News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fairway to Heaven: After Staff Recommends Denial, Planning Commission Defers Decision on Fairway Apartment Redevelopment

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During a public hearing on Thursday, the Fairfax County Planning Commission postponed until September a vote on the awesome Fairway Apartments complex redevelopment, which would replace the current garden apartments off North Shore Drive with 941 "high-end condominiums" in a mauvescraper and assorted low-rise units (pictured in non DRB-approved burnt orange in the lovely high-tech rendering above).

The move came after county staff recommended denial of the project, saying, among many other things in a PDF long enough to clog the fancy 2400-baud modem at Restonian World Headquarters, that "the proposed development will dwarf and overwhelm the surrounding neighborhood" and reduce the overall amount of affordable housing -- which developer JBG had sneakily -- and shamefully -- tried to eliminate altogether earlier in the process. County staff added:
The applicant proposes a new "development node" which seeks to concentrate the maximum possible allowable density on the subject site without regard for resulting impacts upon the surrounding neighborhood and the natural and manmade environments."
A "development node" sounds like something you'd go see a surgeon about, but instead, county staff urged the developer to "propose a density at the low to mid end of the designated high-density residential range...and propose a site design which is compatible with the character of the surrounding neighborhood. It should not seek to create its own high density enclave absent a comprehensive review of the Plan." Oh, snap! But on the plus side, the JBG proposal included the most unintentionally hilarious architectural drawring since the "fanciful concrete bollards" associated with another Reston development:

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Yes, trees. With fancy guy wires to keep them from falling down during earthquakes. And maybe frickin' laser beams to keep the squirrels guessing.

Despite this cutting edge commitment to ecology, the Reston Citizens Association also recommended the commission reject the proposal, saying in an awesomely short two-sentence letter that it "cannot support the Fairways re-development plans in any way." The RA Board also sent Supervisor Catherine Hudgins a letter saying that if the project does wind up being approved, traffic improvements along North Shore will be needed. In a slightly more verbose written statement, Reston resident David Edwards made this point:
The Fairways garden apartments, and a dozen other stable medium density residential neighborhoods that the old Reston Plan arbitrarily designated as “high density” forty years ago, must be re-evaluated in the context of 21st century situations and attitudes. The Reston community is currently undergoing a deep, soul searching process to modify the old Plan. High density, transit-oriented, mixed use urban core development will be permitted by the Reston community in proper locations that were never anticipated in 1964. However, stable, well maintained existing residential neighborhoods will be preserved as they were originally built.
The Planning Commission will vote on the Fairway proposal on September 22.


  1. This proposal needs to die. What was JBG thinking?

  2. Am I the only one whose eyes glaze over when reading Dave Edward's papers . . . no offense Mr. Edwards.

    I think the RA board paper was a little more forceful than that, give them some credit even though it really, really hurts to do so.

    Squirrell lazers? There goes the buzzards.

  3. That whole "development node" concept sounds pretty limp to me. "Limp node", maybe?

  4. I stand corrected, read the full statement by Mr. Edwards and actually it was very clear that this development should not be built as proposed.

  5. I applaud this decision for maintaining the status quo at Fairway. A blow has been struck for medium density housing everywhere. Say "No" to towers and "Yes" to garden apartments.

  6. Are those white things maggots or mini-marshmallows?

  7. We don't need any more public housing. Geez? When will we ever learn?

  8. Cathy "Section 8" Hudgins will not rest till every house is a public house.

  9. It looks like the some of the proposed building are within the Vantage Hill Condominiums complex. Is the back end of that property actually part of the Fairway Apartments?

  10. Save the aging and dilapidated apartments! Down with progress! More subsidized housing!

    Who are you people? And what do you have against our housing prices?

  11. Anon, I don't think Fairway is subsidized housing. It's about as close to affordable as you're going to get at market rate. Isn't a 1 br at Fairway something on the order of $1200/month? I could have sworn that I read that somewhere.

  12. We moved to the Lake Anne area 5 years ago, in part due to its diversity and mixture of low income and high income residents. We didn't want to live in a gated community where everyone was concerned with keeping up with the jonses.We are in favor of development, but with limits to the increased density. Reston Town Center is vibrant and has its appeal, but I like living on the quiet side of Reston. We don't want to end up like Town Center, which I believe is what the developers would like to create. I understand the desire by JBG to maximize density, it simply translated to more profits and return on investment. But JBGs profit margin is not our concern, congested roads loss of a unique community environment are. Supporter of the project feel it will revitalize Lake Ann and give an updated modern feel to the area. I feel both goals can be accomplished, along with providing affordable housing, but it will take more work and creativity by JBG. Lets hope vision and resourcefulness play a bigger part in this process as opposed to maximum return on investment.Isn't that what Reston was founded on ?

