Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Friday, November 9, 2018

Follow-up CPR letter to FCPA re Response on Outstanding Open Space Issues, November 8, 2018

From:  Dennis Hays 
To:  David R. Bowden, Larry Butler, Andy Sigle, Sridhar Ganesan, Lynne Mulston

Cc:  Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, Goldie Harrison, Fred Selden, John Carter, Bill Bouie, Bruce Ramo, Terry Maynard, John Mooney, Tammi Petrine, Linda Ramo, DAVID ROGUS, Leslie Johnson

Nov 8 at 3:45 PM

Dear David:  I trust all is well your way.  Larry Butler was kind enough to forward your message to me.  My apologies if I didn't provide you with the e-mail addresses of the members of the CPR/RA Parks, Open Space and Athletic Fields Working Group.  I've included those members in the "To" line above to facilitate all future correspondence on these matters.  

We are most appreciative of the work and dedication of you and your colleagues.  Your efforts to maintain and improve our park system contribute greatly to making Fairfax County one of the most desirable places to live in the nation.  

For convenience sake in assessing your message, I have included (below) a copy of the minutes of our July 18th meeting.  As you know, at that time we (CPR/RA) agreed to provide you information and support in four areas.  This was done in my messages of August 21st and September 12th.   Also at that time, you and your colleagues agreed to provide information on six specific areas and on one proposal to better educate us and the community on your ideas and plans.
The areas the County committed to address are:

1.  Information on safety, cost, and benefit of "turfing" and lighting fields;
2.  Status of development projects as they pertain to athletic fields, open space and parks;
3.  Information on the status of the Hunter Mill Indoor Athletic Facility;
4. Status on the commission assessing Reston's athletic fields;
5. An explanation for and removal of the "Road from Nowhere";
6. Information on plans for Town Center North open space; and
7. Status of the County's proposal to have an "all hands" (FCPA, FCPS, NVPA, RA & community groups) meeting to review and propose plans in keeping with the Reston Master Plan.

We understand your responses only address those areas directly pertinent to the Parks Authority - covering somewhat numbers 1 and 2.  We eagerly await hearing from the other County agencies that will be responding to questions 3, 4, 5, 6 and proposal 7.   

With respect to issue 1: 

--  As you are aware, Reston needs additional athletic fields to adequately serve our EXISTING population.  First priority should be given to this before addressing future needs.  Athletic fields to accommodate TSA population growth must be in addition to what is needed NOW to make us whole.  Is there a plan in place to do this?  If not, shouldn't there be?

--  You note the "2232" application "is funded, in part, by Reston TSA proffer money received to date".  This is good news indeed as in July you stated no actual money had yet been received by the County.  Please inform us of the amount received and your plans to allocate it. 

-- You correctly note "turfing" and lighting fields is controversial and the County is participating in an EPA study to develop an authoritative position on the use of crumb rubber.  Will the County wait until this study is completed before installing artificial turf?   Or are other fillers being considered?  

--  Artificial turfed fields are expensive and must be completely replaced on a regular basis.  Has the County worked out a long term financing scheme to properly maintain the fields?  

--  Turfing is only one part of what is needed to address "peak hour" demand when school aged children need fields.  Is there quantifiable data on the additional playing time for youth sports made available by turfing?

-- You mention upgrading "selected Reston Association properties".  We are unaware of any formal agreement, or even discussion, to do this.  This reference should be removed until such time as there is a formal agreement.  

With respect to issue 2:

First off, thank you and your team for the comprehensive readout on Reston Development Park Proffers approved by the Board of Supervisors.  Great job!  It is very informative and useful.     

-- We note, however, that none of the 45 proffers listed provide an additional athletic field or significant open space.  

--  It appears the list doesn't include proposals which have not yet been approved by the Supervisors, such as those you mention in your cover letter (Isaac Newton, Reston Crescent, etc.)  What is the status of these negotiations?

-- Thank you for the map identifying the location of proffered pocket and urban parks in the TSA.  However, there was universal agreement at our meeting that it will get progressively more difficult to obtain land for athletic fields as time goes on.  Is there a companion map that identifies locations for possible full sized athletic fields? 

Thank you again David, for this information and all you do.   As you see, more remains to be addressed on items 1 & 2 but this is a helpful start.  We hope your colleagues will now respond and address the other issues.    

It has been over three months since the small groups met.  We have been waiting patiently for the promised information needed to make a follow on meeting productive.  We hope the information promised in all four small groups will be provided in the near future so that we can schedule such meetings. 

In the meantime, I urge we proceed with proposal # 7.  This was the County's idea after all!  It is our belief that many answers, including a way forward, could come from getting everyone together as you propose.  

Best regards, Dennis   
Dennis K. Hays
CPR/RA Parks, Open Space & Athletic Fields
Discussion Leader


From: Dennis Hays
To: Supervisor Cathy Hudgins  
Cc: Goldie Harrison ; Fred Selden ; Leslie Johnson ; John Carter ; Lynne Mulston ; Andy Sigle ; Sridhar Ganesan ; Larry Butler ; Kelsey Steffen ; Connie Hartke
Sent: Sunday, July 22, 2018 6:10 PM
Subject: Parks, Recreation, Open Space, & Athletic Facilities Meeting of July 18

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's 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

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