News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wiehle Metro Development Decision Deferred to April 14

Screen shot 2010-03-22 at 11.46.44 PM.jpgDuring its meeting last night, the Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred a decision on the proposed Comstock Wiehle Metro development until April 14. One of our commenters has shared traffic studies involving the project.

Update: And here are the remarks from the Reston Citizens Association and Reston 2020, as read by Richard Stillson. He identified the "excessive" 6,000-space parking garage, the shadow-inducing height of the buildings on the south side of the plaza, and the presence of traffic within the plaza as the "worst problems" of the Comstock proposal, and offered suggestions to address them.


  1. During the part of the hearing I attended (most of it), only one entity/person rose to endorse the Comstock proposal. That was IPAR--Those artists who want their art apparently to be displayed in an absolutely ugly environment. I guess it will make their work look better.

    Surprising to me was that the first speaker, speaking for the Committee for Dulles--a very pro-Metro group, asking the FCPC to deny the application grounds that Restonians would really appreciate--ugliness mostly, bad example for the corridor, etc.

    The others were mostly Restonians who had the usual concerns about ugliness, pathetic plaza, too much traffic, etc.

  2. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO): Soon-to-Be "Check Out my Goods in Colvin Woods"March 26, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    I love the NIMBYS who whine about "too much traffic." Folks, the area gained 163,000+ residents in only the past two years ALONE! We're projected to add 2,000,000+ in the coming decades. Many of them will be moving to Reston and points west. All of those who move to LoCo will be coming on through or to Reston anyways, so no matter what way you slice it we WILL become horribly congested. LoCo right now only has 300,000+ people, and the toll road and Route 7 become absolute parking lots. Imagine when it has 500,000+! Reston is doomed no matter what, so why not try to make a huge push for more mass transit and more transit-oriented developments to try to mitigate that?

  3. BiCO is right --- I lived here when Tyson's Corner WAS Mr. and Mrs. Tyson's corner. And that was not 500 years ago -- so be ready and be prepared.

    Now -- who here knows where Crippin's Corner, Money's Corner and Odrick's Corner were?

  4. Didn't Crippin own all the land in the vicinity of 606 and 7? And Money's Corner must have been Lawyer and Fox Mill? I'm too young to remember that far back, though. But as a kid, Reston did seem way, way out in the country. I do remember TV ads for the then brand-new Sterling subdivision!

  5. I grew up in the Town of Herndon, when they were just starting construction on Lake Anne. The W&OD was a functioning rail line. Route 606 was a two-lane road.

    While I don't doubt that there will be pressure to expand the housing stock, that doesn't mean that we just have to roll over on this. If the developers can't get zoning, then they can't build. And if the developers can't build, then it will be hard to put in too many more additional people. Not too mention, if the demand for housing increases but the supply reamins static, that translates into increased property values for Reston homeowners.

  6. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonMarch 26, 2010 at 10:27 PM

    I think Money's Corner is the intersection of Sunrise Valley and Hunter Mill, i.e., where that small church stands just before the entrance to the eastbound Toll Road at Hunter Mill.

    We can only hope there are no Bloods in Crippin's Corner.

    And here's a 'radical' thought about how to reduce all that LoCo commuter traffic coming to and through Reston in the future. Instead of building endless amber waves of particleboard McMansions out in Loudoun, how about building some huge office parks there? Just think, Gilbert's Corner could become the next Tyson's Corner.

  7. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO): Soon-to-Be "Check Out My Goods in Colvin Woods"March 26, 2010 at 10:53 PM

    Peasant, the problem with your idea? Then Winchester eventually becomes the next Leesburg if Leesburg becomes the next Tysons! UGH! When will the sprawl here ever start to end?

  8. No one will ever be satisfied because that whole area is going to be developed piecemeal. It's going to make it very difficult to plan roads, paths, and open space that has any connectivity between the different parcels. The first proposal isn't even contiguous. The larger parcel doesn't even extend all the way to Sunset Hills. Every new proposal will probably disrupt traffic on Sunset Hills in its own way.

  9. Money's Corner is at the intersection of Lawyers Road and Reston Parkway.

  10. Peasant

    The houses in Loco are probably more substantial than yours, so ease up on the snobbery, eh mate.

