News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Reston Master Plan: Community Input TBD, FYI

Still more proof that all that fancy "book learning" isn't worth a tinker's cuss, at least when it comes to land use decisions. Turns out the fun task force charged with revising the Reston Master Plan may not use volunteer community workgroups, after all, meaning all those midnight cram sessions people put into last year's Reston Land Use College were pretty much worthless.

According to Jerry Volloy of ARCH, the special study task force will not use community workgroups but invites groups of community members to continue to provide input.
Meanwhile, county planning staff is worried about public outreach, according to memos obtained by the Reston 2020 task force.
County staff is concerned about the whole public communications effort associated with the Reston Task Force. Staff officials believe it is critical to have a strong communications effort, and the approved task force proposal called on the task force effort to encourage community input and participation. Nonetheless, according to County officials, we will have to wait and see how the public engagement is carried out. Some resources are available for communications outreach, such as inhouse facilitators, but the staff may need some assistance with public outreach. At this time, no decisions have been reached yet.
The county also needs money to help develop studies and other materials to inform the task force's work. Good thing there's plenty of that to go around!

Reston 2020 had proposed that six community work groups assist the task force. While it's not clear how the task force will use the input from these groups, two Reston residents have already come up with their own fancy "citizen's master plan." Written by Guy L. Rando and Kathy Kaplan, it has what they call "specific planning principles," including:
1.  Measurable qualitative criteria based on community values and specific guidelines for the quality of life. 
2.   World class design.  Example:  Boston Properties in Boston—Prudential Center. 
3.  33 1/3% open space (currently 50% under RCIG covenants) with 20% as soil bedded in the earth with native vegetation.  Parkland will be provided for residents on site by developer.   
Task Force to create a definition of open space that reflects the culture of Reston.  Open space will not include cement sidewalks (except for plazas and pavilions), parking spaces, public roads, private roads, driveways, or roof areas of buildings.  Open space will be green and open to the public.  It will allow passive and active recreations.  It will include bodies of water, i.e., ponds, streams, and unpaved or porous paved pathways.    
Portions of green space in corridor will be naturescaped to provide natural areas for new residents and to provide a continuity of experience of nature throughout the entire community of Reston.   
4.  FAR 2.0 at station and over the Dulles Toll Road with air rights.  1.5 FAR for remainder of corridor.  50 units/acre high density. 
5.  No building height limits on the south side of Sunset Hills between Reston Pkwy and Wiehle or over the DTR with air rights.  22 story limit elsewhere in corridor. 
6.  Complete separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. 
7.  If RCIG deed vacated, then all properties come under RA DRB review. 
8.  Climate-controlled space with galleria, pavilion.  Art trail in RCIG from stations directly connected to Town Center art trail and to existing trails. 
9.  Living green roof technology, cleaned water and clear air standards.  Gold LEED standard. 
10.  Green buffer 150 ft wide along Sunrise Valley Drive adjacent to residential neighborhoods (counted as part of open space). 
11.  All parking will be underground. 
12.  All development plans include affordable and workforce housing.  No redevelopment of existing residential neighborhoods in areas contiguous to stations. 
13.  School building standards uniform across district. 
14.  All transportation infrastructure must be adequate and in place before additional development commences. 
Art trails? Passive recreation? The Prudential Center next to the Macaroni Grill? Sign us up!

The task force meets again next Tuesday at 7pm at Langston Hughes Intermediate School.


  1. Did anyone notice the 33% open space? A great idea, lets lose 15% of our open space so developers can make a bigger profit.

  2. The Convict in the GulagJanuary 21, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    I hear you, HKCD. I thought the idea of building up was so that we could preserve our existing greenspaces.

    On another note, if you want to expand development south of Sunset Hills, why not also expand development north of Sunrise Valley? I know that us Gulashniks can be scary but we keep most of our activities well to the south of Sunrise Valley Drive.

    And why not rezone/redistrict residential areas contiguous with the higher density commercial spaces? I would think that, if you're going to have higher density housing, you would want it as close as possible to mass transit, office and shopping spaces. Keeping the existing relatively low density housing by these areas would seem either to force the higher density housing away from the jobs, transit and shopping or to discourage it altogether.

