So 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.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?
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.
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).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.
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).