News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fairway to Heaven: With More Faint Praise, Apartment Redevelopment Notches Yet Another Approval -- And Puts the DRB in a No-Win Situation

sideways fairway.jpegFollowing in the footsteps of such rave reviews as "a South Florida motel design" and "a reasonable use of the property -- not an outstanding one," JBG's plans to redevelop the Fairway Apartment complex continued slouching towards reality Thursday, when the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved the proposal with what sounded like a collective "meh" from its members.

"We are presented with a plan for redeveloping an aging property," Hunter Mill Planning Commission representative Frank de la Fe said. "I don't know that it is a perfect proposal. I don't know that there is any such thing."
We'll spare you the assertion that the existing roads can handle the new traffic in the continued absence of JBG's promised traffic study, plus the argument that the current apartments aren't workforce housing because they're privately operated. Now there's a bigger issue at play.

The proposal next goes to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Assuming it's approved there, it will go back to the Reston Design Review Board, which nearly rejected it last month, save for a last-minute bit of lawyerin' by JBG's attorney. Which presents a big problem for the board: If it rejects a development that has since been approved by two county boards and Reston's own planning and zoning committee, will that decision hold up in court?

Marion Stillson, former president of the Reston Citizens Association, thinks it may not, according to a letter she sent this week to planning commissioners urging them to reject the project.
If both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors approve JBG’s proposal, only the DRB will stand in the way. JBG might sue and as a lawyer myself, I think the present legal climate favors them. The DRB has legal authority. If that legal authority is attenuated Reston will become less and less distinct from the rest of Fairfax County.
All of the sudden, JBG's push to have the DRB defer its decision on Fairways is starting to look like a stroke of genius. Given that they're unlikely to approve the project on its merits, the DRB will have to decide whether it's worth having its authority to make any decision about development in Reston undermined -- or obliterated -- by a court decision. Texas donut or not, that's a tough call to have to make.

We've mocked the DRB plenty of times on this fancy "web log," and at times its members don't exactly do themselves any favors in terms of managing how people perceive our favorite arbiter of color swatches and light fixtures. But a Reston where the DRB no longer has any authority to review or approve redevelopment projects could get ugly -- and get ugly fast. We're talking Dumfries ugly. And then who knows what might happen?

The horror.


  1. What would happen would be that developers could put in anything in Reston they could get past the Planning Commission. It would be the end of our planned community. It would be the end of Reston as we know it.

    Kathy Kaplan

  2. Scenario a) The court rules for JBG and DRB's legal authority is attenuated.

    Scenario b) DRB goes against their own wishes and rules for JBG plan to avoid having the court rule on their legal authority.

    What difference does it make? One is implicit, the other is explicit, but its a distinction without a difference. With either scenario - DRB is impotent and can not make any meaningful rulings.

  3. Does anybody see the proposed changes at Fairway as a good thing? I know that I sure don't.

  4. Back during the housing boom days, I got outbid for a unit on Clubhouse Court. The urge to call the current owner and taunt him gets stronger every day. Aren't you glad you paid extra to have them build a 5-story monstrosity in your back yard, LMAO!

  5. Whether the proposed changes to Fairway are good or bad, they’re inevitable. JBG is a major DC Metro developer, with significant investments in Fairfax County and major political pull and substantial legal resources to fight the DRB in court, if it comes to that. JBG will ultimately win.

    We residents should accept that major change is coming, and fight to have more input on how Reston can accommodate this change without compromising the things we love about Reston.

    Where are the cluster boards in these discussions? Having greater representation for my cluster in development discussions seems like an excellent use of cluster dues to me, especially considering my little slice of townhouse heaven is within the one mile of the Reston Station.

  6. I for one welcome our new developer overlords.

  7. Anyone know how to start a petition website?

  8. The Save the Glade folks did one. I don't think it's hard.

  9. Here is the website:

  10. I think it is great and wish they would approve it and get on with it already.


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