Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Saturday, September 15, 2018

What if HQ2 comes to Reston?

At last week’s DC Economic Club luncheon, Jeff Bezos stated that Amazon will announce the location of its second corporate headquarters—“HQ2”—by the end of the year.  The Washington metropolitan area figures prominently in Amazon’s consideration with nine sites identified as finalists.  One of the possible locations indicates it is likely to be located at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) near Dulles airport in the bulls-eye of the US internet.    

Regrettably, Fairfax County leaders are not planning realistically or inclusively to provide the infrastructure needed to support the promise of 50,000 new jobs dangled by Jeff Bezos resulting in an estimated 130,000 person population gain, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG).  Moreover, MWCOG expects Amazon’s arrival in the DC area to generate an additional population growth of 260,000 people region-wide in households with employees directly supporting Amazon. 

Reston and the CIT are at the epicenter of Fairfax’s development planning to support Bezos’ expected move.  They are along Metro’s Silver Line and bordered by generally low-intensity commercial development that is already being profitably redeveloped into a high-density residential-centric mixed-use urban environment. 

The county’s comprehensive plan for our masterpiece Bob Simon “planned” community—modified without meaningful resident knowledge, much less input, in recent years—is to triple Reston’s roughly 60,000 population and add about 40,000 jobs over four decades.  This is the kind of growth that Amazon will require.  This includes well over 90,000 new residents and the new jobs in its three Silver Line Metro stations and adding more than 20,000 residents to its redeveloped suburban village centers, changing them from neighborhood shopping sites into high-density mixed-use mini-urban centers.   Routinely awarded "bonus" density and development waivers are likely to drive that population growth up at least another ten percent.

Using FCPS' forecast methodology, that potential 180,000 or so population means more than 5,000 new students added to the 20,000 kids already in Reston’s overcrowded schools according to Fairfax schools.  More broadly, MWCOG estimates total added students from all Amazon-related employment at 87,000--a much higher per household student ratio than Fairfax County anticipates (0.2 vs. 0.087 students per household).  The county’s plan:  Add one elementary school and shift some boundaries.  Using the county’s forecasting methods, Reston’s citizen groups calculate that three new elementary schools and one each middle and high school will be required.   MWCOG's forecast would require a doubling of that number.

Open spaces—parks, athletic fields, woods, and lakes—are a cornerstone of Reston’s history and its planning principles.  More than 1,350 of Reston's total 10,000 acres is HOA open space while the county provides only about 110 acres of parkland in Reston.   Yet the county’s Reston plan calls for only about 12 new ballfields requiring less than 50 acres, about one-quarter the acreage mandated by its own urban parkland acreage standards.  There would be virtually no other public open spaces of consequence, maybe some small linear and pocket parks, playgrounds, and—yes—sidewalks. 

The county’s transportation plan for Reston is equally ludicrous.  In general, it hypothesizes without meaningful evidence, using a flawed methodology, and relying on unreliable self-monitoring that traffic will magically diminish as new bicycle and pedestrian facilities and high-density housing are added.   Its few substantial road improvement proposals—critically needed crossovers of the Dulles Corridor—are literally decades away and unfunded, and moving farther into the future despite a special added tax on Reston station area properties.  Finally, the Reston plan explicitly proposes no additions to public transit—none!

Nonetheless, the County is in no financial position to carry out even these insufficient plans as the delays and omissions in its transportation planning highlight.  It has insufficient reserves to buy land for schools, parks, or any other public facility, much less build them.  Moreover, it almost certainly has made generous secret tax concessions to Amazon to attract it here.  It could use its “AAA” bonding power, but the investment would be in the billions of dollars over time, put its bond rating at risk, and require substantial additional property taxes on all county residents while limiting the availability of bonds for other county needs.   And there is little land available in Reston for almost any of the needed infrastructure investments at any price. 

Moreover, as analysis of numerous research studies has pointed out, the cost of adding infrastructure to support residential development consistently exceeds the new tax revenue generated.  The result, of course, will be a sharp diminution in Restonians’ quality of life with similar, but lesser, lifestyle erosion county-wide.   

