The Reston Master Plan Task Force has spent four months listening to rudimentary county reports on the three future Reston rail station areas — Wiehle Avenue, Reston Parkway, and Herndon-Monroe. The Task Force also had productive community meetings on two of them — Herndon-Monroe and Wiehle. Community ideas were solicited on developing the station areas and many good ideas were forthcoming. Community contributors and Task Force members were particularly enthusiastic about making the Wiehle Station a remarkable gateway to Reston with striking features and world class architecture, a place to remember and visit often.
Meanwhile, Fairfax County is busily shaping the future Wiehle Station ignoring both the Task Force and the community. The station plan under hurried consideration is the product of another public-private partnership (under the infamous PPEA law) between the county and a developer. In theory, the PPEA allows a private developer to take public land to build something and, in return, the public gets something fulfilling a worthy public purpose. And, PPEA should expedite the normally glacial county processes. But, this is Fairfax County. It has taken this county four years to get an agreement and now a terrible plan. The developer is Comstock Corporation and its plan is a disappointment to the community, but it is being rushed through the county processes because the train is coming — literally. If the station and a minimum of 2,300 parking spaces are not completed by 2013, the train simply will not stop at Wiehle Avenue. More than a bit embarrassing, eh? So, the county is over a barrel, a barrel of its own making. Comstock’s crappy plan is about to be approved by the political appointees on the Fairfax Planning Commission over objections of most expert Reston residents and the county’s own planning and zoning staff!
What should be a beautiful and memorable gateway station instead promises to leave the impression that Reston is parking garages and sunless, ugly little car-filled malls in a sea of traffic where Wiehle meets the Access Road. In fact, there is no plan to eliminate total gridlock on already jammed Wiehle Avenue. When asked about plans to manage traffic, officials shrug, and tell folks they should plan to walk more. This sad tale is one more example of what happens when the county’s interests and the community’s diverge — Reston loses. Imagine the mischief to come in master planning!
By John Lovaas
Civic Leader and Reston Impact Producer/Host