News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Comstock Wiehle Proposal Made Minor Changes to Plaza to Win Planning Commission Approval

Screen shot 2010-02-04 at 7.33.34 AM.jpgA fancy "news-paper" article sheds some light on the changes Comstock made to its planned Wiehle Metro development to win Fairfax County Planning Commission approval.

County planning staff had some concerns with Comstock's designs, particularly regarding vehicle access to the complex's main plaza, which staff contended should be primarily a pedestrian zone to make the complex welcoming to transit users.

Comstock wanted to allow limited vehicle access to portions of the public plaza, including a taxi stand for a possible hotel building and a drop-off area for the office buildings. Planners and Reston residents had expressed concerns that allowing vehicle access would interfere with community use of the plaza and turn into a de facto "kiss and ride" area for the new Metro station.

The recommended plan still allows some vehicle access to the edges of the plaza area, but it is further restricted than prior drafts of the rezoning plan.

The staff initially recommended denying the application and the Fairfax County Planning Commission put the project on ice for more than a month, until the staff concerns could be resolved.

The builder made adjustments to the planned use of the plaza and strengthened the plan language regarding environmentally friendly building design and encouraging transit use.

Comstock's revised plan does not address one of the primary community concerns, the amount of parking proposed for the facility. When complete, the proposed complex would have about 6,000 parking spaces, including the 2,300-space Metro parking garage and three private garages for the proposed new buildings.

"Restonians envision the Wiehle Avenue ... area as a 24-hour-a-day destination and a rich educational and cultural center, building on the educational institutions already in the area. It should not be a place for commuters to park their cars," said Richard Stillson, chairman of the Reston Citizens Association's Reston 2020 Committee, in testimony on the Comstock plan in March.
So less traffic in the sunny confines of the plaza, leaving more room for mushrooms and other sun-loving foliage to grow. Sweet! Skeptics will point out that Comstock escaped the approval process without having to make major changes, but as we've pointed out before, the developer has the county over a barrel.
"I know that not everyone is satisfied with the proposal as it stands," Commissioner Frank de la Fe (Hunter Mill) acknowledged, but he said the application had reached a point at which he felt comfortable approving it. Community groups will have ongoing input into the design of the buildings as the project is finalized, he said.

De la Fe also noted the importance of the project, which will allow people to exit the Metro station and enter a welcoming complex, rather than facing just a parking garage -- the alternative if the Comstock partnership is not approved.

"The piers for the Wiehle station are rising in the middle of the Dulles Toll Road as we speak," he said.
And that pretty much says it all.

17 comments:

  1. It's as far from a "welcoming complex" as can be imagined.

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  2. BiCo - you're the city planning guy...can you explain what the heck is going on here?

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  3. Anon 9:26:

    We get a plaza about the size of Lake Anne plaza that will serve as a kiss and ride with circulating traffic. It will be surrounded by 17 and 19 story buildings. Imagine standing in Lake Anne plaza surrounded by 17 and 19 story buildings. There will be no sunlight in the plaza. There will be no place for the car fumes to go (in case you think those are spaces between the buildings, you are wrong, those are 6 story parking garages between the 17 and 19 story buildings). This is being built on land provided by the county, that is, our land, your land. Why ask BiCO anything? He opens his mouth and all you'll hear from him is how much he hates Reston and loves Arlington.

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  4. I think that if you read it again, part of the modification was to remove the surface traffic so that the plaza wouldn't become a de facto Smooch & Vamoose (Buss & Bus, maybe?). A trivial setback to Comstock, I'm sure. Still, it seems to be a necessary compromise in order to keep things moving forward. After all, it is in Comstock's interest to provide some political cover for the county authorities.

    In short, the county is moving forward with the construction of our concrete Mordor on the Troll Road. And this De la Fe character is Saruman. However, to keep us mere mortals happy, they intend to give us a forum to vent our frustrations although it's not at all clear that they actually intend to listen.

    Oh, well. Hopefully amongst our remaining stock of trees in Reston, we still have a few Ents.

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  5. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO): Soon-to-Be "Amongst the 'Hoods in Colvin Woods" and Eventually "Arlington's Sexiest Simpleton (ASS)"May 6, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    No need for the snarkiness, Anonymous @ 10:35. I'm merely annoyed that Arlington has done so much good to reduce its traffic congestion through successful implementation of dense transit-oriented mixed-use development while so many people in Reston balk at similar successful plans because it might cause more people to move here or because it might ruin the "historic charm" (whatever that means) of Reston; NIMBYism and opposing anything different rocks! People simply misunderstand me. I'm not an advocate of transforming Reston into Manhattan, but, on that same token, if Bethesda and Arlington are such desirable places to reside within for a reason, then why do so many in Reston write off incorporating any strategies or "lessons" they may have to offer us?

