Reston Spring

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thoughts on the new Reston Master Plan, Terry Maynard, February 12, 2014

The following are the thoughts of Terry Maynard, Co-Chair, RCA Reston 2020 Committee, on the new Reston Master Plan.  We would love to post your thoughts either as a comment below or send them to and we will post them here. 

The Board's vote on the Reston master plan unfortunately went just about the way I and most other people expected.  I appreciate that Supervisors Herrity and Frey raised very legitimate concerns and voted against the Reston plan. 

Taking Supervisor Frey's concerns further, it will not only be nearly impossible for people beyond Reston to get to the toll road here, it will likewise be nearly impossible for most Restonians to reach the toll road, get to the Silver Line stations, or even cross our community because of the massive traffic gridlock along the corridor.  Even the County transportation staff expects this gridlock at the key intersections near the Dulles Corridor based on detailed engineering analyses.  They say drivers can expect multi-minute delays at each key intersection during peak morning and afternoon commuting periods.

And Supervisor Herrity is right on the money, quite literally, when questioning how we are going to pay for all the infrastructure this urban transition will require.  We have estimated that the transportation improvements--the three new crossings, the grid of streets, urban-style bus service, and safe new pedestrian and bicycle access--will cost at least one billion dollars in today's dollars.  Like Tysons, that number will probably double as the improvements occur over a multi-decade period, and that doesn't count interest paid on the bonds that will be necessary to finance the work. This failure to address the financing and phasing aspects of the plan's implementation is another classic case of kicking the proverbial can down the road. 

Despite Supervisor Hudgins' stated rejection of a new Reston tax, that will almost certainly be the ultimate outcome for Reston.  The only serious question is who in Reston will pay it.  Will the developers who stand to make huge profits from increased density step up to take the burden?  Will everyone in the urbanizing areas--businesses and residents alike--be forced to pay an added property tax as has occurred in Tysons?  Or will all of Reston get another special tax district added to our property taxes to fund the needed improvements in infrastructure?  We have no idea and the County is not saying if it has an idea, and that is what makes the passage of this plan especially troubling.

The other critical shortcoming in the plan is its failure to assure Restonians continued liberal access to open space, parks, recreation, and athletic facilities.  If nothing else, because Reston has been a planned community for a half-century, it provides abundant privately-held outdoor space and facilities for its residents through RA.  The new plan provides virtually nothing in the way of additional space or facilities, cutting a proposed 20% "minimum requirement" for open space to a "goal" and providing three athletic fields when the County standard is 25 for the projected population and even the urban framework would require twelve.  The result will be a huge increase in demand for existing facilities, public and RA, that will make Reston a less attractive place to live and work, much less to play.

Maybe what is most upsetting about the passage of the plan is the Board's rejection of the voices of the Reston community, including RA, RCA, and ARCH, especially on transportation, open space, and implementation matters.  As I noted in my testimony at the Board hearing, those voices were not only ignored by the Reston Task Force and at the Planning Commission hearing, but--to add insult to injury--several specific profit-pumping proposals by developers and their attorneys were approved.  With minor exceptions, including adding captions to photographs, the Board of Supervisors simply ratified the Planning Commission's version of the plan.  It's a failed process and outcome that I lay directly at the feet of Supervisor Hudgins.

If there is any good news to come out of the Board's decision, it is that the development allowed by the new plan will take decades to unfold.  Development will almost certainly not be as rapid as George Mason University forecast, a forecast that underpinned the Task Force's deliberations.  Moreover, it is clear to everyone except the County that the office space required for the development will be much smaller than the Task Force and the County assume.  These serious errors in the planning effort will allow future, more realistic revisions as long as developers don't lock in their development rights through pre-emptive re-zonings in the meantime.  Once a zoning request is approved, it can not be reversed in this Dillon Rule state.

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