And, when it suits Jeff Bezos, Amazon will move on to “HQ3”—just as Exxon returned to Texas a four years ago—leaving behind the wreckage of the once-uplifting planned community of Reston.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

CPR Letter to County: Not-at-Grade Pedestrian Crossings, August 21, 2018

                                                                                           August 21, 2018

Dear Fred (Selden, C/DPZ):  

In our recent meeting on Parks, Open Space and Athletic Fields, the issue of not-at-grade pedestrian and bike crossings was discussed.  As you are aware, both the Reston Master Plan and County policy place a high priority on facilitating bike and pedestrian traffic.   In addition to increased connectivity, improved traffic flow and a healthy alternative to vehicular travel, tunnels and bridges protect our citizens and their children.  Although some actually state that mixing pedestrians and automobiles is a good thing, the reality is very different.  No pedestrian has been killed by a car or truck while crossing through a tunnel or over a bridge.     

Reston has suffered from a failure to adhere to its founding principles about connectivity in recent decades, and we realize it is difficult to retro design needed tunnels and bridges in established and stable neighborhoods.  New development or redevelopment, however, is very different and a return to long established guidelines is both necessary and in everyone's interest.  There are multiple examples all over Reston as to how tunnels and bridges can fit seamlessly into our neighborhoods and along our pathways.  We are confident the County and developers are as safety-minded and creative as their predecessors of 40 and 50 years ago.   

The following non-exhaustive list identifies a number of priority locations for not-at-grade crossings.    All of these provide significantly safer crossings over major, high speed roadways.   The time to institute a comprehensive policy of requiring not-at-grade crossings is now, not after disaster strikes.  

Wiehle at Sunrise Valley:  A tunnel from the lower elevation of the USAA campus on the east side of Wiehle could connect with the lower elevation of the Vornado property on the west side.  

Wiehle at Entrance to Metro:   It is difficult to understand why this wasn't put in place with the initial development, but it must be included in any further development of area.  Once built, the lengthy walk signal can be eliminated.  

Sunset Hills at Wiehle:  The need for this is obvious and also should have been included in the initial development of the Metro Station.   This could tie in with the already approved bridge over Wiehle on the W&OD.  

Reston Parkway at Sunrise Valley:  As part of Reston Crescent development.  Crossings of Sunrise Valley and perhaps just south of the Toll Road are also needed.  

Reston Parkway at Sunset Hills:   This intersection is extremely dangerous and difficult to cross.  There are multiple lanes in all directions and dedicated right turn lanes at all four corners make pedestrian crossings a life threatening experience.   

Baron Cameron at Bennington Woods/Town Center Parkway:  Must be part of any development of Reston Town Center North

Baron Cameron at Village Road:  As part of any Lake Anne redevelopment.  The nearby tunnel under Baron Cameron doesn't serve Lake Anne. 

Dulles Toll Road at Town Center Metro Station:  A dedicated bike/pedestrian lane separate from Metro commuter traffic.

Wiehle at Isaac Newton Square:  As part of any redevelopment of Isaac Newton.  

If you would like to experience crossing any of these intersections on foot at rush hour to get a sense of the need for non-at-grade crossings, please let me know.  

The County plans to permit a massive increase in population in the TSA zones.  County officials also have repeatedly stated they believe this population will be predominantly disposed to travel on foot or bike or use mass transit.  It is thus imperative a network of safe pathways be developed, including not at grade crossings of major roads.  Anything less violates the County's own directives.  

Many thanks, we greatly appreciate your work on these issues and your dedication to keeping Reston a unique and valued part of Fairfax County.  

Best regards,  Dennis

Dennis Hays
Parks, Open Space & Athletic Fields
CPR Discussion Leader
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins
Goldie Harrison, Hunter Mill District Staff
Leslie Johnson, DC/DPZ, Zoning
John Carter, Fairfax County Planning Commission

Monday, August 20, 2018

CPR/RA Letter to County Staff: The Road from Nowhere, August 17, 2018

August 17, 2018

Dear Tom (Biesiadny, Chief, FCDOT):

Trust all is well your way.  

In several of our recent meetings the "Road from Nowhere" has come up.  We have asked who decided to draw the road on a map buried in the appendix of the then draft Master Plan, why this wasn't presented to the community and justified before it was added, and how such a road could be proposed that impinges on designated open space.  We haven't yet gotten answers to any of these questions, but we have been told this is just a "conceptual" road and thus we shouldn't worry about it.

