Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Reston Citizens Association statement on the proposed Reston PRC zoning amendment, October 18, 2017

Reston has long prospered as one of the nation's first and most successful planned communities. For over fifty years Reston has lived up to its motto of "Live, Work, Play" because of a carefully maintained balance between development, infrastructure and open space. The unique nature of Reston is threatened, however, when this balance isn't maintained. The County's present proposal to significantly increase the overall population of Reston without providing adequate infrastructure is harmful to the interests of present and future residents of Reston and to the County itself.

The Reston Citizens Association strongly encourages the County to withdraw its proposal and identify a way to balance infrastructure needs before proposing any increased density to ensure Reston will be a successful community for another fifty years and beyond.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Re-Post: Op-Ed: County’s Doomed High-Density Residential Development Strategy, RestonNow, July 31, 2017

The following is a re-post of the op-ed in RestonNow written by Terry Maynard, Co-Chair, Reston 20/20 Committee. 

Fairfax County’s development strategy of pursuing high-density residential development around Metro stations and other commercial centers (e.g. — Seven Corners, Lake Anne Village Center) will fail in its fundamental goal of generating large new tax revenues. This is due to the demonstrated fact that the cost of community services for residential services substantially exceeds the revenue it generates.

The need for massive new County tax revenues is driven primarily by the deteriorating fiduciary position of its four pension funds (civilian, police, uniformed, and education). At the beginning of the century, all four funds were essentially fully funded (97 percent to 102 percent), but they have deteriorated almost continuously since then. The FY2016 County annual financial report shows a $4.7 billion funding shortfall despite the quadrupling of County (and additional employee) contributions since 2000. That represents about a one-quarter shortfall in required funding across the four funds. This growing shortfall is why Moody’s issued a warning on the County’s AAA bond rating several years ago and the County made a commitment then to reach 90 percent funding by 2025. One obvious approach to addressing such a shortfall is to dramatically increase development that creates new taxable value. 

From Reston’s perspective, this has taken the form of two County zoning initiatives linked to the revised Reston Master Plan:
  • The passage last year of an amendment to the PDC/PRM (Planned Development Commercial/Planned Residential Mixed-Use) zoning ordinances to increase the allowable density from FAR 3.5 to FAR 5.0. From a Reston perspective, this primarily affects the Herndon-Monroe and Wiehle station areas as well as the southern half of Reston Town Center. The zoning ordinance also covers Commercial Revitalization Areas (CRAs), including Lake Anne Village Center. The two ordinances focus on commercial and residential mixed-use development respectively, and the residential-focused PRM would allow up to as many as 200 dwelling units per acre (DU/AC) at FAR 5.0. No place in the Washington metropolitan area has that much density.  
  • The recently proposed amendment to the Reston PRC (Planned Residential Community) which would increase the community-wide population density from 13 to 16 people per acre, about 21,000 people. More importantly, it places no limits (except Board discretion) on the number of DU/AC in “high density” development areas. This includes the Town Center north of the toll road and Ridge Heights to the south. Making the matter worse, the Reston plan was amended behind closed doors (not by the Reston planning task force) to eliminate any limits on high density multi-family development. Currently, the limit is 50 DU/AC.  
Aside from the many reasons Restonians do not want the intensity of residential development allowed in Reston, there is one vital reason for the County not to want to pursue this ultra high-density residential development strategy: The cost of community services (COCS) for residential development — especially high-density development — exceeds the tax revenues it generates. Residents require schools, streets and other transportation, parks and recreation, libraries, and much more. This is especially important in the ongoing dialogue about increasing residential density in Reston’s PRC zoned area.  

Research on this issue by the US Government, private sector, and academia is extensive and it virtually all comes to this same conclusion. All these studies highlight the importance of methodology, assumptions, other values than tax revenue in development decisions, etc., but none we have discovered suggest that residential development will ever generate a net gain in tax revenues for the County.   

