Reston Spring

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Reston Spring

Saturday, March 13, 2021

CPR Fights to Protect Reston’s PRC in Proposed Zoning Ordinance (zMOD) Presentations

 

  

WHAT IS zMOD? zMOD is short for Zoning Modernization.  Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance is the law that describes permitted uses for various sections of land (residential, commercial, or industrial areas, density of uses, building heights, placement of buildings, parking, acceptable uses, etc.) 

ISSUE: Fairfax County staff is rewriting its zoning laws.  County residents were told that  the modernization would not introduce substantive changes.
 
GET THE FACTS: The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has a lot to think about after the community spoke yesterday on why a one-size-fits-all approach to zoning is simply misguided! Reston residents, led by the CPR team, did a great job covering the key problems with zMOD and what it could mean for planned communities like Reston. Tell us what you think.  
 
Right NOW, the Board of Supervisors are deciding if they want to make any changes to the proposal presented by staff.
 

The Board of Supervisors need to hear from you
NO LATER THAN SUNDAY NIGHT MARCH 21st
 
Please write to our Supervisor Walter Alcorn and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to let them know what changes you want to see most before their meeting on March 23, 2021. 
 
695 pages of zoning language can be a daunting task to analyze. For example, the mandated zoning language, Article 9: 9100.2 "Must" and “Shall”  must not be removed from the zoning laws that protects Reston's density (page 627 of zMOD).
 
Other recurring themes we see include:
  • Proposals that change regulations without thinking through unintended consequences and without providing effective protections for neighborhoods from over-development,
  • Proposals that nullify current regulations that protect neighborhoods from poor or unplanned growth,
  • Proposals that promote the Board’s authority to modify on a case-by-case basis (aka spot zoning by special exception),
  • Proposals that use administrative permits where now permits are currently required. Special permits allow resident participation in shaping developments in their community’s administrative permits do not even require notification,
  • Proposed uses that are insufficiently limited in scope by ordinance language, and
  • Inadequate provisions for county inspections or enforcement where uses have a potential to damage communities, pitting neighbors against neighbors and instigating disputes where none exist now.
     
Watch a replay of CPR’s zMOD Testimony before the Board of Supervisors’ hearing on March 9, 2021

Sunday, January 24, 2021

RCA Resolution Opposes Many New Provisions in the zMOD Proposal up for Board of Supervisors Consideration

WHEREAS, in 2017 the Fairfax County Planning and Zoning staff (the “ Staff”) embarked upon the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, (“zMOD”) amajor initiative to modernize Fairfax County’s 40-year old Zoning Ordinance, intended to: modernize permitted uses and regulations; make the Zoning Ordinance easier to understand; and create a streamlined, user-friendly document with tables, graphics, and hyperlink, and 
 
WHEREAS, the November 24, 2020 zMOD proposal(the “Proposal”)presented to the Board of Supervisors(the “Board”) also includes “amendments to zoning laws by prioritizing proposed changes of county-wide significance,” while avoiding the long standing and useful process of subjecting each of the proposed amendments to a process of public comment, and 
 
WHEREAS the Proposal includes many zoning ordinance amendments that would significantly impact the physical appearance and quality of life in Reston and in the other portions of the County, and 
 
WHEREAS added social and community stressors caused by COVID-19 have negatively impacted the amount of time given to the public to review and comment on the document of over 700 pages;and 
 
WHEREAS Reston Citizens Association (RCA)’s mission is to promote Reston’s vision and planning principles, to sustain and enhance its quality of life now and in the future, by serving as a non-partisan, citizen centered organization for all people living in Reston now and in the years to come. 
 
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that RCA strongly urges the Board to restore zMOD to its original mission to modernize existing permitted uses and regulations and to make the Zoning Ordinance easier to understand; and 
 
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that RCA strongly opposes the introduction of multiple provisions to the zMOD proposal that have not been properly assessed and reviewed by those directly affected by the long term impact these untested measures would have on established communities;and
 
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that RCA finds many of these new proposals to be inadequately thought out with little to no understanding of the actual effect such measures will have on the citizens of Fairfax County.Specifically, we believe controversial proposals such as those changing regulations and zoning on Accessory Living Unit (ALU), Home Based Business (HBB), Food Trucks, Parking, and signage should be removed from the current zMOD proposal and given due consideration with full community participation during the expected second phase of zMOD review; and 
 
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that RCA finds utility in many of those portions of zMOD that adhere to its original advertised mission and we support these provisions going forward if the problematic measures are removed.   A detailed review of the measures we support and those that should be deferred for future study is contained in the following Appendix. 
 
