This post by RCA
President Colin Mills was originally published on Reston Patch.
If you weren’t at Tuesday night’s Master Plan Task Force
meeting, you missed a show.  The Task
Force was discussing the latest iteration of the proposed Comprehensive Plan
prepared by County staff, and several members voiced strong criticisms of the
plan as it stands.  This was pretty
unusual, as the Task Force meetings have generally been congenial so far.  Even Bob Simon criticized the plan, believing
that it didn’t give enough emphasis to the importance of plazas and excellent
The strongest disapproval, though, came from RCA’s Terry
Maynard.  He read a statement that
highlighted the serious shortcomings in the draft plan.  He also indicated that RCA will not support
the draft as it’s currently written.  (You
can read Terry’s statement in full on our
.)  This statement produced a
strong reaction at the meeting, so I wanted to discuss it here.  I’ll highlight our biggest objections to the
draft plan, explain why we’re taking such a strong stand now, and describe the
road ahead.
If you’ve been following our discussions on the Master Plan,
either through my blog here or on Reston 20/20’s website, our concerns should
be familiar.  These are issues that we’ve
championed throughout the Task Force process. 
But this is the first time we’ve collected them in a single statement.
Perhaps our largest overall concern is that the draft plan
language is too soft.   Too many “shoulds,” not enough “musts.”  Also, in the most recent draft, the amount of
developable land around the stations has been increased, simply by changing the
calculation of walking distance from the stations.  Our community is depending on the plan
language to ensure that new development adheres to the Reston vision and
maintains our quality of life.  If that
language contains too many weasel words, it leaves Reston unprotected.  (Ironically, several developer representatives
complained at the meeting that the language is too prescriptive, and doesn’t
leave room for flexibility.)
We’re also concerned about recreation facilities for the new
development along the Toll Road.  There
are going to be a lot of new residents, and they’re going to need parks,
athletic fields, pools, paths, and other amenities.  But there won’t be room for those amenities
in the corridor itself.  Which means
they’re going to be using amenities elsewhere in Reston, many of which they’d
have to drive to reach, which would make our traffic that much worse. 
With the influx of new demand for recreation, RA is going to
have to meet that demand, either by expanding existing facilities or building
new ones.  Which might not be so bad…
except that there’s no requirement that the new residents in the corridor be
members of RA.  If they don’t join, that
means that the assessments on current RA members (that’s us!) would have to
rise in order to provide facilities for these new, non-RA residents.  That’s not right and it’s not fair.  Those residents are likely to use RA
amenities, and they should have to pay for them.
Another issue concerns implementation and financing.  RCA and others on the Task Force have pointed
out that you can draw up all the plans you want, but they’re meaningless if you
don’t have a strategy to implement them. 
The draft plan has little to say about implementation, and the Task
Force hasn’t developed a separate implementation plan either.
Past experience has shown that we can’t count on the County
to handle the necessary implementation. 
The RMAG study (in which I participated) recommended over $100 million
worth of critical transportation improvements necessary to get Restonians to
and from the Wiehle station.  Wiehle is
set to open in a few months, and how much money has been spent to implement
RMAG’s recommendations?  Just $5 million.  And that study was 5 years ago!  Is the County going to step up to the plate
on funding and implementing the Task Force’s recommendations?  And if not, who will pay for the
infrastructure we need?  Are Reston’s
citizens going to have to pay for that too?
As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been raising these issues for
some time.  So why are we making such a
strong statement now?  Because our
concerns haven’t been addressed.  We’ve
been working actively and positively with the Task Force for 4 years.  We’ve provided several rounds of comments on
the plan details as they’ve emerged.  We
want this to work just as much as everyone else does.
Unfortunately, from our perspective, the drafts have been
moving in the wrong direction.   They’ve had progressively less backbone and
fewer protections for the interests of Reston citizens.  And we’re getting frustrated.  Since merely commenting hasn’t been enough,
we decided it was time to let our frustration show. 
While that may be bad for congeniality at Task Force
meetings, perhaps our concerns and disagreements will finally be discussed
openly and honestly.  And that would be
good for the Comprehensive Plan that emerges, and good for Reston.  It’s better that we have these contentious
discussions now, rather than smiling our way through the meetings and winding
up with a plan that doesn’t serve the community.
Some people have wondered if this statement means that we’re
giving up on the Task Force or the process. 
We’re not.  We remain hopeful that
the draft plan can be improved into something we support.  We are exploring ways to work with other
community groups to highlight the issues that matter to Restonians, and to
ensure that those changes are made to the plan before it’s approved.  Stay tuned for further details on that.

So, the bottom line: We don’t support the draft plan as it
stands.  It doesn’t provide enough
protection to ensure that future growth is in keeping with the community’s
priorities and values.  But neither RCA
nor Reston’s citizens are ready to quit the fight.  We will continue working to ensure that the
new Comprehensive Plan represents Reston’s best interests.  And we’ll continue talking with our citizens
to keep you informed and get your opinions as we plan Reston’s future.