Probably the benchmark study on COCS is an overview by the Farmland Information Center (FIC) of the American Farmland Trust in a public private partnership with the US Department of Agriculture last September. The overview records the results of analysis of the COCS by type of development in more than 150 communities, counties, etc., across dozens of states over more than two decades. The results of FIC’s studies show that, on average, for every dollar in tax revenues generated by tax revenues, the median residential development is a cost $1.16 in community services, a 16 percent loss. By contrast, commercial and industrial development costs $.30 in community services for every $1 generated in tax revenues, a better than three-fold tax revenue return for the County.

A second, academic “meta-analysis” of more than 100 communities across the country came to the same conclusion, but with slightly different results. It put the mean cost of residential services at $1.18 per dollar of tax revenue, and Commercial/Industrial and Agriculture/Open Space were also slightly less advantageous at $.44 and $.50 per dollar of tax revenue than in the FIC overview.

An additional important finding of this study is that the addition of 10,000 residents increases the residential ratio by one percent, that is, from $1.18/dollar to $1.192 per dollar. An implication of that finding is that the addition of 80,000 new residents to Reston’s station areas as planned would increase the $1.18-to-$1.00 ratio to $1.274 in community service costs for each dollar of tax revenue. Based on this study’s data, that expansion — when completed — would cost the County $50 million more per year in community services for Reston’s station areas than it would receive in tax revenues in 2017 dollars at current tax rates.  

This is not the answer the County is looking for if it is trying to solve a growing long-term debt obligation problem. Its alternative options are limited, however, and would cause further deterioration of Restonians’ quality of life:
  • The County could offset the losses generated by the residential development by equally massive — and tax revenue positive — commercial development. The key problem with this approach is that there is little demand for new office space in Fairfax County now as growth stagnates and office space per worker shrinks. In fact, as of last December, County data shows that the office space vacancy rate was 16.8 percent, nearly 20 million square feet of vacant space county-wide. Net office space absorption last year — new leases less new vacancies — was less than 250,000 square feet of office space out of 116 million total square feet of office space. On the other hand, the more loss-generating residential development that occurs now, the less the opportunity for tax revenue-positive future office and other commercial development.
  • The County could demand substantially greater proffers from developers seeking high density development. Frankly, the County has never been very good at obtaining fair value from developers as they apply for new development, including improvements in transportation, education, parks and recreation. Moreover, with the moneyed motivation of developer interests in Richmond generating legal constraints on County proffer efforts, the County’s ability to elicit proffers is increasingly limited.
  • The County could massively cut Reston’s community services and those of other County residents. This is basically what is happening in Reston, especially in the station areas, and it is leading to a major loss in the community’s quality of life. The County’s Reston plan calls for one elementary school when the planned population growth requires two elementary and one-each middle and high school. The County is not even trying to live up to its own urban parks or recreational facilities policies. And the County has lowered the acceptable standard for traffic congestion in urban areas — and still added a property tax on station area homeowners to pay for the improvements.
Yet, even if the County pursues all these avenues in one way or another as it likely will, it is not clear that it could reduce the cost of Reston’s community services below the tax revenues it generates. The more it uses these tax tools, especially dense office development and reduced community services, to offset the tax revenue losses from residential development, the more Reston will fail as a planned community focused on a high quality of life. Reston’s deterioration as a planned community, both within and beyond the station areas, may well cause residential property values — and tax revenues — to stagnate, if not decline, putting the County in an even deeper financial hole because of its massive additions of high-density residential housing.  

Given the County’s current intent on pursuing much greater residential density in Reston’s station areas and beyond by amending the Reston PRC (and having already amended the PDC/PRM zoning ordinances), Restonians should make every effort at every level to prevent the County from destroying the planned community that is Reston. If nothing else, Restonians ought to highlight to the County that increasing Reston’s urban density by increasing the allowable DU/AC in the Reston PRC does not serve the County’s interests even if it serves developers.

