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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lake Anne Fellowship House Plan Falls Apart, RestonNow, September 3, 2014

RestonNow's Karen Goff reported yesterday:
Plans to redevelop Lake Anne Fellowship House have been put on hold indefinitely — and it looks as though some current residents of the affordable housing for seniors may have to pay higher rents in order to stay in the building.
Fellowship Square and Novus Residences had been working for more than a year on plans to tear down the senior housing in need of remodeling and rebuild on the site 140 affordable housing units as well as 285 market-rate housing units.
Most of the balance of the article focuses on comments by Edward Byrnes, a member of the Fellowship House Foundation board and chair of its Lake Anne Redevelopment Committee, and a letter he wrote to the County withdrawing their application with a bitter tone, generally blaming the County for the outcome. 

In fact, the outcome was one of Fellowship House Foundation's own making, aided by NOVUS Residences, an area developer.  The Foundation's proposal explicitly ignored two key provisions of the Lake Anne Comprehensive Plan, modified a few years ago after a decade of community participation in its development.  Those two key provisions are:
  • The total number of apartments allowed on the property redeveloped on its own would not exceed 320 units.  The Foundation and NOVUS proposed 425 units, the maximum number permitted IF the property were developed in partnership with other nearby areas in a single plan.  That condition was not met.
  • Any redevelopment of the Lake Anne Fellowship House should accommodate ALL the low-income residents in the new development or in the immediate Lake Anne area.  The Foundation and NOVUS proposed throwing out the residents of 100 apartment units, offering them useless Section 8 vouchers to "go fish" for affordable housing elsewhere.  
Terry Maynard, Reston 2020 Co-Chairman, responded to the article--and especially Byrnes' sour commentary--in the comments section of the article as follows:  
While I appreciate the difficulty the financial hardship this turn of events may put all LAFH residents in, let's be perfectly clear: The so-called "safety net" Section 8 vouchers that offered " "Permanent, Portable Direct Housing Subsidies To All 240 Residents For The Rest of Their Lives" were not worth the paper they would have been printed on.
There is NO available Section 8 housing in the Lake Anne area or Reston, and there certainly isn't enough in the County for all 240 LAFH Section 8 residents. And, as I said here before, you can't live in a voucher. (See the dialogue between NOVUS President Seldin & myself in the comments on an earlier RestonNow article here: )
At least now the residents of LAFH will have the option of staying or leaving based on their own decision, not the greed-driven motivation of developers.
I appreciate very much that County officials stuck to their guns and to the Lake Anne Master Plan--which took a decade to develop--that called for any redevelopment of the LAFH property to house all the residents in the Lake Anne area. Moreover, the NOVUS redevelopment proposal was for 425 apartments, a quantity of apartments allowed ONLY under the plan's "consolidated" option, that is, in coordination with the Crescent Apt. area and the LA plaza parking/office building at the minimum. Of course, this proposal didn't comply with that requirement as Republic is developing the other two areas independently.
In short, the management of Lake Anne Fellowship House and NOVUS Residences has no one to blame for the failure of their proposal other than themselves. They tried to bully the County into ignoring its own Planning Commission and Board approved plan, using the prospective displacement of the less fortunate residents of LAFH as leverage, and their cynical plan to profit failed miserably.
LAFH management still has 2 years to have approved a redevelopment proposal that meets the requirements of the Lake Anne area plan: One that provides subsidized housing locally for all current residents and proposes to build no more than 320 units as permitted under the "redevelopment" option--that is, without working with others in the Lake Anne area, a course of action they could have avoided years ago.
And thank you to the County for sticking to the Lake Anne Comprehensive Plan. We all will weather this storm.

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