  13. "JBGs profit margin is not our concern, congested roads loss of a unique community environment are."

    What private parties do with their private property should not be your concern at all. It always amazes me that people who have no financial stake in the transaction in question think they should have veto power over the terms of the transaction.

    Does JBG get to tell you how to run your business? If not, why do you think you should tell them how to run theirs?

  14. Anon 2:13 -- while JBG shouldn't get to tell us how to run our business, neither should they be allowed to change the nature of our neighborhoods simply because they bring the most cash to the table. They have buying power that individual homeowners don't have.

    That said though, the homeowners who are against this for the state reasons need to band together to become a force that the people who make these decisions cannot ignore (i.e. people like Cathy Hudgins and Ken Plum). If those who are concerned about losing the nature of their community do nothing more than complain about it here, they will get as much return as the energy they invest in the process.

  15. A couple of points to add to the discussion-
    Anon 2:13-What if instead of housing JBG wanted to put up a refinery or power plant? Under your scenerio that would be possible. An extreme example, but shows how totally naiive your stance is. We have a say in what happens in our neighborhoods because we live here. It is reasonable and, especially in Reston, should come as no surprise.
    Anon 2:40-Ken Plum doesn't have a say in what happens regarding (re)development in Reston. He is a state representative, and none of the issues here are state issues.
    The one thing going for this redevelopment IMO is how more people could help Lake Anne Village Center. That is probably offset by its impact on the neighborhood and traffic.

  16. While Ken Plum might do all his legislating in Richmond, he does a lot of shoulder rubbing in Reston. That kind of influence does, indeed, have an impact. If the neighborhoods around this project are in a fight for their lives, they need all the front room and back room influence they can get.

  17. Ayn Rand was wrongJuly 18, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    Anon 2:13

    What private parties do with their property IS our concern. Especially when what they want to do with THEIR property will affect MY property.

  18. "Ken Plum doesn't have a say in what happens regarding (re)development in Reston. He is a state representative, and none of the issues here are state issues."

    If we were a town, we would have control of our own zoning. Ken Plum had the town charter revoked by the General Assembly that would have allowed us to have a vote on the issue of town status. So, yes, it is a state issue. That leaves us totally at the mercy of the county when it comes to zoning and all the redevelopment that is to come.

    We are looking at 111 million square feet of development (by the way, all five stations of Rosslyn-Ballston only add up to 27 million square feet). Our population will go up to 150,000. If you think you can bury your head and ignore this and think Reston will stay the same, you are in for a big surprise.

    If nearby neighbors of Fairway Apts are concerned they need to write to Cathy Hudgins and tell her. A letter to the Planning Commissioners before Sept 23 would be a good idea, too.

    This isn't the only redevelopment project ahead. The village centers are going to be redeveloped as high-density. The county will be looking at nearby neighborhoods to redevelop in order to add more density. Why hasn't Reston Association said anything to the homeowners? Why don't you ask your representative. I did ask and I was told it wasn't RAs responsibility to inform the homeowners about redevelopment. The homeowners should inform themselves. So best get yourselves informed.

  19. If we were a town, we would have control of our own zoning. Ken Plum had the town charter revoked by the General Assembly that would have allowed us to have a vote on the issue of town status. So, yes, it is a state issue. That leaves us totally at the mercy of the county when it comes to zoning and all the redevelopment that is to come.

    you can say that again

  20. Oh pa-leeese. The town issue comes up again and again and it falls flat every time. How many election cycles have the pro town folks tried to make it an issue? It never gains traction and it never goes anywhere. That's because as soon as anyone does even back of a napkin arithmetic on what it would cost to form and run a town it becomes obvious that it will result in additional taxes over what we already pay with no increase in services, or keeping the taxes the same and losing services. Not one single politician has lost an election on this issue no matter how many times the pro towners scream that the sky is falling. So now it's Ken Plums fault that the pro town people aren't clever or smart enough to make it happen? (Seems to me Herndon is a pretty good example of why yet another layer of government isn't such a great idea. They really handled the whole immigrant/day laborer issue with a lot of compassion and maturity, solving the problem quickly, with no government waste, and uniting the community as a bonus. Or not.) The reality is that most of the people in Reston could care less because that dead horse has been beaten over and over.
    Has Rod given up on his poison ivy obsession?

  21. Maybe that's how you feel about it, Anon. Sure, operating a Town/City would cost more. It also would allow us to determine what services we value and how we would like them delivered.

    Right now, the zoning for the swath of land surrounding the Metro station is only nominally in our hands. Reston can only provide some input which the BoS may or may not listen to. If the BoS decides that maybe North Reston should be a landfill, the Reston has no say in that zoning decision precisely because we are the County of Fairfax, not the Town of Reston.

