Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Notes from the Reston Task Force Meeting, March 15, 2011, Dick Rogers

                                      R. ROGERS
                                      16 March 2011


RESTON MASTER PLAN TASK FORCE MEETING: 15 MARCH


Summary: The Task Force approved the Vision and Planning Principles statement!  But only after considerable debate on the sections on the environment and re-development around the Village Centers.


Admin Items:

Summary Approval:  The Task Force (TF) approved the summary of its February 22, 2011, meeting without discussion.

Letter to MWAA re Air Rights:  A draft follow-up TF letter to MWAA on air rights is on hold because of developer concern that the $34 million involved is too expensive and could hold up Phase 2 of Metro.  On the other hand, the same developer argued that the $64 million cost for delaying a decision would be a drop in the bucket compared with the billion dollar development that would be involved.  A member of the TF noted that the TF needed to highlight the importance of air rights to MWAA in Reston’s TOD effort.  Another noted that the TF would probably “only get one shot at this” and urged it be sent forward. Patti Nicoson said she would review the draft. 

           Visitability has been raised with the TF.  Heidi Merkel, County DPZ staff, will look into county policies on this accessibility issue.

           Chairman Patti Nicoson noted that Terry Maynard at Reston 2020 had asked that his analysis of various levels of proposed density be put on the county website.  However, since some assumptions are not clear, Heidi will go back and work with Terry to get more clarity before putting it on the web.

Public comments:

Affordable Housing:  Tom Loftus, Equitable Housing Institute of Northern Virginia, urged the TF to promote a good balance between residential and office in the TOD areas. His organization advocates 1 housing unit for each 1.5 jobs. He also noted that a good economic balance was needed in the type of housing offered. He said his organization had sent a letter on this to the TF on this topic.

RA Letter on Environment:  Freya de la Cola, a spokesperson for RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee, noted that the EAC has prepared and the RA Board had approved a letter sent to the TF calling for the strengthening of the Vision & Planning Principles statement on protecting Reston’s natural resources. 

Vision Committee (VC) Report

John Carter presented an overview on the VC report (available on county website). Reaction was notably mute with the exception of endorsements for a memorial garden and additional crossings of the DTR.  (The full VC report is available here on the Reston 2020 blog.)

Vision & Planning Principles Statement

           A one hour and 20 minute discussion was held (the agenda had allowed 15 minutes!). Two issues dominated—environment and village centers/protection of residential neighborhoods. Robert Goudie’s amendments were the centerpiece of this discussion (his was the only alternative language graphically presented to the group).

           On Planning Principle #2 concerning the environment, the discussion went two ways. Goudie and developers proposed softening the statement that natural areas will be “protected and restored.”  RA, whose spokesperson Freya de la Cola spoke earlier, proposed additional wording that added the word “remedied” to adverse impact on the environment and protected Reston’s tree canopy as of environmental significance.  The Task Force split the difference by adopting both proposals!

             On the neighborhoods section of Planning Principle #4, Goudie proposed wording protecting existing residential areas “outside the Town Center, rail corridor, and Village Centers, inferentially including these areas--especially the Village Centers—as potentially “targeted” for additional development and density. Concern was expressed about how this would affect existing neighborhoods in the VCs. Heidi Merkel added to this by noting that the boundaries of the VCs sometimes included residential areas beyond the existing shopping areas, even including single family houses. It was noted that some areas around the village centers include garden apartments which provide affordable housing. Initially the TF was going to defer on all this but later Goudie suggested deleting his language that “target” the village centers for redevelopment.  This leaves somewhat ambiguous what will happen around the VCs. This was approved by a vote that was not clear.

            Other points inserted by Goudie were added but some of his excessive verbiage dropped.  An attempt to remove the label “highest priority” from additional DTR crossings was successful but his attempt to delete “abundant” open space was replaced by “high quality publicly accessible open space”.

The overall principles were approved, apparently by a 17 to 2 vote.

            Comment: The procedures used during these votes were highly unorthodox, if not misleading.  No roll was taken at the beginning of the meeting, no effort made to establish the credentials particularly of alternates (some sat out the vote even though only about ¾ of the regular TF members were present). The wording being voted on was not always apparent to the members.  Discussion was truncated and disorganized.  Opposing votes were not counted, and voting results were left unclear.

Steering Committee Update

            In the last 15 minutes Heidi presented an overview of the work of the Steering Committee in determining station “character,” including brief summaries the SC developed for the “character” of each station.  There was no time for discussion — and no one was interested in discussion as the clock approached 10 PM. Heidi noted she may propose these character statements for a vote at the next TF meeting.

Next meetings

  • Steering Committee. The SC will meet next Wednesday, March 23, at 8AM, at the North County Govt Center. It will look at “massing” of buildings and continue discussion on mix of uses.
  • Next TF meeting: April 5, 7 PM, place to be determined.

    

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