Terry Maynard, Co-Chair
Reston 20/20 Committee

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fairfax Library Advocates letter to Library Board, Administrator re Memorandum of Understanding, July 10, 2017

From: Dennis Hays

To: Miriam Smolen ; Michael Donovan ; Charles Fegan ; "" ; Fran Millhouser ; Gary G. Russell ; Karrie Delaney ; Priscille Dando ; Sheila Janega ; Suzanne Levy ; "" ; ""

Cc: Linda Smyth ; Cathy Hudgins ; Jessica Hudson

Sent: Monday, July 10, 2017 11:05 AM
Subject: MOU between the Trustees and the Friends

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       July 10, 2017

Dear Ms. Smolen:  Thank you again for organizing the May 30th public meeting of your ad hoc committee on the MOU.  This resulted in a useful discussion.  I've read the two different versions of your minutes and as such minutes serve as the official record of the meeting I'm taking the liberty to add some additional detail to present a bit more perspective.  

In addition to yourself and Director Hudson, around fifteen representatives of various Friends groups spoke.  It is worth noting that none of them spoke in support of your presentation.  None of them.  Far from it.  Emotions were heated, although proper decorum was maintained.  A large number of issues were raised by the Friends, but none of them were answered to the satisfaction of the 50 or so individuals present.  

Speaking generally, there appears to be continuing confusion of the part of the County and maybe even one or two of the Trustees about what the Friends are and do.  This is not just unfortunate, it is dangerous - and inevitably will lead to serious miscalculates.  Presumably you are familiar with the fable of the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs.   If so, you may remember the story did not end well for either the goose or the farmer.   

Fortunately, there is a quick and easy path forward to deal with this confusion - you could START by talking to the Friends before huddling with County attorneys and embarking on a rewrite of a set of agreements that have served the County, the Libraries and the general public well for over a decade.  After all, the MOUs are between the Trustees and the various individual Friends groups.  Shouldn't the other equal party in an MOU be consulted?  

It appears from your remarks you envision a single MOU will apply to all Friends Groups.  Is this so?  Please remember that each Friends group is an independent organization with its own Board, history, mission, volunteer base, goals, financial resources and relationship with its respective Branch.  Some Friends groups are large and well funded, others are much smaller and more constrained as to what they can do.  An attempt to have a "one size fits all" approach seems inappropriate.  In any event, any new MOU will need to be negotiated with each Friends group individually.  

It also appears there is confusion about what an independent 501 (c) 3 organization is.  For starters, such organizations are not part of the County government.  The Friends work WITH the County, not FOR the County.  The whole point of an MOU is to define the relationship between two entities.  It does not, however, give either entity the right to interfere in the internal operations of the other.  As noted in my earlier message, each Friends group is in full compliance with all State and Federal laws and regulations and produces regular financial reports which are public documents.  Please let me know if you believe the Trustees or the County have a legal right to dictate the internal operations of an independent 501 (c) 3 organization.   

There was universal and vehement rejection of the proposal to place a cap on the Friends funds.  Speaker after speaker noted the County has no right or justification to take such a "Big Brother" approach.  One Friend stated the County was proposing to "punish success".  Several speakers noted one of the main reasons funds accumulate is the inability of the Library to use the funds offered.  For example, the County won't accept donations that have a "tail", that is, ongoing maintenance or service contracts or a need for updated software, etc.  Several different Friends jumped up at this and said they repeatedly have offered to cover all such costs.   There are restrictions on buying books, restrictions of buying machinery, restrictions on programs.   

The Friends exist to support the libraries.  Many of us have long urged the Library Administration to work with the County Administration to broaden the ways the Friends can help.  And finally, there may be a glimmer of hope here - the message Director Hudson sent out to the Friends Presidents last week, calling on the Friends to consider contributing in areas previously not allowed, is a solid step in the right direction.  The fact that the tone of that message is professional, problem solving and respectful is a bonus.  

The issues of liability and insurance are complicated and deserve further study.  

There was a brief discussion of a need to update the Friends Handbook which presumably prompted the following Q&A in the Attachment to the first set of minutes: 
  1.  The Library Handbook needs updatingShould the update of the Handbook come before the update of the MOU?

    Yes, the Handbook needs updating to reflect procedural changes as well as Library Board of Trustee policy changes. The current Handbook can be found at and it is anticipated that it will be updated in the coming fiscal year. 
I assume that by "the coming fiscal year" you mean 2018?  This is encouraging news.   By dropping further discussion of the MOU until the Handbook is updated we all have an opportunity to avoid the mistakes and false starts noted above and begin anew - perhaps this time engaging with the Friends first and advising where you believe revisions are needed.  And, of course, the Friends will likely have areas where they believe revisions would advance our common objectives.   Please confirm you are suspending further action on the MOU until the Handbook is reconsidered.  Or is the statement in the Attachment incorrect?  

