News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

St. Johnspocalypse Maybe: Deferral of North Reston Development Plans Could Be a Revelation for Tempering Future Plans, Or Just Go Up in Smoke

We learned last week that plans to redevelop North Reston's St. John's Wood into the usual bollardy goodness have been deferred. Some 418 units of midrise awesome will now go unbuilt... for now.

As always, we offer the usual caveats: a deferred project is far from a defeated one; developers can always wait for "market conditions" to improve or riled up Restonians to focus their attention on another outrage or just forget about that nice cluster just sitting there, wouldn't it be a shame if something happened to it?

The proposal, which has been floating around for a couple of years, at least, is a good template for the battles we've already seen -- and will continue seeing -- as development pressures move away from the areas closest to the Toll Road and Metro stations. After all, they're not making any more golf courses land! Basically, developers will claim that the comprehensive plan calls for denser development than what is currently there, while neighbors will point out (correctly) that plans don't account for the additional traffic and demands on county services, much less quality of life issues.

Fortunately, between this and the ongoing brouhaha over the future of Reston National Golf Course, we're starting to see a fairly successful template for, if not stopping development outright -- which ain't going to happen, and really shouldn't happen -- ensuring that it's at least more reasonable than it would be otherwise. It includes:

Organized opposition. Whether it's Rescue Reston or the Reclaim Reston group that formed to oppose St. John's Wood, these groups have had an impact that random people speaking at public hearings haven't in the past. Recent organized opposition to proposed soccer fields at Lake Newport also put the RA's feet to the fire in a way it hasn't often felt.

Unlikely heroes. Somewhere down the line, the DRB stopped just dickering about the color of people's doors and started focusing on some more meaningful things, too. They pretty much singlehandedly prevented the as-of-yet-unbuilt Fairway Apartments development from being, as one member called one of the earlier proposals, "a South Florida motel design." And with St. John's, the vice chair made a compelling enough point about "internal overdevelopment" that the developers' attorney complained about its treatment at their hands. We mean, listen to this:

“Contextualism is a term that suggests an architecture that responds to its surroundings by respecting what’s already there, and I think we have a problem here because I don’t think that’s happening,” Newlon said. “I think you guys [Bozzuto] are going to really have to look at the design and do what you can, both from a massing standpoint and, as we get to it, an architectural standpoint.”
That's a lot more compelling than WHUT NO WHITE STONE, that's for sure.

Catchy tag lines. So maybe "if the [design] doesn't fit, they must quit" sounds a bit like something you'd hear in a brick-walled comedy club in the 1990s. But messaging matters. The Save Brown's Chapel folks figured that out when they created the second-best video in the history of Reston, and we can finally say "size matters" at a public hearing and not get arrested.

But the news isn't all good. There are plans afoot to change zoning ordinances throughout much of Reston to allow more density, in theory to accommodate already approved changes to Reston's comprehensive plan. And planning assumptions made for the areas right around the Metro stations are, Reston 2020's Terry Maynard argues, deceptive:

Based on GSF information provided by FCDOT to the Supervisors serving as the Board Transportation Committee, the current Reston station area plan offers the potential for 76,280 added residents (at 2.0 residents/DU) and 29,059 added office worker jobs (at 300GSF/worker) in the next four decades.

If instead of using the County’s faulty planning assumptions, we use real world experience, we can anticipate that the allowable development could result in an addition of 101,492 total residents in 50,746 DUs and 78,559 office workers, including retrofitted office buildings, market conditions permitting. More specifically, it suggests an order of magnitude explosion in residents (11,720 in 2010 vs. 113,212 then) and more than twice as many office employees (69,941 in 2010 vs. 148,500 then) in Reston’s station areas. Overall, Reston can expect twice as many people living and working in the station areas as is anticipated by the Reston plan.

Finally, DRB vice chair Richard Newlon made a scary point. Give us some prophetic blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:
Roughly 10 percent of the 134 clusters in Reston are owned by developers such as Bozzuto, JBG and Lerner. He said the St. Johns Wood project is a “precedent-producing application.”

“One of my concerns is if all of those 13 or so clusters do the same thing, Reston as Reston exists today is gone,” he said. “Reston as we know it would cease to exist.”

Might want to keep polishing those catchphrases, guys.

1 comment:

  1. Might also be too late. Had Reston pushed for town status decades ago, they might have been able to slow the pace of development, as Herndon has (more or less) done.


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