  3. This looks worse than Arlington which has considerable tapering off of density from the Metro.

    "5. No building height limits on the south side of Sunset Hills between Reston Pkwy and Wiehle or over the DTR with air rights. 22 story limit elsewhere in corridor. "

  4. It's a good start -- Guy Rando is a strong advocate of open spaces...

  5. If ownership along RCIG is fragemented, and it probably is, the designation of open space will be as useless as the one that was designed for Fairway Apts. Who cares about an enclosed courtyard in each complex or a setback from the roads that's required anyways?

  6. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)January 21, 2010 at 6:07 PM

    I would like to offer my own insight into Reston 2020's proposal:

    2.) Prudential Tower in Boston has to be one of the most boring, bland, and communist-style skyscrapers I can think of. I just had to do a Google Image search of it to be certain I was reading that correctly. World-class design? Really? Half the building in Reston Town Center look better at a fraction of the height.

    3.) Reflective of the "culture of Reston?" What, exactly, would that happen to be? Starbuck's? Target? No sidewalks? Driving to DC for REAL culture? I keep hearing all of these people praising the "character" or "culture" of Reston, and yet nobody can give me a clear-cut answer as to just that actually means.

    5.) Why have building height restrictions at all? Isn't fewer tall buildings more conducive to open space preservation by housing more people on less land than more medium-height buildings housing less people per building? Why was a 22-story limit chosen? What's wrong with Reston developing a respectable skyline? As of right now when I come back home from PA and drive down Fairfax County Parkway at night I always feel all gushy inside to see RTC glowing in the distance as a beacon telling me I'm almost home.

    6.) We don't have complete separation of pedestrians from vehicular traffic NOW, let alone in the future! (Smacks head). Many, many streets in Reston lack sidewalks, and in many cases the trails that are supposed to serve as "substitutes" to sidewalks don't follow the street network well enough to adequately link people from destination to destination. I found this out the hard way Tuesday when I tried taking advantage of the warm weather and was nearly hit by cars along North Shore Drive as I had to run in the street on some stretches.

    I must say I generally agree with everything else though. How much open space in Reston is already lost due to surface parking that could have been replaced by underground parking garages? How can we justify increasing density all over Reston before Metrorail is here, before we install sidewalks everywhere, before we install streetlights everywhere, etc.?

    Nice work to Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Rando otherwise, but if they honestly DO think that the Prudential Center in Boston is pretty to look at then I'm moving back to PA and power-commuting!

  7. The Knuckle Duster of Hickory ClusterJanuary 22, 2010 at 12:13 AM

    BiCO again with the trails?

    There is a path of some sort going all the way areoud north shore.

    You can even run to RTC (to get your warm fuzzies from seeing the awesome office buildings)

    And I even checked the Reston on foot pdf from the reston site and I think they've heard your call: Ther eare plans for more sidewalks!

    Do yourself a favor until they Arlingtonize Reston, look at the map link I sent and you will see that the pathways are quite capable of conveying the savvy pedestrian from point A to b and the added benefit of not having to suck in car exhaust along the way....

  8. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)January 22, 2010 at 6:19 AM

    Knuckle Duster, need I remind you that yet another person was recently mugged on one of these trails you rave about due to their isolated nature? A mugging is much less likely to occur on a sidewalk adjacent to a roadway due to the visibility of pedestrians to traffic---too many potential witnesses. When was the last time you heard about muggings along the streets of Manhattan? Sure, they occur in dank alleyways and isolated areas, but high visibility deters would-be thugs because they have a greater chance of getting caught. I've personally felt uncomfortable walking some of the trails here after dark.

    Plans for more sidewalks? Good. Why do you all hate sidewalks (and streetlights for that matter) so much, anyways? What harm do they do? Are they not part of the "culture" of Reston I keep hearing about? P.S. Arlington always ranks higher than we do on those "Best Places" list. Obviously they aren't doing anything WRONG.

  9. The powers-that-be aren't aiming for Arlington in the Reston make-over, they aren't even aiming for Manhattan. They want to create Hong Kong.