    There are scores of square miles of office zoning around Dulles and along parts of the Greenway. But with a 15% vacancy rate in office space in NoVa, no new office space will be started any time soon.

    Further, because of the exclusionary zoning patterns in LoCo (2/3 of LoCo is 10 acre minimum lot size, or greater), there is little housing stock affordable for the employees of any new business who might move to Loudoun.

    In fact, HHMI leaders have been quoted as saying they made a mistake moving to LoCo because their people have to travel to Martinsburg, Hagerstown and Harrisburg to find housing they could afford on HHMI's pay, making for long commutes in terrible traffic.

    Having pursued an exclusionary zoning scheme for 50+ years, a turn around in the dysfunctional land use & transportation patterns in FFX and NoVa is hard to forsee.

  11. Bico

    So long as jobs are attracted to the Washington MSA, and that will continue indefinitely, housing demand will continue.

    Every survey for the last 50+ years shows that 80% of Americans want a single family detached home within 1/2 commute of work. That preference has even been traced back to the 1840s in America by some historians and to Roman times by others.

    But because local governments are funded by r/e tax which pays for schools, there has been a perverse incentive for local governments to zone for jobs and against housing.

    Add to that the foolish idea of the late 60s and 70s that not building forecasted roads would be sufficient disincentive for jobs/housing not to move here (the "Reverse Field of Dreams" delusion: if you don't build it, they won't come).

    The only solution is to require localities to plan for 1 house for every 2 jobs and 1 multi-family for every 8 jobs. And build the roads to move them around.

    The council of local governments had a road plan in 1965 to serve their projection of population and jobs for 2000. And those projections turned out to be spot on. We didn't build the plan roads. Instead thousands of lane miles were eliminated. 70% of trips are not job related and cannot be met by heavy rail. Those roads have to be built if 24 hour per day gridlock is to be avoided.

    None of the foregoing will ever happen.

  12. Hey BiCO . . . you need to see a happy movie, man. Life isn't that bad.

    Some appt dwellers may feel they can move wherever they want. Those of us who own property and have little kids get stuck where we are. We can make the worst of what is to come go around us and demand higher standards and that development gets built to minimize traffic problems. Making things easy for foot traffic, building services close to residential areas is an answer.

    I believe that Colvin Woods has an outstanding APR 08-III-8UP which has been deferred for the Reston Master Plan . . . to build another complex or increase what is already there off of Beacon Tree Lane - a dead end street that goes in front of an elementary school. Not sure if there will be other street access or not - if not, it shouldn't be built due to the elementary school.

  13. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonMarch 27, 2010 at 6:36 PM

    Anon 12:24

    The houses in Loudoun County undoubtedly are newer and larger than mine. "More substantial" is debatable, given that construction quality seems to decline with each passing decade as builders look to cut costs.

    [And by definition, a peasant can't be snobbish ;-)]

    I take your point about the huge minimum lot sizes in most of Loudoun and the currently depressed market for office space, but when you see all that fairly dense housing development in the eastern third of that county (basically east of Rt. 15), it would seem to make sense to eventually locate some office buildings there as market conditiond warrant. In addition, I'm pretty sure most county governments love office developments if only for the fact that they get a lot of tax money out of them and don't have to provide (at least for that parcel of land per se) more classrooms and other services.

  14. Of course Peasants can be snobbish, especially reverse snobs.

    Today's houses are built to tougher building codes with stronger materials, so, yes, more substantial.

    The housing east of Route 15 and west of 28 is far less dense than Reston.

    You got my point, localities want office.

    But business owners who rent office space don't want to locate to communities where their workers can't live or have very long commutes which lead to tardiness and absenteeism.

    Thus, falling demand for LoCo office space.

    BTW, LoCo is about to run out of house lots east of 15.

  15. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonMarch 27, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    Anon 12:24/9:06

    Enjoying this discussion with you (seriously). I think we can agree to disagree on whether today's houses are more substantial or not. But as an aside, I can say that American houses as a whole cannot compare with those constructed in Europe (where I lived for several years while getting my degree in Peasantry). Masonry structures, not stick-built; superior materials; and skilled craftsmen doing all aspects of the construction.

