Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reston Today--Development Density Cap Changes--Planned Residential Community (PRC), RA

This brief video gives a good introduction to the proposed change in Reston's PRC zoning ordinance that would increase allowable residential density in high-density neighborhoods.  


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reston Citizens Association (RCA) Call for Board of Directors Candidates

Reston Citizens Association (RCA) announces elections will be held from June 7 to June 22 for four district seats and two at-large seats for its Board of Directors. Restonians interested in joining the RCA Board are invited to file completed candidate forms by May 30, 2017. 
The Reston Citizens Association (RCA) is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c) 3 corporation serving over 60,000 people who live in Reston. Founded in 1967, RCA is the only community-wide, non-partisan, and action-oriented organization in which everyone that lives, works and plays in Reston has a voice.  RCA comprises a 13-member Board of Directors elected by Reston residents with the directors serving three-year terms.
“This upcoming year is going to be another exciting one for RCA, as we continue to focus on educating and engaging the community and reflecting their voice,” said Sridhar Ganesan, President, RCA. “New development, re-development, transportation and other Reston infrastructure, open spaces and other issues like Reston Town Center pay parking have been at the forefront for Reston and RCA during the last two months and will continue to be important for the people that live here.”
If you want to take an active role in the future of Reston, please consider running for a seat on the RCA board!
As a member on the Board of RCA, you interact with the community on the issues that impact them, meet with County and other local officials including Reston Association and attend public meetings.  You will collect information, provide analysis and, based upon feedback received from the public, inform the various local organizations such as Fairfax County or Reston Association about public expectations for outcomes on various issues that affect Reston. 
There are six seats up in the 2017 elections – for Hunters Woods District, Town Center/Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District, South Lakes District, North Point District and one At-Large seats, all for three (3) year terms each, and a second At-Large seat is open for a one-year term to replace a director who resigned during 2016.
To run for a director seat, you must live in Small Tax District 5, be a Reston resident, be 18 years or older, and vote in designated precincts/polling places within Reston districts. 
If you want to actively promote Reston’s vision and planning principles, sustain and enhance its quality of life, please download an application from our website and fill it out.

Your completed application must be sent to rcaelections@restoncitizensassociation.org by May 30th.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Reston Citizens Association Election Committee at rcaelections@restoncitizensassociation.org.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reston 20/20 Statement to RP&Z on County Reston PRC Proposal, May 15, 2017



Statement to the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee
By Terry Maynard, Co-Chair, Reston 20/20 Committee
Re the Proposed Reston PRC Zoning Ordinance Amendment
May 15, 2017


Good evening.  I am Terry Maynard, 2217 Wakerobin Lane, speaking on behalf of the Reston 20/20 Committee.  

First, thank you for taking your time to listen to the many voices of Reston on the County’s proposed PRC zoning ordinance amendment. 

Most importantly, the PRC zoning amendment proposal removes all concrete zoning constraints on high-density residential construction in Town Center, a situation that can lead to serious unforeseeable circumstances.   We must rely on Board discretion.  Just look at the Board approval given to a FAR 4, 26-story office building to replace the Town Center Office Building that is dramatically inconsistent with the Reston plan and its own TOD policy. 

As we read it, the PRC amendment would allow the addition of more than 28,000 residents to our community, virtually all in high-density housing in the half of Reston Town Center north of the toll road.   In 2010, about 8,000 people lived in the Town Center PRC after nearly a quarter century of development.  In the last 7 years, residences for another 8,000 people have been built or approved in there.  Longer term, Board approval of the zoning ordinance would allow about 45,000 people to live in Town Center.  This would be in addition to the 45,000 people or so who could be added to the non-PRC portions of Reston’s station areas under the Reston plan and other zoning codes.  

I would like to speak to you briefly about how this development will affect infrastructure and commercial development issues in Reston. 

Transportation may present the most pressing infrastructure challenge as this unfolds in the PRC.  County data shows that, of the two-dozen Board-approved Reston station area transportation projects, only one sidewalk improvement at Wiehle Station has been completed.  Of the dozen projects in the RTC PRC area, none except the Town Center Parkway tunnel has begun and one has been put on hold.  The Soapstone Connector won’t be put out for contract until 2025.  None of this includes the still concept-level intersection improvements postulated by RNAG and the absence of any planned bus transit expansion for the PRC. 