  10. Le Dustier au Knuckle d' Cluster HickorieJanuary 22, 2010 at 9:25 AM


    I thought you were made of sterner stuff. The pathways are safe near where we live, and certainly safer than running in the road.

    BTW, there are muggings in Manhattan all the time and they happen on the sidewalk (or even more likely the lobby of a residential building). There are no dank alleyways in Manhattan, despite what you've seen on TV.

    HCKD jogging on the paths.

  11. The latest mugging that BiCO references happened late at night. How many people are out running, strolling, etc after dark (on paths or on sidewalks)? Most people use those paths during the day when crime rarely occurs.

    And, BiCO, you are quite naive to think that muggings don't occur on sidewalks, close to roads. When I lived across from the Dunn Loring metro station, there were reported muggings and rapes that occurred often enough (day and night) to make me leery of the short walk between the station and my apartment. And that was on lit sidewalks paralleling fairly heavily travelled Gallows Rd.

  12. The Convict in the GulagJanuary 22, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    I think you answered your own question there, BiCO. If sidewalks were a "Reston" value, don't you think they would have been installed already considering that much of Reston was built 30 or more years ago?

    The simple fact of the matter, BiCO, is that Reston's roots are more of a bedroom community catering to families than a glitzorama catering to young, single professionals. Do we provide some amenities for the latter types? Absolutely.

    Again, I have to ask the question that so many people on this board have asked: if you like Arlington so much, why don't you move to Arlington?

  13. I grew up in Manhattan and was never mugged in the traditional sense, although some guy tried to scam me out of money when I was around 12 by bumping into me and then suggesting I'd broken his watch. A similar thing happened right after college, but nothing else like that. Not saying it doesn't happen though!

    Recently I heard that you actually have a better chance of getting your bike stolen if you lock it up on a busy street vs. a less-traveled one. Apparently all the people actually provide cover and thus the thief isn't noticed as much. Then again, this probably doesn't translate to people since bikes don't have mouths so can't scream "thief!"

  14. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)January 22, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    @ Convict: Have you seen Arlington's rent prices lately? Not exactly affordable to the middle-class. I can barely afford the 1-BR I have now in Reston, let alone a 1-BR in Arlington.

  15. Bico, why don't you just get a roomate? There is a reason most 20-somethings don't live alone.

  16. The Convict in the GulagJanuary 22, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    That's the choice you made then, BiCO. You've chosen affordability at the expense of living far from your stomping ground.

    I've made the same choice too. I chose affordable housing in a family-oriented bedroom community over a short commute to my job and access to REAL culture.

  17. A request has been made to BiCO that he provide a list of examples of world-class urban design that he approves of. And not just examples of individual buildings, but whole development complexes. Since you don't like the one in Boston.

  18. Good start, but I'd like to see a little more definition around "open space." Right now, open space means "place Reston Association won't bother to maintain" - usually a nice thick briar patch chock full of poison ivy, dead trees and occasional eroded stream bed (or rock bed).

  19. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)January 23, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    @ Anonymous at 1:32: I'm by far not the only one who doesn't believe the Prudential Tower in Boston is pretty to look at. I'm a regular on another message board as well that discusses everything urban, and there was a thread on there as well where numerous people slammed it into the ground. If we want a bunch of Prudential Towers all over Reston I'm going to hurl.

  20. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)January 23, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    @ All: I've still not heard a valid reason yet why people in Reston fear Arlington. Can anyone clarify that for me?

  21. The areas around the stations in Arlington that were redeveloped lost their open space. Four out of five station areas have only 7 to 8% open space and much of that is private. Isn't that enough to worry?

    Please go to the last sentence in the introduction of the Reston 2020 blog to find a link to the 20 deferred APR nominations. Have a look at what is being contemplated for Reston. If you add up all the residential units requested by developers at the highest density requested, there will be in excess of 20,000 new residential units in the Dulles corridor. The county prefers that young adults live in those new units. That's a lot of people, a lot of cars for a town with only two roads linking north and south Reston.

    And to respond to your question about what in the devil is meant by the culture of Reston? Our founder created this town as an experiment in community. This community is grounded in an experience of nature. Our institutions from the Reston Association Board of Directors to the cluster and neighborhood associations were created to foster intense democratic dialogue to create community. That is as simply as I can put it.