    Anyway, that's neither here nor there concerning development in NoVa. I may not have been clear in my comment about density in LoCo east of Route 15; what I was getting at was that it's a lot denser than west of Rt. 15. And you do see some pretty dense townhouse developments along parts of the Greenway and near Leesburg, as I recall.

    An aside to your observation that business owners don't want to locate to communities that are unaffordable or a long commute for their workers. Quite some years back, maybe in the 1970s, New York City did a study about all the corporate headquarters fleeing Manhattan for the suburbs. What it found out was that the corporations were generally relocating towards where their senior executives lived. And those places, like Greenwich, CT, or such Westchester NY towns as Armonk (IBM) or Purchase (PepsiCo) are anything but affordable for 98 percent of the population.

  16. Peasant

    Commercial brokers have long known that you could get the relo office tenant if you could show the CEO that his, and it's almost always a him, commute would be 15 minutes shorter than the present location and competing sites.

    Travel 30 minutes north & west of those 4 towns you cited and the worker bee housing is cheaper than 1/2 hour from Manhattan.

    This consideration is much higher in the corporate relocation criteria today than in the 70s as commute times have lengthened nationwide.

    It's also true that offices sometimes follow the work force out of the CBD to the 'burbs.

    As to housing construction, the growing suburbs
    of Paris, London & Frankfurt have many of the same builders as here, using the same materials and methods: Beazer and Lennar are European home builders who have been active in this area.

  17. Loudoun Co had encouraged larger homes because the smaller homes were money losers. They cost more to provide public services than the tax revenue would bring in. I think the targeted gross real estate revenue per new home was around 4-5K.

  18. Ahh I see it: 2 $500,000 homes or, 3 $300,000 homes would have the same real estate revenue as a single $1,000,000 home, however the county has to supply 2-3x the service.

    What a short sighted and stupid policy.


  19. Anon 12:10

    LoCo downzoned 2/3 of its land area to maintain the exclusiveness of living in the west, i.e., keep the riff-raff away from the privileged. To quote one of its masterminds, "The viewshed renters must be excluded."

  20. Balance says:
    We have been cursed by our prosperity. This is a desirable area for business. Educated population, superior civic services, proximity to lucrative government business opportunities, great schools, etc. Look at the big names who have roosted here: VW, Hilton, Oracle, SAIC, CSC, and so on. Reston, a great place to Live, Work, Play and Hunt. (OK, OK, I got carried away.)

    Fidget as we might, the region will grow. We might delay it. We might be able to turn Reston into that place people merely transit, so that we get only the congestion. (I'm thinking now of hapless Vienna.)

    There is an interesting parallel: Levittown, L.I. Following "the war" urbanites saw it as the place to fulfill a dream. Single-family homes, open space, shopping malls. But they still worked in NYC, so tranportation became a major problem. Yes, this sounds familiar. After some 60 years, they are moving to a new model. Urban centers co-locating retail, commercial and residential. The unseemly development we are protesting.

    I'm thinking that we are entering the game in the 7th inning. Town Center, Fairfax Corner, and perhaps another dozen smaller versions throughout the county. It's here, and it is the future.

    If there is a bright part of this picture, it's the indications from the folks on L.I. who report that traffic has, in fact, been relieved in areas hosting these mini-cities. Shocking as it may sound, people like the idea of living, working and playing in their village. (There never was a significant deer population, but many will be comfoted to know that duck farms are virtually gone.)

    If you like what we now have, enjoy it. Change is coming.

  21. Hi all,

    I spoke out against the Comstock Wiehle plan on MArch 25th asking for the Fairfax County Planning Commission to delay approving the plan until the ideas from the March 20th Reston Master Plan public meeting could be considered and the concerns addressed.

    My beef? . . . excess traffic not being addressed, too little green space, and no design review standards, asking the question of can we really trust this company to build "world-class" when their current building on Sunset Hills is in such a state of mediocracy.

    lo and behold, I received a call from Comstock asking me to come in for a meeting to discuss their plan (to enlighten me, I presume).

    I have asked them for a public meeting for them to ask Reston about the plan, address our concerns and to adapt what we feel Reston should be at the Wiehle station.

    If they do set up a meeting, which I doubt, then Restonian followers will be the first to hear about it.

    E. Schultz


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