Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Commentary: For the Reston P&Z Committee--Planning Development in Reston TOD Areas, Bill Penniman, February 27, 2012

February 27, 2012

To: Reston Planning & Zoning Committee
From: William Penniman
Re: Planning & Zoning Principles in an Era of TOD

As many of you know, for the past two years, I have been actively engaged in the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force, including co-chairing the Wiehle (Reston East) Subcommittee and serving on the Steering and Vision Committees.

By this memorandum, I offer my views on several key issues which your committee should consider whenever it assesses proposals for major new buildings in Reston. It is an expression of my personal views as a Reston resident, but my views are the product of more than two years of discussion and analysis as part of the Task Force process. It is not a comment on a specific project, but on a host of proposals you are likely to see in the future.

Regardless of how the P&Z Committee may have reviewed proposals in the past, it is important that, going forward, all proposals be viewed within a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) planning framework to the maximum extent possible. Successful TOD is critical to the future of Reston and to the community’s investment in the transit system. Absent very special benefits or other unique considerations, proposals for large commercial or residential developments that detract or diverge from TOD should be rejected or delayed to the extent permitted by law.
Briefly summarized, the guiding principles for new building projects in Reston should include:

Major development should be concentrated close to the new transit stations with height and density generally tapering off as one moves away from the station. The greatest densities should be within ¼ mile and next greatest within ½ mile. Concentrating new development within the TOD areas is important to mitigating traffic, to encouraging pedestrian activity, and to creating centers of commercial, cultural and social activities which will make each of the station areas attractive to prospective employers and residents, as well as to other Reston residents.

Residential development should be mixed with other uses throughout the new transit station areas. The Wiehle Subcommittee recommended that development closest to the station and north of Sunrise Valley Drive be permitted (broadly speaking) to reach 60:40 office:residential closest to the station, transitioning to 40:60 outside ¼ mile, with 25:75 office:residential in the Isaac Newton Square area. The Town Center Subcommittee recommended that there be a 50:50 split of residential and commercial development on a square-footage basis throughout the ½ mile TOD area. Proposals with higher percentages of residential would be welcome by both committees.

It is important to focus large-scale development within a half mile from the Metro stations at least until the stations have been open for a reasonable period of time (perhaps until 2030 or beyond). Allowing large developments outside the TOD areas before the TOD areas have developed could sap commercial and residential demand, thereby delaying TOD development. That would hurt Reston. Thus, outside the TOD areas, large-scale development should be restrained. However, if exceptions are made due to special circumstances, even those projects should be expected to support TOD and community goals with proffers such as linked streetscapes, bus service to the stations, community amenities (e.g., publicly-accessible recreation), traffic-mitigation plans, etc.

Developers should be required to achieve the minimum residential goals either by themselves or by coordinating their plans with other developers within the TOD area. If a builder cannot achieve a balanced mix of residential/nonresidential by itself or with others, then the default should be to build residential.

Only high-quality, high-density projects should be approved within the TOD areas. Effective TOD and maximum transit usage will not be achieved if land near the stations is tied up with low-density projects, which will occupy the space for 50 years or more. A tall, “urban” profile with commercial and cultural attractions is highly desired near the stations. Weak projects or even the perception that weak projects will be approved will discourage investment in high-quality projects. Town Center has been successful in part because high quality was required and that, in turn, attracted more high-quality projects.

TOD project proponents should be required to contribute to a unified streetscape with wide sidewalks and “complete” streets. Coherent and attractive streetscapes, sidewalks and trails cannot be achieved unless all builders contribute. Builders should also contribute to meeting the public open-space and recreational needs of the community, including parks and trails, as well as to meeting the community’s cultural, educational and affordable-housing needs. Diverse restaurants and retail are needed near each station. The Task Force’s Vision, Wiehle and Town Center Subcommittees have recommended guidance on the types of architecture, open spaces and streetscapes that are needed in the TOD areas. The three reports (available online) contain similar themes, and their recommendations largely overlap.

Except for Lake Anne Village Center, which has a unique importance to Reston and has already gotten approval for new development, increased density at the village centers should have a lower priority than development near the station areas at least until the station areas have had an ample opportunity to develop effective TOD.