    We would like our experiment to continue. At 40 plus years now, Reston must decide its future path. Reston must come of age now and decide its own direction. We have to decide how much of what is here now, how much of what we love will survive the urbanization the county plans for us.

  22. Upper Lakes UppercrustJanuary 23, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    @BiCO, Reston is a planned city. That means there was a specific vision laid out and for the most part followed for the last almost 50 years. I think people get defensive because there was such a plan/vision for Reston, and that was not to be another type of place, but rather unique.

    Some of those planned elements were discarded either because they were outdated, weren't practical given economic trends, or simply weren't backed by the RA or the populace enough to stay. Other elements remain that SHOULD be considered for removal.

    Also it doesn't help that you've written here many times about how Reston doesn't have enough to offer you and your demographic, the way Arlington does. After a while that does tend to wear on people...

  23. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonJanuary 23, 2010 at 10:15 AM


    In response to your question, I'm not sure people in Reston "fear" Arlington. As to why many do not want Reston to become another Arlington, let me suggest a one-word answer:


    Truly the most hideous, bastardized collection of non-descript office towers I have ever seen anywhere. The church built on top of a gas station (not sure if it's there any longer) says it all. Is this what we should aspire to in Reston?

    If Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry, or I.M. Pei were designing the proposed new projects in Reston, I don't think anybody would be worrying and most of us would be looking forward to some world class architecture. However, "world class architecture" is a phrase I've never heard used in connection with anything built in Fairfax County (Eero Saarinen's design of the main Dulles Airport terminal being the only exception I can think of). No, I suspect what we'll get is more of the typical unimaginative crap thrown up by developers with an eye only to maximizing potential profit.

    As another poster has said, I'd be curious to see your list of what you consider successful modern urban design and/or architecture.

    As for me, somehow that grain elevator in Reston, Manitoba, keeps looking better and better all the time!

  24. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)January 23, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    @ Anonymous at 1:32 PM: I'm uncertain as to why you're asking me to give examples of entire "projects" instead of just the one BUILDING---the Prudential Tower in Boston---that was referenced by Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Rando, but I'll bite. What I would like to see in Reston would be more of what had been envisioned for Kentlands in Maryland---a planned community where people from all life stages and walks of life could co-exist peacefully and be able to walk to nearly all of their amenities and needs. That, if I'm not mistaken, is nearly a carbon copy of what had been envisioned for our very own Reston, but that is NOT what we have now. We have evolved into a community that caters to SOME life stages and SOME socieconomic classes---but at the expense of others. The community has effectively priced out most single-income householders who earn less than $50,000 (such as yours truly) from being able to live comfortably. The community hasn't provided enough amenities for those of us too old for high school soccer leagues and swim meets but too young and poor to be able to get much out of a "casual night on the town" that includes trips to Morton's, Williams-Sonoma, and Starbuck's. All social classes were to have been interspersed throughout Reston, but I've noticed many elitist/classist references on other forums and this blog that put down the economically-challenged or those without a college education---making them feel unwelcome here. Reston isn't nearly as cyclist- or pedestrian-oriented in the present as it COULD or SHOULD be, contrary to popular belief, and I'm tired of being told that I can't have any opinions about the community because I've only lived here for just under a year, as if that somehow minimizes my potential to contribute anything of value.

    Reston, in its current state, is NOT "perfect." Why do some of you have trouble admitting that every pearl has a flaw? Isn't it better to identify these issues NOW so that they can be appropriately accounted for in terms of long-range community planning? Why settle for mediocrity? Other than the dense tree canopy what really sets Reston apart now from most other suburbs? Nothing. We have very wide high-speed and high-traffic roads. We have Starbuck's. We have Macaroni Grill. We have a dearth of sidewalks and bike lanes (even far-flung WINCHESTER of all places had some of those). None of those amenities makes us truly unique or stand out. The vegetation DOES. This is why I'm not understanding why I've been villified online for proposing a few TALL structures in Reston to preserve more open space, overall, than numerous medium-height structures spread out all over town. Reston Town Center could have and should have been taller.

