News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rescheduled Due To Overcrowding County Meeting On Reston Overcrowding Was Overcrowded, Resulting In Overcrowding Of Opinions (Updated)

If you get nearly 700 Restonians in one place and it doesn't involve paid parking at our favorite "stressful, city-like shopping center," you know something's amiss. Last night's county-held meeting on the fun zoning changes proposed for Reston, initially rescheduled because of overcrowding, was overcrowded -- people were shunted into an overflow room. It involved plenty of developmentsplaining and dozens of speakers, all of whom were critical of the county's approach. Your Restonian earned time-and-a-half "live twittering" the meeting, sharing trenchant insights like these:

Fortunately, others capable of thinking in more than sentence-long insights also were there, including our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, who shared this account:

All that was missing were the pitchforks and torches.

Whether the appropriate analogy is that of the peasants marching on Dr. Frankenstein's castle, the French hoi polloi storming the Bastille, or the East Germans tearing down the Berlin Wall, Monday night's meeting at South Lakes High to discuss increased residential zoning density brought forth a huge crowd of amped-up Restonians ready to rebel.

No doubt the Fairfax County authorities in attendance found the huddled masses indeed revolting, in both senses of the word.

An SRO crowd of 600 or so Restonians showed up to hear our County Supervisor and several Fairfax County officials explain the proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would allow more than 10,700 new dwelling units in those parts of Reston designated a planned residential community. The existing village centers would be prime candidates ripe for such future redevelopment

Observing the sea of yellow Rescue Reston shirts, The Peasant momentarily thought that he had transcended the space-time continuum and somehow been transported back to circa-1986 Manila, where the "color revolution" that brought Corazon Aquino to power in the Philippines used yellow as a rallying point -- not that we would dare compare anyone on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to the autocratic Ferdinand Marcos and his 21-year rule.

After a few opening remarks from Commissar Cathy, a 'facilitator' explained the evening's format of short presentations by County officials for "clarity of information" followed by an open mike session for the audience. County officials used many exciting buzzwords in their presentations. Prioritize! Framework! Implementation! Front-loading! Perhaps as in, "Prioritize the implementation of a front-loading framework?"

Anyhow, judging from the two hours of the session that The Peasant attended, the basic takeaway from the County was that the new zoning proposals for the village centers were merely codifying what had been suggested by the Reston master plan in 1989. This did not sit well with the audience, one of whom simply asked, "Why this? Why now?"

We noted that throughout the Q-and-A session our County Supervisor was noticeably reticent, allowing the various department flunkies to be the sacrificial lambs bearing the brunt of citizen outrage, while she did a classic duck and cover maneuver, much like those Cold War civil defense drills schoolchildren practiced in the 1960s to survive any incoming Ruskie ICBMs.

But perhaps Commissar Cathy was merely attempting to avoid yet another communications miscue, such as the one she suffered in her recent attempt to invite herself onto the Next Door Neighbor website, where she announced her presence as one more way to communicate with, and we quote verbatim here, "the masses" (leading one irate Next Door user to note that perhaps the Commissar had mistakenly added the letter "m" to that collective noun).

Of all the excellent questions and comments made by audience members on Monday evening, the best came from one older man who, with a simplicity worthy of Hemingway, addressed the assembled officialdom thusly:

"You're reading your own talking points too much. Listen to the people. You don't get it. Why is it so hard for you to stand in our shoes and serve our community? I'd ask everyone here in the audience who doesn't think the rezoning is a good idea to stand up."

On cue, the entire audience stands up.

At the end of the evening, we were relieved that the Board of Supervisors at least had not secretly lined up a fleet of RIBS buses outside South Lakes to transport unenlightened Reston homeowners directly to a Khmer Rouge-style re-education camp in hip and edgy Clarendon so as to learn the joys of transit-oriented development -- or even worse, to exile in the particleboard wasteland of Ashburn to contemplate among the acres of vinyl siding their wrong-think until they are suitably "woke" and embrace their glorious TOD future with all the wide-eyed fervor of North Koreans praising Little Rocket Man.

Hudgins clearly believes passionately that development is important because it will keep Reston open to all kinds of people -- and good on her for that. But developers putting aside a tiny amount of apartments for affordable housing -- and grudgingly so at that -- in expensive condo complexes isn't going to achieve that goal. If she wants to push for affordable housing, Hudgins and the rest of the county could shame -- or flat out require -- developers to do more. Calling people with legitimate concerns NIMBYs and lumping them in with a handful of xenophobic Internet commenters isn't going to help.