Yet station area development, including development in the RTC PRC and its approval continues unabated.

All of the additional residential development also has implications for planned commercial development in the Town Center PRC.  Approval of the zoning ordinance amendment could unhinge the planned balance between residential and commercial development there and the desirable effect it has on reducing driving.    

Worse yet, developers—never ones to miss an opportunity—could use the high, if not unconstrained, residential construction limits to leverage even higher or unlimited commercial development in the PRC.  This alone suggests the urgency of a concrete upper limit on station area PRC density, not just Board discretion. 

One particular concern in this process is the availability of essential retail facilities, not to mention amenities such as theaters, restaurants, etc., for a population approaching 90,000 in Reston’s station areas, including the 45,000 in the Town Center PRC.  Two supermarkets and one pharmacy are not adequate, and to the extent that there is a shortage of these and other essential and desirable shopping in the PRC will mean more residents driving.

All this suggests that the County and the community need to understand the implications for Reston of the zoning ordinance amendment and quite possibly amend it so that it is consistent with Reston’s vision and planning principles.  This will take time, not the head-long rush the County and Board seem to be in to get this amendment passed with three public meetings in three weeks this month. 

What’s the rush?

Based on future analysis of the implications of the allowable development for infrastructure and other community needs, some amendments to the proposal that might be considered are:

  • Raising the overall residential density per acre incrementally to, say, 14 people per acre and seeing how infrastructure, commercial development, and the Reston community adjusts to that density before moving another step higher.
  • Creating a fourth residential density category called “urban” for the station area that has a concrete cap on it of, say, 60-70 DUs per acre.
  • Not raising the zoning cap at all until at least the current approved transportation and other infrastructure projects, such as schools, open space and parks, etc., are completed.

While these are just ideas, they and other ideas need to be considered in a thorough, systematic, and unbiased way based on a consideration of the facts in a manner that meets the needs of the community as well as the County. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Op-Ed: The County’s Reston Transit Station Area Planning Deception, Terry Maynard, RestonNow, April 24, 2017

The following is the text of an op-ed written by Terry Maynard, Reston 20/20 Co-Chair, and published in RestonNow on April 24, 2017.  The only difference between this printing and that in RestonNow is that we have included here the spreadsheet used to develop the conclusions reached in the RestonNow publication.  

Our County Board of Supervisors, led by Chairman Sharon Bulova, is in the process of overbuilding and underserving residents in Reston and across the county. The result will be the eroding livability of Reston and other county areas facing urbanization.  
 
And this is being accomplished by a simple arithmetical trick: Overstating the amount of space new housing and office space require to accommodate residents and workers. Very simply, county planners continue to overstate the space needed for office workers as 300 gross square feet (GSF) per worker when studies globally over nearly a decade show it is now under 200 GSF/worker and could be headed to 150 GSF/worker.  

At the same time, as it started to plan for Tysons’ redevelopment nearly a decade ago, the County raised its planning assumption for the size of station area dwelling units (DUs) from 1,000 GSF/DU to 1,200 GSF/DU. Nonetheless, a County planning study for Tysons showed then (2007) that the average size of Tysons residents was 1,100 GSF, mostly in garden apartments before the recent advent of massive high-rise residential development there. 

Now, the average high-rise DU size is shrinking well below 1,000 GSF/DU, more than offsetting the few mid-rise and single-family attached DUs in station areas, as some recent Reston development proposals show:
  • JBG/Wiehle and partners plan for 1,300-1,500 residential units in 1.2 million GSF of development in two 5-story buildings, or 800-925 GSF/DU;
  • Golf Course Plaza proposes 413 DUs in a 392,600 GSF multi-family building or 950 GSF/DU, also in 5-story structures;
  • Faraday’s proposes redeveloping the area just south of Wiehle Station with up to 500 apartments in two buildings with about 487,000 GSF of residential space that will reach about 975 GSF/DU according to its plan submission.
  • Lerner Enterprises is planning a 457-“luxury apartment” complex called Excelsior Park with average unit size at about 1,050 GSF in 423,587 rentable square feet (RBA), which equates to 481,350 GSF.
That’s nearly 3,000 DUs, including luxury apartments, whose average GSF is about 925 GSF/DU — nowhere near the County’s assumed size of 1,200 GSF/DU — and suggesting the number of future residents and DUs in Reston’s station areas will be nearly one-third greater than planned under existing allowable densities. This is consistent with national data: A study of apartment sizes over the last decade shows that their average size has shrunk — not expanded — from 1,015 square feet to 934 square feet.  