It would be helpful, however, to understand exactly what this "concept" would look like in reality.  If you or your staff could provide the following information it would be most appreciated.  

Is this conceived as a two lane or four lane road?  

What is the distance between the edges of either road, including curbs, gutters, set backs, bike paths and a sidewalk on at least one side?  

How will the road compensate for the large discrepancy between the level of the ground along the conceptual road and level of the road at American Dream Way?  

Who owns all the land the road will traverse?  

Why is the County unable to identify who drew the road on the map in the first place?  Is it common for the County to be unable to say how or why official documents are drafted and approved?  

An alternative to all of the above would be to simply remove the Road from Nowhere from all maps and planning documents.  Easier and better for everyone.  

Very best regards,  Dennis 

Dennis Hays
Parks, Open Space and Athletic Fields
Discussion Leader

Fred Selden, Chief, DPZ
Leslie Johnson, DC/DPZ, Zoning
Goldie Harrison, Hunter Mill District Supervisors Office

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

CPR Asks Supervisor Hudgins to Keep Proposed Zoning Amendment Off County Calendars as Actions Agreed Upon in Small Group Meetings with Reston Residents Move Forward

On Monday July 30, Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR), Reston Association and Fairfax County staff completed the initial round of four small group public meetings to discuss concerns with the County’s proposal to increase the overall person per acre limitation for the Reston Planned Residential Community (PRC) from 13 to16 persons per acre. The meeting was streamed by Reston Association and may be viewed by clicking here or going to

On Wednesday, August 1, CPR sent a letter to Supervisor Cathy Hudgins identifying areas of agreement and mutually approved actions to be taken:

In numerous instances the small group discussions have yielded agreement on next steps, including:
  • Clarification and correction of the Reston Master Plan (RMP),
  • Identification of additional information that the County intends to share with the public, and
  • Acknowledgement of areas that require further dialogue. 
For example, at the planning small group meeting, the County and citizens confirmed agreement that a population cap or target for all of Reston (“One Reston”) based on census numbers should be reintroduced into the RMP, but time did not allow for discussion of the details.

Recognizing the positive results achieved on concerns that CPR believes will eliminate the perceived need for the County’s proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance to raise the density cap, CPR asked Supervisor Hudgins to continue to support collaboration with the community:

In order to maintain the momentum achieved thus far in the small group sessions, we trust that you will continue to support suspension of any further action on a zoning amendment to increase the Reston density cap, including any efforts to schedule the proposed zoning amendment for consideration by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively to help assure that Reston remains a vibrant, welcoming, planned community for decades to come.

CPR will hold a community-wide meeting after Labor Day to review the results of the four small group sessions with the County and to solicit additional community recommendations.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Summary of CPR/RA-County Community Meeting on School Facilities, July 24, 2018

Summary of Community Meeting on School  Facilities

Reston Association Headquarters

July 24, 2018 - 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

           This is a summary – submitted on behalf of the panel from Coalition for a Planned
Reston – of theTop 10” takeaways from the meeting held on July 24, 2018 to discuss proposals to increase density in Reston, and their impact on schools and school facilities. It also includes a summary of information requested from the county and school representatives, which would be a topic for our next meeting (to be scheduled).

Participating from Coalition for a Planned Reston were Andy Sigle and Sridhar Ganesan, President and Vice President (respectively) of Reston Association, Moira Callaghan, Todd Shea, Bob Petrine, and Stuart Gibson.

Participating from Fairfax County and Fairfax County Public Schools were Pat Hynes, School Board Member, Hunter Mill District; Leslie Johnson, Fairfax County Zoning Administration; and Kevin Sneed, Director, Office of Design & Construction, Fairfax County Public Schools.

Also attending: Goldie Harrison, Office of Supervisor Hudgins; John Carter, Planning Commission Member, Hunter Mill District; Howard Perlstein, Hunter Mill District Representative, FCPS Facilities Planning Advisory Council.

Top 10 Takeaways

1.  There is ample space in Reston's elementary, middle, and high schools to accommodate, in the short to medium-term, student growth that might come from new development in the transit corridor and in the village centers.1 As a result, the school system is not actively seeking to acquire or considering acquiring land for another school site in Reston, such as at Isaac Newton Square, Baron Cameron Regional Park, or Lake Fairfax Park.