Also, the format of the meeting and these comments painted this debate in very binary terms: these changes are just to fix what amounts to a rounding error in a previous master plan tweak, and you're either supportive of keeping Reston open to newcomers or a NIMBY. Frankly, we think this lets the county off the hook for its big failing here: approving massive development while being perfectly happy to let existing (and new) residents wait for a decade-plus for infrastructure improvements that are needed right now. Development is going to happen to some extent -- and to the extent it's focused in places where it can be served by mass transit, decent infrastructure, and open public spaces, that's not a bad thing. In all the supposed question-and-answer exchances last night, we didn't hear an answer as to why that was allowed to happen -- and why there's still no urgency to addressing it.

A commenter shared this account:

I never go to these things, but I went to SLHS and I wore yellow. As did nearly everyone else. The nice people from the county told us what we want. But everyone attending felt differently. Hudgins and co. said that we need more people on metro, and she closed with a stock impassioned plea for workforce housing. The parks person told us that she was actively making sure that we had enough parkland as we develop, to much laughter. And we had to wait over 20 minutes until the first invocation of Bob Simon's wishes, later than expected. But what was tonight's conclusion? Hudgins wagged her finger by hinting that this crowd was anti...something. Were we being anti-Restonian? NIMBYs and the developers recognize that they have overdeveloped, which translates to a recognition that more pigs at the trough will shrink the amount of food available to each pig.And yet she persisted! We need to increase our density, described in terms of avoiding some future debacle, while attendees see the density cap as a final failsafe. I admire Hudgins' willingness to tell this audience that they just don't get Reston. They just don't understand what it is to be in Reston. Wow, what stunning arrogance.
And there was this comment from a county planner, which we think will look great written in purple neon on top of a 96-story mauvescraper located atop of the transit-oriented node of St. John's Wood more than a mile from a future Metro station, or nearly anything else:

Update: Action McNews coverage:

And here's video of the full meeting:

Update: Reston Association Board of Directors formally requests that the county "defer further consideration of the PRC amendment until certain elements in the Reston Master Plan portion of the comprehensive plan can be reviewed."

8 comments:

  1. I'm looking downright prescient for leaving Reston 3 years ago to start a small farm in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. I'm thinking I will die before the Metro gets out here along with attendant highrises! But, I do miss Reston.

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  2. And yet, many of those people reelect Hudgins over and over again. She almost always stands without any real opposition. Are they starting to get it now?

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  3. The Peoples Republic of Fairfax is ruled by a single party. Hudgins, Plum and Connoly run without opposition. They don't care. They don't have to.

    I wear the NIMBY label proudly. NIMBY, NIMBY NIMBY!

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  4. Thanks for posting my "I never go to these things" comment, Mr Restonian sir. Part of my aversion to local politics is the post-event spin. Reston Patch has posted a passive-aggressive ode to NIMBY-watching, while the Reston Now comments section has (very few) Hudgins defenders accusing Yellow-wearers of racism (because NIMBY-ism doesn't seem such a stinging epithet after years of developer indulgence). The racism claims are particularly bizarre, given that the only housing under development for these newcomer hordes is high-end in nature. It would be more accurate to say that we are showing bias against the wealthy and single, or the dual-income no kids likely to populate the next 10 vowel-challenged skyscrapers to arise from Reston soil. Both charges are silly. Back to the subtext of passive-aggressive behavior, neither side at SLHS has said the awkward truth, and it has escaped utterance on the comments boards, so perhaps we can say it here on your (congrats!) 10-year-old web log:

    Non-NIMBYs have thrown in with the NIMBYs to keep the poison pill in place for future development. This common cause is practical rather than ideological and is a direct response to Fairfax County's (perceived or real.. many would say real) lack of infrastructure investment. The county was foolish enough to leave such a slippery banana peel in place as this density cap, made even more a rally point by the recent (and future?) golf course uproar. Simply put: residents have lost any lingering faith and trust in county leadership, and we are no longer swayed by sentimental appeals to golden-age Reston and the groupthink of the past. The density cap is simply a symptom of the distrust, rather than a particularly interesting topic on its own merits.

    It might be even more disturbing for Hudgins supporters and Reston Patch editors alike to contemplate the "new" yellow-wearer like me: younger, not retired, center-left, but willing to align with NIMBY and conservative alike to stop a developer orgy that sacrifices Reston as it props up the county. I can walk by Bronze Bob by the lake and smile, remembering that he was a developer with a sense of balance. A rare sort, deserving of that fitting memorial. But I won't speak for the departed leader as so many do, as we labor to regain that balance.

