By RCA Board Member Terry Maynard 
This Saturday, June 7, 8:30-10:30AM, Fairfax County will
hold an Open House at the United Christian Parish church (11508 North Shore
Drive) to explain the goals and process for Phase 2 of the Reston Master Plan
(RMP).  Phase 2 covers suburban
Reston, virtually all of it covered by the Reston Association Deed.  It will address the future of our
neighborhoods, our village centers (excluding Lake Anne), and other selected
Reston areas (convenience centers, the business area just north of Baron
Cameron Avenue, and more) not covered in the just-completed Phase 1, which re-planned the Metrorail station areas.
We know little about what the County will do, even those of us who have been deeply involved in the Phase 1 process.   The County’s new process—“Fast Forward”—is designed to streamline updating of the County’s Comprehensive
Plan, including Reston’s Master Plan.  In
the version that is being used for RMP Phase 2, there will be no task force,
charrette, or other effort to join the community’s stakeholders—residences,
businesses, landowners, and more—in a discussion about what the community
should become.  
Instead, we have been
asked to submit comments—but only on specific development proposals, per County staff—before July 11 with only the information provided
at the Open House this Saturday.  It
is very important for Reston’s residents to turn out in force at
this walk-through event—where County staff will discuss the
plan’s goals and process. 

Reston 2020 has tried to obtain information about the plan’s
revision and the process for doing that, but we have little information to share.   We suggest people visit the
County’s Reston Master Plan website for some very basic information about the
process and schedule.  We have also been
told by the County staff that the essential goal of Phase 2 is to tighten
existing language in the Master to protect Reston’s stable neighborhoods.   A second key objective is to
develop conceptual plans for the re-development of each the community’s village
centers except Lake Anne. 
A new Lake Anne plan was approved a couple of years ago and
is now being implemented, most notably the redevelopment of
Crescent Apartments and the Lake Anne Fellowship House.  The Crescent Apartments redevelopment effort
appears to be on track and to serve Reston’s ideals, including providing
affordable housing.  On the other hand,
we have heard from well-informed sources that the redevelopment of Lake Anne
Fellowship House may result in the eviction of some 100 or so low-income
residents, in part so expensive high-rise residences can be built there. 
Whatever shape a new plan takes, we anticipate that older
garden apartment buildings between Baron Cameron Avenue on the north and Glade
Drive on the south—where most of our community’s apartments are located—will be
the first to re-develop.   This could
begin happening within the next five years as the Silver Line is
completed.  One apartment complex—JBG’s
Fairways Apartments—has already obtained County approval to more than double
its density, but it has not yet started that effort.  Other apartment complexes with a single owner
are likely to follow suit in the next few years.
Our uncertainty about the future of suburban Reston and
those living here leads us to a series of questions about what the new RMP
Phase 2 effort proposes and how it will proceed. 
The following paragraphs outline some of these questions. 
1.  How does the County define “stable
neighborhood” in a way that is clear, unambiguous, operational, and

“Stable neighborhoods” are to be protected in the new Reston
Master Plan, according to the community-wide Vision and Planning Principles
developed during Phase 1, but there is no useful definition of what “stable”
means.  The clear implication is that a
Reston neighborhood could be judged as “not stable” and subject to redevelopment.   What are the criteria for making such a
judgment? Who makes that judgment?  What
recourse do homeowners and others have to prevent (or advance) such a
declaration?  None of this is spelled
out.  In fact, the county-wide
Comprehensive Plan does not define the term in its extensive
glossary.   We need to have a clear,
unambiguous, operational, and balanced definition of the term.
2.  What plans does the County have to further raise Reston’s community density ceiling of 13
residents per acre?

An unusual feature of the County zoning ordinance governing
Reston is that it provides for an overall community maximum density—the number
of people per acre who may live here. 
Until a few years ago, this number was nine people per acre, but it was
increased to 13 people per acre in 2008. 
That means some 81,000 people can live in the area of Reston.   The plan developed in Phase 1 for the
station areas envisions some 55,000 people living there decades from now.  Overall, Reston now has a population of about
60,000.  It is easy to anticipate that
redevelopment in suburban Reston—the part covered in Phase 2—would add at least
10,000 residents as a result of mixed-use redevelopment of the village centers
and the re-development of garden apartments into high-rise complexes.
3.   How does
the County plan to protect, expand, and enhance open space (parks and other green
space, not parking, sidewalks, etc.) in Reston not belonging to RA in the
redevelopment process to accommodate the thousands of additional residents?

Reston is known for its green space, most of it owned by the
residents of Reston through the RA Deed, but there are hundreds of acres of
privately held parkland, playgrounds, fields, etc., that abound in the clusters
and complexes across Reston.  Together,
these are adequate to serve the Reston community, but there are no guarantees
that the existing private green space will be protected—much less enhance or
expanded—in suburban redevelopment to meet the requirements of a much more populous Reston.  We need to keep our green space,
including tree cover, in this process.
4.  What will the County do to reduce, if not
eliminate, the development flexibility allowed by Reston’s current “blob”

Yes, Restonians, your neighborhood is part of a zoning
“blob.”  There are three types of
residential “blobs” within Reston:  low
(4 residences per acre), medium (12 residences per acre), and high density
(more dense), generally translating into single-family, townhouse, and
apartment/condominium development.   And
rather than being small areas governing a neighborhood, they are large swaths
of land.  By being larger, it enables
greater flexibility within a “blob” to build a diverse range of housing.  It also, of course, would enable more intense
redevelopment if the “blob” allocation of housing was not fully utilized.  It is important to constrain this zoning to
protect our existing neighborhoods.
5.  What opportunities will there be for Reston
stakeholders to interact directly in the development of a new Reston Master
Plan for the existing neighborhoods?

As we have suggested at the beginning of this piece, there
appear to be no opportunities for landowners, residents, businesses, and others
who are the stuff of Reston to discuss, negotiate, and resolve the multitude of
issues that confront the re-development of suburban Reston.   The absence of a plan to develop something
resembling a common view of suburban Reston’s future severely undermines the legitimacy of any new
plan and quite possibly undercuts the vision, planning principles, and values
Reston has nurtured for a half-century.
6.  How will the new plan ensure that an adequate
and appropriate public infrastructure is built concurrently, if not in advance,
of any density-increasing redevelopment?

For example, the new Lake Anne redevelopment plan offers
virtually no plans to improve traffic conditions, provide for adequate schools,
ensure sufficient public parks and recreation, or protect the environmental qualities (stormwater, air pollution, etc.) that are essential for a healthy
community.   We know (as does the County)
that the proffer system is totally inadequate to meet these needs.  We need processes and plans in RMP
Phase 2 that assure Restonians that their quality of life will not deteriorate
due to the absence of an adequate public infrastructure. 
These are some top-level questions.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of
additional questions each Restonian should ask about his or her neighborhood, village
center, transit service, road improvements, school construction, etc.  The one and only chance you will have to do
this face-to-face with County officials is at the Saturday, June 7, Open House
at the United Christian Parish church, 8:30-10:30AM.

It’s your Reston.  Help make it a better community.