Approved by the Board of Directors of Reston Citizens Association, January 19, 2021.
 
Dennis Hayes, President
Lynne Mulston, Vice President
 
 -----------------------------------
 
APPENDIX 
 
 
WHEREAS RCA supports the Proposal's provisions to address and provide a zoning framework for newer commercial, public, institutional and community uses such as solar power facilities, electric vehicle charging and data centers, last-mile distribution hubs, and private collection of solar energy as an accessory use in residential areas, as appropriate in the circumstance, without any direction to do so.
 
Be it further resolved that,RCA supports the Proposal's intent not to interfere with, limit, or invalidate any easements, covenants other agreement between parties, such as declarations of covenants, conditions, and restrictions for homeowners’ and condominium associations which are intended to run with the land and binding on homeowner/condominium association property owners. 
 
Be it further resolved that,RCA supports proposed changes to rear setback requirements for residential corner lots which had been proposed by RCA to prevent overbuilding these properties. 
 
Be it further resolved that, RCA has reviewed and discussed the Proposal and while generally supportive of the Proposal, it is opposed to a number of its proposed provisions discussed below. 
 
Be it further resolved that, due to the unevaluated but likely considerable strain the additional residential density could place on school overcrowding and local infrastructure RCA does not support the following Proposal’s provisions regarding Accessory Living Units (ALUs) on pages 40-46 of the Proposal:
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provision for an option for the Board that would remove the current requirement that someone on the property, either in the principal dwelling or the ALU, be at least 55 years in age or a person with a disability.
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provision for an option for the Board that would allow the size limitation to be exceeded if the ALU is proposed to fully utilize the floor area in a basement or cellar, since basements with their own entrances effectively create duplex dwelling units; the ordinance should apply the size limitation to basements with their own entrances, unless they are to be occupied by family member(s) over 55 years of age or persons with disabilities. 
Be it further resolved that, in order to minimize the encroachment of commercial-like uses on areas that are primarily zoned as residential, RCA does not support the following Proposal’s provisions regarding Home-based Businesses(“HBBs”)on pages 47-48 of the Proposal: 
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provision for the Board to allow “zero to four customers on-site at one time and zero to eight customers on-site in any one day”.RCA supports no more than 2 customers at a time and a maximum of 6 customers in a day, for all dwelling unit types.
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provision that would allow a by-right display of 12 square feet of permanent yard signs for HBBs in residential districts, since commercial signage should be restricted differently than personal expression.
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provision that would allow HBBs to obtain administrative permits for up to 21 days of Special Events in residential districts. 
Be it further resolved that, in order to ensure structure compatibility in residential neighborhoods, RCA does not support the following Proposal’s provisions regarding Freestanding Accessory Structures on pages 18-19 of the Proposal): 
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provisions that would allow by-right an unlimited number of Accessory Storage Structures with a combined enclosed area of up to50 percent of the gross floor area of the principal structure.
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provisions for the Board to allow a by-right increase in the height of Freestanding Accessory Structures to 25 feet; the ordinance should include a maximum by-right height of 15 feet on lots under 36,000 square feet, and the Board of Zoning Appeals may approve a special permit for an increase in height.
Be it further resolved that, certain uses should require additional review considering neighborhood impact, so RCA opposes the following Proposal’s provisions that require only an Administrative Permit, unless such permits are conditioned on stronger standards and increased public notice and participation, in particular: 
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provisions to allow HBBs in residential districts through administrative approval; the existing public hearing process should continue to be required.
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provisions to allow ALUs through administrative approval; the existing public hearing process should continue to be required.  
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provisions that allow Food Trucks in residential districts through administrative approval, on pages 376-8 of the Proposal; the ordinance should include additional standards for days, number of trucks, location and distance relative to residential properties.
  • RCA opposes the Proposal’s provisions that allow Special Events hosted by home-based businesses in residential districts through just an administrative approval, on pages 383-4 of the Proposal; the ordinance should include stronger limitations on commercial and promotional special events by HBBs in residential districts.
Be it further resolved that, RCA supports the Proposal’s recognition of maximum building heights in the Comprehensive Plan for Commercial Revitalization Districts (CRDs) on page 209 of the Proposal, provided that the ordinance specifies definitive standards for calculating height (e.g., inclusive of Affordable Dwelling Units and Workforce Dwelling Units), intended use, floor heights, and a limited vertical addition of not more than 10% of total building height for a mechanical penthouse. 
 
