News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lake Anne Revitalization: Bob Simon Goes All Mavericky on Fairfax County Planners, Demands Gilded 90-Foot Statue

No, not really. But we had to say something to get people to read a wonky story about comprehensive plans and density requirements. Anyoo, the grand plan to turn Lake Anne Village Center into another Manhattan a haven for low-income housing a vibrant, renewed part of Reston continues unabated. During a meeting earlier this week in which Fairfax County planners discussed planned changes to the comprehensive plan for the area, Bob Simon got all mavericky in planners faces, the planners declared they hate the environment, and people were fixated about getting rid of buildings so people driving down Baron Cameron Avenue at 55 mph could get an unfettered view of Lake Anne. Wait, what?

This must have been the weirdest meeting ever. And it only took five freaking years for this process to devolve into chaos.

RESTON FOUNDER Bob Simon said he thought the plan had become too burdened with details to attract a developer and he announced that he was going to try to develop an alternate amendment to bring before the Board of Supervisors. What had begun as a Comprehensive Plan amendment had turned into a site plan, Simon said, noting that the 35 acres in question, a relatively small development, had been carved into six pieces with different densities and requirements for each, "and it doesn’t make any sense at all."

"As far as density is concerned, I’m afraid this is a word that is used to frighten children. Most people don’t know what they’re talking about," Simon said.
He's absolutely right about that. Apparently all the futzing about has already scared off a couple of developers, back when developers still had money for grander projects than refrigerator boxes under highway overpasses.
In a letter he handed to planning staff, Simon had written that two different developers had spent time coming up with plans for Lake Anne’s redevelopment in 2004 but had put off further efforts until the plan amendment was worked out. Neither developer’s plan would fit into the current proposal and Simon felt that one of those plans represented "an ideal solution," the letter said.

Simon noted that the Comprehensive Plan wouldn’t make a difference without any developer interest. "For the John Lovaases in the room, it’s not as though once this thing is done, a developer can run through it and do what he wants," Simon told the crowd. Once basic parameters are laid out, he said, the details would be worked out once a developer came forward with an idea.
Meanwhile, when the buildings that won't be built get built, they'll basically be encouraged to build giant polluting smokestacks. Well, maybe not, but apparently they won't have to qualify for gold LEED status, which we guess means putting a scented towelettte over any chimneys.
Lovaas lauded the plan language that called for the retention of the existing number of affordable dwelling units in the areas of Fellowship Square and Crescent Apartments but added, with regard to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, "You made a slip when you went back from gold to silver."

The county had considered "strongly encouraging" gold certification for all new development.
Then there was this whole thing about seeing Lake Anne from Baron Cameron Avenue which, so far as we know, isn't possible anyway. Right?
Lovaas said he thought the proposal to allow up to 175 dwelling units — more units than currently exist in the entire village — on the three acres that now make up the village center’s parking lot was too much and would overwhelm the Washington Plaza entry and block the view of the lake from Baron Cameron Avenue.

While there had been suggestions for a height limit, Bruce said the department hadn’t felt it could determine whether a limit of 12 stories or one of 13 stories would be more appropriate and opted to leave some flexibility for the Architectural Review Board and others to make such determinations.

Planners had scaled back the amount of retail space that would be suggested for new buildings, Bruce said. "The goal is not to take business away from the core of the village center." New development should not have more retail space than supports the other uses in the building.
Yeah, because you wouldn't want people to come there or anything.
Staff is also continuing to encourage that buildings be moved to give a direct view of the lake from what is now the parking lot but will become an extension of the plaza.
Move buildings? Good lord. It takes these people five years to come up with a development plan that will preclude any actual development, and now they want to talk about playing SimCity? Anyhoo, the Planning Commission is supposed to make heads or tails of this mess on March 11, and maybe a couple dozen more of them charettes, or whatever you call those meetings where people can't complain because of the rules of order, will straighten all this out, the end.


  1. I wondered what was going on with this. A while back Fairfax County bought that complex by Lake Anne to put assisted housing people in there. Except since it is Reston and all low-rise and low density, they wanted to bulldoze it, and put even more welfare people in there. And ever-tolerant multi-income Reston said, waitaminute - you want to put a bunch of poor people in there? I don't think so. You'll, umm, bust the density caps. And yes, we realize we are currently in court arguing that we haven't busted the caps, but that's not important right now. So FFX says, that's okay, just grant us a waiver. And Reston says, remember what we said about the poor people? So FX says, okay then, you know that park and ride and recycle center? We own that, we are going to put 1 billion condos there, and traffic will really suck then.

    Then the whole thing went away, but I see that it worked, they got concessions out of Reston, but looks like they'll be threatening condos again.

  2. More condos would be fine, as long as there is more than enough parking for them as part of the project AND there are enough businesses at Lake Anne to support a bigger population. We participated in the charette in the spring of 2005 and not a thing has happened since then. They need to revitalize the center and build a parking garage for it at the corner of North Village and Baron Cameron, the not-so-hideous kind with plants growing on the outside. And they can build bus lanes to accommodate greater bus service to Lake Anne when the Metro finally comes. Then the whole plaza could be pedestrian friendly.

    Who cares whether or not you can see the lake from Baron Cameron? I care if there is a decent place to go out to eat, a vibrant farmer's market, and some new businesses, like a bakery, knitting store, small grocery, independent movie theater, and other businesses that would improve quality of life for Reston residents. I'd love to see a developer bring in some more restaurants and keep a significant portion of the center for small local businesses. A bigger range of cuisines would be great, as would another outpost of At Play Cafe for the small set. But the plaza is starting to get shabby and really needs some help, and there's a middle ground between Clarendon and the plaza as it is.

  3. Is there an update on what was decided at the meeting in March?


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