This paper examines a few of the core principle ideas proposed by several Reston citizens groups and applies those principles to the first major new development proposal for Reston, the Comstock Wiehle Station Area proposal. The results are discouraging, especially since this first development—even under the more limiting current Comprehensive Plan—falls far short of what Restonians believe is needed to maintain Reston’s high quality of life.
• The design is conventional and bland, like many other such commercial development blocks in the Washington area. It is not innovative or world-class.
• The TOD mixed-use development of the site is entirely appropriate, but it appears to exceed its authorized FAR 2.5 density, probably in the range of FAR 4 to FAR 5 , when the nearly million square feet of above ground parking is counted.
• In no serious sense does the proposal meet the county’s requirement of 20% open space—much less Restonians’ demands for 25% or higher—other than pavement and parking lots along with an undeveloped ravine. It does not meet Restonians’ needs for open space and natural areas.
• The transportation impact analysis shows that, even with full implementation of the required improvements and Comstock’s additional offers and traffic demand management (TDM) program, traffic will worsen at the corner of Wiehle and Sunset Hills. This is inconsistent with Restonians’ needs for the concurrent or prior development of infrastructure to maintain or improve public services.
• Comstock limits its commitment to environmental sensitivity to meeting only LEED Silver or LEED Certified environmental standards in its development, and offers a financial arrangement as an alternative to meeting those requirements. Restonians demand a minimum LEED Silver standard, and prefer going for the Gold.
• The proposal covers only the two blocks owned by Comstock. The dozen other property owners in this quadrant near the Metro station could each propose their own isolated, incompatible development plan in the absence of a comprehensive approach to Reston planning. As a planned community, Reston’s development and re-development planning should reflect a holistic approach to its impact on Reston’s quality of life.
We can hope the Reston Association P&Z Committee—which has limited authority in the approval process—and the County considers these shortcomings as the application moves through the review process. Moreover, we can hope that the lessons from this development proposal will temper the drive for increasing density (FAR, DUAs, etc.) in Reston development; strengthen standards for infrastructure, open space, and sustainable development; and lead to a more thoughtful community-wide approach to development planning and implementation. That hope rests in the hands of the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force.
Reston’s citizens must work to see that their clear and consistent principles are established and implemented. Otherwise, the quality of life reflected in Reston’s innovative architecture, integration of extensive open space and natural areas, provision of park and recreational amenities, sensitivity to environmental impact, and other unique and attractive characteristics will erode block by block, development by development, neighborhood by neighborhood over the next generation.
The full 13-page paper may be read below.
Metrorail Wiehle Station Area Development: Comstock's Concept and Reston's Proposed Planning Principles