Be it further resolved that,RCA opposes the Proposal’s provisions that allow the Board to reduce parking below requirements in the Comprehensive Plan for Commercial Revitalization Districts (CRDs) at 3102.3.E.2 on pages 210-11of the Proposal; the ordinance should require that the Board take into consideration whether a CRD is readily accessible by mass transit. 
 
Be it further resolved that,RCA opposes the Proposal’s provisions that would eliminate the 50 foot minimum dimension requirement for Cluster Subdivision Open Space on page 21 of the Proposal; the ordinance should retain the current requirement for Board approval of a waiver of the 50 foot minimum dimension.
 
Be it further resolved that, RCA opposes the Proposal’s proposed removal of the current requirement for Planned “P” districts to generally conform with the bulk regulations and landscaping and screening provisions of the most similar conventional zoning district, on pages 7-8 of the Proposal; this regulation should be retained in order to limit the visual impact on existing neighborhoods from adjacent new planned development. 
 
Be it further resolved that, RCA requests additional restrictions on storage of vehicles on properties in residential districts, including: 
  • Vehicle Storage limits (page 354) in the Proposal should establish that covering a vehicle with a tarp or fitted vehicle cover does not alone satisfy the definition of “completely screened from view” in accordance with County Code.
  • Vehicle Storage limits (page 354) in the Proposal and Article 6 Residential Parking (page 509) should each include a limit on the number of vehicles regularly kept outdoors, with an advertised range of 7 to 9 vehicles.
Be it further resolved that, RCA requests that the environmental easement set forth is clarified to ensure that the 25’ easement noted specifies that trees and other ‘green’ growth are not negatively impacted. 
 
Be it further resolved that, RCA is concerned with the efficacy of the relationships and actions related to or between County staff and consultants/contractors associated with zMOD;and to further include consultant/contractor direct presentation and actions with citizens and businesses of the County.
 
Be in further resolved that, RCA asks that the appropriateness of proceeding with zMOD in relation to Governor Northam’sCOVID-19 regulations and that such proceedings be examined by appropriate legal authority.
 
Be it further resolved that, RCA requests that watershed,tree canopy, wildlife habitat, and air quality not be negatively impacted from the existing zoning ordinance to any changed zoning ordinance.

Monday, November 30, 2020

The major changes to the county zoning ordinance proposed by zMOD are about to go the Board of Supervisors.

If YOU Live in Fairfax County -  Your Neighborhood WILL Be Affected by the Proposed County Zoning Changes.

Below is a link to the ZONING REVISIONS DRAFT county staff has prepared for the Board of Supervisors (BoS). The BoS will vote to approve or disapprove the Draft for advertisement at its 12/1 Board Meeting. This action will start the clock for public hearings beginning in January with approval in March. Our concern is that phase I of the Zoning Modification Ordinance (which will be law) has mission creep from the original plan to "to make the regulations easier for all stakeholders to understand, and to remove inconsistencies, gaps, and ambiguities that have found their way into the Ordinance since initial adoption of the current Ordinance in 1978."  Please note that whatever changes are adopted by the BoS that favor less control of  development can not be undone in this Dillon Rule state.

A change like this needs MORE citizen involvement than normal - not LESS as this is getting because of COVID-19.

The Draft revision includes major changes with no enforcement protocols and no public hearings!  It would allow:

  • Market-Rate Accessory Apartment Units (ALU) in single-family homes with NO public hearing. The existing requirement that the Accessory/Apartment Unit go through a public hearing and be occupancy-limited for an aged or differently-abled family member would be abolished.
  • Home Based Businesses (HBB), many traffic generating, with NO public hearing. Each HBB could have signs totaling 12 square feet.
  • The original home can have a home-based business and SO COULD THE SECOND UNIT. So you could get both a duplex AND two home-based businesses in one single-family home. No public hearing per case means neighbors have no say if the businesses generate traffic/parking problems.
  • Certain neighborhood commercial areas 'by right' uses to expand and include hookah bars; such new uses may or may not be compatible with the presently existing commercial uses(restaurants, health clinics, child learning establishments, etc.) or adjacent residential neighborhoods. Again, there would no longer be a public hearing for each or any case.

