Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Thursday, July 28, 2016

URGENT -- RA Giveaway of RA Deeded Open Space in RTCN

The following is the text of an e-mail Terry Maynard, Co-Chair, Reston 20/20, sent to the RA Board of Directors and others this morning in preparation for this evening's RA Board meeting.


Message body

Dear RA Board Members--

I regret having only belatedly read this month's Board packet because the last agenda item is a proposed MOU that is a plain and simply a giveaway of RA's deeded rights to ten acres of open space in Reston Town Center North (RTCN).  While both parties would acknowledge that RA has deeded rights to 10 acres of open space in RTCN, the MOU goes on to call everything not covered by concrete as open space, meaning RA will end up with essentially NO open space in RTCN.

Let's be clear about what the open space deed, the second of two deeds transferring RTCN land, says.  Here is the language in the deed:
(c)  No building, structures or improvement shall be built or placed on the property conveyed herein, except (a) structures which may be required for storm drainage or sanitary sewage purposes, or (b) any building, structure or improvement which, in the aggregate, covers no more than ten percent (10%) of the land area of this parcel and which is intended for recreational uses; and the property shall otherwise be left in its natural state.  This covenant shall run with the land and be binding on the Grantee and its successors and assigns, for a period of ninety-nine (99) years from the date hereof.
Let's walk through the items characterized as "open space" (p. 2-3 of the draft MOU):
  • Public Recreation Center--The Hunter Mill District does not have a regional recreation center and Restonians have been fighting for years to have the County build one as it has in every other supervisorial district.  The County has agreed to build one (when remains unknown) in RTCN.  That structure and the associated parking (even if combined with parking for other functions) will take at least THREE ACRES AND MAYBE AS MUCH AS FIVE.  While a rec center will clearly be "for recreational uses," it equally clearly will not be open space "left in its natural state."
  • Central Green and Related Streetscape--The central green--whose proposed acreage is not described in the MOU, but appears now to be less than six acres--is open space by any definition, but streetscapes definitely are not.  Streetscapes are an obligatory requirement for developers to insert a few trees, benches, and potted plants along the sidewalks they are required by County code to construct.  We have a few examples already in Town Center.  Surprising as it may seem, a 20' wide sidewalk area (with or without potted plants) typically comprises 5-10% of the total land area proposed for development.  With 34 acres to be developed (out of 40), that means a loss of already required streetscape acreage of between 1.7-3.4 acres.  The notion that required streetscapes should also be double counted as open space is patently absurd.
  • Parcel 3F--This parcel is part of the existing stormwater retention pond area west of Town Center Drive at Baron Cameron Ave.  It comprises 2.3 acres and is legitimate open space.
  • Other Designated Open Spaces--TBD.  Basically, "tree save" areas--the only defined space offered--are (like streetscapes) required to meet stormwater control and other legal requirements for development (or sometimes simply undevelopable).  In essence, this is again double-counting and certainly does not make for any coherent, usable open space for Restonians.
  • Open Spaces within Land Bays--While developers are expected to provide some open space with their individual development initiatives, the size of these spaces is always limited.  In its efforts to advocate for Reston's citizens, RCA proposed that 20% of all redeveloped space be devoted to open space--in the true sense of that concept--but that goal was struck from the Reston Master Plan in the final task force voting.  No similar language appears in the Comprehensive Plan, although Reston's Planning Principle #9 states, "High quality public open spaces will be required."  The phraseology in this MOU offers no assurance than even quality, much less quantity, will meet this planning principle, much less Restonians' needs.  It is also double-counting.
  • Open Space Contribution --  So, with even all these exemptions, if the County can't find 10 acres for true open space, then it can pay off RA according to this paragraph at the rate of $65,340/acre.  Does anyone really believe that this acreage is only work $65K/acre?  This is the inverse of the stupidity of the Tetra purchase where RA paid twice as much as required for a beat up property; now we're looking to get less than half of the real long-term market value of high-density land in RTCN.  Moreover, RA won't receive this funding until "the end of the development process," which is likely to take some four decades.  And who's to say when the process has ended?  Even at an average 2% inflation rate over that four-decade timeframe, that means RA will be receiving less than $30,000/acre in 2016 dollars.  At the minimum, this MOU ought to include an inflation factor for that acreage valuation--not to mention a fair market price for the land with its high-density potential (just like Tetra).

In contrast to this apparent willingness of RA to give away its deeded rights to open space, County guidelines indicate that RTCN SHOULD HAVE MUCH MORE OPEN SPACE than the 10 acres nominally allowed.  Attached is a paper I wrote on this topic early this year based on a discussion with Ellen Graves, Cate Fulkerson, and John McBride about the land use situation in RTCN.  ((See this link.))  I'll highlight two points based on an assessment of the proposed job and residential growth in RTCN under the new Reston Master Plan:
  • There should be at least 11.3 acres of park space in RTCN according to FCPA urban guidelines.
  • There should be at least 10 athletic fields requiring 16.7 acres of space in RTCN. 
Yet this draft MOU not only proposes not meeting the expectations Restonians have of RA to provide, as the planning principles state, "high quality public open spaces," but would fail to meet even the minimalist expectations of County park guidelines.

Once again, it appears the RA Board of Directors is on the way to selling out its members rather than fighting for them.

I respectfully request this e-mail be included in the Board's official meeting records for today. 

Sincerely,
Terry Maynard, Co-Chair
Reston 20/20 Committee

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for documenting these concerns. It is difficult if not impossible for the average individual residents/property owners to interpret and take appropriate action on complex issues such as this decision. I have not seen any mention of this and analysis of the pros and cons published in the regular emails RA sends out to residents. That is unfortunate.

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  2. The negotiations and draft MOU were kept secret until disclosed in this week's Board meeting materials. Even we were late to recognize the development until yesterday. And, yes, the Board approved the MOU last night with virtually no community input.

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