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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

County Has New Longterm Plan to Boost Economy, RestonNow, February 4, 2015

Fairfax County officials have unveiled a new plan that will "strengthen Fairfax's economy for the 21st Century."
While Fairfax County boasts one of the strongest and largest economies in the region, a new strategy will ensure that that the economic climate remains strong in the 21st Century, said a release from the county. The proposed plan offers high-level policy recommendations to expand and diversify the economy. focusing on six goals to accomplish this. . .
The six goals:
  • Further diversifying our economy
  • Creating places where people want to be
  • Improving the speed, consistency, and predictability of the county’s development review process
  • Investing in natural and physical infrastructure
  • Achieving economic success through education and social equity
  • Increasing the agility of county government . . .
Click here to read the full article.

Reston 2020 added a comment to the article as follows:
Thank you for bringing this draft strategic plan to Reston's attention. Actually, other communities also ought to be looking at it. Having briefly reviewed the actual plan, I have a few comments on the section regarding "Create Places Where People Want to Be."
First, I couldn't help but notice the few photos in this section of the report were all of Reston locations. It suggests quite strongly that Reston is a place people want to be.
Second, in this section, the draft strategy emphasizes the expansion of the transit station areas. It notes the following:
  • Section 2.2.a: "Explore creation of 20 Minute Neighborhoods where a variety of housing options and jobs are linked by high capacity transit to support clusters of opportunity and innovation." A "20 Minute" anything is a ONE-mile ring from the Metro stations, doubling the current HALF-mile walkability ring.
  • Section 2.3.b: "Include the concept of expanded Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in future planning efforts by increasing the radius distance recommended for higher densities from ¼ mile to at least ½ mile around mass transit stations, such as Metrorail, light/heavy rail, or other rapid transit stations." Like the preceding, this doubles the distance for the highest density development and the commercial vs. residential focus.
Third, it also highlights the importance of developing amenities that improve quality of life in the face of recent evidence of County actions to the contrary:
  • Section 2.3.d: "Support the creation of a premier performing and other arts facilities in Tysons or possibly other activity centers, as both a community amenity and economic generator." Why Tysons and not Reston (where a performance center is included in the Master Plan) or even Springfield's new urban center? This is the only place in the draft strategy where a specific location is suggested for providing a public amenity. And the County wants Restonians to pay for one if it is built through its internal Reston tax special tax district; it's NOT a county investment in our community at all.
  • Section 2.6: "Continue to improve the overall quality of life to sustain Fairfax County’s reputation as a great place to live, work, play, and learn by protecting established neighborhoods and maintaining our superior public schools, parks, libraries, and public safety services." The Reston Master Plan for the station areas does NOT provide adequate, much less "superior", parks and libraries for the 50,000-plus who will live there. Indeed, the county's libraries are being abused by its administration and the Board through continuous cuts in their budget, staffing, and collection going back a decade.
So my question is: If we live in a place that is a place where people want to be, why would we want to change it in ways that would detract from our quality of life? Moreover, why is the county unwilling to invest in Reston to make it better? Part of the answer lies in the fact that the committee that put this together is dominated by developer and other business interests focused on high-density development and County officials who know they have limited tax revenues.
For those of you interested, the draft strategy is available here:
We would also note that, in light of the recent County streamlining the development proposal approval process through "Fairfax Forward," it is easy to interpret the section titled "Improving the speed, consistency, and predictability of the county’s development review process" is little more than an effort to further allow the railroading of development proposals without meaningful community participation.

Little, if anything, in this draft strategy protects the quality of life of existing residents in Reston or elsewhere in the County.

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