50 Shades of Autumn in Reston

50 Shades of Autumn in Reston
Autumn on Lake Thoreau

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Notes on RTF Report Writing Meeting, January 9, 2013, Terry Maynard


This morning’s meeting was well attended by committee members and involved extensive discussion on feedback from committee members on the initial draft and next steps in the report writing effort.   The following summarizes some of the key issues discussed.

Community Outreach.   Several members of the committee identified the need to keep the public informed about the progress of the task force report effort.  We agreed to present to the full Reston Task Force (RTF) at its next meeting (January 29, 7PM, place TBD) with an updated version of the two-page “performance standards” for discussion and likely approval at the subsequent RTF meeting.  The report writing committee will finalize the proposed statement at its January 23 meeting (8:30 AM, probably at RA HQ). 

Stronger recommendation language.   The committee generally agreed that the report’s language needed to be stated more strongly and less equivocally than presented in the initial draft.  As one member said, “We need to just say what we want.” 

Density, allocation, absorption issues.  A couple of committee members noted that we have so far avoided the difficult issues of development density, mix of uses, and future absorption in the draft report.  (The absorption issue focuses on assumptions used by County staff in assessing traffic and other impacts of development in the 2030 timeframe.  The standard assumption—83% of full build out—is viewed by some as too high and, in the traffic impact analysis, showed unacceptably high levels of gridlock.)  It was pointed out that the initial draft highlighted the task force’s vision of the several station areas’ density and mix without going into specific values, which would be highly controversial given the differences between developer and community interests. 

  • The comments raised a related issue of whether we would be responding to the County staff’s proposed Comprehensive Plan language—which would include density (“FARs”—a measure of allowable square footage) and mix (percent residential and non-residential) values.  The sense seemed to be that the task force ought to have its own vision of these issues independent of County staff as the report evolved, and we may be able to bridge the two in a final report.
  • The comments also raised a discussion about the “bucket issue,” that is, the allocation of a certain level of development across a “district” or similar broad area rather than by property.  The issue raises questions about the “race to the court house” by individual developers to get as much of the allocation as they might want either for development or to increase the land value for a future sale.  One suggestion was deferring the allocation to later in the project approval process (vice when an application is received).  One knowledgeable committee member pointed out that this is extremely complicated in the best of circumstances and may not be possible in Virginia.

Implementation.  A committee member noted that the draft report touched on implementation issues at a few points and suggested we either needed to cover the topic in some depth or not at all.  In particular, while current processes (re-zonings, proffers) are adequate for normal development purposes, they are probably inadequate for the urban transformation proposed by the task force.  Language in the Tysons Task Force report was cited as an example.  We don’t need a full blown implementation scheme—the Tysons financing plan was approved only yesterday, two years after the plan’s approval—but we need to highlight potential approaches and key issues.  Terry Maynard agreed to take on the task of writing a brief implementation section for consideration by the committee.

Summary and repetitiveness.  Several committee members thought the report was too repetitive and, relatedly, that the summary was too long.  An alternative draft summary was presented.  The issue of repetitiveness was not resolved, although there appeared to be a consensus toward condensing the summary, which would help reduce repetition.

Graphics.  A strong argument was made by several committee members for the extensive use of graphics—maps, photos, charts, etc.—throughout the task force report as an effective way to present information, especially that which is difficult to describe in words.  The use of graphics in the Vision and Planning Principles report was cited as an excellent example.  Committee members were asked to provide graphics they thought would help in this effort. 

The committee will meet again at 8:30 AM, Wednesday, January 23, probably in the RA headquarters conference area. 




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