News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fairway to Heaven: Fairfax Planners Defer Vote on Redevelopment After County Staff Recommends Approval

sideways fairway.jpegAfter a public hearing that ran past midnight, Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred a vote on approving JBG's awesome Fairway Apartments redevelopment proposal until July 20. Our BFFs at Reston 2020 seem to think they'll approve it then.

One big reason for the turn of fortunes: After recommending denial of JBG's original proposal in a strongly worded report, county planning staff is now recommending approval. In an addendum to their original report (PDF), planners said that "changes made to the PRC plan, along with the proposed development conditions, result in a development which is now in character and scale to the surrounding development. While the proposed density is higher than the medium density character of the area, the revised unit types and layout of those units does provide for a site design which is compatible with the character of the surrounding neighborhood."

That's not to say county staff love the revised plan, which reduces the number of housing units from 951 to 804, without reservations. Specifically, they want special development conditions to address a number of issues JBG still has not responded to.

In the initial report, county planners dinged JBG for not providing "sufficient architectural details" to make a decision about whether the development's architecture "would be in character with the surrounding existing development." You might think that JBG would have hired someone to do some fancy drawrings over the past year, but according to the latest county report, the developer still "has not provided the requested architectural details at this time." But no worries, they'll have to do it when they file building plans. What could possibly go wrong?

JBG also declined a request to conduct a traffic study of the intersection of Temporary and North Shore and install a traffic light if needed, because they claim that's the responsibility of the developers of Parc Reston, who are planning their own mauvescraper redevelopment of that garden apartment/condo complex. "Staff remains concerned that the proposed redevelopment of the Fairways site, which proposes significantly more density than currently" -- the planners actually wrote "correctly" in the report -- a Freudian slip? -- "exists could be completed... before the threshold is met for the developer of the Parc Reston development to install the traffic signal." Staff wants a development condition there, too.

On the bright side, county planners were satisfied by the 12 percent workforce dwelling units now proposed by JBG. Oh, and there will be a "tree preservation plan and narrative." The narrative, whatever that is, should make for lovely bedtime reading. ("Once upon a time, there was a mighty oak that towered over the ugly and dated garden apartments, which lacked a delicious Texas donut...")

During last night's planning commission meeting, speakers critical of the proposal pointed to the project's lack of conformity with the principles of transit-oriented development, given that it's not located near any present or future transit, as well as the precedent it may set as developers eye other chunks of aging Reston real estate.

"We welcome the arrival of rail in 2013 and the opportunity to develop a true Transit Oriented Development," said Diane Blust, president of the Fairfax Coalition for Smarter Growth. "Fairway is not a TOD development. This runs counter to the comprehensive plan. It will increase traffic, disrupt a stable neighborhood and create a loss of relatively affordable housing."

Tammi Petrine, co-chair of the Reston Citizen Association's Reston2020 group, also decried the reduction in affordable housing.

"Reston values its diversity," she said. "The loss of 348 affordable units would be devastating."

She urged JBG to rethink the development as one of the elderly and handicapped, as there "is a huge need for that."
The commission also heard from Barbara Byron, chair of the Reston Association's Design Review Board, which nearly voted to reject the proposal last month, and will get another crack at it before any dirt will be turned.
"We are universally opposed to components of design that do not respond well to surrounding buildings," said Byron.

Among the DRB's concerns: 50-foot townhouse heights; flat townhouse facades; little greenspace;five-story buildings that are really seven-stories in order to accommodate underground parking; the "Texas Donut" style that wraps a building around parking; and the increased density.
Reston Citizens Association president Marion Stillson pointed to the precedent that the project will set for future redevelopment in Reston:
"Why is Fairway so dangerous?" she said. "Because it breaks the rules at a time and in a manner that could spoil Reston. Fairway is the first residential neighborhood in Reston to seek development. If it gets the greenlight for this, what will stop the others?
Good question. Tree narratives maybe?


  1. The fact that this project could conceivably sail through county approval without a traffic study being done is baffling to me.

  2. The county doesn't need a traffic study because they expect we will all be walking and riding bicycles. Did you miss Cathy Hudgins' article in the RA magazine? She says in it that the Silver Line is the first step to a "car-free Reston."

  3. "Reston values its diversity"

    And yet Reston wonders why its "diverse" schools get such lousy scores at!

    "The loss of 348 affordable units would be devastating."

    Devastating to the tender sensibilities of liberal idiots, maybe. I call the reduction of hovels for the rabble a major plus!

  4. @Anon 7:27pm,

    Hi Patrick Bateman. How long have you been living in Reston?

  5. @11:23

    Nah, if anyone I'm Colonel Jessup.

    And like he said -- YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!


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