    Reston is in trouble from a congestion standpoint regardless of as to whether or not you support the Silver Line's arrival. Loudoun County was, for a time, one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation and remains nearly as such today. Where do most of the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Loudoun County work? Fairfax County, Arlington County, or The District. How do they get there? Through Reston, as we are stuck in the middle. Try taking Route 7 between Reston and McLean at rush-hour. It's not fun, folks, and even at 6 AM there's a steady stream of traffic bailing out of Leesburg/Ashburn/Sterling (and dare I even say Harpers Ferry and Winchester?). I advocate more people moving TO Reston because at least then these people will start to take a vested interest into giving back to our community, will pay their taxes to Fairfax County instead of Loudoun County, and the population growth may encourage new UNIQUE (i.e. not just Starbuck's or Macaroni Grill) businesses to move here. The population growth may help to revitalize declining shopping areas like Tall Oaks or Lake Anne. The crime rate won't necessarily increase. Arlington has 3.5 times the population of Reston. I believe in 2009 Reston had 1 murder and Arlington had 2 (meaning Arlington's homicide rate was actually LOWER). Property crime rates seem to be comparable.

    I'm not saying "Reston sucks." What I'm saying is that if many people (not just myself) think Arlington is BETTER (for whatever reason), then why not try to figure out what Reston could do better to compete? Why settle for our current mediocrity when this could be such an excellent place to live? I firmly believe Reston has enormous potential to be something truly special. We have a tree canopy unlike any I've ever seen in a suburban area. We have a very literate population with many people very knowledgeable about community planning, architecture, and politics. Judging by the fact that nearly everyone but me drives a BMW or Lexus most here are affluent enough to afford any improvements the community at-large deems appropriate. Instead we have apathy. Besides me the only other ones who give a damn about Reston seem to be those who are more than twice my age. Voter turnout for RA---less than 20%---is disgusting. Most people neither love nor hate Reston; they just shrug their shoulders when I ask them how they enjoy living here. Instead of indifference and apathy why not encourage people to be EXCITED about living here, as they are in Arlington and Bethesda?

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  6. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO): Soon-to-Be "Amongst the 'Hoods in Colvin Woods" and Eventually "Arlington's Sexiest Simpleton (ASS)"May 6, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    Newcomers generally aren't going to seek out Reston for any other reason other than pricing or proximity to work. If I knew ahead of time I was working in McLean and if I found a comparably priced and appointed 1-BR in Arlington for the same price point I wouldn't have even considered Reston because it offers so little for the under-30 crowd in comparison if you don't think posing at RTC is "fun." I've suffered trying to connect with a lot of fellow early-20-somethings because there just are NOT many in Reston to begin with, and those whom I have befriended are moving OUT. Most are in Arlington. Some are in Fairfax. Here in Reston I've been befriending library volunteers (30s-60s), people from my church (30s-60s), and others. I'm not ageist, but I feel so terribly out-of-place here because people in Reston simply don't care about the huge void created due to the lack of 18-26-year-olds here. You may not care if you're a 40-year-old soccer mom reading this, but put yourselves in my shoes for just a moment. At my age wouldn't YOU feel awkward that most of your friends were twice your age? Wouldn't you resent your community for not doing MORE to help attract and retain its youth? Reston is a place I simply don't understand and probably never will. People love to raise their children here. At age 18 they all leave in droves for college. When many come back to NoVA to start their careers they move to Arlington---not Reston---and they don't consider Reston again until it comes time to raise a family of their own when they're around 30, if not a few years older. I thought Reston was supposed to be a place replete with diversity? That should include age groups as well. Reston will always be "lacking" in my eyes as long as people are content living amongst mostly retirees/empty nesters who have lived here since the 1970s and hate change, married couples with children, and those forced to live here in subsidized housing. What about graduate students? Young professionals? Artists? Middle-aged DINKs? Middle-aged singles? Arlington offers a healthy dose of ALL age groups---not Reston. Why?

    Since Arlington and Bethesda attract a diverse age range due to their active nightlife, Metro-accessibility, and proximity to the District, then why not try to create a new institution of higher learning (perhaps Simon University?) in Reston Town Center, between the existing developed area and the future Metrorail station, in order to give us an "edge" as well? Right now, to my knowledge, Reston doesn't have its own college or university (although I think we have a small branch or two of regional colleges offering some courses). Winchester, my favorite city in Virginia (even higher on my list than Arlington), has a decent-sized university in town, and when I was there for the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival there were so many people there my own age I was shocked. Granted many could have been just like me---Fairfax Countians looking for an "escape"---but I could tell by eavesdropping that many had Winchester accents. It's sad when you get the sense that DC's outermost exurb has more going for it for younger people than a place like Reston.

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  7. Convict in Gulag,

    The Staff Report Addendum states that traffic will only be restricted in the plaza during rush hour.

    If you want to come out and make a statement about Comstock's plan May 11 at 3:30 pm at the government center, the Board of Supervisors will be listening to speakers.

    You can sign up to speak on the county website. Go to page 82 of the agenda packet for the info on Comstock's proposal. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/government/board/meetings/2010/may-11-2010.htm

    You need to give them the zoning application number to sign up to speak: RZ 2009-HM-019

    Anyone who wants to get an idea of how things are progressing on other fronts of the redevelopment of Reston have a look at the 2020 blog. http://reston2020.blogspot.com/

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  8. Yeah, I could show up at that meeting and maybe get my voice heard. However, do you think that if I should show up, or even a hundred like me who happen to like the status quo, or might like to have a park or a rec center, that either Comstock or the county are going to pull the plug on this commercial/retail/residential concrete canyon? It's all about the bottom line, baby. And parks and rec centers just ain't going to do it for either Comstock or the county.