BACKGROUND: The County has been working on 'zMOD' (Zoning Modernization) for several years and during that time staff has met with various formal citizen or industry groups across the county, but MOST citizens and residential taxpayers have NO idea about how profoundly these proposals have the potential to alter neighborhood character.

  • Apart from Springfield Supervisor Herrity's pre-pandemic meeting at Clifton Town Hall, no other Supervisor has held an 'Open Town Hall' on any of the proposed changes. Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn is holding a Neighborhood Town Hall on 11/30 to discuss the proposal; importantly, he has made a point of underscoring the highly debatable proposals for Accessory Apartment Units and Home Based Business. Sully Supervisor Kathy Smith has scheduled an informational meeting for citizens in early December; but unfortunately for citizens, the Sully meeting is AFTER the Board makes its 12/1 decision on advertising this Draft.
  • Apparently, no environmental groups such as Sierra or Audubon have been asked for comments. We need their insight prior to any 'Final Draft' status.
  • There is a 30 page summary at the beginning of the 700+ page ZMOD Draft. 'Concerned Citizens’ could plow through the Draft, or download the document as a searchable Word or PDF Search for keywords that matter to you. Unfortunately, this Draft doesn't contain an Index (!!) nor simple charts or graphics that lay out the changes. No redline versions have been made public, footnotes are meant to explain changes.
  • CITIZENS HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD PRIOR TO THE BOARD TAKING AN OFFICIAL POSITION ON THIS DRAFT ORDINANCE. But we need to request our right be honored.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1.    EMAIL the Board of Supervisors and the Chairman’s Office TODAY. ASK that THE VOTE TO CONSIDER ADVERTISING THE ZONING DRAFT/Administrative Item #3 BE DEFERRED UNTIL 2021 AND AFTER CITIZEN TOWN HALLS ARE HELD IN EACH DISTRICT.  bos@fairfaxcounty.gov, chairman@fairfaxcounty.gov, ClerktotheBOS@fairfaxcounty.gov

This is our County. Citizens should have direct input into how County land-use regulations will change. There is a Webpage and a Facebook page for zMOD, but nothing beats direct communication with our elected officials.

2.    The revisions will change the fabric of our everyday lives. Not all of them are bad, but neither are they all 'neutral or better.’ Let's make sure citizens are consulted before these changes are officially rolled out. Hunter Mill District Supervisor's Town Hall tonight at 7 pm can be watched live on this YouTube channel OR Hunter Mill District residents and others may actively participate following the information here.

LINK TO the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY followed by 700+ page Revised Zoning Code: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning-development/sites/planning-development/files/assets/documents/zmod/proposed-ordinance-annotated.pdf

LINK TO ADMINISTRATIVE ITEM 3 for the December 1 Board of Supervisors Meeting: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/boardofsupervisors/sites/boardofsupervisors/files/assets/meeting-materials/2020/board/dec01-board-package.pdf

Monday, August 17, 2020

Lake Thoreau residents petition RA to clean-up and sustain their lake after huge algae bloom. Pease sign the petition.

Support Lake Thoreau Clean-up & Long-term Health

33 people have signed this petition. Add your name now! 

Lake Thoreau Community 14 Comments

Since 1970, Lake Thoreau has been a vibrant and important watershed for the Reston community. It brings functional value as a storm-water management tool, enriches the environment, provides a habitat for wildlife, a recreational space for residents and a public arts venue, among many other valuable forms of enriching the community.

Since 2015, the lake has had various issues beginning with shallow coves in need of dredging to maintain the lakes storm-water management function, and even since that was addressed in 2018, the lake has experienced various blooms of algae issues and infestations of hydrilla.

The community has been patient allowing the Reston Association time to fix the issues and create a long term plan, but the community, after many attempts to become educated and informed, offering assistance and support and trying to engage in a two-way dialog with Reston Association staff, can no longer wait while we see our wildlife die, the lake develop into a dangerous place for the citizens and as we become increasingly concerned about it's long term health and mismanagement.

