by RCA President Colin Mills
Last night, four years of work on the Reston Master Plan
Task Force came to a frustrating and disappointing conclusion.  The Task Force voted to send the new
Comprehensive Plan to the Planning Commission, starting it down the road to
approval before the Board of Supervisors. 
RCA’s representative, Terry Maynard, voted “no” on the final
product.  I did not have a vote on the
Task Force, but if I had, I would have voted the same way.
RCA was not satisfied with the latest draft of the Comp Plan,
as evidenced by the report
that our Reston 20/20 Committee prepared this week, which gave it an
overall grade of D.  We felt that the
plan was seriously lacking in many areas, most notably parks and recreation,
transportation, and implementation.  We
joined with ARCH and RA to produce a joint
describing the areas that we felt needed improvement. 
Unfortunately, the few changes approved by the Task Force
last night did little to improve the plan. 
Therefore, we felt that we had no choice but to oppose it.
The lack of changes to the draft plan was not for a lack of
suggestions.  By my count, there were 15
sets of comments submitted suggesting changes to the plan, including ours.  Unfortunately, the discussion last night was
limited to a handful of subjects selected by the Task Force chair, Patty
Nicoson.  The Task Force did not even
consider all of the comments made by its members.  Major topics such as transportation and implementation
weren’t even discussed at all!  Since
those were two of the areas that needed the most work, I was extremely
disappointed that they weren’t even raised.
In fairness to Patty, the meeting lasted over three hours as
it was; discussing all of the comments in detail would have taken forever.  But this only underscored the problem: The
fact that such major disagreements still existed among the Task Force after four years of work is baffling.  We were trying to have debates in one night
that should have been had over weeks and months long ago.
As an example, one of the few subjects that did receive
healthy discussion last night was athletic fields.  Terry, with the support of some other Task
Force members, pushed for more athletic fields to serve the new development and
to locate them closer to the corridor. 
The Park Authority’s representative explained the process by which they
arrived at the language in the plan.  A
thoughtful discussion ensued, involving Terry and other citizen reps, the Park
Authority, and developer representatives. 
In my view, everyone made good points. 
But in the end, the Task Force had to punt, calling for a
follow-on motion to address the question later. 
Of course we weren’t going to be able to resolve such a complex issue in
one night.  But why didn’t we have this
discussion a month ago, or a year ago? 
Why were we having to cram this topic into a frenzied back-and-forth at
the very end? 
That’s a failure of process, and illustrates my overall
frustration with the Task Force.  For too
long, we weren’t having discussions about the real disagreements that existed among
the members.  Instead, we chatted amiably
but aimlessly among ourselves, smiled and nodded.  By the time the Task Force started having the
discussions we needed to have, it was too late. 
And that brought us to last night. The Task Force had to hold a rushed
vote, because the Planning Commission deadline was a ticking clock, and
everyone is so sick of the process that many members were probably grateful
just to pass something and move on.
I can understand that. 
And I can understand and respect those (including the representatives
from RA and ARCH) who voted “yes” because they wanted to lock in the positive
things in the plan, or felt it was the best they could get.  And there were positives in the plan: after
our successful joint community
, County staff listened to our concerns, and addressed some of them,
especially on environmental issues.  I’m
proud of the collaboration with RA and ARCH, and I think we made the plan
better than it would have been otherwise.
But transportation and parks & rec have been two of RCA’s
biggest issues with the plan, ones that we’ve been concerned about for years
now.  And we weren’t satisfied with where
the plan ended up on those issues. 
Therefore, we just couldn’t support the plan as it was.
Sounds like a lot of bad news, doesn’t it?  It was, and I’m not going to sugarcoat
that.  I left the meeting last night
feeling gloomy.  But there is some good
news: This isn’t over, and we’re not done fighting for the community.
As I mentioned earlier, this plan has to go before the
Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors before it’s approved.  We at RCA are going to continue pushing for
the changes that we feel are important, and our colleagues at RA and ARCH have
vowed to do the same.  It will likely be
a more uphill battle at this stage, but we’re not going to let that dissuade us.
Also, we’re interested in that follow-on motion about the
fields.  The question of how many fields
we need, where they’ll be located, and how they’ll be paid for is very
important for our community.  We need to
find a solution that works for everyone. 
I certainly intend for us to take a leading role in the discussions, and
if we can help guide the way to a good solution, that will be an important

So yes, last night was a disappointment on a lot of levels;
there’s no disputing that.  But we’re not
out of the game, and we’re not going to let this setback take us down.  We’ve got a lot of work left to do, and we’ve
got three committed community organizations that are ready to do it.  Let’s get started.