Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Note on the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, February 23, 2011, Dick Rogers

                                          R. Rogers
                                        24 Feb 2011

NOTES ON THE
STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING: 23 Feb 2011

Summary: This was the most extensive, spirited and knowledgeable discussion of issues in the “checklist” so far. Although developer-resident differences in perspective were evident, the discussion was not adversarial.

     Attendance: All present! Also attending DPZ’s Fred Selden and Goldie Harrison.

     P Nicoson introduced a facilitator from the Perspective Group who apparently will be called on to help the process along.  She just observed. (How will this work?).

     Comment: The attendance and the tepid discussion of the SC role Tuesday night at the TF re-enforces the message that the SC will be the locus of decision making on the future of the TOD areas.

     Public comments: Dick Rogers picked up on the previous weeks mention by Judy Pew to point out that the checklist discussion of South Town Center was deficient and did not even reflect the TC sub-coms language that this area would be different from TC. Heidi Merkel and Patty Nicoson said they had been discussing this very issue and implied that new language would be forthcoming.

     Checklist: Heidi noted changes in version 4 of the checklist, particularly deletion of the sub-committee’s points in favor of retaining the “staff summary of the sub-committee guidance.” (Comment: This process subtlety lets the DPZ staff pick the issues to go into the plan.)

     In response to my question, Heidi said the deletion of much material from “checklist # 4” on open space and recreation was because they intend to have an FC Parks person in to discuss this issue at a future meeting.

     Substance: The bulk of the meeting was a  discussion of a few points in the “form” section of the checklist.

     Sunrise Valley as ”grand green boulevard”: This picked up from the discussion last week.  Most concluded that this was a good idea but that there should be differences in approach in various areas. Robert Goudie said he viewed it as a waste of county money to make any improvements in Sunrise Valley Drive near Polo Fields and South Wiehle.  He said that who knows, in 20-50 years these areas within the ½ mile TOD boundary may be re-developed.  Heidi Merkel put an end to the discussion, noting that the terms of reference for the station areas specifically ended at Sunrise Valley Drive.

     Building heights: The staff raised the issue of whether the plan should include height limitations.  John Carter used the opening to question the heights being suggested, particularly for Town Center, saying the increases were “gigantic.”  There was vigorous discussion of restrictions with developers saying the “market” should be the determinant.  The consensus, however, seemed to be that height should be put in the report but used as an incentive for getting other things (design, open space etc).

     Parking and garages:  The height discussion led Fred Selden to point out that height (and by implication density) had important implications for parking.  He cited the case of a 12 story parking garage somewhere in the county. He was concerned that this could lead to large massive garages.

     John Carter vigorously questioned whether there should be any garages on pedestrian routes to Metrorail.

     Peter Otteni later questioned wording on p 6 in the checklist saying that garages should be below grade.  He noted that in Fairfax County there would be only limited money and design opportunities for this (and certainly not in D-4 owned by his employer, he noted). There seemed to be a consensus that underground garages should be encouraged but that they should not be required  in all TOD areas (The p 6 wording also talks of garages being lined with retail or located in the center of blocks but this was mostly skipped over.)

     Goudie noted that the Town Center report said that parking requirements should be relaxed in part to deal with this problem.

     The County staff promised to provide more information on parking practices and requirements as well as sidewalk widths.

     Next: The SC will meet Wednesday, 8AM, 2 March and Tuesday, 7PM, 8 March, locations to be determined.  Among things to be discussed is a presentation to the Task Force on 15 March.

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