Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Letter to Reston Patch, "Comstock's Plans Not Consistent With Reston," Terry Maynard, Feb. 23, 2011

Note:  The Reston Patch has published two articles about the planned "Reston Station" development at the Wiehle Metro stop in recent days.  See this and this.  The following letter is a counterpoint to those articles. 


Many faults with station development at Wiehle.

It is important for readers to know that Reston’s three major civic groups—RA, ARCH, and RCA—as well as other Dulles Corridor groups, all opposed approval of Comstock's Reston Station conceptual development proposal in a variety of forums, including testimony to the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

The County staff denied Comstock’s initial proposal and had a number of criticism of the proposal approved by the supervisors.  The bottom line is that the county approved this development proposal because it had no alternatives and no time, having guaranteed the construction of a parking garage by the opening of the Wiehle Metro Station in 2013.

The result is that Restonians will be stuck for decades with an ugly, congestion-producing, pedestrian and environmentally unfriendly block of high rise buildings inconsistent with some basic principles of transit-oriented development (TOD).   Here are a few lowlights:
  • There is absolutely nothing architecturally excellent, even redeeming, about Comstock’s proposal. It reminds most Restonians of the worst of Crystal City development in its overwhelming mass and cubism.  I have called it “Fort Comstock” because of its fortress-like high-walled periphery, including the five stories of above ground parking.
  • Unlike the rest of Reston, it has virtually no usable public open space. It's plaza is about the same size as Reston's Lake Anne Plaza (Washington Plaza)and Lake Anne development is about one-tenth as dense.  Moreover, Comstock will allow traffic (none at Lake Anne) on the plaza, and it will virtually never see sunlight due to the overwhelming buildings around.
  • The design offers no opportunity for street-facing retail business activity, a cornerstone of making TOD areas attractive walkable areas.  Instead, it’s limited retail focuses inward on the small plaza/traffic loop. 
  • Block I (next to the Metro station) will be a congestion magnet, despite what Comstock's Parker says about it. It will add 5,000-plus parking spaces (2,300 for Metro underground, the rest above ground for its employees and residents) to an area that receives failing traffic grades even AFTER the marginal improvements Comstock has agreed to install.
In its March 19, 2010, report, the county staff criticized the proposal along the same lines, adding the following:

“Although the applicant [Comstock] has worked with Staff to resolve many of the issues originally identified with the application, a number of significant concerns remain which staff believes must be resolved prior to the approval of the application." (editor's note: Comstock has since addressed and improved many of these issues)
  • The need for stronger/more specific restrictions on vehicular access to the public plaza, as well as a clear definition of where access can and will be restricted during special events. The primary focal point of this development is intended to be the central plaza located in Block 1. However, without adequate restrictions on vehicular access in this area, its appeal as a gathering spot and recreational opportunity for the public is greatly diminished, if not destroyed.
  • Green Buildings: Although the Applicant's commitments concerning Green Buildings are somewhat improved, as discussed in the analysis there are three remaining issues which must be revised before staff can find this application in compliance with the Policy Plan and consistent with commitments received from other developers. (Need to omit the reference to a specific edition of LEED which could become obsolete; need to provide for an independent USGBC review; and need to release the green building escrow into a County fund, rather than back into the project.)
  • The need to revise the proposed TDM commitments as recommended by Staff to provide for effective penalties in the event that the development fails to achieve the TDM targets.
“In addition to these critical concerns, a number of points have been raised which staff believes would be highly desirable for the applicant to address; these include: 
  • Provision of additional definition within the Design Guidelines; especially as they pertain to temporary treatments along the plaza and walkways during the initial phases of development.
  • Provision of additional commitments to/definition of methods to address the concerns raised by the shadow study.
  • Provision of additional public open space and recreational amenities.
  • Need to revise the noise attenuation proffer to ensure that proposed attenuation measures and phasing will be adequate and that no residential development will occur in areas which exceed 75dBa Ldn as recommended by the Comprehensive Plan.
  • Offset of demand for public parks and recreational facilities through a Fair Share contribution and/or provision of in-kind public improvements.
  • Inclusions of a commitment to provide additional WFH (workforce housing) units above the minimum 12% in recognition of the County’s TOD goals and the unique opportunity provided by this high density mixed-used project.”
In short, Comstock’s development proposal did not measure up to county standards, much less Reston standards, but county officials approved it anyway.

It is not a development we can be proud of. 

Terry Maynard
(Terry Maynard is on the board of the Reston Citizens Association)

1 comment:

  1. we shouldn't turn down the volume...emails, calls and petitions ... this impacts every restonian and all that visit each and every day... what's the next step?

    ReplyDelete

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