Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Notes on RTF Community Meeting on Phase II--Village Centers & Residential Areas, November 16, 2011

                                      19 Nov 2011
Reston Task Force Community Meeting
Introduction to Phase 2
16 November 2011

     Summary and Comment: Some comment and interpretations concerning Heidi Merkel’s presentation at the 16 November Reston community meeting on Phase 2 have suggested that there is little possibility of significant change in the Reston PRC areas.  In fact, experienced observers of the Reston Master Planning effort believe that the presentation was carefully crafted to give that impression while leaving many options open for significant re-development.  Of particular interest is the lack of clarity about the process that will be employed to incorporate citizens’ views.  Nothing about planning for Reston's village centers and neighborhoods was foreclosed for Phase 2. 

     Heidi’s presentation was a masterful performance of one hour without a break. Her key talking points are available on the county website and have been given some--albeit somewhat misleading--coverage in local newspapers. This review tries to interpret key points made.

     Heidi said the real work on Phase 2 will not begin until late May or June.  She said this meeting is not a “kickoff” but an informational effort to alert Reston residents to what is coming.  She said, optimistically, that Phase 2 could be completed by late fall of 2012.

PRC Residential Areas

     She keyed her comments on this aspect of the study to the theme that residents want “predictability” (significantly, although she briefly mentioned “stability,” she did not key her presentation to that theme, which has a unique—and undesirable from citizens’ perspective-—meaning in the redevelopment lexicon.) She said DPZ senses a “desire for a structured process for considering redevelopment proposals.”  She noted that many areas were not built up to the density of the existing plan.  Medium density areas (mostly townhouses) could be garden style apartments. High density areas are mostly garden apartments rather than the high rises that could have been put there.

     Heidi said there may be utility in redefining some of these areas in accord with what is actually there.  The land use plan “could use more definition.”

     She also noted that the county has existing guidelines) for community redevelopment (an apparent reference to Appendix 8 of the Master Plan).  It requires a high degree of property owner concurrence to make changes.  There is also a need to ensure compatibility of any changes with adjacent areas.

     (Comment: Although she did not explicitly say so, she seemed to be implying that townhouse clusters could turn themselves over to re-developers in certain situations.  She did not mention to the role of the Reston Deed, RA, or the Design Review Board in this process.)

     Important Comment: A version of the Reston “planning principles” was handed out.  It did not include the note appended to the principles approved by the RMPTF concerning the residential areas.  That note, appended by the development community, said the future of the residential areas will be revisited as Part of Phase II.)

Village Centers

     Village Centers will be another focal point of Phase 2.  Heidi noted that Lake Anne contained Robert Simon’s vision of what a village center should be but it has not prospered. She said they could stay as commercial strips or become community gathering places—or conceivably something else.

     She stressed that any changes must be sought by and be initiated by the center’s property owner; but it is not clear what their vision is. She stressed that it will be the property owners who will bring about change. 

     DPZ posted maps of the village centers and Heidi noted that there are some residential areas within these boundaries.  She noted that there are also some residential areas adjacent of village centers and that they “by and large” should be stable.

     She said the village centers could be the subject of a “charrette” bringing in outside design experts to confer with community and property owners. The mention of “charrettes” brought groans from the audience.  Tall Oaks might be a particularly useful subject for this.

     She said the at other commercial areas—the “convenience” and the Home Depot–Trader Joe area will be included in the review but that consideration may well be given to keeping them as they are for the future.

     Population Cap: Early in her presentation, Heidi noted that DPZ will be looking at a 20-year horizon for population change and that in the TOD-Metro station areas--which are outside the PRC--there might be a growth of 35,000 residents. Later in response to a question, she deferred putting forth specific current figures of both population and the cap, saying they will be on the county website.

     She noted, however, that Phase 2 will be looking at options for development that exceed the current cap.  One possibility would be to raise the cap.  Another would be to keep the current 13 people per acre density but evaluate specific areas on a case by case basis.  She said DPZ anticipated a focused community meeting to discuss population levels.  A member of the audience asked what the point was of having a cap if we just keep raising it. 

     Golf Courses: In response to a question at the end of the meeting on Reston National, Heidi said maybe we should think about future development of the golf courses (specifically including Hidden Creek too). (Comment: this was a new idea in the planning process. The Wiehle TOD sub-committee in particular has emphasized the importance of the Golf Courses as a buffer between the TOD and PRC areas.)

     Fairway Apartments and Colvin Run Woods: In response to a question, Heidi said Fairway Apartments will not be left in abeyance until Phase 2 planning is completed since the property owner has existing rights under current zoning.   Colvin Woods, however, may be included in the study.

Phase II Process

     Heidi left open how Phase 2 might proceed.  She said it would be either a Task Force of an “advisory group.”  She implied that the current planning Task Force was a somewhat unwieldy group.

     She said composition of any group is under consideration and no chair was designated. She said the groups would include member of Reston organizations and property owners.   She left unclear what role this group might have in drafting or approving a plan.  However, as noted above, she did speak of some specific community meetings.

     She noted the process may involve some revisions and updates of the existing planning maps to reflect what has happened over the last 40 years and to revise “outdated” concepts.   The transportation map may be revised since it now reflects only roadways and the land use and community facilities map may be combined.

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