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Friday, January 30, 2015

Summary of Community Meeting on Second Draft of Phase 2 Reston Master Plan, January 29, 2015

UPDATE:  For more on the community meeting, please read this article in RestonNow, February 5, 2015.

Despite the threatening weather last evening, more than 90 people attended the community meeting to discuss the second draft of the Phase 2 (suburban area) of the Reston Master Plan.  Among those in attendance were County officials Cathy Hudgins and RCC Director Leila Gordon in addition to planning and transportation staff personnel.  A number of residents were wearing their neon yellow “Rescue Reston” t-shirts.

The first 45 minutes or so were devoted to the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) presenting the changes in the second draft.  (Their presentation will be linked here when it is posted on the Fairfax County website.)  Questions were taken during the presentation.
  • One questioner repeatedly asked why the Reston on Foot and Bike plan was not incorporated into the draft plan, merely referred to. 
  • Another questioner wondered whether the draft plan fixed the language issues surrounding the Reston National Golf Course, and it does (but it may be too late). 
  • A third questioner, noting plans to incorporate the Hunt Club area into the Reston plan, noted that Civil War era graves have been found on the site and why the plan did not reflect that historic fact and the need for its protection.  DPZ was not aware that graves had been confirmed there, which would require that the area be protected. 
  • There were also several questions about transportation issues. 

Supervisor Hudgins left the meeting near the end of the DPZ presentation, not waiting to hear the questions and concerns expressed by those in attendance.

A question and answer period ensued.  Some of the key topics raised in that were:
  • Controlling Village Center redevelopment.  Several people expressed concern about language in the latest draft that does not constrain redevelopment of Reston’s Village Centers.  Terry Maynard read a prepared Reston 2020 statement concerning the issue, noting that no defined limits on density are defined nor are Village Center boundaries prevented from expanding.  Given the history of adverse consequences from sloppy planning and zoning language (RNGC, the redevelopment of Town Center Office Building), Reston 2020 proposed that the plan include no language on redevelopment unless it had specific constraints.
  • Stop tearing down garden apartments.  The draft Reston Master Plan allows the redevelopment of Reston’s garden apartments, which are the only place most young adults can afford to live in Reston.  Their replacements would be high-rise buildings which, because of their construction costs, drive rents or condo sales prices into the luxury level.
  • Protecting Civil War grave sites.  A person linked to the Hunt Club effort to document these grave sites noted that six graves of a pro-Northern family have been confirmed and the effort continues to further define the scope of the cemetery.  A spokesperson encouraged the DPZ to show some curiosity about this significant find—“Reston’s first family”—before proposing language that might let the nine-acre area be developed as a residential neighborhood.
The group meeting closed about 8:30PM with the opportunity for individuals to ask questions of the staff planning and transportation members in attendance. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reston 2020 Statement at Community Meeting on Phase 2 Master Plan, January 29, 2015

RCA Reston 2020 Statement Regarding
Draft Reston Master Plan Language on
Reston’s Village Centers
January 29, 2015

Good evening.  I am Terry Maynard, spokesperson for the RCA Reston 2020 Committee. 

Our committee and many residents are concerned that the revised, second draft of the Phase 2 Reston Master Plan provides no meaningful constraints on redevelopment in and around our Village Centers.  The failure to provide meaningful guidance and restraint risks over-development of these centers and threatens surrounding neighborhoods.

The first draft provided that all Phase 2 areas essentially would be maintained “as built.”  The second draft generally retains this “as built” approach, even with respect to rental apartment sites which would be reduced from “high” to “medium” density.  But there is one glaring and inappropriate change.

The second draft totally abandons this “as built” approach with respect to the four village centers, placing no objective limits on future density in the event of redevelopment.  The draft language states at one point only that redevelopment within the village center footprints should be “neighborhood scale”, a terminology that is literally meaningless, and yet at another points sets as the first goal in its  vision for redevelopment of  Village Centers as “community”—which means “Reston-wide” in county plan-speak—gathering places.  Village Centers have never been meant to serve the community, only their nearby neighborhoods.

Normally County plans call for a maximum floor-area ratio or FAR for an area.  These defining terms do not appear at all in the section on Village Center redevelopment.  As a result, redevelopment densities are left to developers to conjure up at their whim, and their definition of “neighborhood scale” and “community gathering place” will almost certainly far exceed what the neighborhood thinks it should be. 