In sum, the P&Z Committee should adhere to a big-picture plan for Reston. It should be firm and patient in insisting that, for the foreseeable future, major new development must be high-quality, mixed-use TOD, with a coherent form, unified streetscape, and ample proffers to meet Reston’s evolving needs. The Committee will inevitably get many requests for exceptions (“this project is different or special”), but the P&Z Committee should do what it can to focus major development near the stations and to resist inconsistent proposals, at least absent exceptional circumstances and benefits.

Corporate Cramming Bedevils Office Recovery, Wall Street Journal, February 29, 2012

Trend of Companies Packing More People Into Less Space Picks Up Pace; A 'Tiny Library' at One Law Firm

As the office-space market slogs along in a slow recovery, landlords face another hurdle: shrinking tenants.

Companies looking for cost savings are increasingly packing more employees into less space, a trend that is helping cause U.S. vacancy rates to linger at high levels even as employers add jobs in the slowly expanding economy.

Panasonic Corp., for example, is planning to move into a new 280,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters in Newark, N.J., next year. But it is taking significantly less than the approximately 575,000 square feet of office and labs at its current campus in Secaucus, N.J., . . .
Full access to this article requires a paid subscription.   A Reston 2020 member highlighted the article this way: 
Those who think that the departure of Accenture from Town Center to much smaller space in Arlington is a straw in the wind might want to look at today's Property Report in the WSJ (p c8) "Corporate Cramming Bedevils Office Recovery."
Among other things it notes:
  • for cost saving reasons more companies are packing more employees into less space.
  • workstations are shrinking and private offices disappearing.
  • companies are looking for 200 sq ft per employee (not the 300 frequently cited as the marker).
The CEO of Brookfield, a major landowner in south Reston Town Center, says "the way that people are using space is changing."
The article notes this trend is apparent from users as disparate as elite law firms and the GSA.
However, no mention is made of an apparent driving force in the Accenture departure, get employees out closer to customers and let them use home offices more.
The WSJ article echoes a post on this blog concerning Accenture's planned departure from Reston Town Center to smaller space in Arlington.  That post concluded:
The core lesson from the Accenture headquarters departure experience appears to be that we need to re-think the mix of uses (and maybe the high densities) currently planned or being considered for the Dulles Corridor.  If Accenture is a harbinger of things to come,

  • We will need to see greater growth in residential space and less growth in  office space than currently envisioned at both Tysons and Reston and maybe points farther west. 
  • Moreover, we will have to re-think the needs of the many new residents in these areas, including the nature of the local retail shopping experience (relatively fewer business-oriented restaurants, more pharmacies and supermarkets, for example), their access to cultural and recreational facilities, and (especially in Reston) the availability of public open space—largely parks and natural areas—to sustain and enhance the quality of life experience in this premier planned community. 

In short, we must learn from the experiences of others and adapt our planning to the future as it is more likely to be rather than the one we are familiar with and, in some corners, hold dear.  Only in this way will Fairfax County be able to make the Dulles Corridor the economic powerhouse its leaders envision and its developers, employees, and residents will find worth investing in. 

ARCH: Constituting Phase II of the Reston Master Plan Special Study, Issue Bulletin 2012-1, February 29, 2012

Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners
Supporting Homeowner Groups in All of Reston’s Neighborhoods



ARCH Input to Supervisor Hudgins:
Constituting Phase II of the Reston Master Plan Special Study

A number of ARCH representatives attended the November 2011 community forum outlining the likely course for Phase II of the Reston Master Plan Special Study.  The conduct of a charette to augment or possibly supplant the Task Force as a means of generating community input on Phase II development goals/plans was considered.

A charette may be one way to help streamline Phase II, and streamlining the Study’s future is something we definitely support.  We think most of our members are disappointed that nearly two years into this process we have yet to see draft text of proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan.  A charrette, however, in our view should not supplant citizen review and vote on specific draft recommendations that are to be sent to the County for consideration.  We believe the existing Task Force, or some similarly constituted group with broad-based citizen representation, must remain part of the process with the ability to review, opine upon, and vote on draft text recommendations before they are sent to the County for action.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.  ARCH stands ready to continue to assist in Phase II as it has in the first phase of the Special Study.