  25. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)January 23, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Growth is coming whether you all like it or not. You can't just put up a "Great Wall of Reston" and stick your heads in the sand like ostriches. If we want to continue to accept major employers into the area, as we have been, then we need to make room for their workers, too. Ashburn is a fine example of what Reston should NOT strive for. Arlington IS. I still can't believe that a community like Arlington, with nearly a quarter-million people, has probably the same traffic issues as Reston, with only 65,000 people. Their aggressive promotion of mixed-use development, mass transit usage, inviting pedestrian atmospheres, and cyclists has even won them planning awards. Here in Reston I live within walking distance of Chick-Fil-A but wouldn't dare walk there because it's such an unpleasant experience (I did this one before and regretted it). This car-centric culture needs to stop! Everyone on here is a proponent of widening roads as the "cure-all" for easing traffic congestion issues. All that widening roads does is encourage traffic to move FASTER, make the experience for pedestrians less pleasant (which encourages more of them to also drive), and makes red lights longer and longer as the "WALK" signal has to give progressively more time to let people cross wider intersections. Reston Parkway is already very wide and already gets very congested at rush hour. Ditto six-lane sections of Fairfax County Parkway. Shouldn't the solution to be MORE mixed-use development, transit-oriented development, rail, better bus service, etc. instead of just enabling more traffic? Why not encourage more people to live near work?

  26. bico- the prudential tower in Boston *is* part of a complex. I think that's what Kaplan/Rando were referring to.

  27. Bico, I have lived in Reston from the age of 7. I am now 33 and have never suffered from a lack of "extracurricular" activities or things to do. Did you ever consider that perhaps you aren't looking hard enough? There are TONS of classes and programs here for people in their twenties. Tons of inexpensive restaurants, free weekend activities, social clubs, etc. But if you want more of a bar-hopping culture, then you're right, you have to look elsewhere. There s plenty here for young people with no cash. But if you want more of a bar or club-type nightlife- get a roommate and move to Arlington! This is not rocket science.

  28. What he wants is places that attracts more homosexuals like cupcakeries. Until there's something here that attacts that demographic, he's not going to be happy.

  29. "Everyone on here wants to widen roads"

    Who said that?!

    You are the one who keeps complaining about the lack of pedestrian friendly routes but you wont walk on the paths! Unbeleivable.

  30. How did they miss tearing down the failed, liberal Utopian abomination called "Lake Anne"?

    And who wants to walk on the unlighted paths through dark dangerous woods and through graffiti-marred urine-splashed and littered tunnels?

    You people are complete fools --- stop drinking the Reston Kool - Aid --- REMEMBER JIM JONES?

  31. Ahh the return of the troll.

    Welcome back. It has been great having meaningful discourse in your absense. Now we can look forward to some inane shit to derail the conversation.


  32. I think we should have a discussion about transit oriented development. Does it have to be urban? Do we have to have 60 dwelling units per acre to achieve transit oriented development? You know that only about 40% of the planned square footage is going to be for residential units. The rest will be mostly commercial--office with a lesser amount of retail. Reston is full of empty office buildings now. Do the developers really think that if they put 700 sq ft rabbit warren apts on top of offices, people will flock to Reston? That's the plan, folks. 23,413 new residences in the Dulles corridor in Reston. We currently have 21,000 residential units now in Reston. At 2.15 people per residence (the county standard for high rise apts) there will be an additional 50,238 people living just in the corridor. And that doesn't count 10,000 more already approved at Spectrum and Parc Reston. It doesn't count the additional 5,000 people in redeveloped shopping centers. And it doesn't count an unknown number from redeveloped neighborhoods (oh yes, Virginia, the county plans to redevelop our neighborhoods and they are starting with Fairways with 3 units replacing every 1 unit already there). Oh please, let's talk about transit oriented development. Perhaps it can be less than high-density urban. Any thoughts?

  33. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)January 24, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    @ Anonymous at 5:57 PM: Leave whatever personal vendetta it is you have against me on City-Data or Facebook right where it is. If you have a problem with me on one of those two venues, then reveal yourself on there via a new thread or a private message, and we'll settle this. There's no need to attack my sexual orientation on here, and whether you like it or not Reston's LGBT population is bursting at the seams (even if we all do have to head inside the Beltway).

