Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Letter to Supervisor Hudgins re CPR/RA-County Discussions of Reston Park and Open Space Planning

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Dear Supervisor Hudgins:

Thank you again for working with the CPR/RA coalition to help develop a better public understanding of the issues involved in the proposed Reston PRC amendments.  We appreciate your dedication and hard work on behalf of Reston and your making available to us the County officials most responsible for working on these issues.  We also wish to thank Goldie Harrison of your staff for her tireless efforts to pull everyone together at the same time and place!

On July 18th, the Parks, Recreation, Open Space, & Athletic Facilities group met.  We began the meeting by looking for high-level areas where we had common ground and common goals, conforming to the Reston Master Plan.  This proved very successful and we had unanimous agreement that:
  • Parks, open space, athletic facilities are essential to the health, wealth and well-being of a community.  Open space has direct physical and mental health benefits, is environmentally key to having a safe and productive landscape and brings direct and indirect economic rewards;
  • A fundamental characteristic of Reston has been a commitment to preserve natural areas and integrate open space throughout the community;
  • Development will be phased with infrastructure;
  • High quality open space will be required; and
  • Public participation in planning and zoning will continue to be the community’s foundation.
We then set a framework for all subsequent discussion.  That is, all projects and proposals would be measured against four standards:
  • WHAT:  What project has been identified – athletic field, pocket park, open space, etc., including dimensions of each;
  • WHERE: Where exactly in Reston will the project be located.
  • HOW:  How will the project be funded; and
  • WHEN: When will the project be open to the public.
It was noted that if all four of these questions could be answered in specific, concrete terms, then we have an actual project.  If three questions are answered, then we have a proposal.  If only two or fewer questions are answered, then any proposal is still in the “wishful thinking” stage.

County representatives then gave an overview of their plans and proposals.  We should note we are aware of the bureaucratic, financial, legal, and other hurdles that must be overcome to bring in a new project and we are cognizant of the often frustrating amount of time involved in shepherding a successful project to its conclusion.  We appreciate the hard work, dedication and good intentions of our County officials.

The participants then discussed specific issues.

First was an update on how the Park Authority plans to meet the Comprehensive Plan’s call for at least twelve additional full sized playing fields in Reston, at least three of which are to be in Reston’s TSA zone.  The County officials stated they expected to meet this goal by upgrading existing fields with artificial turf and lights to extend playable hours and to acquire additional land as part of the proffers developers will give.  CPR/RA reps expressed some skepticism as to whether this all would actually meet the Plan’s intent, especially as it is not possible, according to the County, to exactly identify where new individual parcels of land will be at this time.  The CPR/RA reps requested the County provide as much information as possible in the form of What/Where/How/When and the County agreed to do this.  The math involved in computing the additional value of turfed fields raised questions and the County also agreed to provide information on this.  A CPR/RA rep and later a questioner from the audience noted the Reston Association’s Environmental Advisory Committee is not in favor of crumb rubber synthetic turfed fields due to health concerns and another filler would be needed if this activity goes forward.  RA seeks to be a leader in the County in implementing safer non-grass fields.  The County said funds had already been approved to commission an engineering analysis of the Baron Cameron Park playing fields.

With respect to obtaining additional land from developers, the community reps expressed strong support for the County taking a very firm line to obtain required land in Reston’s TSA (at least 3 full fields) and in Reston’s PRC (at least an additional 9 full fields or equivalent) in their negotiations with developers  The County representatives expressed appreciation for this support.

The next issue concerned Reston’s missing indoor recreation facility.  All parties agreed that Hunter Mill is the only district in the County that doesn’t have such a facility.  The County reps noted they had recently finished a study on athletic facility usage County-wide and needed to assess the impact of a new facility against other facilities, such as the Reston Community Center.  This line of thought was unconvincing to the community, as the new facility has been long promised and is much needed.   Again, the community reps requested a What/Where/How/When analysis of steps toward building the facility.

One of—perhaps the—defining features of Reston is the connectivity of our pathways, particularly the non at-grade road crossings that allow pedestrians and bicyclists to travel from one end of Reston to the other in a safe, efficient manner.  The CPR/RA reps asked why major new developments along major roads weren’t required to put in non at-grade crossings.  The development at Wiehle, for example, should have safe crossings of Wiehle and Sunset Hills built in.  Such crossings would also help alleviate traffic backups as the lengthy “walk” signals would be unneeded.  The County first made the case that separating pedestrians and cars was a bad thing, as pedestrians tended to slow traffic down.   This argument was rejected out of hand, with the observation that Reston has had two pedestrian fatalities in as many weeks along exactly these roads.  Next the County stated that ADA (American Disabilities Act) considerations made tunnels and overpasses unworkable.  This too was refuted, with an observation that other communities, such as Miami Beach, have inexpensive, all weather lifts for just the purpose of facilitating full usage of safe crossings.   Although no consensus was reached, the County asked the community to identify specific crossings that might have the right topographical conditions to support not at grade crossings.