Editorial: Debunking the 'walkable' Tysons Corner myth, Barbara Hollingsworth, Washington Examiner, February 29, 2012

One of the region's most persistent urban legends is that Dulles Rail will magically transform sprawling Tysons Corner into a walkable downtown where people can live, work and play without a car.
This myth been repeated so often that some Fairfax County residents regard it as incontrovertible fact. It is also part and parcel of the "Smart Growth" conventional wisdom among urban planners.
However, it's much more likely that after spending billions of tax dollars redeveloping Northern Virginia's top employment center, Tysons Corner will remain more suburban office park than pedestrian paradise.
The very concept of a walkable Tysons Corner is a conceit used by planners and politicians to sell the public on higher densities. But it is not a realistic outcome -- no matter how much proponents of Transit Oriented Development wish it to be so. . . .
Actually, the effectiveness of "smart growth" in within a half-mile of transit stations in which residential and non-residential populations have been balanced--called "Transit-Oriented Development" or TOD--has proven effective in reducing traffic and environmental impact while improving quality of life where it is in place.  And people do walk more when the conditions are appropriate, including robust local retail, open space, and other amenities.  On the other hand, few would call the plan for Tysons real TOD planning either within the half-mile circle or beyond.  All it really does is constrain (if that word can be used here) office growth to 100% over the next 20 years--41MM to 81MM GSF with a 14% vacancy rate--at a time when the region's growth is likely to be less than half that.

Moreover, the failure in Tysons planning to include phasing and implementation considerations (such as transportation) as an integral part of the planning process, including costing needed infrastructure improvement, adds to the certainty that Tysons will be less smart and more office park than it could have been.    Now it has become a post hoc exercise in trying to figure out how to retrofit the fantasy plan to reality.

Commentary: State Shirks Transportation Responsibility, Reston Connection, February 29, 2012

By Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Board, and
 Jeff McKay, Lee District Supervisor and
Transportation Committee Chairman

Maybe we should rename our County The Bank of Last Resort.  At our Board of Supervisors
retreat in early February, board members and staff discussed the tools available to local government to narrow the chasm between growing needs and shrinking resources. As the state and federal governments continue to slash programs and funds to localities, the needs in areas like human services, education, public safety, and transportation continue to grow.
Fairfax County is at ground zero in all these areas. We’re home to a growing population of
seniors in need of basic services; our top notch schools are growing fast; and our first responders keep our community safe despite being asked to do more with less.

The current debate over transportation responsibilities is instructive. The Commonwealth
of Virginia has primary transportation responsibilities that go back to the years of the Great
Depression when the state took on all public road maintenance and construction for all counties except for Arlington and Henrico. In recent years, we’ve seen the fraying of this traditional responsibility and core function of state government as the state’s failure to act has left many of our most well-traveled roads in deplorable condition. Saying, “Can’t afford it anymore, it’s your problem” seems to be the General Assembly’s solution. That’s not reasonable and it’s certainly not responsible governance. 

The current proposals in the General Assembly are either devolution-lite or the camel’s nose under the tent.  Either way, they amount to an abdication of the state’s moral and legal responsibility to maintain our roads.  Any effort by the state that does not result in a longterm dedicated revenue stream is a decision to sidestep our transportation challenges.  Fairfax County should not be forced to choose between its citizens’ important needs simply because the state government is looking to take the easy way out.  And keep in mind — as Fairfax County’s fortunes go, so goes the Commonwealth.  Our economic vitality supports and funds the rest of the state.  A crumbling transportation infrastructure here will ultimately show up on the wrong side of the ledger downstate.

As elected leaders, we have the responsibility to listen and respond to the needs of our
constituents.  Time after time we hear that transportation is one of our residents’ top concerns
and key to our economic fortunes.  Fairfax County has a creative and solutions-oriented
local government.  We believe that our transportation problems can be solved.  Identifying
a dedicated transportation revenue stream is the first and most important step in finding
that solution and we ask that the Governor and the General Assembly meet their responsibility
and identify that stream.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Minutes: RCA Board Meeting, November 28, 2011

RCA Board Meeting: November 28, 2011
Comcast Studio

Present:  C.J. Basik, Hank Blakely, John Bowman, Deb Eastham, John Hanley, Diane Lewis, Terry Maynard, Dan McGuire, Colin Mills (President), Tammie Petrine, Dick Rogers, Gary Walker

Absent:  George Kain

Public, Off-Camera Board Meeting
 Agenda:  The agenda was adopted as amended.