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  9. BTW, BiCO, I think that you are working from a flawed assumption regarding development in LoCo. There is no amount of development in Reston that will stop further development in LoCo. Rather, the exact opposite will happen. As more jobs come to Reston, more people will be inclined to look to the lower housing prices, the lower taxes and the greater, greener expanses of LoCo.

    The only thing that Fairfax county could do to keep commuters from LoCo from using Reston as a pass-through would be traffic calming measures, in particular creating choke points along our western border. Remember, people will use their cars in spite of mass transit options, whenever it is more convenient for them to do so. Your commute to Tyson's is a perfect example. Until we make it so onerous for the LoCo's to traverse Reston for points east, they will continue to do so.

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  10. The only way they could force the developers to include substantial concessions on amenities in their proposals would be to require a larger minimum amount of area in each zoning application for RCIG properties. It would force the parcels to consolidate.

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  11. I'm signing up to speak. I'm concerned about the additional vehicles coming down Wiehle directly due to this and other development along Sunset Hills. I know that VDOT isn't going to drop everything to make changes to this corner livable.

    Doing nothing on our part will make no difference while any effort on our part will at least be noted and might possible increase this area as a priority.

    Perhaps some officials need to hear enough people loud and clear to justify taking a stand against development or at least asking for concessions from a developer.

    Those of you who know more about this . . . answer a question . . . we know that Comstock will only build the parking garage and the circle with the support structures for the proposed buildings included. What happens if in 10 years, they decide to build something else besides the approved plan? How much red tape will they have to go through since they will already have the zoning approved? What happens if they sell the right to develop it to another party?

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  12. What was approved . . .

    http://ldsnet.fairfaxcounty.gov/ldsnet/ldsdwf/4315356.PDF

    http://ldsnet.fairfaxcounty.gov/ldsnet/ldsdwf/4311899.PDF

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  13. Bico, I have no idea why you aren't encountering people like you describe, but I can only assume it has to do with the circles in which you travel. That has never been my experience of Reston... I grew up here, went away to college, and moved back at age 22. Had plenty of friends who did likewise. I live in a townhouse, and in my block of 5 houses, we have one retired couple, a group house with 3 guys in their twenties, a couple with college-aged kids, two houses owned by single women in their 30s, and my family (w/ small children). On the next block down there are 3 families w/ kids of various ages, two houses owned by single people, and a married couple w/o kids. Whenever I walk through my neighborhood, I see people of all ages. Single people, married people, people with kids. Maybe you just need to make more of an effort to get out and meet people, because they're here.

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  14. He can't because all of the guys his age all poseurs.

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  15. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO): Soon-to-Be "Amongst the 'Hoods in Colvin Woods" and Eventually "Arlington's Sexiest Simpleton (ASS)" said... Voter turnout for RA---less than 20%---is disgusting. Most people neither love nor hate Reston; they just shrug their shoulders when I ask them how they enjoy living here. Instead of indifference and apathy why not encourage people to be EXCITED about living here, as they are in Arlington and Bethesda?
    ______________________________

    I think most people here are inclined toward institutions. They work in institutions and have learned to rely on institutions even though institions do make occosional mistakes. Institutions are not something to get excited about. Most assume that their institution will open the pools in the summer and issue pool pases which is enough for most. What most
    really don't want is to hear anything EXCITING. 80% don't want to hear anything about Reston especially about anything important. Some will use this as a catalist to springboard them into power. The power of the apathetic institution! People will be miserable but what can they expect? What can they hope for. gone is the rugged individual instead we are all social excentrics. People will go and hang around Comstock, buy some stuff or go ride to Arlington or beyond and go home glad that they at least don't live in Mclean or worse Annandale. What else can they do?

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  16. "I thought Reston was supposed to be a place replete with diversity? That should include age groups as well. Reston will always be "lacking" in my eyes as long as people are content living amongst mostly retirees/empty nesters who have lived here since the 1970s and hate change, married couples with children, and those forced to live here in subsidized housing. What about graduate students? Young professionals? Artists? Middle-aged DINKs? Middle-aged singles? Arlington offers a healthy dose of ALL age groups---not Reston. Why?"

    I think it is a mistake to try to be all things to all people. And, most likely it is also impossible. There are many high-quality universities in DC, and Reston will NEVER be able to compete with them in ability to attract young people. Nor will Reston ever have the quick and easy access to DC that Arlington has. Therefore, Reston should not try to be something it can never be. What Reston should do is play to its strengths - it is a great place to raise a family - and write off the 20-somethings who want nightlife.

    Incidentally, I moved to Reston in my late 20s, after I was done with grad school and got a job in McLean. There are plenty of DINKs and young professionals in Reston.

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  17. The BOS public hearing has been posponed until May 25th?

    Still waiting for staff to get out the latest VDOT recommendations that "approve" the traffic problems.

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