Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Tetra Property is already heavily protected from development by environmental laws and other restrictions.

A key reason that RA alleges it wants to purchase this property for $2.65 million is to protect the open space from commercial development.  As RA President Ken Kneuven said in a RestonNow op-ed today, "By removing the commercial office/restaurant development potential on the site, we will be able to preserve and enhance the existing green space."

This $2.65 million purchase is, in fact, unnecessary.  The property is already well-protected from development by environmental laws and other major restrictions.

As was mentioned by Terry Maynard in his RestonNow Op-Ed, there is little space available on the Tetra property for expansion, and none along the shoreline because of an interstate compact, Virginia law, and a Fairfax County ordinance aimed at protecting the Chesapeake Bay from pollution.

One mechanism for protecting the Bay is the establishment of Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) on all the perennial  rivers, streams, lakes, etc., that flow into the Bay.  Lake Newport, on which the Tetra property abuts, is one of those areas.  The Fairfax County ordinance establishing this RPA calls for no new development in the streams, lakes, etc., that flow to the Bay OR within 100' of the shoreline.  Moreover, it calls for the restoration of existing development to a natural state over time.

A second mechanism that prevents unwanted development on the Tetra property is the designation of all the area west of the Tetra office building down through RA's parking area as a floodplain.  In general, this designation as a floodplain means that nothing can be built there that impedes the flow of flood waters to the area beneath the Lake Newport dam.  To impede that flow could cause the dam to collapse from excess pressure, imperiling the Lake Anne Village Center downstream.

Finally, more than half of the property is under RA easements, mostly for parking areas for tennis and next to the Tetra office building.  It also includes the two access roads that are part of the Tetra property.  In brief, if RA just says "no" to developers, this area cannot be developed.  We expect that is the reason RA was contacted about being a partner in initial discussions about putting a restaurant on the property.  Given that the talks fell through, we assume that RA gave a negative response.

Here's what that looks like as it affects the Tetra property:

What you see is that there are very small spaces to the southeast of the current Tetra building where some development could occur.  Both are up against RA easements for parking/roads and the southeast area lies below the Lake Newport dam.  For all practical purposes, this property cannot be redeveloped in a commercial manner whether it is "lakeside restaurant" or a convenience center or anything else as we know them in Reston no matter what County planning and zoning say because other federal, state, and local environmental laws stand in the way. 

The notion put forth by RA and its land use attorney that a lakeside restaurant could be built here because a zoning judgment allows it to justify RA paying a $2.65 million price is an idle threat if not an outright misrepresentation of the situation.  Zoning decisions are NOT the only laws that govern the use of a property and, in this case, the County's Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area ordinance precludes that or any other commercial lakeside development.  And building something in the small patches where development might be possible wouldn't be worth the County assessed value ($1.2MM this year), much less the $2.65MM RA is willing to have its members pay for it.


  1. Does Lake Newport really flow into the Bay? How does it do that? I thought all the Reston lakes were artificial creations. Their "natural state".... is farmland.

  2. Lake Newport (& Lake Anne) are part of the Difficult Run watershed, which flows into the Potomac River and then to the Bay.


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