The Friends have a long and proud history of supporting the Fairfax County Library system.  As the previous Director noted:

The "Friends have played a pivotal role in the support, expansion and enhancement of this library system. Friends have raised community awareness of the library; campaigned for new buildings; paid for children's programs; lobbied for increased funding and purchased important branch supplies and equipment.

Friends are critical to the library's mission. As you know, the economy is ever-changing, and unpredictable events impact the public funding allocated to county agencies. Through boom times and lean years, we count on our Friends to help us provide consistently excellent service to one of the most literate communities in the world."

Why would anyone want to risk all of this?   

Very best regards, Dennis 
Ambassador Dennis K. Hays (ret.)
Chairman, Fairfax Library Advocates

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Migration to D.C. remains stable, but plummets for rest of region, Mike Maciag, DC Policy Center, June 20, 2017

In a report analyzing the region's migration pattern by county last year, Mike Maciag of the DC Policy Center highlights the huge losses in population in the region's suburbs versus the small gains in Washington, DC.  Unfortunately, Fairfax County led the region in migration losses with a net negative migration of 17,800. 

Here is some of what Maciag says about the overall migration shifts:
For each of the past three years, more people have left the D.C. metro area for other parts of the country than moved in. In 2016, the reported net domestic migration loss topped 31,000 — the steepest decline in years. That represents a stark reversal from the immediate post-recession period when the region enjoyed especially strong population gains. Much of the shift is explained by the economy: The Greater Washington region weathered the recession better than other parts of the country, but jobs have since returned in places that previously sustained severe job losses.
DC net domestic migration remains positive, unlike the rest of the metro region

More worrisome for Fairfax County is the fact that its migration loss accounted for more than half of the total negative net migration and, at -17,800 people, was more than double the second worst loser, Prince Georges County. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reston Today--Development Density Cap Changes--Planned Residential Community (PRC), RA

This brief video gives a good introduction to the proposed change in Reston's PRC zoning ordinance that would increase allowable residential density in high-density neighborhoods.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reston Citizens Association (RCA) Call for Board of Directors Candidates

Reston Citizens Association (RCA) announces elections will be held from June 7 to June 22 for four district seats and two at-large seats for its Board of Directors. Restonians interested in joining the RCA Board are invited to file completed candidate forms by May 30, 2017. 
The Reston Citizens Association (RCA) is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c) 3 corporation serving over 60,000 people who live in Reston. Founded in 1967, RCA is the only community-wide, non-partisan, and action-oriented organization in which everyone that lives, works and plays in Reston has a voice.  RCA comprises a 13-member Board of Directors elected by Reston residents with the directors serving three-year terms.
“This upcoming year is going to be another exciting one for RCA, as we continue to focus on educating and engaging the community and reflecting their voice,” said Sridhar Ganesan, President, RCA. “New development, re-development, transportation and other Reston infrastructure, open spaces and other issues like Reston Town Center pay parking have been at the forefront for Reston and RCA during the last two months and will continue to be important for the people that live here.”
If you want to take an active role in the future of Reston, please consider running for a seat on the RCA board!
As a member on the Board of RCA, you interact with the community on the issues that impact them, meet with County and other local officials including Reston Association and attend public meetings.  You will collect information, provide analysis and, based upon feedback received from the public, inform the various local organizations such as Fairfax County or Reston Association about public expectations for outcomes on various issues that affect Reston. 
There are six seats up in the 2017 elections – for Hunters Woods District, Town Center/Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District, South Lakes District, North Point District and one At-Large seats, all for three (3) year terms each, and a second At-Large seat is open for a one-year term to replace a director who resigned during 2016.
To run for a director seat, you must live in Small Tax District 5, be a Reston resident, be 18 years or older, and vote in designated precincts/polling places within Reston districts. 
If you want to actively promote Reston’s vision and planning principles, sustain and enhance its quality of life, please download an application from our website and fill it out.

