News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Grading on a Curve: Reston's "D" Master Plan Approved Anyway

Bad grade.jpgFor all the talk about how rigorous Fairfax County schools are, the rest of the county apparently grades on a curve.

After our BFFs at the Reston Citizens Association gave the current draft of the Reston Comprehensive Plan a "D" for a variety of reasons, the Master Plan Task Force with an Unprononcable Acronym (¶) voted to send it along to the Fairfax County Planning Commission just the same. The RCA voted against approving the draft, but the Reston Association and the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH) both voted "yes."

In a fancy "web log" post, RCA President Colin Mills called the decision -- and the work of the Task Force writ large -- "a failure of process."

The Task Force had to hold a rushed vote, because the Planning Commission deadline was a ticking clock, and everyone is so sick of the process that many members were probably grateful just to pass something and move on.

I can understand that. And I can understand and respect those (including the representatives from RA and ARCH) who voted “yes” because they wanted to lock in the positive things in the plan, or felt it was the best they could get. And there were positives in the plan: after our successful joint community forum, County staff listened to our concerns, and addressed some of them, especially on environmental issues. I’m proud of the collaboration with RA and ARCH, and I think we made the plan better than it would have been otherwise.

But transportation and parks & rec have been two of RCA’s biggest issues with the plan, ones that we’ve been concerned about for years now. And we weren’t satisfied with where the plan ended up on those issues.
The master plan draft now goes to the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors for approval, and the RCA says it will continue to advocate for changes:
We at RCA are going to continue pushing for the changes that we feel are important, and our colleagues at RA and ARCH have vowed to do the same. It will likely be a more uphill battle at this stage, but we’re not going to let that dissuade us.

The result is disappointing for many reasons, but chief among them is what might happen going forward. Remember that these four-plus years of work have yielded this highly imperfect plan that will guide development in Reston going forward, but primarily development around the new Metro stations. The much thornier question about what to do with the existing village centers hasn't really been touched yet, and those conversations are likely to be much tougher. It's one thing to plop an awesome mauvescraper down near other dense buildings; it's another altogether to plop one in the middle of an existing neighborhood, even if the current stucco strip mall awesomeness there now isn't doing so well.

That work has already been long-delayed, so some of the same time pressures that drove this week's decision will come into play as different stakeholders weigh in. Let's hope those conversations don't end with another failure of process -- or, in this case, a "D" of process, the end.

(If you've got nothing else to do this weekend, you can peruse the full 139-page 9th version of the draft here.)


  1. RA has disappointed us again ,leaving its constituents to the rapacious whims of the development community.
    The master plan is fatally flawed, for obvious and well-understood reasons. Welcome to the New Improved Overbuilt Reston! I will be voting with my feet, and as this more congested Reston is built out, I refuse to be here to share the glorious vision. Sayonara.

  2. AA, do you really think that either the BoS or the Developers give a rat's rear end about this plan? Even when adopted by the County, it carries no real legal backing. It's totally unenforceable.

    This is just (1) a guideline for what should go where that is subject to change at the whims of the Developers and the BoS and (2) a way of keeping the masses in line by the BoS by pretending to care now about the course of future events.

    But, if it makes you feel better, you can hitch your wagon to Master Plan horse.

    The only way that this gains any traction is for Reston to become a municipality. Until then, the "Down County" folks have no reason to even consider our needs.

    No Growth is Smart Growth.


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