28 Nov 2012
on Reston Master Planning Task Force –27 Nov 2012
and comment: This meeting focused on
DPZ outlining their concept of more flexibility in the plan through the use of
broader planning districts. However,
there was great uncertainty in the questioning about what this might mean for
the actual plan. The development
community continued to voice dissatisfaction with the lower density levels in
Scenario G. Despite many unanswered questions, the next meeting was put off until
January. The meeting was very well
start, two members of the development community rose to state their concerns
with Scenario G. One represented
properties along Association Drive
and the other Unisys on Sunset Hills.
Both talked about the need for greater density to incentivize
Heidi Merkel, DPZ, began with a
review of the concept of “development districts” introduced at the last meeting. (See map below showing the “districts.”) These
would be bigger units than the former “sub-units” used in the process. For example, on the South side of Wiehle
station the “district” would include sub-units H-1, H-2, I-1 and I-2. There would be five “districts” in the in the
areas immediately around the Metrorail station where development would be
focused. (These are actually the
Herndon-Monroe district and north and south “sub-districts” on either side of
the stations at Reston Parkway and Wiehle.)
There would also be several peripheral districts (e.g.—North Town Center,
West Town Center) where development levels would not change significantly from
existing zoning approvals (although the details for those have not yet been
The idea of the “districts” is
to introduce more “flexibility” into the planning process. Properties could be
combined and residential and office use exchanged to some degree. However, in each “district” there would be
smaller “core” (colored purple on the maps) that would concentrate office
density close to the station.
The ‘core” areas would have
greater density (i.e. old H-2 (Vornado land) would be 1.5-2.5) but the density
outside the core was not explicitly stated. (See talking points accompanying
the 13 November meeting on county website).
Last meeting the Wiehle
Districts were tabled on maps; this meeting Town Center and Herndon Monroe were
The attempt to explain how the
districts would work elicited great confusion.
Since job-residential ratios and FARs were not given for the districts
it was uncertain how development might proceed (this is the “flexibility “ apparently
intended). Heidi said all this would
mean that “you might not know the FAR you get until you get into the process.”
Much of the meeting was given to
developers expressing reservations about Scenario G and asking questions about
the “district” concept.
One area of inquiry revolved
around the figures passed out at the last meeting indicating that under
Scenario G there would be substantially fewer jobs than under the existing comprehensive
plan. One line of questioning was that
developers could opt to build under the existing plan and ignore Scenario
G. To give one example, the A-2 area
near Herndon Monroe station (now undeveloped) could have 1,000,000 feet of
office under the current plan. Under
Scenario G it would have a 1.5 FAR. Heidi
thought office and residential development would interest the owner. Some thought the incentives would not be
there for developers to get involved in multi-use TOD development.
Other reservations were raised
about using the transit study—which showed massive gridlock at key
intersections in the study area—to determine development levels. This was
called the “tail wagging the dog.” Developers
again argued that not all proposed Scenario G development will take place so
traffic analysis should not be based on the plan.
Again developers said the lower
FARs in Scenario G meant there will not be an incentive to tear down relatively
new 8-10 story buildings, and that what will be encouraged will be infill
development that would be unlikely to fulfill the visions and potential for
mixed-use development outlined in the sub-committee reports.
Various other questions were
asked but not always answered. For example, Heidi said “we are looking at it”
in response to a question about what bonuses might be given for and how much. Heidi did say if developers worked together
and could come in with 30-60 acres rather than say 10 there could be a bonus
One question emphatically answered
was that there would be no height limits in the plan. Heidi thought spindly tall buildings
Comment: The net result of the DPZ presentation and the answers
to questions was to leave even more uncertainty about what the formal staff plan
proposal will look like. The idea of
introducing “flexibility” leaves uncertain what would be in the plan regarding
developer proffers for needed improvements, grid of streets, parkland,
etc. It also implies that in each
“district” there will be a “rush to the courthouse” to claim as much
development rights as possible before the “bucket” of development is taken.
Conclusion: At the end of the meeting Patty Nicoson cryptically
said that there would be no vote on Scenario G at this time in view of all the
questions raised about the “bucket approach.” To our knowledge, there was no plan to vote on Scenario G at this time since its presentation was so incomplete and confusing.
Herndon-Monroe: Heidi did briefly comment on the Herndon Monroe station
noting that initially it was not clear that there might be further development
in the garage. Now, however, MWAA and company have kicked the cost of the garage
back onto the county. So, FC is looking
for a public-private partnership to develop the garage area as TOD mixed use. In Scenario G it has a FAR of 1.5-2.5 with 47%
allocated to office. As noted above, A-2
is already authorized substantial office.
Heidi thought SPRINT was unlikely to re-develop and that in any event,
it was uncertain what might be done by 2040 in the station area.
Notes: Heidi at several points talked about the plan timeline being 2040
(vice the previous 2030). Also, it was
noted that there was a revised version of Scenario G dated 10-16-12 on the website. The main difference with the 10-9 version
seems to be a slight increase in FARs for E-5
(south Reston station), and the introduction
of flexible but slightly higher maximum FARs
for G-5 (JBG land) and I-1 at Wiehle (perhaps with the hope of attracting
Debbie Hendircks was introduced as the DPZ staff
replacement for Sandy Beaulieu
Next: Despite all the questions that were left open the next meeting was
said to be in January (at a time to be set).
It was hinted that some introductory plan text may be available by then.
The Task Force drafting group will meet on 28 November
to have a ‘”brainstorming” session about what should be in the report. Van Foster and Bill Penniman are drafting