Your completed application must be sent to by May 30th.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Reston Citizens Association Election Committee at

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reston 20/20 Statement to RP&Z on County Reston PRC Proposal, May 15, 2017

Statement to the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee
By Terry Maynard, Co-Chair, Reston 20/20 Committee
Re the Proposed Reston PRC Zoning Ordinance Amendment
May 15, 2017

Good evening.  I am Terry Maynard, 2217 Wakerobin Lane, speaking on behalf of the Reston 20/20 Committee.  

First, thank you for taking your time to listen to the many voices of Reston on the County’s proposed PRC zoning ordinance amendment. 

Most importantly, the PRC zoning amendment proposal removes all concrete zoning constraints on high-density residential construction in Town Center, a situation that can lead to serious unforeseeable circumstances.   We must rely on Board discretion.  Just look at the Board approval given to a FAR 4, 26-story office building to replace the Town Center Office Building that is dramatically inconsistent with the Reston plan and its own TOD policy. 

As we read it, the PRC amendment would allow the addition of more than 28,000 residents to our community, virtually all in high-density housing in the half of Reston Town Center north of the toll road.   In 2010, about 8,000 people lived in the Town Center PRC after nearly a quarter century of development.  In the last 7 years, residences for another 8,000 people have been built or approved in there.  Longer term, Board approval of the zoning ordinance would allow about 45,000 people to live in Town Center.  This would be in addition to the 45,000 people or so who could be added to the non-PRC portions of Reston’s station areas under the Reston plan and other zoning codes.  

I would like to speak to you briefly about how this development will affect infrastructure and commercial development issues in Reston. 

Transportation may present the most pressing infrastructure challenge as this unfolds in the PRC.  County data shows that, of the two-dozen Board-approved Reston station area transportation projects, only one sidewalk improvement at Wiehle Station has been completed.  Of the dozen projects in the RTC PRC area, none except the Town Center Parkway tunnel has begun and one has been put on hold.  The Soapstone Connector won’t be put out for contract until 2025.  None of this includes the still concept-level intersection improvements postulated by RNAG and the absence of any planned bus transit expansion for the PRC. 

Yet station area development, including development in the RTC PRC and its approval continues unabated.

All of the additional residential development also has implications for planned commercial development in the Town Center PRC.  Approval of the zoning ordinance amendment could unhinge the planned balance between residential and commercial development there and the desirable effect it has on reducing driving.    

Worse yet, developers—never ones to miss an opportunity—could use the high, if not unconstrained, residential construction limits to leverage even higher or unlimited commercial development in the PRC.  This alone suggests the urgency of a concrete upper limit on station area PRC density, not just Board discretion. 

One particular concern in this process is the availability of essential retail facilities, not to mention amenities such as theaters, restaurants, etc., for a population approaching 90,000 in Reston’s station areas, including the 45,000 in the Town Center PRC.  Two supermarkets and one pharmacy are not adequate, and to the extent that there is a shortage of these and other essential and desirable shopping in the PRC will mean more residents driving.

All this suggests that the County and the community need to understand the implications for Reston of the zoning ordinance amendment and quite possibly amend it so that it is consistent with Reston’s vision and planning principles.  This will take time, not the head-long rush the County and Board seem to be in to get this amendment passed with three public meetings in three weeks this month. 

What’s the rush?

Based on future analysis of the implications of the allowable development for infrastructure and other community needs, some amendments to the proposal that might be considered are:

  • Raising the overall residential density per acre incrementally to, say, 14 people per acre and seeing how infrastructure, commercial development, and the Reston community adjusts to that density before moving another step higher.
  • Creating a fourth residential density category called “urban” for the station area that has a concrete cap on it of, say, 60-70 DUs per acre.
  • Not raising the zoning cap at all until at least the current approved transportation and other infrastructure projects, such as schools, open space and parks, etc., are completed.