August Meeting Minutes: After some spelling corrections and discussion, the October Meeting Minutes were accepted as amended.

Treasurer's Report:  Treasurer Diane Lewis handed out copies of the Treasurer's report, which
was approved.  As of October 31st, the ending balance for Discretionary Funds was $186.90 and Restricted Funds balance was $1,546.90.  Not showing in the report, is a $10 fee for a license plate application. Diane also donated $1 to the 2020 Fund to avoid dormant account charges. When under $100, dormant accounts may be charged after 2 months so her plan is to put a dollar in every month. 

Meeting Location:  Dan shared the news that we have the Sheraton on 4th Mondays if we so choose, at no charge. The conference room will have a large table which seats up to 15 people. A few additional chairs will provided for guests and they will serve water. Of the three meeting space options (ComCast Studios, Sheraton or North County Government Center) the Sheraton has the more comfortable meeting space. The “cons” at the Sheraton are a possibility of being “bumped” and we might be somewhat more isolated.  Some felt the Government Center may present less isolation. The “cons” for the Government Center include limited parking, metal chairs/ less comfortable environment, and we could also be bumped if government officials need the room.

Terry moved that the RCA meetings move to the Sheraton for the next 12 months; Tammi seconded. The vote passed with 9 in favor, 2 opposed, and 1 abstention. The first meeting at the Sheraton will be January 23.

Review of Brainstorming Session:  Colin felt the mid-month Brainstorming Session had been very productive and defined our strengths and weaknesses. He passed out a summary of the notes to all board members. When asked for follow up comments, Dick volunteered that he was particularly interested in how we relate to the Reston Association (RA) and suggested forming a working group to come up with how we should relate to / approach outside organizations. This was agreed to and the working group selected will consist of Dick, Tammi, John Hanley, and Colin.

Gary recommended that the Long and Short Term Goals need to be prioritized to make a beginning of an Action Plan. Colin agreed. He will meet with John Hanley and Dan to address this before the January meeting and draft a strategic plan.

Colin pointed out that we have a dual mission in regard to Fundraising. The long-term plan is to identify and pursue grants (etc) and the short-term is to raise funds for more immediate needs (for example, participation on the Reston Festival should we want to do so). He asked for the Board to think about ways to raise at least $200 for immediate needs. Regarding our tax status, Hank offered to contact the IRS to determine the rules regarding pursuit of the 501c3 classification.

Community Forums:  Colin aims for the RCA will hold several forums on our key issues  throughout 2012, and hopes to find/ enlist local talent to assist us in this.  Tammi suggested Property Rights in Reston regarding Developers buying private property for development as a topic. John Hanley suggested working with the Alliance of Reston Cluster and Homeowners (ARCH) on this. Dick recommended finding a lawyer to comment on this as it is a complex topic. Another suggestion for a topic is Property Taxes; the Use and Distribution of those funds. Another idea for an informational presentation was on transportation, particularly explaining how the south side of Reston will get to the new Wiehle Street Metro Station.  Discussion ensued regarding the advisability of raising a topic that may be considered “incendiary”.  Colin suggested that we consider finding some Education related topics. A great deal of research will be needed before pursing any of these ideas. Youth Employment was another topic suggested, and the idea of local internships being provided to students. Colin, John Hanley and Dan will work on developing a list of ideas.  Dan and Hank discussed how we should approach forums, that if we are sponsoring the forums, we should moderate it using an expert or a panel rather than putting forth our opinions. The goal is to establish in the public mind that we address relevant and interesting issues.

Reston Festival: Dan reminded us that the registration period for the Reston Festival will be upon us very soon and we need to decide whether or not we want to participate.  Colin pointed out that the decision to participate depends greatly on whether we have on-line voting worked out. The other key issue will be staffing of the booth. Tammi pointed out that people on the election slate cannot man the booth. Colin summed up that we are not yet committed to the Festival but will need to finalize a decision soon.

