News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Swapocalypse Now: RA Approves Lake Anne Land Trade Following Star Wars Reference (Updated)

Deal.jpgAfter roughly two hours of public comments and a Star Wars reference that shockingly didn't involve Ewoks, the Reston Association voted last night to approve a land swap that will allow the construction of a parking garage for Lake Anne Village Center on a vacant, tree-filled lot as part of the broader redevelopment proposed by Republic Land Development. Republic made some additional concessions late in the game, including setting aside funds for "canopy enhancement," which, we dunno, maybe means some trees, or some sweet umbrellas and stuff for the Cheesecake Factory or whatever midscale chain eatery will someday adorn the new retail space to be built.

The proposed deal had not exactly garnered an overwhelmingly positive reception from the Reston community, and one RA board member actually said -- and we quote -- "I wish it was a chance to vote for Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, because I would vote for Luke Skywalker." SRSLY. Having normed on the whole good vs. evil question, the RA board then voted 6-2, with one abstention, to move forward with the swap, with some caveats and conditions and whatnot, but yay, parking.

In a rare example of, whazzitcalled, "journalism" on our part, your Restonian listened on and off to the public comments before the vote via a minimized YouTube window, and it's safe to say the audience was largely opposed to the swap (with the possible exception of one "D. Vader.") Here are a few random quotes we gleaned as our fancy 300-baud modem kept the livestream trickling into Restonian World Headquarters:

"Lake Anne is the mother of Reston"

"24 inch or greater diameter"

"Many of the birds I know many of you like"

"Information stored in the soils"

"Every day I think of the sound the of trees coming down. They cried. They literally cried."

"I have to unlock my screen."
Don't we all. Don't we all.

Board members talked about how the decision involved weighing two competing interests -- preservation and redevelopment. Unfortunately, the real world isn't as clean cut as Star Wars, and there really wasn't a way to address both issues -- Republic's proposal is a good one, and we also like our trees. We'd like to go back in time to keep Jar Jar Binks out of The Phantom Menace make sure that the land swap suggestion was never put on the table in the first place, but now that a potentially dangerous precedent involving open space has been set, we hope that the RA is more careful about deals in the future.

Gluttons for punishment can watch the four-hour-long meeting footage, which is neither as long nor as painful as Episodes 1-3, the end:

Update: Our BFFs at Reston 2020 are not amused, and the chair of the Reston Sustainability Committee has resigned over the issue. Her explanation is here.

Republic's Lake Anne Development Partners issued a statement following the swap, thanking the RA for a "balanced process" and pledging to preserve trees on 30 percent of the property with the help of an arboicultural consulting firm.


  1. From my email to Cate Fulkerson this morning: "I suppose you know of Diane Blust’s resignation. I am sorry that your start as CEO is clouded by this deal. I’ve also included Kevin Munroe’s comments in case you don’t have them electronically. Worth a read this morning. If there is anything that you can do to ensure Reston’s lands are not offered up in the future without a thorough vetting first by the RA team, we would all be grateful" - (Diane Blust was on RA's Environmental Advisory Committee for the last 4 or so years. Good people get worn down.)

  2. RA Leadership: FC BoS Redux.

    Maybe we should change their title from "Director" to "Quisling".

  3. I think a parking lot is an apt addition to the brutalist architecture of Lake Anne Plaza.

    1. Cars are too decadent and bourgeois and have no place in our communal concrete jungle.

      Neither do trees apparently.

      It is time to move.

    2. Totally agree. Except for the lake and the trees, the Plaza is quite an ugly, reminiscent of East Germany's finest.

  4. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonNovember 22, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    And fellow peasants, in case you missed it because of all the hoopla surrounding the land swap, the annual assessment levied upon us by our earth-toned overlords has jumped another $44 for 2104, to $634, a 7.5% increase.

