Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Notes on the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, March 29, 2011, Dick Rogers

UPDATE:   See end of this meeting report for information on the final 10 minutes of this meeting.

                                       30 March 2011
                                       R. Rogers
    
STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING: 29 March 2011

     Summary:  Perhaps because committee attendance was so poor, not a lot was accomplished and many issues discussed were just rehash.  The DPZ handouts on “TOD planning objectives” and the Wiehle station area were noteworthy because they highlighted some important issues.

     Attendance: The poorest attendance of any SC I have been to (Nicoson, Penniman, Goudie, Riegle, Van Foster, Looney). Usual three DPZ staffers plus Fred Selden and Goldie Harrison continues to show importance DPZ extends to this group.

     Admin: Patti Nicoson noted some of the various meetings she has been to.  She also noted that FC BOS has endorsed station names (see this post). She added that a judge has ruled that MWAA is not subject to Virginia FOIA laws!

     TOD “Planning Objectives

     Heidi Merkel, DPZ staff, passed out a set of TOD planning objectives to the committee (hopefully will be on the FC website soon).  (NOTE: We will update this post when they are available.  The two presentations used by the Steering Committee, both very informational, are posted at the following links:
 They are noteworthy because they emphasize some important objectives lost in the TOD sub-committee (subcom) reports and suggest approaches that may be needed to achieve them.     Some of the 8 “objectives” and approaches:
  • Highest FARs for mixed use redevelopment rather than just in-fill development
  • High quality access to station platforms. Links higher office development to good access portals (presumably this has in mind South side Wiehle and south TC stations.  I also asked if she had North side of Herndon in mind.)
  • Specific “location” for civic and cultural facilities incented by higher FARs.
  • “Designated” open space areas
  • Link increased development potential to contributions to improve area wide transportation network.
Comment: These “objectives” to a large degree complement the “Planning Principles” approved at the 15 March TF meeting. They get close to thinking about how proffers and FARs can be linked to implementation.  There was little discussion of this handout by committee members.
    
Wiehle Station

     The bulk of the meeting was focused on Heidi’s handouts on the Wiehle station area.  They included charts with Wiehle subcom proposed developments and jobs and housing balance. They also featured several slides and maps that emphasized key Wiehle issues:  
  • More office development close to station, mixed use elsewhere, except predominantly residential in Issac Newton Sq.
  • Property owner contributions to Reston Station Blvd (north side of immediate station area), the grid and W&OD overpass.
  • The need for a Soapstone extension sooner (suggesting land and financial contributions from developers).
  • The urgent need for south side Wiehle bus and kiss and ride access from South Reston (in Vornado land).
Some discussion was old hat.  Were the TOD circles based on the platform location or the touch downs on each side (answer: the former). Some chiding that TOD circles do not match up with land bays.

     The time horizon of 20 years for projected development was questioned.  Basically, developers see only part of this development potential being achieved in the 20-year period.  The question is do we want to increase the level of development over 20 years projected by an “X” factor to encourage development within the timeframe.  No decision taken.

     Transportation: Heidi noted that analysis already shows considerable congestion at the current development level. How will a 50-60% increase impact this?

     She also expressed concern that planning and the desire to get needed proffers for Soapstone and other things not provide incentives for too much office development outside the core station area.

     Mark Looney, as he has done before, noted that there will be a need for substantially increased office development in the Dulles transit corridor if projected GMU FC job growth is to be accommodated. Fred Selden, head of DPZ, downplayed this, saying there now is considerable development potential in other FC areas as well as in the corridor.

     Fred Selden also raised the rarely discussed issue of projecting substantial high-rise residential development.  He noted this ignored the fact that there is a limited market (youngsters and oldsters) for such housing. He noted that many assume residential needs can be met by pushing up density through high rises, but that this creates a limited market. He was concerned that too much of this type of housing cannot be absorbed.

     Robert Goudie briefly raised the issue of more residential development at Wiehle but this was not pursued. Greg Riegel expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress.

     (At this point--9:10PM--I had to leave and I missed the conclusion of the meeting.)

UPDATE:  

Two attendees have passed on word of what happened in the last ten minutes of the SC mtg on 29 March after I left.
 
    More discussion but no great points made.
 
    Mark Looney and Greg Riegle offered to come up with revised material apparently relating to Wiehle station. This was accepted.    During the discussion they had been very concerned that the figures tabled by DPZ and the Wiehle committee did not provide enough excess (presumably FARs and people) to encourage developers to re-develop existing properties.  They spoke of the need for a "X" factor to be built into the plan.
 
    If this is what their contribution will be, it bears watching.  The idea of a "plan" with "excess" built in does not make a lot of sense to me (one of the justifications of the Town Center com for their 5 FARs is the need for "excess" to encourage development).

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