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  5. OK, how's this for perfect irony?

    From the November 3, 1999, Washington Post article on the election results for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:

    "First-time candidate Catherine M. Hudgins, the former aide to Democratic Board Chairman Katherine K. Hanley, ousted two-term GOP Supervisor Robert B. Dix Jr. in a race that Hudgins said would be a referendum on Dix and his management of growth in the Reston and Vienna areas.

    The voters wanted someone to listen and work with them on the critical problems of growth, transportation and education," Hudgins said yesterday. "They want us to take a look at how we grow."

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  6. Gregg Rosenberg I was at the meeting. Supervisor Cathie Hudgins and several Fairfax County board members attended. Nearly one thousand citizens showed up, seemingly unanimously against the amendment to the zoning. Questions to the officials lasted two hours and could have gone on for many more but were cut short as the hour grew late. Supervisor Hudgins herself would not answer questions and used the Fairfax County officials as a kind of shield from her constituents.

    The questions were largely educated and intelligent and the crowd behaved perfectly appropriately. After two hours of educated dissent, focusing on traffic, schools, green spaces, and the bad math behind the proposed density increase, at the end Supervisor Hudgins stood to speak. Ignoring every single substantive point and question raised, and out of absolutely nowhere, she pivoted to what seemed to be a pre-arranged talking point which accused the room of being racist, unrepresentative of Reston and against working people, as if the only reason to be against overcrowding due to thousands of new high-rise luxury apartments and million dollar townhouses was dislike of the working class.

    Several people afterwards remarked to me they felt like taking a shower after hearing her speak, she had slimed us all so badly. The video of the meeting is online and can be watched by anyone doubting this account: https://twitter.com/FallonWForbush/status/922599297278971905

    The script seems to be that Supervisor Hudgins is going to pretend she is the voice of some vast silent working class majority in Reston, who she portrays as wanting to crowd up to 81,000 people between Wiehle and Reston Pkwy, before moving on to razing the village centers and erecting similar high rises for high income people.

    Supervisor Hudgins seems to have somewhere between six and twelve mouthpieces who have been told to fan out to social media and repeat the cover story as often as they can, hoping to create an illusion of a fight between a progressive Reston majority and a minority of regressive home owners. The truth is, of course, there is no fight among the people of Reston. We are overwhelmingly against the urbanization of our community, especially without proper infrastructure being built to accommodate it.

    Clear indication this is what is happening could be seen from reasonable requests the Supervisor is ignoring. One request was to have a referendum or survey of Reston residents to get an uncontroversial opinion from the community. She ignored this suggestion. The other was to reopen the master plan for change, since under-the-radar changes made to it in 2015 are being used as cover for this initiative, and an update to the master plan through a process with proper community oversight would allow the citizens of Reston to protect themselves. This could happen if Supervisor Hudgins petitioned the Board of Supervisors on our behalf, but Supervisor Hudgins refused to even consider this.

    What came out at the meeting, from the mouths of the county officials themselves, is that the real driver of this urbanization amendment is the existence of three developer proposals in front of the county which would require them to raise the density limit, and a desire to raze the village centers in the future to replace them with high density high rises. The actual justification from one county official is that, "Reston is more than just homeowners. It is property owners as well.", which is accurately interpreted as, "We are going to ignore the desires of the 58,000 people who live in Reston to serve a dozen property developers who don't live here but want to cash in on the metro."

    I regret to conclude this process has become undemocratic and Supervisor Hudgins should be recalled.

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  7. My goodness, RA has sent a nastygram to Hudgins. Not only to say no to density increases, but to make it clear that RA wants a strong voice for the next Hunter Mill planning commission seat, due to open up in December. Queue the overused meme where comic book batman smacks the guy. Mr Restonian sir, you are going to be very busy. This is multi-part, Pulitzer material if you include b&w shots of dejected demagogues and density defying denizens done in that moody style where they blur the corners and pretend we still use camera film. But the writing will be kinda important, too, especially the climactic bit to come, where our somewhat-local Supervisor Hudgins hovers above RTC, telling RA and 900 yellow shirts alike that they lack her ability to summon Bob Simon from the great beyond (well past Ashburn and Purcellville). As her fingertips glow and the Developer returns to rain supernatural, board-approved fury upon all those who live, work & play here, be sure to document the rebellion's last moments of terror and belated regret as they are smited, their yellow shirts scorched into something entirely more earth-toned, and certainly more docile.

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