The draft plan language also is very soft and vague in defining the boundaries of redevelopment both within and adjacent to the Village Centers. 

The draft plan also does not limit redevelopment only to the established retail areas, merely suggesting it should be focused there.  The door is opened to expanding commercial or mixed-uses into the residential areas within the existing Village Center footprints.  We know of no good reason why the residents of Village Center areas should be treated differently than other Restonians whose property is generally protected by keeping them “as built.” 

The draft plan language does state that the Village Center outside boundaries themselves should be maintained, but our conversations with DPZ staff indicates that there are those who question that language and would support enlarging the village center footprints into nearby condo, townhouse and even single-family detached neighborhoods. 

The argument for expanding the Village Centers’ boundaries apparently hinges on the economic viability of redevelopment we were told.  Our committee would ask, “What about the neighborhoods in and near Village Centers?  Shouldn’t their existing viability—their quality of life and their property values—be as protected at least as much as the hypothetical viability of some future redevelopment?  Why should profit-driven commercial redevelopment be given some higher standing?”

As Reston has recently experienced, our questions and concerns are not hypothetical.  Right now, the community faces a massive attack on the preservation of 166 acres of open space at Reston National Golf Course in part because of loose language in a County plan written 45 years ago.  The approved redevelopment of the Town Center Office Building, an opportunity spawned by sloppy planning and zoning language decades ago, promises a massive high-rise office building twice as tall as adjoining buildings and more than ½-mile from the future Silver Line rail station.  It will stand above Town Center like a developer’s massive middle finger directed at the County’s transit station area policy objective and the community’s transit-oriented design goal of tapering density away from the Metro stations. 

As these and other insults to the Reston Master Plan suggest, developers will exploit not only every opening, but even any weak seams, in Reston’s Master Plan to increase their development and profit potential at others’ expense.  We are seeking to prevent this from occurring again at the expense of Reston’s vision as a well-planned community by ensuring that the draft plan language for Reston’s Village Centers is as tight and precise as it can possibly be. 

We believe that in the absence of concrete redevelopment constraints on density, borders, and mix of uses for redeveloped village centers, the plan should go no further than specify the existing baseline plan which allows a FAR of 0.25 and clearly defines the mixed-use and residential areas.  All language proposing what might be offered in Village Center redevelopment should be dropped in the absence of reasonable and measurable constraints. 

We do not want to see any language incorporated in the plan that provides a pretext, however remote, for massive redevelopment densities and expansion of the Village Centers at the expense of nearby neighborhoods.  To do so could undermine the fabric of our residential neighborhoods.

"The evolution of northern Virginia," Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution, January 26, 2015

When I visited Santa Monica in January it struck me how much it reminded me of…Arlington.  Arlington is now essentially a part of Northwest, at least Arlington above Route 50 or so.  Arlington and Santa Monica have never been more alike, or less distinctive.
Parts of east Falls Church will meld into Arlington, and south Arlington will become more like north Arlington.  Real estate prices east/north of a particular line are rising and west of that line are falling.  Fairfax is definitely west of that line.
The Tysons Corner remake will fail, Vienna is not the new Clarendon, and the Silver Line and the monstrously wide Rt.7 will form a new dividing line between parts of Virginia which resemble Santa Monica and parts which do not.
Incumbents aside, no one lives in Fairfax any more to commute into D.C.  Why would you? . . . .
Click here for the rest of this post.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Op-Ed: Will Reston’s Village Center Redevelopment Be Unchecked? RestonNow, January 28, 2015

This is an op-ed from Terry Maynard of Co-Chair of Reston 2020, a citizen advocacy group.

Having recovered from the December holidays, I finally read the second draft of the Phase 2 Reston Master Plan last week in preparation for the community meeting this Thursday, 7 p.m., at RCC Lake Anne’s JoAnne Rose Gallery Room.
It’s an open meeting with substantial opportunity for public participation.  I encourage you to be there because …

What I found in the draft plan regarding Reston’s Village Centers was language that allows virtually unconstrained redevelopment of these critical neighborhood “gathering places.”

First, and maybe most importantly, there are no meaningful constraints on density – the actual amount of building that could be done at the Village Centers. Typically, including the Phase 1 plan for Reston’s urban areas, planning guidance indicates a maximum density measured by floor-area ratio (FAR) that, as the phrase suggests, measures the ratio of the volume of square footage of allowable for development to the area of the property.

