News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, June 6, 2014

Reston Master Plan: Come for the Massive Infill Development, Stay for the Popcorn!

Sim City failSo, after (literally) years of delays, work on Phase II of the Reston Master Plan kicks off with an open house on Saturday morning, featuring input on long-delayed plans for redeveloping the existing village centers, and then, a movie!

Given that the first phase, which focused on development around Reston's new Metro stations and was formally approved in January, went so smoothly and was so favorably reviewed by community stakeholders who claimed that the process tilted heavily in favor of developers, it's not surprising that Fairfax County decided to alter the process a little this time around.

Unfortunately, it appears to be tilted even further away from public input, even as the scope has widened beyond the village centers themselves. Or so our BFFs at Reston 2020 say:

The Phase 1 task force was told repeatedly by County staff that Phase 2 would focus only on re-thinking the village centers with a view to seeing them redevelop as mixed-use development more in line with Simon's original vision rather than the strip malls they have become. Now it appears that the entire Reston community's future is open for re-examination, kind of a whole body exploratory surgery.

And, as explained in the latter half of the video, a whole new process will be applied to the second phase of the Reston planning process. Unlike the 25-person task force where people representing all points of view in the community sat through 200-plus meetings over 4-1/2 years, there will be just six opportunities (apparently no real "task force"--UPDATE: An e-mail this morning from DPZ confirms this: "Phase II has been structured such that a Task Force will not be employed.") for the public to learn and contribute to the re-planning of Reston. And it will all be over in a year.

That's it. The fate of your, my, and everyone else's neighborhood will be decided without any discussion among the key stakeholders in the community, including the residents, the landowners, the retail sector that is the cornerstone of most of the P2 study area, the community organizations (starting with RA, RCA, & ARCH), or any other legitimate stakeholder in our community's future. Instead, the County staff, the Planning Commission, and the Board will take notes--and then do what they want.

It's all part of the new "Fairfax Forward" approach to amending the County's Comprehensive Plan that guides our development and redevelopment. It is pretty much intended to further limit community participation in an already highly politicized development planning process for the sake of expediency. It's definitely NOT about developing a plan appropriate for Reston--or any other community in Fairfax County.
Apparently, that's not all. Anyone can submit a "property-specific land use proposal" to be considered during this planning process. We'll be sending in our proposal for converting our humble abode into a 96-story mauvescraper.

Our BFFs at Rescue Reston, who have been quiet since plans to redevelop Reston National Golf Course went into the cryogenic deep-freeze chamber, aren't taking any chances. They're pulling out their T-shirts:
Ask at the open house: will the plan propose changes in density?

Some neighborhoods in Reston are zoned for a higher density than what was built. Since increasing density would definitely affect transportation and schools, I plan to suggest that my neighborhood be held to “as-built” zoning.
For their part, county officials say that "enhancing guidance for preserving stable neighborhoods" is one of the goals for this phase of the master plan.

The Reston Citizens Association has released a helpful fact sheet. It also has some questions, including one about Reston's "blobs":
Yes, Restonians, your neighborhood is part of a zoning “blob.” There are three types of residential “blobs” within Reston: low (4 residences per acre), medium (12 residences per acre), and high density (more dense), generally translating into single-family, townhouse, and apartment/condominium development. And rather than being small areas governing a neighborhood, they are large swaths of land. By being larger, it enables greater flexibility within a “blob” to build a diverse range of housing. It also, of course, would enable more intense redevelopment if the “blob” allocation of housing was not fully utilized. It is important to constrain this zoning to protect our existing neighborhoods.
We preferred the term "sinews" ourselves.

RCA also predicts what early redevelopment will look like:
Whatever shape a new plan takes, we anticipate that older garden apartment buildings between Baron Cameron Avenue on the north and Glade Drive on the south—where most of our community’s apartments are located—will be the first to re-develop. This could begin happening within the next five years as the Silver Line is completed. One apartment complex—JBG’s Fairways Apartments—has already obtained County approval to more than double its density, but it has not yet started that effort. Other apartment complexes with a single owner are likely to follow suit in the next few years.
Then it's movie time! Sadly, not this movie, but the documentary released, but as of yet unseen except by the hoi polloi of the Reston scene, as part of Reston's Multiples of 50 celebrations. Godzilla it's not, but at least the discussion beforehand will involve smashing up a lot of beige stucco-y buildings, the end.

The meeting starts at 8:30am on Saturday at the United Christian Parish Church on North Shore Drive.


  1. From my cold, dead, earth-toned hand!

    Who invited those fokkers to the party anyway?

  2. Relax fellow Restonians. After all Supervisor for Life Cathy has our backs on this one. What could possibly go wrong?

  3. Letting developers inject specific proposals into an open-ended comprehensive planning process sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy to me.

    I'm going to submit a request to line my low-density "blob" with pink flamingos to help "preserve my stable neighborhood."

  4. Bowling for BollardsJune 6, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    The fix is in. The "planners" will do the bidding of the development community, as they have usually done. Their arrogance is palpable. It is a mockery of the planning process. They must be so proud of themselves

  5. Does this mean I no longer have to pay RA dues and can get off RELAC?!

  6. BWAHAHAHAHA. I'm so glad that I'm getting out.

    To all of you folks who put so much faith in the Task Force Master Planning Process, how's that working out for you?

  7. We have reached that point where the last veil is lifted, where any self-delusion is removed: Reston will no longer maintain the fantasy that our overgrown HOA influences the county in its unending drive for redevelopment and density. This moment of clarity should trigger a nearly binary, yes/no decision: acquiesce and melt into the county (while the county keeps the special, profitable tax district intact), or incorporate into a town. Proponents for ResTOWN are wagging their finger, saying "I told you so" as we have likely sleepwalked past the point of a viable self-protection strategy. I doubt that a motivated group like Rescue Reston will join forces with the Town proponents, but this approach is the only sensible alternative. Indeed, every citizens' association within Reston should have a candid conversation with its respective stakeholders, and put forward to them a version of this new, "no veils" reality: go Town or don't waste your time, as we (RCA, ARCH, etc) have been fully muted. The developers and the county (for reasons both greedy and reasonable ..let's not forget that well-meaning people are on the opposing side) have successfully divided and conquered the people of Reston, and occasionally throw us a bone when a golf course is threatened ..but with the new process, maintaining the illusion of citizen feedback is no longer deemed necessary. Now is the time when an emasculated RA might truly embrace the citizens' groups, jump out in front of the pitchfork parade and (with post cards and online voting) drive the town movement as a last act of maintaining relevancy. Today's RA leaders can be tomorrow's town leadership, they'll reason, and why rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking HOA ship when you can co-opt the town movement, to include its adherents and fellow-travelers?

  8. I'm right there with you. It has been apparent for a long time that the priorities of the BoS doesn't necessarily reflect the interests of our community. Quite frankly, considering the Cash Cow that Reston represents, I would be surprised if the BoS would let us go, at least without a fight.

    Anyway, count me in if somebody is truly interested in putting forth the time and effort to turn our 'burb into a municipality. I would even be willing to withhold my car tax payments to the county if their intransigence stands in the way of our liberation. I would offer to stop paying my real estate taxes as well, but those are sucked out of my mortgage payment automatically.


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