Join others in the community on our quest to return Lake Thoreau to a vibrant, thriving, functional and recreational community facility.

Ask the RA Board to immediately:

  • Appropriate funds to clean up the dying hydrilla from the lake this week
  • Setup a community meeting before the end of the month to address our additional concerns
  • Establish a public and transparent Working Group for Lake Thoreau
  • Take responsibility and hold people accountable for the mismanagement of this important community resource.
All RA members may help in this community initiative by signing the petition.  And please feel free to add your comments to others' on the petition.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Reston continues to outperform the county and state in its management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Snapshot.  A look at COVID-19 data in Reston as of July 29, 2020, shows that our community is faring better than Fairfax County as a whole in its handling of the pandemic.  Reston has fewer cases per 100,000 people, lower positivity in testing, and a higher share of the population tested than the county as whole as of that date.  Within Reston, central Reston (Baron Cameron to the Dulles Toll Road) is the relative “hot spot” with 1,346 cases/100,000 persons, yet its case growth and positivity rates have been relatively good.

In fact, Fairfax County is lagging well behind the state in managing COVID-19; in particular, tests positivity results are about 50% higher for the county than for Reston, Virginia, or the United States and the county’s number of cases per 100,000 persons is about 27% higher than both the state and Reston.   The one spot of good news at the county level is that the recent rate of increase in the number of cases, like Reston’s, is about have the growth rate of the state and the US.

Here’s is the data we have compiled as of that date:

Trends.  What this snapshot does not capture is trend in these COVID-19 variables over time.  In the two-month period that we have been tracking COVID-19, all data have improved for all variables we have measured. 

·       PCR Tests Administered:  Reston had only a testing rate of 3.4% in late May while Virginia’s testing rate was at 3.2% and the US rate was at 4.8%.  No data was available on Fairfax.  Clearly, Virginia and its sub-units were lagging in testing even at a time the country as a whole was weak in testing.  Now, even lagging Fairfax County has achieved 10.7% testing rate.

·       Testing Positivity.  In late May, Reston’s positivity rate stood at 21%, well above the state rate (15%) and the national rate (11%).  Now, except for Fairfax County, those rates have dropped to 8%.  The target goal to control COVID-19 is about 5%. 

·       Daily Percent Increase in COVID-19 cases.  The downward trend in new cases daily has maybe been most remarkable.  In late May, Reston’s percent daily increase was 1.8%.  Fairfax County’s rate of increase was 1.6%, Virginia’s was 2.0%, and the nation’s was 0.8%.   Reston and Fairfax County have cut their rate of increase by about half over the last month as shown in the graphic above, Virginia has seen some increase, and the nation’s rate of increase has doubled—largely due to the re-opening of the economy. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

League of Women Voters warns of fraudulent absentee ballots being sent to Virginians, including in Fairfax County.

From: League of Women Voters of Virginia <communications@lwv-va.org>
Date: August 5, 2020 at 7:39:47 PM EDT

Subject: Important information for erroneous mailed ballot application
Reply-To: League of Women Voters of Virginia <communications@lwv-va.org>

 

 URGENT ACTION ALERT!

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION NEEDED

VOTE BY MAIL BALLOT APPLICATIONS ERRORS BY OUTSIDE GROUP

 

We have received reports from members who received an absentee ballot application that was pre-filled out. Unfortunately, in many areas, the enclosed envelopes have the wrong voter registrar's office return address. Fairfax City people received envelopes addressed to the Fairfax County registrar.  The same error was made with Roanoke City and Roanoke County voters. There may be problems in other parts of the state as well. A group called the Center for Voter Information (also known as the Center for Voter Participation) mailed vote by mail applications to residents of Virginia.

This is also causing concerns because some people already requested their ballot and are now wondering why they got this.

Needless to say, this is something registrars should not have to be dealing with at this time.

Please use all of your social media and traditional outlets to reach the public to alert people. If they receive this ballot application in the mail, they need to double-check the return address on the envelope for their completed application--or better yet, use it as an opportunity to go on the official Virginia Board of Elections portal to request a ballot.

https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation

Voters should be reminded:

  • that absentee ballots will be mailed starting September 18
  • the deadline to register to vote is October 13
  • the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is October 23
  • Election day is November 3. 
For more information contact – Janet Boyd voterservices@lwv-va.org