The current Reston Master Plan allows a FAR 0.25 density in the Village Center mixed-use areas (the retail strip malls we now have). That means their total development cannot exceed one-quarter of the lot’s total area, and that is pretty much what we have across the four village centers beyond Lake Anne.

The words “floor-area ratio” and “FAR” do not appear in the section on Reston’s Village Centers in the latest draft plan. The only density-linked phrase is “neighborhood scale,” which is undefined in any County planning document. Are we talking the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan or development scaled to the suburban Reston neighborhoods that surround the Village Centers? The draft plan offers only this:  “The specific amount of additional density that will be appropriate for future redevelopment will be determined as a part of a community-engagement process . . .”

No density limits, just a County-controlled process. Given that both the County and developers stand to generate greater taxes and profits respectively from greater density, why limit development by a density cap when they can control the “community-engagement process.”  We saw how well that worked in Phase 1 in the developer-dominated task force.
The other critical issue that the draft plan goes very soft on is boundaries: both the boundaries within the Village Center between the mixed-use area the residential area AND the boundaries defining the edges of the Village Center.

The RCA Reston 2020 Committee, of which I am a member, has sought to limit potential redevelopment to the mixed-use areas, those strip malls we so often use (except Tall Oaks), and leave the associated residential areas alone as is generally the case with Reston’s neighborhoods. There is no legitimate justification to treat Village Center residents differently from the rest of us.

But that is not what the draft plan offers. Instead, it says redevelopment should be “focused” on the mixed-use areas, but does not limit it to those areas. In a discussion I had with a DPZ staff member on this, he specifically noted that there may be a need to redevelop some residential areas to make a Village Center economically viable. Boom! There’s the opportunity to roughly double the commercial size of each Village Center and drive out hundreds of neighboring families, some in single-family homes, substituting denser and more profitable mid-rise or even high-rise (absent density constraints) condos and apartments in their place.

And still that is not enough.  First, the good news:  The draft plan does state, “Maintain the boundaries of Village Centers.”  Yet, in my discussion with a DPZ staff member on this draft plan, he stated that the fixed boundary statement “had been brought into question” during staff discussions.  In particular, he noted that the Tall Oaks Village Center may be too small to be economically viable and the boundary may need to expand.

Whoa! Reston residents need to make sure that the fixed boundary language stays in the plan as it goes forward and make sure that DPZ, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors understand that we do not want the Village Centers to become a cancer eating our neighborhoods.

When queried why the DPZ was pursuing such loose language for the Village Centers, the response was that no developer has presented a proposal for redevelopment and DPZ did not want to constrain their options. Said another way, DPZ doesn’t know what developers want so it will give them carte blanche.  On the other hand, they have no apparent compunction about undercutting residents’ options or their property’s value.

A plan, especially the Reston Master Plan, is supposed to provide guidance on what the community should become in some future timeframe, typically a couple of decades. This draft plan offers no vision, no guidance, and no constraints; it just offers largely unchecked redevelopment opportunities.

My reaction:  If DPZ doesn’t have a concrete plan of what Reston’s Village Center should look like in the years ahead–maybe even one for each Village Center since they clearly face different opportunities and challenges–it should stick with the plan we have. At least the current plan defines limits for density and boundaries no matter how ugly or uneconomic some of our Village Centers are.  The new draft plan basically opens the door to unlimited, undefined redevelopment.

Your first opportunity to address these flaws (and others) in the second draft of the Reston Master Plan will be this Thursday evening at the JoAnne Rose Gallery in RCC Lake Anne.

Based on my conversations with DPZ, I understand they will make a short overview presentation and the rest will be question and answer period. And then you will only have only until Feb. 12 to send written comments before the draft plan is finalized for rubber stamp County Planning Commission and then Board of Supervisors consideration.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

RA Board Kills Ethics Committee, Reston Patch, January 25, 2015

Proposal for semi-automonous Ethics Committee growing out of land swap controversy dies. Board member goes active against RELAC referendum.

