News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, November 17, 2017

Profiles in Courage: Land Use Edition

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

"We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

"We can’t stop development waiting for the roads to be built."

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Representational Art or Unintended Irony? You Be The Judge

At long last, the socialist realism movement in our beloved earth-toned community has moved beyond the primitive black and white photos of the 1960s to embrace the YouTubes the kids are always sharing viral "snaps" of on their "Tinders," or whatever, these days. Though in the eyes of county officials, it's getting hard to tell whether we're the hard-working proletariat whose taxes keep Reston "great" or the (metaphorical) leaves clogging the drain of some sweeeeeeeet sweeeeeet woonerf, the end.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Caddyshackpocalypse Meets Groundhog Day: Now Hidden Creek Golf Course Threatened By Development, Maybe, Eventually

Hey, remember that time one of Reston's two golf courses changed hands and the new owner wanted to develop it as a zillion gazillion mixed use bollardy condos worth of awesomeness, and after failing to get a legal slam dunk giving it permission to do so carte blanche is now attempting to hand it off to a greater fool sell it touting a potential $200 million development payoff?

Yeah, that was awesome. Only while we all were paying attention to the action on the south side of the Toll Road, Reston's other white meat golf course has changed hands. Give us some alarming blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

According to an email sent by the country club to its members Tuesday, real-estate developer Wheelock Communities purchased the club earlier this week from its previous owner, Fore Golf Partners. According to the email, signed by Fore Golf CEO Charlie Staples:

Wheelock owns properties along the East Coast and in Texas that range from private golf clubs to large master-planned communities, to luxury waterfront condominiums and urban mixed-use projects. They look forward to becoming part of the highly respected Reston community. Fore Golf will continue to manage the club for the new owner, according to the email, and club memberships will be unaffected by the change in ownership.

In the email, it is announced that Wheelock plans to invest more than $300,000 in upgrades to the club. This is to include upgrades to the club’s dining and events facilities, the lobby, and the locker rooms. A new fleet of golf carts is also expected to arrive in December. More “potential changes” are listed, though:

Over the next few years, Wheelock will be working in partnership with the club members and the Reston community to explore potential changes to the property that could provide the Reston community with additional public amenities, environmental benefits and new housing choices.

Hmmm. All of a sudden that wacky error made by county officials earlier this year proposing a citylike grid of streets covering a couple of the holes of Hidden Creek seems.... interesting, doesn't it?

As we adjust our tinfoil hats, what's even more interesting is that news of this long-rumored acquisition became public the day after it was raised during public comments at the uneventful, sparsely attended public hearing on proposed density changes in parts of Reston. County officials claimed they knew nothing about it but stressed, like Reston National, Hidden Creek is designated as a golf course in the comprehensive plan and would have to go through the full rezoning process for that to change. (Which we've always argued wouldn't be that tough, given what we've seen and heard from county officials of late, but we digress.)

But it's hard to know what the plan is. Wheelock is investing $300,000 in golf-related activities right now, although that would be more than offset by selling just one sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet midscale condo on the property somewhere down the road. And given the county's willingness to chip away at the back nine in its own planning, would they accept some sort of not-so-grand bargain which maintains a nine-hole golf course (all the better for busy strapping-bombs-to-dolphins executives to squeeze in after lunch) in exchange for some sweeet revenue-generating development on the other half of the course? And if so, which adjacent homeowners will get screwed in the process?

Rescue Reston, whose members know a little something about potentially being screwed by developers, posted thoughts about the acquisition earlier today, basically crediting Wheelock for being more public about its plans than Reston National owner-for-now Northwestern Mutual and arguing that its willingness to work "in partnership with club members and the Reston community" is a good sign:

If HCCC’s owner, Wheelock, develops a plan that includes “new housing choices,” here is the process they must follow:

Property owners must follow county process for requesting a land use designation change. Any residential development plan would require a review by County Planning Commission staff, a public hearing before the County Planning Commission, a public hearing before the County Board of Supervisors, and ultimately an amendment to the County Comprehensive Plan. It will be the Board of Supervisors’ decision to approve or NOT approve a land use change.

Restonians care about the recreational space at Reston National Golf Course and continue to wait and wonder what uncaring entity will buy RNGC on speculation of future development. We cannot stop a sale, but we CAN stop a reprehensible comprehensive plan change of the land use designation. In the meantime, HCCC has been purchased by an entity that, at this point, is planning to work "in partnership with the club members and the Reston community.”

It is the civic duty of ALL Restonians to monitor land use sales and ownership activity of our Designated Open Space areas. We hope that HCCC’s new ownership will maintain open discussion with the Reston community.

For now, all we can do is hope, and wait for the next rodent-related development:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rescheduled Due To Overcrowding County Meeting On Reston Overcrowding Was Overcrowded, Resulting In Overcrowding Of Opinions (Updated)

If you get nearly 700 Restonians in one place and it doesn't involve paid parking at our favorite "stressful, city-like shopping center," you know something's amiss. Last night's county-held meeting on the fun zoning changes proposed for Reston, initially rescheduled because of overcrowding, was overcrowded -- people were shunted into an overflow room. It involved plenty of developmentsplaining and dozens of speakers, all of whom were critical of the county's approach. Your Restonian earned time-and-a-half "live twittering" the meeting, sharing trenchant insights like these:

Fortunately, others capable of thinking in more than sentence-long insights also were there, including our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, who shared this account:

All that was missing were the pitchforks and torches.

Whether the appropriate analogy is that of the peasants marching on Dr. Frankenstein's castle, the French hoi polloi storming the Bastille, or the East Germans tearing down the Berlin Wall, Monday night's meeting at South Lakes High to discuss increased residential zoning density brought forth a huge crowd of amped-up Restonians ready to rebel.

