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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reston 2020 asks Planning Commission to correct errors and omissions in Reston land use map.

As the Phase II (suburban) Reston Master Plan draft goes to the County Planning Commission for consideration this week, Reston 2020 has written the Commission asking it to correct a series of omissions and errors in the draft Reston land use map.  The importance of the land use map has been highlighted by the ongoing case of Reston National Golf Course.  Here is the text of the letter sent to the Planning Commission:

 April 20, 2015

Fairfax County Planning Commission
Government Center
12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 330
Fairfax, VA  22035

Re:   Proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment,
Item ST09-III-UP1 (B) – Reston Master Plan Phase II

Dear Planning Commissioners and Staff,

                Reston 2020 (an independent committee of the Reston Citizens Association) submits this comment regarding the Staff Report and Appendix A, Recommended Plan Text of the Reston Master Plan.  The Planning Commission’s public hearing on the draft Reston Master Plan Phase II comprehensive plan text is scheduled for this Wednesday, April 22, 2015

                Reston 2020 appreciates the many efforts of current and former county planning staff involved in the Reston Master Plan Special Study, particularly Fred Selden, Heidi Merkel, Richard Lambert and Feheem Darab, who all worked tirelessly on this project.

Phase I of the Special Study began in December 2009 and was completed with the adoption of the Reston Transit Stations Comprehensive Plan Amendment by the Board of Supervisors in February 2014.  Phase II kicked off with an open house in June 2014, but the first community meeting was not until September 2014.  County staff published final recommended Phase II comprehensive plan text on April 1, 2015, just six months later.

While Phase II was conducted under the new Fairfax Forward procedures, and thus was highly compressed, it provided some opportunities for citizens and community groups to provide input at four community meetings on varying topics, and subsequently to submit written comments on two staff working comprehensive plan text drafts.  Reston 2020 submitted several such comments.  These included comments in February regarding the importance of ensuring that all existing open space is carefully delineated in the draft plan text.

As recent events have demonstrated, preserving open space is an important, high‑profile issue in Reston.  It is very important that planned land uses for all parcels be fully and accurately described in the Reston Master Plan text, and essential that all existing open spaces be correctly shown on the accompanying maps to ensure their future protection.  As we explained in our February 2015 comment to county staff in this matter,

If the plan text does not specify land use categories for particular parcels or areas, than the maps must be absolutely clear and unambiguous to provide adequate notice to the public, provide necessary information to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors who will be asked to approve the proposed plan amendment and, most importantly, prevent future land use disputes.  In particular, open space representations must fully and accurately reflect existing conditions.
Reston 2020 Email (Feb. 13, 2015) (emphasis added).

                In addition to this commentary, Reston 2020 simultaneously submitted specific additions and corrections to the draft Reston maps.  We noted that,

the [then] draft plan text says the Reston Land Use map identifies private parks, recreation and open space owned by Reston Association, other cluster or condominium associations, other private owners, and Fairfax County.  Indeed, many Reston clusters have common areas owned by the respective homeowners association, typically separate legal parcels (e.g. Parcel A), which are subjected by the deed to county regulations, including regulations regarding open space, tree canopy, etc.  Despite the statement in the text (see page 19 of 76), the open spaces in clusters and condominium neighborhoods do not appear on the land use map.  These open spaces should be added.  In addition, to the extent that there is any doubt regarding the completeness of the maps, notes should be added to both the plan text and the map stating that the open space representations may be incomplete.
Reston 2020 Comments on Draft Maps (Feb. 13, 2015) at 1 (emphasis in original).  Reston 2020 made similar suggestions regarding the draft Reston Parks, Recreation and Open Space map, and the Existing Trails map.  Id. at 2.

Unfortunately, Reston 2020’s comments and suggestions regarding the handling of open space are not reflected in the final staff-recommended drafts.   The staff report and revised plan text continue to state the maps are complete, but open spaces in cluster and condo neighborhoods were not added, nor are there new notes advising readers that open space graphic representations are incomplete.  In fact, the staff report flatly states that all open space is shown, stating

All Public Parks, Private Recreation, and Private Open Space[s] are now reflected in Reston’s Land Use Map and are further detailed in the Parks and Open Space Map.  More parks & recreation facilities and open space are included in the Reston Land Use Map. 

Staff Report at page 7 of 12 (emphasis added).[1]  The draft comprehensive plan text is only slightly less emphatic.  It continues say the “Reston Land Use map identifies property owned by Reston Association, cluster or condominium associations, other private owners, Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and Fairfax County.”  Appendix A, PDF at 22-23 of 93.  It also states that,

Reston’s Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces are shown on the map below (Figure 13 (sic)).  The map is an elaboration of the Reston Land Use Map (Figure 4) displaying the parks, recreation and open spaces as described in the Community-wide Land Use section in more detail.  Reston’s Park, Recreation and Open Space map distinguishes between Reston Association’s parks and open spaces, and all other parks, recreation and open spaces in Reston

Appendix A at 43.

                As this discussion aptly demonstrates, the plan’s handling of the open space issue is misleading, at best.  Not only are both the staff report and plan text inaccurate when they state that all private open space is included, but the three maps are not complete because they do not designate all existing open space sites in Reston.

                Therefore, we request (1) that the draft comprehensive plan text for Reston (and accompanying maps) be revised to correct these errors, and (2) that the accompanying draft land use, open space and trails maps be updated to include all existing private open space, including open space owned by clusters and condominium associations.  If the addition of missing private open space on the maps proves logistically impossible, at a minimum notes added to both the plan text and map legends to reflect that not all open space is shown.

                Thank you in advance for your consideration.  Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Terry Maynard
Reston 2020 Committee

Fred Selden, C/DPZ
Heidi Merkel, DPZ
Faheem Darab, DPZ

[1]  The draft land use maps are Figures 4, 5 and 6.  The draft parks, recreation and open space map is Figure 14.  The existing trails map, which also includes open space designations, is Figure 13.

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