    @ HCKD: People on here keep saying that you can't improve density in Reston without increasing the infrastructure. Most of those very same people also oppose the Silver Line. If we're going to be encouraging more density without rail, then I'd suppose these fine folks ARE talking about widening roads. Sure. Let's make Reston even more pedestrian UNFRIENDLY than it already is by making it more unpleasant to walk along even wider and busier roads.

    Personally, I'm just tiring of everyone once again turning this into a "pro-Reston" (if you're one who opposes density) or "anti-Reston" (if you're apparently going to "threaten" Reston by encouraging more growth). There's no need for the "anti" crowd to get so downright frizzy against the "pro" people. Like it or not not EVERYONE wants to see Reston grow in an Ashburn-like fashion just because some don't like to look at high-rises.

  34. I really haven't seen any comments on Restonian opposing the Silver Line per se. Opposing higher density and/or new development, yes, but not Metro.

    And a little known fact about our Lake Anne-bashing troll -- like a good troll, he lives under a bridge, and ironically, it's that drawbridge-style little bridge right by Lane Anne.

  35. BiCO,

    Hop in your car and head away from Reston on 267, like say for a short trip to Arlington to get a cupcake. Then return back and you can see the shining beacons of warm fuzziness of RTC and you can calm down a bit. You seem paranoid.

    You are making some kind of jump in your logic that is quite illogical.

    You are making assumptions that 'everyone' wants to 'widen roads' I'm not sure where you get your powers of ESP where you can read everyone's mind. I can only speak for myself. I am stritly opposed to widening any more roads in Reston.
    I am pro Silver Line.
    I am Pro SMART growth. However, Reston is basically built out. The only place the can add density is Spectrum, the Dulles Corridor, and by razing existing housing.

    The last option is one which I am opposed to because if Kelo v. City of New London has taught us anything it is that the government (even the local gov't!) can take your shit and give it to developers.

    I believe we need to oppose ill advised ideas like the fairway redevelopment on those grounds alone. Secondly Reston does have a character and it needs to be preserved. Some of the elements are affordable housing and diverse population. If JBG razes fairway, they will not be replacing it with affordable housing. They will be replacing it with expensive housing.

    As far as the plans for the Dulles Corridor, I'm interested in what they have in store. Mixed use is good but as another commenter posted 1 br shit boxes above empty office space is not smart growth.

    Reston is a family community and growth should be with an eye towards that, not a post-college dormatory above 267.

    I don't think ayone wants Reston to grow in an Ashburn type fashion. And some high rises might be ok, but mostly they are designed by architects who have no idea of aesthetics and built for people who want the least cost to them, all that = ugly.

    So put that in your cupcake and cogitate upon that! ;-)'

  36. The Virginia legislature passed a law April 2007 that counters Kelo vs New London. The local government cannot take our property using eminent domain in order to sell it to developers. They can take property for the traditional public uses--such as building schools, roads, etc.

    Limitations on eminent domain:

    The county can rezone Reston as high density and the developers can come in bearing checks.

  37. bico, how exactly is Reston going to turn into Ashburn? This is a serious question. Reston is completely built out. We have no space for any additional developments.

    Also, when in *every single post* you talk about how much you hate living in Reston and only live here because you can't afford to move to Arlington, how can you be considered anything BUT anti-Reston?

  38. Ashburn actually is an improvement over Reston. They overbuilt shopping centers and supermarkets in Herndon/Reston. To keep them in business, they have to build skyscrapers over and around every one of them.

  39. The irony here is that if Reston does become the next Arlington with high density housing around the metro stations, BiCO no longer will be able to afford to live in Reston and will be moving to Ashburn. LOL. Developers in the DC area that replace low desnity housing with high density housing always build "luxury" apartments or condos which are out of reach to most lower income workers.

  40. The irony is they completely botched the Reston Town Center with mid-rises, 2-story row homes, and parking garages so that it's prohibitely expensive to redevelop that area into the downtown that it was supposed to be. It's funny that there are more skyscrapers in the rest of Reston than there are in the Town Center.


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