License Plate: Dan told us about the changes made to the License Plate application. He has concerns over the web presence of the License Plate campaign. A brief discussion ensued but was cut short due to time constraints.

Public, On-Camera Board Meeting

Welcome:  President Colin Mills called the meeting to order at 8:30 and the Directors introduced themselves.

RCA Citizen of the Year Award: Colin announced that we are now accepting applications for the RCA Citizen of the Year Award.  The criteria is as follows:
  • The nominee must have been a Reston citizen for at least the past 5 years,
  • The Nominee’s actions are consistent with the goals of Reston and the RCA,
  • The Nominee has contributed to the quality of life in Reston,
  • People in need of help have benefited from the Nominees actions
  • The Nominee’s deeds were done without thought of personal gain or recognition
  • The Nominee is not currently an elected public official or serving on the Board of a major community organization (including RA, RCA, etc)

The application should be on the RCA website shortly and are due the end of the year for selection in early January.

Master Plan Task Force: Phase 1 Update and Phase 2 Preview: RCA attended an Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee Meeting discussing the Metro Rail and the regular Task Force meeting on November 1, and the Community Meeting on November 16th. 
Terry presented information from the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee and the Task Force meetings. From the first, we learned that Dulles Toll Road users now look like they will be paying 54% of the cost of Phase 2 if it goes on for the projected cost.  Regarding costs, it is realistic that the budget will go from $2.7 to $2.9 billion on Phase 1 and possibly 3 months late (6 months late is the worst case). While not acknowledging any delays in Phase 1, the Task Force do have several schedule problems that they are trying to work around, for example the weather related delays during “Snowmageddon” two years ago while working on the overhead section through Tyson’s Corner.  To counter the delays, they are working 24/7, which will incur overtime costs. An interesting side note, when the Chairman of the MWAA asked for new agenda items for the next meeting, there was a request for a “back of the envelope” calculation for what it cost to run a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system instead of Phase 2 and what the impact there would be on Wiehle Avenue. Phase 2 could to be delayed about 6 months for a good reason – an effort to look for other opportunities for financing that may reduce costs.

The Task Force meeting on November 1st presented a second more residential intensive alternate for looking at traffic analysis in Reston. The original scenario is based on planning for 134,000 jobs and approx. 51,000 people living in the TOD areas. The alternate presented with a higher residential ratio, stayed with the same commercial (jobs) level of 134,000 jobs and bumping up the residential component to 100,000 in the TOD area, thus lowering the jobs to household ratio. They then also applied both approaches Reston wide, which had not been done before, estimating an additional 20,000 households in the base case to about 90,000 people and an additional 70,000 households in the residential intensive option for about 150,000 people in Reston. Both estimates are a far cry from the current population of about 58,000. In other words, we are looking at potentially doubling or tripling the population of Reston. Terry plans to write a paper on this and post it in his blog. Dan commented that the fact that they added to the residential side of the equation rather than reduce the commercial to shift the ratio is telling, as is adding the device of including the rest of Reston to the mix which artificially change the commercial/ residential balance without solving the real problem. The majority of the increase will result from Phase 1, not Phase 2.

Regarding the meeting of November 16, which was advertised as the “kick-off” of Phase 2, but wasn’t, John Bowman told us that the attendees were basically given was a history lesson of the Task Force to date – the timeline and some of the issues. What was not presented, and what those who have been engaged in this process were hoping to hear about, was a true discussion on how the County is going to approach Phase 2. The County was non-committal in regard to the use of the Task Force in Phase 2, so the opportunity for the community to comment in Phase 2 is undetermined. Timing for Phase 2 is delayed until they receive the results of the modeling come in during January or February with a set of recommendations from Phase 1. Depending on those results, the County may have to come to grips on how much commercial they can really do and not ruin the quality of life in Reston.  Another interesting thing that will come out of the meeting was the County’s acknowledgement the Reston’s current 13 person per acre population cap clearly is going to get busted, the question is how that is going to work. Discussion ensued regarding possible options for how the County might go about collecting and using community opinions.