The Reston Association Board of Directors recently killed a proposal by Director Rachel Muir to create a semi-autonomous Ethics Committee to serve as watchdog of the ethically challenged Board.
Muir’s proposed Committee would consist of 4 members from the community and one representative from the RA Board. The Committee would have overseen implementation of a new, more rigorous code of conduct for RA Board members. It would have had the power to investigate allegations of violations from the community, publicly report their findings, and recommend appropriate action to the full Board. The Board rejected the proposal by a 6-2 vote, with only Ms. Muir and Director Lucinda Shannon voting in favor of it.
There has been talk of ethics reform following last year’s controversy about RA’s secretive land swap of a wooded common area to become a parking lot for the exclusive use of Lake Anne business; and, subsequent revelations that some RA Directors fail to complete even the minimal conflict-of-interest forms currently required by the Association.
Instead, the same Board majority voted to officially assigned ethics oversight responsibility to a newly created Governance Committee, consisting of Board members themselves. That is, the fox is in charge of the chicken coop.
Now, just after helping to kill the ethics reform, one of those who voted to kill it is actively taking a side in the RA referendum to determine whether or not to eliminate the RA covenant binding 343 Lake Anne homes to the Reston Lake Anne Air Conditioning (RELAC) system monopoly. . . .
Click here for the rest of this open post.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

County Audit Forms for FOL Voluntary, Fairfax Library Advocates

This is re-posted from the Fairfax Library Adovcates blog.

Subject: Audit forms voluntary  

Summary:  County officials confirm that completion of the recently distributed audit forms, or CSAs, is strictly voluntary.  Individual groups may complete them in detail, send in an alternate document such as a 990, or ignore them.  It was also noted a version of the CSA meant for County offices was inadvertently included in the letter sent to Friends’ groups and can be ignored.   End Summary
A group of the Fairfax Library Advocates, accompanied by an attorney providing pro bono assistance, met with County officials Wednesday afternoon, following up on the earlier meeting of January 9, 2015.
As is standard practice, the Advocates emphasized they do not speak for or represent anyone other than themselves. 
The purpose of the meeting was to try to rectify discrepancies between statements made by senior County officials and the materials distributed to various groups.   In pursuit of this, the conversation began with an attempt to clarify the origin of the audit request.   It has been repeatedly acknowledged by all parties that the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations did not request an audit of the Friends' accounts.   Further, a previous assertion that a homeowner’s group asked for the audit has no merit.  There have been no allegations of impropriety by any Friends group.  From discussions with members of concerned groups it appears the request did not originate with the Board of Supervisors, the Board of Trustees, Branch Managers or staff, the Board Auditor’s office, the media, or any outside group.  A very limited number of possible originating offices remain, but the officials declined comment.  The officials made it clear that they could not speak to anything other than the details of the CSA itself and that the auditor was simply doing as required by the BOS Resolution.
On the timing of the request, there is no indication that a review of Friends’ assets and operations was contemplated until after the Federation made its request for an audit of the Library Administration’s System Gift Fund. 
Moving to the audit itself, the Auditor’s office representatives stated they developed the Control Self Assessments (CSAs) in response to instructions from the Board of Supervisors in the Board Minutes of December 2, 2014.   The Advocates noted that set of Board Minutes was drafted under the false assumption that the Federation had requested the Friends be audited and the entire premise of the request was thus in question.  The Auditors replied they worked with the instructions they were given.  The Advocates accepted that the Auditor’s office had to follow orders but asked when the Board Minutes would be corrected and if this would then obviate subsequent instructions.  This question was outside the purview of the County participants and it was agreed this would be better addressed to the Board of Supervisors.
The Auditors noted at this point that two versions of the CSA, one for the Friends and a different one for County offices, had inadvertently been sent out together.   Only the first version, marked for “FOL” need be considered.  
The Advocates wondered under what authority the County was auditing independent 501 (c) 3 organizations.  They noted Chairman Bulova had written Acting Advocates Chairman Hays on October 31, 2014 and stated, “The Friends accounts, to my knowledge, are not subject to county audits  since they are separate (non-county) non-profits.”   The officials then stated that completion of the forms was strictly voluntary and thus no authority was needed.  This surprised the Advocates present, who stated the letter sent gave the strong impression that the County was insisting on these forms being completed.   The County officials repeated that the process was voluntary.  When asked if that meant any given Friends group could choose to fill out the form in exhaustive detail, choose to send in only documents already prepared for other purposes like a 990, choose to answer N/A to everything, or choose to ignore the request entirely the answer was yes.
This led to a discussion of what was the purpose of the CSAs.  The Auditor explained there were several ways he could have approached satisfying the Supervisors’ request including a full audit but he settled on the CSA approach as he felt it likely to be the easiest and the most useful.   One goal was to better understand and track funds flowing into and out of the Library Administration’s gift fund.  
When it became evident not everyone was familiar with the system used to collect and account for funds that go to the gift fund, one of the Advocates with direct and extensive knowledge of this explained the process.  Briefly, through the new Comprise system the County collects all monies and has complete control of the entire process.  The Friends generally have no knowledge of what has been collected until the County returns that portion which goes to the Friends.   Given the County controls 100% of this process, what could the Friends usefully add?  The Auditor contended that additional information was always helpful and served to verify other accounts.  
A second use of the CSAs is to determine best practices that can then be shared with other groups.   In response to this it was noted many Friends groups already share information and ideas and there were regular Forums that also served this purpose.  
Meanwhile, all the focus on an audit of the Friends has taken attention away from the request the Federation actually did make in this area, a full audit of the Library Administration’s Gift Fund.   During the January 9th meeting with Chairman Bulova, the Library Administrators agreed to provide information beginning with copies of detailed quarterly reports on the uses of the Fund already produced and distributed to Branch Managers.  These (dating back at least five years) have not yet been received.  
The County officials were gracious with their time and professionally presented their reasoning for their actions.  
The Advocates concluded by noting the voluntary aspect of the CSA was unclear to many people as was the continued inaccurate reference to the CSAs being developed in response to a Federation request.  The Advocates suggested the County clarify these two points and perhaps provide additional justification for their remaining requests in a follow-up letter.  
Comment – the County made no claim to any right to insist the Friends provide information on anything other than a voluntary basis.   It is our opinion they correctly understand this as there is no such right.  The proposed new MOU is yet to be seen, and may assert some claim in this area, but the County officials said they have no knowledge of what may or may not be in the MOU as this rests with the Trustees.  
Every Friends Group is, of course, free to take any action it sees fit with respect to the CSAs.   A variety of responses can probably be expected.  The auditor did say that he had received phone calls from several Friends’ groups asking questions. The meeting ended with a reaffirmation of a desire to work collaboratively on issues of common concern and the additional clarifications received here help in that regard. 

