News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reston Master Plan: As Focus Shifts to Village Centers, A Push For Fewer Developer Voices

Hunters Woods village center.jpgSo remember when that county task force with a ludicrously long name (TFWALLN) made recommendations for long-term development around the upcoming Wiehle Avenue, Reston Parkway/Targetville, and Herndon-Monroe Metro stations, and now we're surrounded by 99-story mauvescrapers and Jumbo Cheesecake Macaroni Grill Factories? Yeah, that was awesome.

Well, maybe not, but it's safe to say that the developer voices who were represented on the task force haven't exactly been shy about talking up the benefits of high-density development. And now that the focus of the Task Force is shifting away from the Toll Road, where high-density stuff makes sense, to the Village Centers, the Reston Citizens Association and others are asking Supervisor Cathy Hudgins to incorporate different voices in the planning process for "Phase 2" of the Task Force's work, so our righteous stucco strip malls aren't torn down and replaced with even bigger and more righteous stucco strip malls or something.

RCA’s Reston 2020 Committee indicated a need to talk with our Supervisor about the composition of the Reston Task Force, as it approaches Phase II (Village Centers). Marion Stillson, who requested the meeting, gathered participants who would represent all three “sister” organizations in Reston, both political parties, and a number of clusters. The ten people who participated were: Paul Thomas, Joe Leighton, both from RA; Marcia McDevitt and Diane Royal from ARCH; and Tammi Petrine, John Hanley, Dick Rogers, Kathy Kaplan, Dick Stillson and Marion Stillson from RCA.

First, Paul Thomas, speaking officially for RA, framed the issue. He stated that the stakeholders for Phase II the Task Force are different: more local and more residential than for Phase I, where large developers and non-residential interests were pertinent. Supervisor Hudgins agreed that different interests are involved, stating the neighborhoods of Reston are ‘owned and stable.’ She added to Paul’s list of groups who might want to be involved in Phase II by saying not only seniors but the young, with child care and other needs.
That's good, since development in the Village Centers could change the character of the existing neighborhoods around them, particularly since language in county plans does suggest that the centers could grow as they're redeveloped. Wait, what?
Kathy Kaplan asked about County maps which imply a larger footprint in future for the Village Centers. Supervisor Hudgins did not deny this and instead distinguished between two concepts of continuity: “character continuity” and “use continuity.” In addition, she regretted the mistakes made with Lake Anne Village Center and spoke of Lake Anne’s “capture area” which is larger than the Village Center itself.
That's definitely true of Lake Anne, which was almost doomed from the get-go by poor decisions about what was -- and wasn't -- built around it. But Lake Anne is a completely different kind of animal than the remaining village centers, which are now all pretty much your run-of-the-mill strip malls. The rest of what Hudgins told the group wasn't particularly comforting.
When asked what percentage of current residents must agree to sell out to a developer, Supervisor Hudgins stated “not 100%.” She spoke with approval of neighborhoods defending themselves, such as when Island Walk was decaying and re-invented itself. She also mentioned the need to help neighborhoods defend themselves (no details).

Supervisor Hudgins cautioned that in Virginia, development cannot be slowed down until infrastructure is ready. She added that while some citizens are willing to consider devices such as Community Development Authorities, others oppose self-help on the grounds that Reston should not always have to find its own funding (others interpreted this as that the county should not always have to come up with funding).
In big-picture deliberations like this, there should be a healthy debate between developers and existing residents -- otherwise we get unfettered development or completely fettered NIMBYism. To her credit, Hudgins is supportive of the idea of changing the composition of the task force as it looks at the Village Centers. And we're lucky there are community groups like the RCA that care enough about this to provide a counterbalance to developer's interests in the first place; drive down the main four-lane drag of almost any exurban community to see what happens when there's so little there there that people don't blink an eye at the endless, soul-sucking strip of car dealerships, fast-food joints, and generic "office" space that's separated from their particleboard one-sided brick McMansions by a ratty untreated wood "privacy fence," the end.


  1. As if it's not enough to pave over what little bit of woods remains along the toll road corridor, now they're turning their attention to what little bit of foliage remains around our shopping centers.

    Reston: The Concrete and Asphalt Jungle.

  2. Yeah, I'm for "smart growth" and planned communities and such near the logical spots around the toll road and metro, but God help me... I think I'm going to turn into one of those "no growth, become a town to fight developers, NIMBY-ite" people I always considered so parochially-minded. Ok, so that's not actually a quoted phrase, but it should be. Is this some coded way to play games with the current zoning in and around all the little shopping centers, while keeping us all busy with constructive dialog? The only thing I would advocate is keeping the retail amount the same while considering smarter parking in order to increase green space and limit rainwater run-off, but I don't think the density status quo is what developers would have in mind. For exhibit A, that bizarre plan at the Lawyers/Fox Mill intersection Park and Ride.

  3. Well, anon, they're planning on cramming another 60,000 or more inside our little Grad. Those people are going to shop. If we don't increase the amount of retail at least for necessities, like food and medicines, can you imagine the size of the lines at your local grocery store on Saturday morning? We're also going to need to double the amount of seats in eateries, otherwise your wait in line at the Macaroni Grill will go from 20 minutes to 40 or more on a Friday or Saturday night.

  4. Get rid of moron Hudgins. Vote her out or maybe she'll do us a favor by retiring. That woman never listens to her constituents.

  5. RCA only has a few members. And Arch- we pay a fee to them through our condo assn but do these people actually represent Reston?

  6. What is this . . ."development can be slowed down until infrastructure is ready" . . . That is precisely what needs to happen otherwise the infrastructure never catches up and no one knows how much is too much.

  7. Perhaps I hoped, with a touch of naivete, that they would build shopping resources on-site with the residential and commercial space, and by doing so we could avoid shopping crowds in the strip malls farther away from the toll road. The Convict is correct that these new folks will need shopping, but is there any way to make sure that they are dues-paying Reston residents in order to support the parks & recreation amenities? I know that whatever they build with such density, ball fields and parklands won't be on the list. Finally, there will be a critical mass to build a fancy tennis dome. I don't play tennis, but playing it in winter might be fun.

  8. By the looks of the first two Wiehle redevelopment proposals, it like they're hoping the Plaza America s.c. will meet all of their needs. They should consider a service road to keep the traffic off of Sunset Hills Rd. Of course, it would cut into what's buildable, I mean walkable.

  9. JoAnn Norton: "RCA only has a few members."

    Every one who lives in Reston is a member of RCA. RCA came into being when Bob Simon was fired by Gulf in order to preserve Simon's dream and maintain his principles for this community. Simon's principles formed the framework of the Planning Principles presented to the task force by the RCA 2020 Committee last winter.

  10. It would be a huge surprise to 99% of the people in Reston that they are a member of RCA. I'm as big of a fan as anyone of the Planning Principles, but if RCA is the protector of those principals, they are not doing much of a job. I mean, really, even Bob Simon wasn't able to protect the planning principles when it came to RTC aka fake downtown. As I recall, Bob said the Spectrum was going to be built over his dead body. There needs to be a different model that is more effective if Reston has a hope in hell of having the planning principles implemented around the Metro stops. Perhaps RCA board members being openly and publicly hostile to Supervisor Hudgins, who actually has power, isn't the most effective method of getting things done. The self importance dripping from anon 10:17's post is also part of the problem with more than a couple of RCA board members.


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