Reston Spring

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Reston Spring

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Notes on the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, April 15, 2011, Dick Rogers

UPDATED:  I have appended Heidi Merkel's e-mail to the Steering Committee on Jobs/Housing balance to the end of these Steering Committee notes.  Please note that the Committee recommendations, as described in the e-mail's table, call for a allowing a doubling of both the number of jobs and households in Reston over the next 20 years.  

The continuing 3:1 J/HH ratio substantially exceeds the 2:1 community-wide J/HH ratio suggested by urban planning researchers, and the 2:1 J/HH (i.e.--close to equal job and residential populations) ratio proposed for TOD areas by Reston 2020 to maximize Metro use and minimize congestion growth and environmental damage.  Calculating the projected impacts on working residents (1.6/HH) and commuting workers suggests that congestion and related environmental damage Reston-wide would increase by about 20%--the bulk of that probably along the Dulles Corridor where density will be greatest. 

                                       15 April 2011
                                       R. Rogers

     Summary: DPZ unveiled a proposal that the plan be very flexible, particularly regarding density and FARs.  This would involve each individual project submitting zoning requests and an amendment to the overall master plan. It will present this proposal to the 26 April Task Force meeting along with overall work done by the Steering Committee.  However, no votes or final decisions are anticipated.

     Attendance: 9 out of 12 present.  Also attending: Mike Corrigan and John Bowman from RCA; DPZ’s Fred Selden too.

     Patti Nicoson, RTF chairman, noted the death of Susan Mockenhaupt. She noted the negative reaction to the MWAA station decision.  Also that Herndon planning officials have another mtg on the station area on 18 April.

     Jobs/Housing Balance
     Heidi Merkel, DPZ, referred to data assembled by DPZ on the current and future ratios (unfortunately, so far this has not been made available to the public). She noted the consensus at the last meeting that there not be a prescriptive balance ratio, just an advisory one.

     John Carter questioned the accuracy of the county data, saying 75,000 current jobs seems high.  He thinks this may include a lot of small business work at home by people in the residential areas.  He also said the longer term figure, apparently a doubling of jobs based on GMU projections, seems way too high given the infrastructure limitations.

     “Flexible Plan Framework”
     The bulk of the meting focused on a new county proposal that the master plan have a “flexible framework” (Heidi M’s talking points on this hopefully will go onto the country website).

     Essentially, this would involve flexible formulas (for example a range of FARs rather than a set number) that would latter be reviewed in the context of specific zoning requests. The zoning request would be accompanied by a plan amendment that would then be reviewed too.

     In addition to a FAR maximum, the plan would include FAR minimums designed to encourage mixed use and discourage more suburban style development.  The overall development level would be set at 120% of the GMU 2030 forecast (some noted that this would be approximately the same as the 2040 GMU forecast).

     Fred Selden extensively entered the discussion to explain the need for flexibility:
  • One is to encourage mixed use.
  • Another is to not have to “crystal ball” density levels for specific properties.
  • Another would be how best to allow for development of specific properties in phases
  • There is a need to better deal with the prospect of infill development where existing buildings remain.
  • Another is to undertake periodic review as development progresses.
He said this was somewhat similar to approaches used in Bailey’s Crossroads and Annandale.

     There were many questions about the approach as the SC members tried to clarify its implications.  Apparently DPZ will present this concept to the entire Task Force on 26 April.

     Comment: Although providing flexibility, it would mean continual community monitoring as the plan evolves. In this context, it is unfortunate that the Reston PZ does not have anyone on the SC and Richard Kennedy, a PZ member who has been a regular SC “guest,” was not present.

     Comment: Although not directly mentioned, the flexible formula also seems designed to restrain the Town Center sub com approach of indiscriminate 5 FARs everywhere. Heidi at one point noted that “what we are saying” is that not all properties in TC would be able to go to a 5.  At another point she suggested that the plan could endorse “in principle” the 5 FAR idea but apply it only in “some places.”  The staff’s earlier 29 March document on “TOD Area Planning Objectives” also sought to link higher FARs to specific plan objectives such as access to the stations.

     RTF Meeting
     The 26 April Task Force meeting will also include DPZ presentations on the character and mix of uses at each station area, particularly Wiehle, using the DPZ density maps presented in earlier weeks.

     The Next SC Meeting will be Wednesday morning 4 May.  In addition to reviewing the “flexible plan” idea Heidi M hopes to start dealing with transportation/connectivity, open space and urban design. John Carter reminded the group that the Vision Com report has a lot to say about all these issues.

E-mail from DPZ's Heidi Merkel to Steering Committee members regarding the prospective jobs/housing ratio Reston-wide:

Dear Steering Sub-committee members,

At last week’s meeting staff was asked to develop some additional Jobs: HH ratios to your information.  We are providing these ratios to you prior to tomorrow’s meeting because it is my intent to present this material very briefly as an information item at the meeting and then move on from the Jobs:HH debate. 

The table below shows the Jobs:HH ratios for the entire Reston community for the following scenarios which were discussed during the last meeting: 
  • Council of Governments (COG) “snapshot” for 2010 (for comparison purposes – this ratio changed a little bit from the previous 2.98 number because of a correction to the geography to better match the study area);
  • the Current Comprehensive Plan recommendations;  
  • the Sub-committee recommendations (for Herndon-Monroe area we used the staff-generated FARs and 50-50 residential-non-residential mix from A2 scenario; for Town Center, we used a 5.0 FAR for the areas designated in the report and a 50-50 mix; for Wiehle Avenue, we used the FARs and mixes from the report as discussed last week). 
It is important to note that we assumed that 80% of the theoretical full build-out would occur in each of the Current Plan and Sub-committee recommendations scenarios. 

  2010 COG Current Plan Committee Recs
Jobs 75,553 108,565 150,788
Households 25,091 33,609 49,505
Ratio 3.01 3.23 3.05

The meeting agenda is below.  Please note the meeting location is Reston Association, Room 128/C.  See you tomorrow. 

Heidi T. Merkel, AICP
Senior Planner
Planning Division
Department of Planning and Zoning
direct phone: 703.324.1383

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