Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Continuing Delays in County Support to Reston Planning Task Force Effort

Yesterday, County staff reported that it is still compiling information for the Reston Existing Conditions report promised last year as part of the ongoing Reston planning effort. This report had been first scheduled for delivery in September 2009, prior to the launch of the Reston planning task force, then by December in the memorandum laying out a schedule for the task force effort (see enclosure, Appendix 3), and then again at the January 12 task force meeting. The report would establish a baseline of existing business, office, and residential structures currently in Reston. The document is essential in understanding the implications of the numerous changes expected to be proposed in the Comprehensive Plan by the Reston planning task force in the months ahead.

County planners say they have a good handle on the current residences and probably businesses & office space, but they are not finished researching and assessing what has been approved or what the current Comprehensive Plan allows. The latter assessments will provide greater clarity and confidence about what its coming according to County officials. The goal is to publish an "existing conditions and trends" report that would incorporate all this information and analysis.

Officials indicate the existing conditions and trends report will be available well before the Task Force starts making decisions. The task force's current schedule calls for it to decide on recommendations for the Dulles Corridor and Reston Town Center by this summer. Although the specific time frame for the release has not been established, staff expects to be able to inform the Task Force of its schedule soon.

In another area of planned County support for the task force, the County has not yet made available funding requested by the Department of Planning and Zoning to provide consulting assistance to the task force effort. Jim Zook, head of the DPZ, had requested between $200,000-$250,000 for these services in a memorandum in June 30, 2009, proposing the creation of the Reston planning task force. As outlined in the memorandum, the specific areas in which the County staff was seeking support included:
* jobs and housing forecasting;
* community participation and public outreach assistance;
* transportation analysis; and
* urban design assistance.
In the June memorandum, Mr. Zook stated, "Staff’s ability to conduct this study in the manner and time frame outlined in this memorandum is highly dependent upon the ability to call upon this outside consultant assistance." (p. 3, see enclosure below)

Reston citizens groups share the County staff's concerns about the issues raised in this memorandum. The three substantive topics on this list are among the topics identified in the Reston 2020 Committee's Community Work Group proposal, including working groups on transportation; environment; parks, recreation and public facilities; residential & housing; urban design and livability; and implementation and phasing. The Committee presented its proposal at the January 12 task force meeting. Similarly, the Reston Association Board of Directors recently approved a proposal to mobilize its committees, including Planning and Zoning, Design Review, Environmental, and Transportation, among others, to support the task force effort. The Task Force has not yet decided to work with these community groups.

According to County officials, although the DPZ does not yet have the funds requested for consulting assistance, there is some reason for optimism that some funding will be available in fiscal year 2011 beginning in July 2010. The funding request was generally focused on the 2011 budget proposal which will be out in a couple of weeks. Unlike many other departments, the DPZ only went through one round of budget cuts in the runup to this budget and it remains hopeful funding will be available. If the funds are forthcoming, DPZ will ask George Mason University to do a forecast of employment and residential growth for the Dulles corridor Metro station areas. It performed a similar task on Tysons Corner as part of the ongoing planning effort there. The County's Department of Transportation will use its inhouse staff and may call on some outside help if needed to address transportation issues.

County staff is concerned about the whole public communications effort associated with the Reston Task Force. Staff officials believe it is critical to have a strong communications effort, and the approved task force proposal called on the task force effort to encourage community input and participation. Nonetheless, according to County officials, we will have to wait and see how the public engagement is carried out. Some resources are available for communications outreach, such as inhouse facilitators, but the staff may need some assistance with public outreach. At this time, no decisions have been reached yet.

UPDATE: The June 30, 2009, memorandum from Jim Zook, DPZ, originally found on the Reston Master Plan Special Study webpage on the County's official website, has been removed from that webpage. Nonetheless, it is available through a search of the County website as a public record.

Proposed Scope & Schedule for Reston Study--Zook--063009

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