2.  There will not be ample space to accommodate growth in 20 years. And at that time, land will be even scarcer and more expensive than it is in 2018.

           3.  Contrary to the commitment in the County's comprehensive plan to build infrastructure  ahead of planned development, that is not how the school system operates. The school system does not have the funding necessary to build new schools and new capacity until it is necessary. Indeed, it does not have enough money to build and renovate schools in accordance with its own policies.

4.  The school system calculates projected student yields from proposed development and redevelopment according to an outdated county-wide formula mandated by the County. The school system would like to update the formula to take into account regional differences within the county. But thus far, it has not been able to do so.

5.  Similarly, school-facilities-related proffers are calculated according to a formula mandated by the County. The school system would like to renegotiate that formula to more accurately reflect the true capital costs associated with new development. But so far that has not happened. And it would appear that any new formula will only be applied prospectively. As a planned residential community, Reston is exempt from some aspects of Virginia law restricting the ability to obtain proffers.

6.  The school system does not conduct any sort of review of its enrollment projections from planned development after the project has been built. As a result, it has no systematic way of determining the accuracy of the existing formulas. (This may be because the school system's facilities planning office is staffed by just 4 people, most of whom have worked there for less than 2 years.)

          7.  The school system does not conduct any sort of analysis of the impact of proposed development on the transportation of students, such as whether new routes or additional buses are needed, or how increased traffic from new development affects travel times.

8.  Most of the need for new schools in Western Fairfax County is being driven by development in the Centreville Road/Route 28/Dulles Toll Road corridors, and in the Fairfax/Oakton area. The school system has already raised the money to build a new elementary school in the Fairfax/Oakton area, and plans to build a new high school on the 38-acre site of Hutchison Elementary School in Herndon. It is addressing growth at the 1,400-student McNair Elementary School by building what amounts to a second school on the same piece of property. At $2.5 - $3 million/acre ($125-$150 million for a 50-acre site) it is too expensive to buy the land required to build a new high school.

9.  The school system is actively considering a second "urban" school (similar to Baileys 2), for the proposed "Silver Line" elementary school in the Western part of the Dulles transit corridor. They would seek to acquire space in a proposed building through the proffer route.

10. The School Board is beginning to coordinate more closely with the Planning
Commission. But that process started only recently and occurs only sporadically now.

Requests for Additional Information Ahead of Next Meeting

The Coalition representatives asked the County and School system representatives to provide the following information, in advance of our next meeting:

1.  A list of approved and proposed developments to include the projected student yields from each project going back to 2008 for all schools serving Reston. To include application number, name, project status, proposed units, estimated students and school name.

2. A list of all residential development and redevelopment projects in Reston that have been built and occupied since 2008, showing for each project what FCPS projected the student yield to be and what the student yield actually is now.

3. Correspondence and other documentation concerning the efforts to (a) change the FCPS proffer formula, and (b) change the methodology for calculating student yields from proposed development projects, and a summary of the current status and schedule of upcoming meetings on each.

4. Please update the April 26, 2018 memorandum referred to in footnote 1, above, to include proposed developments added since that memorandum was prepared.

5. Please explain the apparent disconnect between enrollment projections in the school systems adopted Capital Improvement Plan for 2019-2023, and the enrollment estimates from new development as outlined in the April 26, 2018 memorandum (or the most recent version of that memo) referenced in footnote 1 of this memo.

6. Please describe how Fairfax County Public Schools and Fairfax County plan to address the facilities needs of the more than 2,000 new students expected to be living in the planned and approved developments for Reston.

Prepared by Stuart D. Gibson

July 27, 2018

1 After the meeting, members of CPR reviewed the memo from Fairfax County Public Schools to Mary Ann Tsai, Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning, dated April 26, 2018, attached as Appendix 13 to the staff report on rezoning application RZ/FDP 2016-HM-007. According to that memo, applications for development in the South Lakes HS pyramid already approved and pending are projected to add approximately 1,900 – 2,100 students at 3 elementary schools (Sunrise Valley, Lake Anne, and Dogwood). Assuming proportional growth in the middle and high school population from these developments, those developments will cause all impacted schools (including Hughes and South Lakes) to exceed their program capacities.