While these are just ideas, they and other ideas need to be considered in a thorough, systematic, and unbiased way based on a consideration of the facts in a manner that meets the needs of the community as well as the County. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Op-Ed: The County’s Reston Transit Station Area Planning Deception, Terry Maynard, RestonNow, April 24, 2017

The following is the text of an op-ed written by Terry Maynard, Reston 20/20 Co-Chair, and published in RestonNow on April 24, 2017.  The only difference between this printing and that in RestonNow is that we have included here the spreadsheet used to develop the conclusions reached in the RestonNow publication.  

Our County Board of Supervisors, led by Chairman Sharon Bulova, is in the process of overbuilding and underserving residents in Reston and across the county. The result will be the eroding livability of Reston and other county areas facing urbanization.  
And this is being accomplished by a simple arithmetical trick: Overstating the amount of space new housing and office space require to accommodate residents and workers. Very simply, county planners continue to overstate the space needed for office workers as 300 gross square feet (GSF) per worker when studies globally over nearly a decade show it is now under 200 GSF/worker and could be headed to 150 GSF/worker.  

At the same time, as it started to plan for Tysons’ redevelopment nearly a decade ago, the County raised its planning assumption for the size of station area dwelling units (DUs) from 1,000 GSF/DU to 1,200 GSF/DU. Nonetheless, a County planning study for Tysons showed then (2007) that the average size of Tysons residents was 1,100 GSF, mostly in garden apartments before the recent advent of massive high-rise residential development there. 

Now, the average high-rise DU size is shrinking well below 1,000 GSF/DU, more than offsetting the few mid-rise and single-family attached DUs in station areas, as some recent Reston development proposals show:
  • JBG/Wiehle and partners plan for 1,300-1,500 residential units in 1.2 million GSF of development in two 5-story buildings, or 800-925 GSF/DU;
  • Golf Course Plaza proposes 413 DUs in a 392,600 GSF multi-family building or 950 GSF/DU, also in 5-story structures;
  • Faraday’s proposes redeveloping the area just south of Wiehle Station with up to 500 apartments in two buildings with about 487,000 GSF of residential space that will reach about 975 GSF/DU according to its plan submission.
  • Lerner Enterprises is planning a 457-“luxury apartment” complex called Excelsior Park with average unit size at about 1,050 GSF in 423,587 rentable square feet (RBA), which equates to 481,350 GSF.
That’s nearly 3,000 DUs, including luxury apartments, whose average GSF is about 925 GSF/DU — nowhere near the County’s assumed size of 1,200 GSF/DU — and suggesting the number of future residents and DUs in Reston’s station areas will be nearly one-third greater than planned under existing allowable densities. This is consistent with national data: A study of apartment sizes over the last decade shows that their average size has shrunk — not expanded — from 1,015 square feet to 934 square feet.  

The impact is straightforward: The resulting planned densities (total GSF of development divided by the square footage of the lot on which it sits) will allow half-again as many office workers and 28 percent more residential units than the County plan officially intends. Yet developers and the County are only planning to provide services — improved roads, schools and parks, and more — based on the lower count envisioned in the plan. The result will be reduced services and higher taxes.

So what does that mean for “real people?” Based on GSF information provided by FCDOT to the Supervisors serving as the Board Transportation Committee, the current Reston station area plan offers the potential for 76,280 added residents (at 2.0 residents/DU) and 29,059 added office worker jobs (at 300GSF/worker) in the next four decades.  

If instead of using the County’s faulty planning assumptions, we use real world experience, we can anticipate that the allowable development could result in an addition of 101,492 total residents in 50,746 DUs and 78,559 office workers, including retrofitted office buildings, market conditions permitting.  

More specifically, it suggests an order of magnitude explosion in residents (11,720 in 2010 vs. 113,212 then) and more than twice as many office employees (69,941 in 2010 vs. 148,500 then) in Reston’s station areas. Overall, Reston can expect twice as many people living and working in the station areas as is anticipated by the Reston plan.

Let’s take a look at some areas where this will affect Restonians and others similarly affected by these false development assumptions.

TRAFFIC: We are near the end of the painful two-year RNAG experience, a truly dysfunctional FCDOT-managed, Board initiative based on false assumptions about an alleged “funding gap,” to address the worsening traffic conditions that will come with the urbanization of Reston’s station areas. Already the County has reduced the standard for intersection traffic service levels to a new “urban standard” in which “unstable flow, operating at capacity” is good enough, and Reston’s station area streets don’t have to try to meet community needs for traffic from, to, and especially through the station areas, including Dulles Toll Road users.