    For anyone who's interested, here's how asessments have gone up in the past decade:

    2003 - $399
    2004 - $415
    2005 - $425
    2006 - $437
    2007 - $437
    2008 - $475
    2009 - $491
    2010 - $515
    2011 - $540
    2012 - $565
    2013 - $590
    2014 - $634

    That's a 58% jump in 11 years, versus a cumulative U.S. national inflation rate (Consumer Price Index) of only 27% in the same time period. Had RA assessments remained in line with the CPI, we would be paying only $506.

    The RA has never met a budgetary boondoggle it didn't love. Time to grab the pitchforks and torches.

  5. It's unfortunate that this debate got characterized as a battle between tree-lovers and the developer -- even if that's what some of the speakers focused on. It's a lot bigger than that.

  6. Indeed. What the larger issue here is a bad deal. Reston happens to own a parcel that the developer wants. It is therefore valuable. We are being offered a drainage ditch alongside Baron Cameron in return. This is not a good deal.

    RA should hold out for fair market value, and more concessions. A question I have that maybe the [s]trolls[/s] commenters here might know:
    Will the new development be a part of RA?

  7. @Monty Hall- yes the new development will be part of RA. It's over 1000 new households so not insignificant. It's wrong to assume that just because a developer wants a parcel that the parcel is suddenly worth a lot- it's still just worth what it worth. The land had no particular value except in this scenario. I think in the big picture- the board is the right thing. They got some good proffers and we'll all get a better village center.

  8. Precedent set here will doom Reston as a livable place. With more paved areas, major loss of tree canopy, and increased storm-water runoff, we can expect increased flooding as happened when 40 cars were submerged during a storm several years ago. The forecast is for bigger and stronger storms.

  9. @Anon 4:25
    Thanks. Good to know that The development will be RA.
    The parcel is worth what it is worth, which is more than a drainage ditch.
    The proffers seem like small peanuts: paths and tree maintenance: and a very non-committal commitment to dredge the lake sometime before 2025.

    Look, the point is the parcel IS worth more because the developer wants it. RA should get fair market value for it and not engage in the dubious swap.
    RA should also consider conservation easements for the rest of all of our commoner land. This type of deal should not be on the table again in the future.

    What's next? The park on temporary road?

    1. Monty- not the park at temporary road but consider this: What if RA could acquire the National Golf Course property but, in order to be able to afford that they had to enter into a deal with a developer to allow some portion of the property to be developed. Is that a good deal or a bad deal?

      I'm sure that some would say any loss of open space is bad but might it be worth it if you could insure that the remainder would in fact stay open space?

      These issues are complex it's unfortunate that the case of Lake Anne the Environmental Advisory Committee took such a hard line instead of providing leadership that lead to compromise.

    2. The EAC was not given the opportunity to provide leadership because they were not consulted first, as they should have been. How can you lead when you are brought in by accidental notification after the deal is done?

    3. The EAC could have elected to be leaders at any point but instead they adopted a single outcome plan. "The land must remain as it is." What a shame that they didn't advocate for it becoming something that contributed to the Lake Anne community years ago. Instead it has sat neglected with its hilside eroding exposing the roots of those "high value" trees as a detriment to the community it sat in. It's one and only saving grace was that it looked good from the Plaza.

      The EAC needs to rethink how it will make meaningful contributions in a much more urban Reston.

  10. Anon 11:23: Open space like civil rights can only be lost. Trees don't regrow under asphalt, and civil rights ceded in the name of expediency are lost forever.

  11. Crapitalism at its most garishly whorish. Contrary to Gordon Gecko's quotable quotes, greed is not necessarily good...

    1. I beg to differ. I'm betting that this greed is very good for the developer. As for the rest of us, from the developer's point of view, your just pissants whose interests are tertiary -- strike that and make it quaternary -- consideration. We are only valuable to the developer to the extent that we boost their property value.

  12. Maybe Leila Gordon will buy the land to build a Rec Center in this waste dump. That sounds like a good place to me!


(If you don't see comments for some reason, click here).