Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Notes on the RTF Vision Committee Meeting, Feb. 16, 2011, Terry Maynard

Summary:  The Vision Committee spent its meeting session reviewing and editing, line-by-line, the Reston 2020-edited version of the Goudie-Nicoson Vision and Planning Principles (V&PP) statement.  The changes tightened and clarified the draft language and re-ordered some points, but did not materially affect the substance of the Reston 2020-edited draft.  The Committee will present the revised V&PP statement at the Reston Task Force meeting on Tuesday.  Given the time devoted to the statement, other agenda items were postponed.

Present:  John Bowman, Judith Pew, Van Foster, Milton Matthews, Art Murphy, Bob Simon, Fred Costello, Patty Nicoson, Bill Penniman, and co-chairs John Carter and Kohann Williams.  I may have overlooked others attending.  Heidi Merkel provided staff support.  Others there included RTF members Dick Kennedy and Nick Bauer.

The Draft V&PP Statement Review

Vision: 

Led by Kohann Williams, the discussion began by looking at the Reston 2020-edited version of the Nicoson-Goudie draft V&PP statement.  Several editorial changes were made.  For example, the sentence, “The community’s greatest densities will be at the three Metro station areas, which will be Reston’s livable urban centers” was shortened by deleting the last phrase (beginning with “which…”) The order was changed by moving the first bullet in the draft re protecting natural areas and the environment and developing cultural and other opportunities to the last bullet.

Planning Principles:

The first sentence of Principle #1 was shortened to state “The rail corridor will be transformed.”  The remaining portion of that sentence was created as a separate sentence.  (In general, the Committee tried to shorten the topical sentences of the planning principles without changing their meaning.)

One of the most extended discussions focused on the nature of Village Centers (VCs) as described in Principle #2 regarding the mix of Reston development.  Bob Simon vigorously and repeatedly pursued language concerning the VCs that would highlight them as community gathering places with a vibrant central plaza.  He only partially succeeded with this addition to the bullet on VCs:  “The village centers are important community gathering places.”  Heidi Merkel highlighted that the details of the VCs will be developed in Phase II of the RTF effort, so it was difficult to put more explicit language in this statement.  

(Comment:  I think that Bob Simon has an important concept in mind and he is most definitely right that the current VCs do not come close to his vision for these places.  Moreover, if we expect the V&PP to drive the work of the various other RTF committees, I do not understand why we should wait to define the essential character of VCs later.  While I do not necessarily share Simon’s vision of VCs, I think the committee took a “quick kick” on this topic to more through the review process.)

The next substantive discussion concerned Principle #6 on infrastructure, specifically the Reston 2020 phraseology that infrastructure improvement should be “concurrent” vice “phased” with development.  Several noted Virginia legal decisions that may preclude this kind of requirement, including input to the Committee from Goldie Harrison on Supervisor Hudgins’ staff.  In the end, the Committee retained the word “phased."

The last substantive discussion concerned Principle #9 regarding sustainability and green technology.  There was an extensive discussion of how this should be phrased, and Nick Bauer and Judith Pew broke off briefly to draft language for the Committee’s consideration.  The resulting paragraph added language to protect Reston’s tree canopy and dropped draft language to protect wildlife corridors and earn environmental stewardship awards.  (CommentI did not sense a significant weakening of the protection phraseology in the re-drafted principle, but we will have to wait to see the final language.)

The discussion on the planning principles closed with a re-ordering of the principles, beginning with moving the urban design excellence principle (#9 as drafted) and the environmental sustainability principle (#10) to the first two principles respectively.  As I captured the dialogue, the following other changes were made:
  • The infrastructure phasing principle (#6) became the third principle.
  • The Reston mix principle (#2) became the fourth principle.
  • The transformation of the rail corridor (#1) became the fifth principle. 
  • The others appeared to follow in their current order.
This thorough review lasted passed 9PM and the Committee was informed by the RCC staff that it needed to wrap-up its discussions.  The Committee decided to postpone its agenda, which had included finalizing its report and reviewing a draft presentation to the Task Force, to meetings on March 2nd and March 9th.  It will present its report on the revised V&PP statement at next week’s Task Force meeting. The meeting adjourned about 9:20PM.

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