News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Let's (Still) Make a Deal? RCA Urges Deferral of Proposed Lake Anne Land Swap as New (To Us) Details Emerge

Deal_Of_The_Century.jpgWith all the "whereas"es we've come to expect from them, the Reston Citizens Association issued a resolution earlier this week urging the Reston Association to defer a decision on a proposed land swap that would create an awesome public parking garage as part of the broader Lake Anne redevelopment until "all alternatives for parking have been fully examined."

We're getting more context about the proposed deal, which has now also gotten the attention of the Washington Post. Apparently the current location proposed to be swapped away by the RA -- which is either a stand of majestic mature trees or a "vagrant restroom" depending on your perspective -- was a fallback after a bit of a kerfluffle with the original plans:

Underground sewer pipes and a stormwater culvert were discovered in the middle of the spot where Republic Land Development was going to put underground merchant parking. They can still put some parking there, but are 120 spaces short.
Our BFFs at RestonNow tell us that the two properties involved in the swap -- the RA-owned trees/vagrant restroom and a thin strip of land along Baron Cameron -- are roughly equal in value.
An appraisal shows that the RA parcel is worth $2.126 million and the replacement land is worth $2.372 million.
We're somewhat skeptical that anyone would pay $2.372 million for a thin strip of trees and garbage hugging a four-lane highway -- unless maybe they were planning on converting Baron Cameron into a NASCAR track and needed the land for the pit lane. Another "web logger" points out that it's not really a swap, since the end result would be one tree-filled area where two now stand. Math!

The plan has its supporters -- among them, Bob Simon, who's presumably waited damn long enough for something to happen at Lake Anne.
RA president Ken Knueven read a statement from Reston founder Robert E. Simon, who said if open space were left open, there would be no Reston as he built the community on former farmland a half century ago.

"I wholeheartedly support the land swap so as to realize the approved program for improvement," he said."Please, no more roadblocks."
The developer is also promising nearly $500,000 in proffers, including landscaping, bike and walker-friendly pathways, public art, and dredging Lake Anne (ewww).

Meanwhile, John Lovaas shares an astonishing story about how the proposed deal first came to light (warning: annoying PDF at the link):
Two weeks ago, Reston Association got a report the condo association was dumping landscape refuse in the RA-owned wooded area at the east end of the Plaza. When RA asked that they cease and desist, the response was that it really didn't matter because the trees were coming down for a new parking lot! This was how most RA staff, RA's environmental advisory committee volunteers, and the community first learned of a tightly held land swap deal. I've learned the deal was okayed by the outgoing CEO in May and kept under wraps, hidden for five months from the public, staff and even some board members.
If true, it's only fitting that the secrecy was broken by RA's Drone Patrol, ever-vigilant against the scourge of shockingly bio-degradable leaves being dumped like so much garbage among other bio-degradable leaves. Joking aside, it's also dispiritingly familiar.

In another "web log" post, RCA's Connie Hartke explains the current situation:
If this land swap proposal was brought to the table now under the current leadership of CEO Cate Fulkerson, we believe this would only be an option of last resort. Unfortunately it has moved beyond her control to a vote of the RA Board of Directors. RCA urges the RA Board to defer the land swap proposal to allow time for alternative parking options to be fully explored. Since RA and Republic are both working against a County-imposed deadline to start construction, we propose that the County’s deadline be extended to allow time for this exploration.
Lake Anne 1.jpg
Which is where we are torn. After years of endless, patience-testing "charettes" and other such nonsense, Lake Anne's come a long way. Overall, we think this is the most impressive proposed Reston development we've seen in our many years of "web logging," and the idea that a ticking clock could possibly bring it down is a scary one, particularly since other Reston-related projects the county has undertaken have tended to turn out poorly after they've run just a teensy bit behind schedule (cough cough four years).

Another Lake Anne blogger has their own answer to this line of thinking:
I disagree with the philosophy that every party involved must do whatever it takes to “get this done.” It really does look too beautiful to chance letting it go. But, I urge all the powers that be to do their due duty, take it slow and GET IT RIGHT.
The RA voted last month to postpone a decision on the proposed swap until a meeting on Nov. 21. Details on how to provide feedback are at this link.


  1. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot....

  2. "Underground sewer pipes and a stormwater culvert were discovered..."

    Sorry guys, but they have been there since the 1960's -- anyone look at the land plats? There are lots of other things down there, so you may want to take a few minutes to do a little research before sending in the bulldozers.

    Anyone truly believe that this was a surprise?

    1. This is Ms.Hartke's speculation not a statement by the developer. It is though the reason that the garage cannot go as deep as all the amateur engineers are suggesting.

  3. Equivalent value? What a joke. One parcel is very desirable to the developer, the other is a marginalized strip of land that offers little value except to screen the Crescent apartments from 606.

    RA should get the money that the parcel is worth, not swap it for a vagrant bathroom.


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