In doing its planning, FCDOT has been using the forecast employment and residential data it says area in the Reston Master Plan. Unfortunately, instead of 41,455 added people, the increase is likely to be 90,955 people — some 63.5 percent greater than what FCDOT is planning.  

We all know the two major consequences of that result: Worse traffic congestion for Restonians driving near the station areas and ever higher Transportation Service District (TSD) taxes on the residents of the station areas.

SCHOOLS: There may be no single issue of greater concern to Reston families (and those countywide) than the availability of quality public school education for their children. Like traffic, the quality of our children’s education is likely to erode because of the County’s insistence on unrealistic population forecasts that under-estimate the need for classroom capacity.

Using data in a 2012 FCPS letter to the County’s Planning Department regarding the future of Reston schools, we can update FCPS’ forecast of the number of students in the decades ahead. This requires, first, updating the understated population from Scenario “G” prepared for the Reston planning task force to the plan’s expectations and then updating that to our estimate of future Reston station area population. The result more than doubles the number of dwelling units (and, therefore, the number of students) in station area schools — from 24,559 in Scenario “G” to 56,606 in our forecast.

Applying FCPS’ planning parameters for student yield ratios and mixes laid out in that letter, we calculate that Reston can expect about 6,700 new students from the station areas to be added to the 11,000 students now in all Reston’s schools over the next four decades. That’s about:
  • 3,700 elementary school kids (about five average-sized Reston elementary schools),
  • 1,000 middle schoolers (about the enrollment at Langston Hughes), and
  • 2,000 high schoolers (nearly South Lakes’ enrollment).
The current Reston Master Plan falls far short of meeting those needs. It calls for the building of two elementary schools — one near USGS and one in Town Center North — and the addition of a middle and high school in western Fairfax County to accommodate Reston’s and other area growth over the next 20-30 years.

PARKS: The County’s Urban Parks Framework and the Countywide Adopted Service Level Standards for Athletic Fields establish guidance for park size and recreational facilities. Suffice it to say that the Reston plan does not remotely try to achieve the guidance laid out in these documents based on the County’s faulty assumptions, much less our adjusted estimate of future population and employment growth.  

The prospective population and employment totals should mean the availability of more than 187 acres of parks within 1/2-mile of the Metro stations under the Urban Parks Framework. That’s about 1/8 of Reston’s total station area. Given preliminary notions of additional mid-sized parks in north and south Town Center plus one in the Wiehle station area, we think it may be possible to reach 90 acres of public and private parks in Reston’s station areas four decades from now. Bottom line: Reston’s station areas will have fewer park acres per capita than Manhattan does now.

The County master plan also sets as “a goal” the construction of 12 ballfields at 2.2 million GFA (50 acres) in Reston’s station areas, and a minimum of three. Yet the County’s population-based facilities guideline for the 113,212 people who our adjusted plan suggest may live in the station areas calls for 35 ballfields, nearly triple the plan’s most optimistic “goal” and an order of magnitude greater than its meager minimum objective for Reston.

Aside from the impact on livability and total disregard for Reston planning principles, the ruinous shortage of open space, parks and recreational facilities in the station areas will almost certainly see RA’s facilities overrun with non-RA members no matter what the price for non-member use.  

But the Board of Supervisors doesn’t care. The more development there is, the more property tax revenues it generates, and the more the Board can spend without raising those tax rates or adding new taxes on voters. Even so, however, we’ve just seen the Board add the TSD tax on Reston’s station area residents essentially because it can get away with it. It is certainly unjustified as we’ve commented here before. Will they also be taxed to provide schools or parks to meet the explosive growth?

What you need to know is that, like the new Reston station area TSD tax, Restonians (and others) are being misled by their Board and the County staff on the scope of County urbanization plans and their tremendously adverse and virtually immutable impact on our community, including your quality of life. We all will continue to be misled until we replace this cabal with responsible and responsive leaders and staffers of integrity.