The impact is straightforward: The resulting planned densities (total GSF of development divided by the square footage of the lot on which it sits) will allow half-again as many office workers and 28 percent more residential units than the County plan officially intends. Yet developers and the County are only planning to provide services — improved roads, schools and parks, and more — based on the lower count envisioned in the plan. The result will be reduced services and higher taxes.



So what does that mean for “real people?” 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.


Let’s take a look at some areas where this will affect Restonians and others similarly affected by these false development assumptions.

TRAFFIC: We are near the end of the painful two-year RNAG experience, a truly dysfunctional FCDOT-managed, Board initiative based on false assumptions about an alleged “funding gap,” to address the worsening traffic conditions that will come with the urbanization of Reston’s station areas. Already the County has reduced the standard for intersection traffic service levels to a new “urban standard” in which “unstable flow, operating at capacity” is good enough, and Reston’s station area streets don’t have to try to meet community needs for traffic from, to, and especially through the station areas, including Dulles Toll Road users.

In doing its planning, FCDOT has been using the forecast employment and residential data it says area in the Reston Master Plan. Unfortunately, instead of 41,455 added people, the increase is likely to be 90,955 people — some 63.5 percent greater than what FCDOT is planning.  

We all know the two major consequences of that result: Worse traffic congestion for Restonians driving near the station areas and ever higher Transportation Service District (TSD) taxes on the residents of the station areas.

SCHOOLS: There may be no single issue of greater concern to Reston families (and those countywide) than the availability of quality public school education for their children. Like traffic, the quality of our children’s education is likely to erode because of the County’s insistence on unrealistic population forecasts that under-estimate the need for classroom capacity.

Using data in a 2012 FCPS letter to the County’s Planning Department regarding the future of Reston schools, we can update FCPS’ forecast of the number of students in the decades ahead. This requires, first, updating the understated population from Scenario “G” prepared for the Reston planning task force to the plan’s expectations and then updating that to our estimate of future Reston station area population. The result more than doubles the number of dwelling units (and, therefore, the number of students) in station area schools — from 24,559 in Scenario “G” to 56,606 in our forecast.

Applying FCPS’ planning parameters for student yield ratios and mixes laid out in that letter, we calculate that Reston can expect about 6,700 new students from the station areas to be added to the 11,000 students now in all Reston’s schools over the next four decades. That’s about:
  • 3,700 elementary school kids (about five average-sized Reston elementary schools),
  • 1,000 middle schoolers (about the enrollment at Langston Hughes), and
  • 2,000 high schoolers (nearly South Lakes’ enrollment).
The current Reston Master Plan falls far short of meeting those needs. It calls for the building of two elementary schools — one near USGS and one in Town Center North — and the addition of a middle and high school in western Fairfax County to accommodate Reston’s and other area growth over the next 20-30 years.

PARKS: The County’s Urban Parks Framework and the Countywide Adopted Service Level Standards for Athletic Fields establish guidance for park size and recreational facilities. Suffice it to say that the Reston plan does not remotely try to achieve the guidance laid out in these documents based on the County’s faulty assumptions, much less our adjusted estimate of future population and employment growth.  

The prospective population and employment totals should mean the availability of more than 187 acres of parks within 1/2-mile of the Metro stations under the Urban Parks Framework. That’s about 1/8 of Reston’s total station area. Given preliminary notions of additional mid-sized parks in north and south Town Center plus one in the Wiehle station area, we think it may be possible to reach 90 acres of public and private parks in Reston’s station areas four decades from now. Bottom line: Reston’s station areas will have fewer park acres per capita than Manhattan does now.

The County master plan also sets as “a goal” the construction of 12 ballfields at 2.2 million GFA (50 acres) in Reston’s station areas, and a minimum of three. Yet the County’s population-based facilities guideline for the 113,212 people who our adjusted plan suggest may live in the station areas calls for 35 ballfields, nearly triple the plan’s most optimistic “goal” and an order of magnitude greater than its meager minimum objective for Reston.

