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.