2020 Update: Tammi described a robust meeting on November 9th. The primary issue of concern continues to be the tremendous burden that the Dulles Toll Road users face but in addition to that another concern of the 2020 committee is who is going to underwrite bonds. When you are looking at the majority of funding coming from a toll road fee that going to raise so high usage is going to drop dramatically, you need to consider how it is get underwriting. Another issue brought up was the fact of the tremendous flooding that occurred this past fall along the W&OD trail along Wiehle Ave with the submerged cars. This was due to a natural stream that has been blocked up and has resulted in a floodable area. We want to be sure when the TOD development along the corridor is built that no natural streams are blocked off, because that is the result. This is also in the Planning Principles committee. The meeting was largely focused on Phase 2 which as John Bowman has pointed out to us is now in abeyance for a number of months.

Terry added that MWAA / Dulles Toll Road bond rating has slipped from A to BBB so there is an issue as Tammi as pointed out.

Fundraising Possibilities: Colin stated that we covered most of this issue in the off-camera segment. No one had anything to add.

IT Committee Update:  Gary stated that not much progress had been made. He reviewed the three goals of the committee:
-       Revamp the website
-       Create the ability to have on-line voting
-       Fundraising

Hank pointed out how Fundraising and the website go hand-in-hand. Gary hopes the committee will have made concrete progress for the January meeting, possible have a Beta version to show the Board. Colin shared that we want to develop a dynamic website with interactive elements.

Education Committee:  Colin described Education as an area that our Brainstorming Meeting pointed out as a good issue to pursue. He does not currently want to start a committee on this, but asked for ideas on what such a committee might focus on. Ideas included Community College in Reston, developing a Reston History curriculum that could be taught in area schools, and advocacy for an Arts / Technical/ Vocational High School which may focus on things like Green Technologies to train young people in industries that may not yet even exist.  Another idea is a form of mentoring program with local professionals and businesses. 

Other Business: Diane told us of 2 free EV charging stations for electric cars in front of Mom’s Organic Market in the Kmart Shopping Center in Herndon.  There are additional charging stations at the Clocktower Shopping Center, also in Herndon.

The Soapstone conversion of bike lanes is completed. There is also a sensor in the bike lane so the traffic light system will be able to detect when a bike is there.

A question was asked if there was new information from the Planning and Zoning Committee regarding a 22 story building that is being considered in the Reston Town Center. The opinion from the meeting was the audience was enamored with the architectural presentation but not much discussion focused on the land use issue. It’s a Class A office building on top of a 6 story garage (not underground). The vision is to attract an international headquarters to Reston, which would be great, but there was no discussion of other impact points such as the commercial/ residential balance, etc. Otherwise, the Spectrum proposal has been withdrawn for the time being.

Location and Time of Next Meeting:  No December meeting. The next RCA meeting will be January 23, 2012 in the Sheraton Hotel. The address is 11810 Sunset Hills Road, Reston. The public is invited to come.

Minutes submitted by Debra Eastham

Agenda: Reston Citizens Association Board Meeting, Monday, February 23, 2012, 7:30PM, Sheraton Reston Hotel

DRAFT Agenda
RCA Board of Directors Meeting
February 27, 2011

7:30 PM
Adopt  Agenda
Colin Mills, RCA Board
7:35 PM
Approve January 2012 Minutes
Debra Eastham
7:40 PM
Treasurer’s Report
Diane Lewis
7:45 PM
RCA Citizen of the Year Review
Colin Mills
7:50 PM
RCA Strategic Plan
Discussion, Action
Colin Mills
8:20 PM
Update on Planning for Community Forum
John Hanley, Terry Maynard, Tammi Petrine
8:30 PM
License Plate Campaign
Dan McGuire
8:40 PM
RA-RCA Relationship
Dick Rogers
8:45 PM
IT Committee Update
Gary Walker
8:50 PM
Town Center Office Building
Dick Rogers
8:55 PM
Fairways Update
Tammi Petrine
9:00 PM
Outreach Committee
Hank Blakely
9:05 PM
RA Candidate Forum?
Discussion, Possible Action
Colin Mills, RCA Board
9:10 PM
Other Business
RCA Board
9:15 PM
Location and Time of Next Meeting; Adjourn
RCA Board