Rescue Reston: Army of Supporters Overflows Auditorium, January 22, 2015

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A grassroots organization dedicated to preserving Reston's open space
S.O.S. (Save Open Space)

Army of Supporters Overflows Auditorium

Estimates of 475-500 supporters
THANK YOU for Answering the Call !!
The yellow/green sea of support yesterday was beyond our expectations! Close to 500 Rescue Reston supporters arrived at the beginning of the hearing, with about 150 staying until the end, 5 hours later. A smaller but key piece of the audience was news reporters. Why were they there? Because so many of YOU were there. They "got it" that this IS a big story, and that it's of interest to far more than just the land owners who surround the golf course itself.
What should we do now? Stay tuned. Additional battle plans being drawn . . .

All of our speakers made great points, and the BZA does record their meetings. We'll let you know when it becomes available. In the meantime, enjoy Rescue Reston's co-founder John Pinkman's message:

And how about our (Rescue Reston's) attorney, Randy Greehan of Greehan,Taves, Pandak & Stoner? He was instrumental in helping find "the missing files" and his documentation was often referred to throughout the hearing. YOUR financial contributions made this possible. Rescue Reston is a 501(c)(4).
I will end with a list of news coverage. If you see others, please alert me or post on
Washington Post reporter Antonio Olivo will have a story in Friday morning's print edition. Previous story at 
WUSA9 - aired live last night:
NBC4 - aired a segment but I cannot find online. They also covered our press conference & showed a clip on TV but no response to my request for an online source!
Reston Connection - article coming next week
Washington Business Journal -

Again, job well done and let's keep the signs out and the pressure on!

Connie Hartke & the Rescue Reston Board of Directors
John Pinkman, David Burns, Lisa White, Robin Hogan, Ray Wedell, Joe Deninger
Board of Zoning Appeals Hearing - every seat filled with supporters

Key Upcoming Dates

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

County additional documents & filings due to BZA

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 
Board of Zoning Appeals announces its ruling
no public comments - announcement only

Support our County Zoning Administrator

The online petition ( continues. Share with someone who hasn't signed yet. This documentation is important now and in the future. We have the support of today's Board of Supervisors, but what about the next election, or the one after that?