Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Friday, August 27, 2010

RTF Wiehle Station Committee Meeting Notes, August 25, 2010, John Lovaas

Both Co-Chairs present—Bill Penniman and Andy Van Horn, JBG

The meeting opened with active public comment—DRogers, JStowers, JLovaas, AStrange, MMatthews.

Rogers noted strong presence of commercial developers in Town Center and Wiehle meetings leading groups to more commercial vs residential development proposals, high densities. Direction profit not community need driven. He also noted proposal to exempt residential development from workforce housing requirement contrary to the emphasis on commercial development creating demand for workers.

Lovaas pointed out that the public policy tool box contained various incentives for residential development, exempting workforce housing was least desirable in this case not only because of the need but also because this is Reston and housing for all income groups is a key principle here. Strange added that increased affordable housing is also a county priority. (Mark Looney inquired if that meant “more than the 12%”!? She said not necessarily.

Committee member Judy Pew added that she hoped indeed there would be provision for assuring housing for new entrants to workforce.

Paul Thomas suggested that getting residential going with largely commercial types involved promised to be difficult, would require creativity.

Another JBG Presentation – Next Van Horn introduced fellow JBG rep who made another marketing-type presentation, called “Making a Place”--about 20 minutes. Lots of lovely colored drawings and paintings of tree-lined urban sidewalks, sidewalk café scenes, bike lanes, public art and lots of benches filled with happy people. Turned out all the lovely pictures were taken off the net to show us how good urban life could be—no JBG or other actual known projects. Comments—would be better to see one of your concept drawings and then a photo of how it actually looks on the ground.

Rob Whitfield noted that not all of Reston is, nor hopefully will be, urban.

Closest to the Wiehle Station maybe.

Heidi Merkel asked, “is the dog and pony show over” so I can start? Heidi apparently came to get continuous Wiehle F.A.R. and developer incentives discussions back on what she regarded as a more productive track. She said the Committee would be most useful to the Task Force and her staff if their report dealt more with form than just densities. What kinds of development in which locations, maybe noting areas for greatest density and areas for lesser.

As a framework for discussion, she provided a handout map of the Wiehle area which showed a blue circle (1/4 mile) immediately around the Metro station—labelled Transit Station (Office) Mixed Use; the next area in rust color going out to half a mile marked Residential Mixed Use; and a yellow strip along the north side of Sunrise Valley Drive extending out to either edge of the rust ½ mile boundary, labeled Residential Transition. East of the circles the rest of the Wiehle Avenure Station area is lavender, meaning Office. [Am attempting to attach Heidi’s map for greater clarity!]

She noted community concerns about dense development creeping outside ½ TOD limits and stressed the need as John Carter has said, to focus on getting development closest to the station going in the early years. Van Horn said he didn’t see big deal if other projects out further preceded those closest in. Paul Thomas was skeptical but allowed that an exceptional project wanted by the community, and with great connectivity to the station area could be OK.

Heidi noted that GMU 20-year projections for non-residential development are less than is already permissible under the existing comprehensive plan [making doubtful all the developers’ pressure for leaps in F.A.R.s to double, triple, etc allowable commercial development). Mark Looney all but leaped out of his chair, wanting to know if Heidi was suggesting that Fairfax County would “artificially repress opportunities here so that they can go instead to places like Oxon Hill in Prince George’s County?!”

Paul Thomas saw need to especially encourage residential early on. Heidi said one way to get movement would be through cooperation among developers. No surge of interest on this suggestion.

Vornado rep thought Heidi had it all backwards—“how can you know what to build until you know how much you can build?” Need F.A.R.s first.

Paul Thomas argued that F.A.R. discussion should come later, as Heidi seemed to be suggesting, after we have a handle on infrastructure—especially transportation, civic and community goods needed so that we understand what is doable.

Mark Looney was back with the refrain, “Let’s not let constraints be the driver, not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Moving to end the meeting, Bill Penniman said he and Andy would be talking to structure for the next meeting an accelerated discussion going by land bays to determine a standard set of expectations, special things wanted and how to incentivize.

Earlier, Andy offered to provide overlays for Heidi’s map to include building heights, “intensities”, and landbays to facilitate discussion. Next meeting same time, same place (RA).

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