Aside from the impact on livability and total disregard for Reston planning principles, the ruinous shortage of open space, parks and recreational facilities in the station areas will almost certainly see RA’s facilities overrun with non-RA members no matter what the price for non-member use.  

But the Board of Supervisors doesn’t care. The more development there is, the more property tax revenues it generates, and the more the Board can spend without raising those tax rates or adding new taxes on voters. Even so, however, we’ve just seen the Board add the TSD tax on Reston’s station area residents essentially because it can get away with it. It is certainly unjustified as we’ve commented here before. Will they also be taxed to provide schools or parks to meet the explosive growth?

What you need to know is that, like the new Reston station area TSD tax, Restonians (and others) are being misled by their Board and the County staff on the scope of County urbanization plans and their tremendously adverse and virtually immutable impact on our community, including your quality of life. We all will continue to be misled until we replace this cabal with responsible and responsive leaders and staffers of integrity. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Statement of Terry Maynard for Reston 20/20 at Special RA Board meeting on Tetra review, March 20, 2017



Statement of Terry Maynard, Co-Chair
Reston 20/20 Committee re
The StoneTurn Group Tetra Report and Follow-up
March 20, 2017


Good evening.  I am Terry Maynard, 2217 Wakerobin Lane, and I am speaking on behalf of the Reston 20/20 Committee.

First, I would like to thank StoneTurn Group and its investigative team for its excellent report prepared in far too brief a time.  It does exactly what you, Deidre, promised it would do:  It lays out a clear forensic description of what happened during the unfolding Tetra debacle.   Regrettably, from our perspective, it does not lay out specifically the who, why, and how of the many events it identifies. 

The members of Reston Association deserve to know all the details in this shameful episode, including those reported by StoneTurn Group and others that are not covered in this report.  We need to know, first, because somewhere between our Board and RA staff and its contractors, including counsel, RA spent $2.65 million of our money on a property worth less than half that in 2015.  Moreover, in 2016, RA spent nearly one million dollars repairing and renovating the property without any budget or identifiable Board approval until some $600,000 had been spent.  The total spending was nearly quadruple the quarter-million dollar forecast estimate in referendum documents. 
 
These are colossal errors.  We must know in depth how and why they occurred and who caused them to occur.  Then we must take steps to prevent these blunders from being repeated, and to discourage anyone from ever making them in the future. 

Our preliminary report, which used the StoneTurn results extensively, highlights several major areas of mishandling of Tetra’s purchase and repair.  As the many questions it raises suggest, it is meant to stimulate further investigation. 

In contrast to numerous mistakes StoneTurn Group documents, neither StoneTurn Group nor we have been able to identify a single attempt by RA or the Board actually to lay out a price offer, formal or informal, to Tetra’s owner for less than his asking price of $2.7 million.  To the contrary, we have an e-mail from the RA land use attorney’s office to the CEO attempting to justify the seller’s $2.7 million price.  Maybe such an offer document exists, but it hasn’t surfaced yet.  If it doesn’t, that’s a monumental failure of RA Board, staff, and counsel fiduciary responsibility. 

Similar unexplained and highly questionable events occurred throughout last year’s period of renovation, but I think we have made the point:  There is much more to know and do before closing this ugly chapter in Reston’s history.

What all this points to is the need for a follow-up investigation to understand fully all that occurred and to make appropriate corrective recommendations.  The core purposes of that investigation would be to identify specifically what mistakes, accidental or malicious, were made, identify who was culpable for those mistakes, and recommend to the Board appropriate corrective policy, process, and personnel actions.

We propose that the next RA Board of Directors appoint a special committee of RA residents with an extensive period to work and extensive authority to access RA documents and personnel to pursue this investigation.  Heaven knows, this community has the expertise to conduct such an effort.  In the end, the community is the aggrieved party in this fiasco, stuck with a white elephant, millions in debt for decades, and the near certainty that facility revenues will never cover costs.  Moreover, by using community resources, we have the opportunity to avoid yet another major expense related to this shameful episode. 

That said, we appreciate that this Board, the majority of which served throughout the purchase and renovation of Tetra, is not planning to take action on StoneTurn Group’s recommendations.  Moreover, as the CEO rightly pointed out in last week’s Board Governance Committee meeting, RA’s specific ideas on how to address process and procedural matters need to be refined.  We think that a further indepth investigation will help shape those ideas much more effectively and accomplish much more for the betterment of Reston.