Conversation then turned to the “Road From Nowhere” – the infamous middle of the night, unannounced addition of a road that impinges on the Hidden Creek Golf Course, the W&OD trail, or most likely both.  The community strongly urged the County to remove this road from all maps and consideration as there was no justification for it and the community was never advised of its inclusion in the fine print of a map.  The County rep stated this was a “conceptual road” that only might come into play if the expected redevelopment of Isaac Newton Square required it.   It was also possible the developer would have other options or might scale back development.  As for removing it, this would require an amendment to the Comp Plan.  Community reps again stressed the road could not be built without destroying needed recreational space and the County has never been able—or willing—to explain who put it there, for what reason, and why the community wasn’t informed of its presence.  The community reps encouraged the County to remove it as it is unjustified and will be a continuing irritant until it’s gone.

This discussion led to the issue of the golf course.  The Community expressed its great thanks and appreciation for the strong position Supervisor Hudgins and the County took to help preserve Reston National Golf Course.  The CPR/RA rep noted the Comp Plan identifies two open spaces specifically identified as golf courses and asked if the community can count on the County to provide the same level of support in defending both full (18 hole) golf courses as we have seen in defending the first one.  The County rep stated it is very clear in the Comp Plan that there are two golf courses in Reston.   This affirmation was very well received by all parties.

In the course of the discussions, the County reps explained some of the bureaucratic challenges they face and the often lengthy time needed to ensure all proper authorizations and approvals are obtained for a given project.  They also explained there is a difference between commitments and actual physical possession of a resource or funds.  For example, the County reps speak of $10 million dollars in proffer money to obtain and support recreational facilities.  However, there actually is no “money in the bank” at the moment, as these commitments are only exercised when a project reaches a certain level of completion.

The CPR/RA reps expressed some frustration with the vagueness of the answers given by the County.  Although the complexity of the development process is understood and appreciated, Reston has been around for a long time and some examples of recent successful projects should be possible to cite.

In conclusion, the CPR/RA reps again thanked the County representatives for their candor and willingness to help educate the public.  This meeting was informative and productive.  Moving forward, the County agreed to provide:
  • Information on the proposed turfing and lighting of existing playing fields in Reston, including how to mitigate safety concerns that have led Montgomery County to restrict new turfing, factors that led to a belief that significant increased playing time will result from these additions and a breakdown on the cost of upgrades and what designated funding source has been identified for each field;
  • Information on the status of current development projects as they pertain to the delivery of open space, parks, “urban parks”, athletic facilities, pocket parks, etc. to the community.  This information should come in the What/Where/How/When format.  As part of this, please provide a map showing all current, proposed and aspirational open space, parks, urban parks, pocket parks, etc. including park dimensions, amenities, on site parking, etc.;
  • Information on the status of the Hunter Mill indoor athletic facility, including proposed location, amenities, funding source, dedicated parking, etc.;
  • Information on the status of the commission’s work assessing Reston’s playing fields;
  • An explanation of the origin of the Road from Nowhere and why it keeps coming up in County documents such as the “Reston Traffic Analysis: Final Report” of March 28th, 2018.  Provide procedures to have road removed from all maps and any future consideration; and
  • Information on how the development of Reston Town Center North will address open space and additional parkland.
Earlier, in a letter from the Planning Director, the County proposed having a joint meeting of representatives from FCPA, FCPS, the Northern Virginia Park Authority, the Reston Association and any other entity with an interest in or control over land that could become additional park or open space.  We believe this would be most helpful.

The community representatives agreed to provide:
  • A template to list all the required information about park and open space, etc associated with upcoming development;
  • A list of possible locations for pedestrian tunnels and overpasses associated with new construction;
  • Public support for County efforts to obtain needed land in Reston from developers; and
  • An open mind and appreciation for the difficulties County officials have in addressing all these issues.
The group will reconvene when both sides have had a chance to assess the additional information obtained from the other.

Sincerely, Dennis
Dennis K. Hays, CPR Discussion Leader

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