    I'm not going to argue whether or not there are enough votes out there for township. Historically, there just hasn't been enough concern. However, just because there hasn't been in the past doesn't mean there won't be in the future. It just means that, at this juncture, there isn't a critical mass.

  22. Convict-
    I agree with your point regarding not enough critical mass. But what is going to happen if there is critical mass at some point in the future? Metro will already be here, and whatever decisions are made via zoning around the metro will be a done deal and very difficult, if not impossible, to undo. It could very well be too little, too late. I think your first paragraph isn't wrong, but it is weak. We do have a say in service levels via electing the Hunter Mill Supervisor, though obviously not as direct as a town would offer. Reston does determine service levels with RA and RCC via the election and preference poll, but not a lot of people participate. The idea that it is all Ken Plum's fault that Reston isn't a town was my 'oh pa-leese' objection, in case you missed that point.
    Also-your second paragraph is dead wrong with the landfill example, precisely because of the much maligned mauve and brown protecting DRB. It would never happen because of the covenants that already exist on the land and enforced by the RA via the dreaded DRB.
    I am actually happy with the county right now for the staff recommending denial of the Fairway redevelopment, and I am no fan of Fairway apartments. (IMO they are seriously ugly.) Does the county not get any credit for that stand?

  23. Fairway apts are pretty nice. Better looking than yet another lowest-bid architect designed bit of dreck like the hilariously named Reston Heights, or the meh buildings along Reston Pkwy.

    The garden apts offer lots of outdoor space, and the interior dimensions are also quite large.

    Though I do agree with you that the county did a good thing in rejecting JBG's over-reach.

  24. HCKD-
    Functinally you are right about Fairway-they are huge inside, which is why my wife and I lived there when we first moved to Reston oh so many years ago. It depends on where you live inside Fairway on whether or not there is lots of outdoor space. We didn't have anything but parking lot around our apartment, although we did have a nice view of a putting green and par 3 on the golf course off the balcony. However, I gotta say, the outside of the buildings are unattractive.
    Why is the name Reston Heights hilarious? It is one of the highest points from sea level in Reston.

  25. Well, Anon, the bit about turning North Reston into a landfill was an extreme example, but instructive all the same. The county decides our land use, not Reston. That's a fact.

    As for electing our Supervisor, you should remember that Hudgins' district contains not only Reston but a lot of Reston Wannabes to the east and west. Furthermore, she has to play nicely with the rest of the BoS if she wants to get anything done, so her position is beholden to more outside interests than if Reston was a municipality.

    Reston Heights is hilarious precisely because of the pretentiousness of the name. It's not Reston. It's Reston Heights. It's made even funnier by the pretentiousness of the facades of the buildings, which in 10 years will look as dated as anything else in Reston. The exterior design can be summed up in two words, "Architectural Fad".

  26. The Heights is a fiction ascribed to the former Sheraton parking lot that now hosts the Westin and an apartment building. As COnvict states it is pretentious and to this old skool Restonian a Johnny come lately affectation.

    When I was a kid, we'd go the the "Heights" to the annual baseball carnival. A better name for that area would be Baseball Carnival Land.

  27. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonJuly 21, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    Re the 'Reston Heights' discussion: it's actually all of Northern Virginia that has an addiction to pretentious names like Reston Heights -- is the implied message of that name "because we're more elevated, we can lord it over you"? Sometimes it can unintentionally backfire with hilarious results, such as when someone stole the letter "E" from the sign on Twin Branches for Beacon Heights, leaving the area to be known as Bacon Heights for months on end.

    I think it's even worse in Loudoun County than in Fairfax. Any place in either locality that has the words Heights, Chase, Crossing, Reserve, etc. in its title seems to be a bit full of it and of itself. Me, I'm proud to live in Peasantville, just a Molotov cocktail's throw from the Gulag.

  28.'s Bacon Hill, not Bacon Heights!

  29. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonJuly 21, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    Anon 3:39:

    Right you are -- and Bacon Hill sounds almost as good!

  30. Aren't you fed up with all those people from the subsidized housing they call "affordable" for PC reasons?

  31. Fairway is not subsidized. It is privately owned market rate affordable. However, there may be Section 8 Voucher Holders who recieve Federal Assistance through Fairfax County. In addition, at one time, Reston Interfaith had families there under their programs. Whatever the final physical shape of redevelopment, it should be mixed income, that is, market rate and affordable.

  32. Fairway is full of unsavory characters that hang around outdoors until all hours of the night making noise and blasting their car stereos. I don't think they monitor the number of residents per unit either. Just tear it down already.