspired blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

Many of the more than 100 members in attendance, however, expressed their dismay with Ray Wedell — the At-Large member of the Reston Association Board of Directors who recently shared his personal thoughts on the project in a five-page statement. In the statement, Wedell said amenities such as the baseball field at the park do not need upgrades, and that consideration should be given to removing the tennis and basketball facilities altogether.

Sherri Hebert, president of the RA Board, made a point at the start of the meeting to mention that Wedell’s opinions in no way represent anything that is being considered by the Board as a whole.

[snip]

More than once during the meeting, Wedell circumvented the line of speakers waiting to give their public comment on the project. The crowd met him with point-of-order calls and shouted him down as he attempted to shout over them. At one point, some turned their backs on him and refused to listen to his statement.

Wedell said he was within his right to take the stand and respond to comments. Hebert and Sridhar Ganesan, the Board’s treasurer, at one point told him to step away from the microphone, which he had taken from the stand and was holding in his hand.

[snip]

After [Reston-Herndon Little League president Jason Walker] made his public comment, he and Wedell had a verbal confrontation at the back of the room. An argument ensued in which Wedell told Walker to “shut up,” and Walker was heard calling Wedell “a disgrace.” The men give differing stories on who instigated the argument. After the brief disruption in the meeting, Walker left the room.

The Fairfax County Police Department was summoned at some point, and a pair of officers responded after the meeting had concluded. They conducted interviews at the scene, but no report was filed.

So.... that happened.

Wedell told Reston Now that his five-page statement, which you can read here and which he defended extensively in comments at the end of this article, was deliberately provocative to "increase community conversation about the plan," which he adamantly opposes. In an era where governance has been replaced by trolling at all levels, we think it's safe to say that he succeeded, the end.

Update: Video of the meeting. Pop some popcorn and gather the kids around your glowing rectangle of choice.

Also, Wedell has announced his resignation from the RA Board. Full statement here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Mauvescrapers Sell, But Who's Buying?

As we prepare to exit the dog days of summer, how are things going with our favorite planned community's hellish, dystopian future rapidly rising mauvescrapers? Just swimmingly!

At first, we thought the fancy glowing adornments that were recently lit up on our favorite parallelogram at the Reston-Wiehle Metro station were a sign that after nearly landing Nestle's U.S. headquarters, Comstock had signed the world headquarters of a neon sign manufacturer -- the industry of the future! But, silly us, it turns out they're just a "festive shroud" intended to "emulate the movement and speed of the adjacent trains and cars on the highway -- your 70 mph experience." Well, duh!

Even perfect-fit midscale chain comfort food eatery Founding Farmers is dragging its feet on moving to the ground floor of yet another mauvescraper-to-be hotel at the Reston-Wiehle Metro station, saying it opted instead to focus first on opening a new location at -- of all places -- a giant shopping mall in suburban Philadelphia. A shopping mall! Oh, how far our transit-oriented champagne wishes and caviar dreams of mixed-use nirvana have fallen! Who knows if when this next partial parallelogram is built, they'll replace the fancy neon with a couple of bug zappers:

Meanwhile across town, what would be Reston's tallest building is still casting about for tenants, what with their original CGI renderings of awesome simulated DEALMAKING failing to win over a major contractor of the strapping-bomb-to-dolphins variety (at least so far). Which is surprising, given this sweeeeeet new rendering of the lobby giving it a high-tech Austin Powers sort of vibe:

Thanks to a Confidential Restonian Operative, we've also gotten our first glimpse of what the 20-story condo mauvescraper thingy proposed to be built across Reston Parkway from RTC would look like. Their promises of a brutalist wonderland.... hit pretty close to the mark.

This next photo looks a little Sim City-like, but it gives you a sense of what the RTC-adjacent skyline soon will look like.

Meanwhile, car dealership cloverleaf America's next great city Tysons Corner is preparing for its own, even more massive mauvescraper complex, including what would be the tallest building in the region and a snazzy name presumably inspired by mid-day television. We can only hope that its lofty heights will not block the sun's rays from hitting the giant statue of Crystal Koons to be built atop Tysons' fancy new underground intersection.

All in all, things are looking up! (Get it?) We can only hope that the longstanding predictions of the region's changing business environment, smaller office footprints and lower expectations as expressed in facile terms by the car of choice in area parking lots all are false and that at some point, we actually get tenants and residents to fill all these fancy high-rises, the end.