Meeting chaired by JBG’s Andy Van Horn. Co-Chair Bill Penniman absent.
Opening citizen comments offered by:
Doug Pew-Noted need for medical facilities in Reston area, suggested Wiehle might be a place to local medical professional, lab facilities;
Noted Committee’s (actually all three station committees’) failure to include recommendations for anything but condominiums for future residential, and what is desperately needed for new entrants into economy and many regular wage earners are apartments not more condos.
Rest of the meeting consisted of two presentations, followed by back and forth between developer-dominated committee and citizen audience.
1- A “massing model” put together by JBG and another developer showed massing of large buildings projected onto the 7 Wiehle area land bays. (See presentation below.) First slide showed existing buildings and subsequent slides added buildings as proposed in presentations to the Committee by various developers and landowners. It seemed all land bays were filled chock-a-block with large rectangular buildings and one triangular one, leaving very little space in between. Buildings varied in heights from 4-5 stories up to 3 or 4 times those heights. To me it looked foreboding, perhaps because of the aerial views and fact that buildings were all dark brown. Dense would not be an adequate description—intense would be more accurate. When we asked what F.A.R.s we were looking at, we were told not the “aspirational FARs” JBG rep suggested in prior meeting, but more mid-range, 2.0 -2.5 range, “baseline F.A.R.s without all the pluses the developers would provide for higher F.A.R.s.” NO parking structures were included graphics, just a massing to give us an idea.
It left some with a sense of dread. The volume was oppressive, without the numerous parking garages that would be necessary for the possibly 40 or 50 large buildings shown.
Draft Wiehle Landbays and Incentives Structure 08-18 (Reston)
2- Van Horn then introduced a JBG presentation showing conceptual views and some actual photos of new developments around rail stations in Montgomery County. Some views of a block or two of nice looking, 5-story brick buildings along narrow, tree-lined roads with retail on the ground, condos and screened parking above were attractive, looking a bit more suburban, with more intense, high-rise building barely visible in the background. It was a marketing presentation more than anything.
3- Committee member Judy Pew raised question about all the large FARs being talked about and their appropriateness for the already stressed infrastructure at Wiehle Ave. Van Horn and other developers characterized this as “downtown”, “urban core” not suburbia! One audience response to this was, “No, that’s what Town Center area is supposed to be”. Several developers repeated what has become mantra response for poo-poohing all concerns about infrastructure like already failing intersections at Wiehle: “Don’t let constraints drive the vision; let the vision resolve the constraints.”
There is a huge divide on vision for Wiehle Avenue that emerged clearly in this meeting: Is Wiehle a maximum density city center OR is it a less intense residential and mixed-use, urban neighborhood or center around a rail station? The Committee has done the Task Force a service by formulating the issue, but it should now be resolved by the community, NOT profit-oriented developers.
The Committee members present discussed the merits of not talking in terms of F.A.R.s at all, but rather in terms of objectives and types of development in which areas and that kind of thing. This case for not specifying F.A.R.s again came from the development community.
A troubling moment occurred when a resident remarked politely that this area should be more residential and support mixed use than high density commercial. A committee member I believe is an architect shouted back at him—“that is YOUR view! You should make clear that you speak only for yourself! Others, including myself, certainly do not agree with you!” An undercurrent bubbling to the surface perhaps--residents, remember your places!?
The Committee will meet next Wednesday, 7:30 AM at new RA offices. Group will return to discussion of incentives structure for developers, the draft paper handed out on August 11.