No doubt the Fairfax County authorities in attendance found the huddled masses indeed revolting, in both senses of the word.

An SRO crowd of 600 or so Restonians showed up to hear our County Supervisor and several Fairfax County officials explain the proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would allow more than 10,700 new dwelling units in those parts of Reston designated a planned residential community. The existing village centers would be prime candidates ripe for such future redevelopment

Observing the sea of yellow Rescue Reston shirts, The Peasant momentarily thought that he had transcended the space-time continuum and somehow been transported back to circa-1986 Manila, where the "color revolution" that brought Corazon Aquino to power in the Philippines used yellow as a rallying point -- not that we would dare compare anyone on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to the autocratic Ferdinand Marcos and his 21-year rule.

After a few opening remarks from Commissar Cathy, a 'facilitator' explained the evening's format of short presentations by County officials for "clarity of information" followed by an open mike session for the audience. County officials used many exciting buzzwords in their presentations. Prioritize! Framework! Implementation! Front-loading! Perhaps as in, "Prioritize the implementation of a front-loading framework?"

Anyhow, judging from the two hours of the session that The Peasant attended, the basic takeaway from the County was that the new zoning proposals for the village centers were merely codifying what had been suggested by the Reston master plan in 1989. This did not sit well with the audience, one of whom simply asked, "Why this? Why now?"

We noted that throughout the Q-and-A session our County Supervisor was noticeably reticent, allowing the various department flunkies to be the sacrificial lambs bearing the brunt of citizen outrage, while she did a classic duck and cover maneuver, much like those Cold War civil defense drills schoolchildren practiced in the 1960s to survive any incoming Ruskie ICBMs.

But perhaps Commissar Cathy was merely attempting to avoid yet another communications miscue, such as the one she suffered in her recent attempt to invite herself onto the Next Door Neighbor website, where she announced her presence as one more way to communicate with, and we quote verbatim here, "the masses" (leading one irate Next Door user to note that perhaps the Commissar had mistakenly added the letter "m" to that collective noun).

Of all the excellent questions and comments made by audience members on Monday evening, the best came from one older man who, with a simplicity worthy of Hemingway, addressed the assembled officialdom thusly:

"You're reading your own talking points too much. Listen to the people. You don't get it. Why is it so hard for you to stand in our shoes and serve our community? I'd ask everyone here in the audience who doesn't think the rezoning is a good idea to stand up."

On cue, the entire audience stands up.

At the end of the evening, we were relieved that the Board of Supervisors at least had not secretly lined up a fleet of RIBS buses outside South Lakes to transport unenlightened Reston homeowners directly to a Khmer Rouge-style re-education camp in hip and edgy Clarendon so as to learn the joys of transit-oriented development -- or even worse, to exile in the particleboard wasteland of Ashburn to contemplate among the acres of vinyl siding their wrong-think until they are suitably "woke" and embrace their glorious TOD future with all the wide-eyed fervor of North Koreans praising Little Rocket Man.

Hudgins clearly believes passionately that development is important because it will keep Reston open to all kinds of people -- and good on her for that. But developers putting aside a tiny amount of apartments for affordable housing -- and grudgingly so at that -- in expensive condo complexes isn't going to achieve that goal. If she wants to push for affordable housing, Hudgins and the rest of the county could shame -- or flat out require -- developers to do more. Calling people with legitimate concerns NIMBYs and lumping them in with a handful of xenophobic Internet commenters isn't going to help.

Also, the format of the meeting and these comments painted this debate in very binary terms: these changes are just to fix what amounts to a rounding error in a previous master plan tweak, and you're either supportive of keeping Reston open to newcomers or a NIMBY. Frankly, we think this lets the county off the hook for its big failing here: approving massive development while being perfectly happy to let existing (and new) residents wait for a decade-plus for infrastructure improvements that are needed right now. Development is going to happen to some extent -- and to the extent it's focused in places where it can be served by mass transit, decent infrastructure, and open public spaces, that's not a bad thing. In all the supposed question-and-answer exchances last night, we didn't hear an answer as to why that was allowed to happen -- and why there's still no urgency to addressing it.

A commenter shared this account:

I never go to these things, but I went to SLHS and I wore yellow. As did nearly everyone else. The nice people from the county told us what we want. But everyone attending felt differently. Hudgins and co. said that we need more people on metro, and she closed with a stock impassioned plea for workforce housing. The parks person told us that she was actively making sure that we had enough parkland as we develop, to much laughter. And we had to wait over 20 minutes until the first invocation of Bob Simon's wishes, later than expected. But what was tonight's conclusion? Hudgins wagged her finger by hinting that this crowd was anti...something. Were we being anti-Restonian? NIMBYs and the developers recognize that they have overdeveloped, which translates to a recognition that more pigs at the trough will shrink the amount of food available to each pig.And yet she persisted! We need to increase our density, described in terms of avoiding some future debacle, while attendees see the density cap as a final failsafe. I admire Hudgins' willingness to tell this audience that they just don't get Reston. They just don't understand what it is to be in Reston. Wow, what stunning arrogance.
And there was this comment from a county planner, which we think will look great written in purple neon on top of a 96-story mauvescraper located atop of the transit-oriented node of St. John's Wood more than a mile from a future Metro station, or nearly anything else:

Update: Action McNews coverage:

And here's video of the full meeting:

Update: Reston Association Board of Directors formally requests that the county "defer further consideration of the PRC amendment until certain elements in the Reston Master Plan portion of the comprehensive plan can be reviewed."

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.