For the last 37 years, Reston Citizens Association’s Planning and Zoning Committee has been the primary steward of Reston’s character, reviewing all new development proposals within the community. Last week, the P&Z Committee’s members revealed they want to break with history and part ways with their parent organization.
“We see that RCA dwindling,” said P&Z Committee chairman Richard Eckhardt. “There is a very strong possibility that it will soon cease to exist.”
Citing concerns that RCA has been plagued by a lack of interest and waning political power over the last several years, Eckhardt formally proposed Thursday night that the committee become affiliated with the Reston Association.
“We really need to be affiliated with a legitimate, local and stable organization,” Eckhardt said.
RA’s Board of Directors will consider the proposal at next month’s regular board meeting. Last Thursday night, the majority of the board said they thought the committee would be a good fit.
“P&Z does a great job for this community,” said Rick Beyer, president of the RA board. “It’s really the voice of the community on land-use planning. An affiliation with RA really seems to make sense.”
By being under RA’s umbrella, the P&Z Committee could be seen as having more authority, said RA Board member Vicky Wingert (At large).
“It makes sense having 60,000 members backing a decision rather than an ad-hoc group,” she said.
CREATED IN the fall of 1967, the P&Z Committee was intended to ensure Reston’s founding principles were considered when a developer wanted to build within the community. These ideals included housing opportunities for all income levels, protection of the natural environment and the maximization of walking and biking alongside a minimization of traffic congestion.
Today, developers still submit plans to the committee, which then offers recommendations to Fairfax County.
If the P&Z Committee does not approve a plan, it is not likely to happen, said Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill).
Hudgins said she understands the committee’s desire to leave RCA, after having suffered through the organization’s ups and downs over the last 10 years.
“The P&Z Committee has been a steady and responsible group over the years and what I’m looking for would be to continue that,” she said. “The institution is what’s important.”
The P&Z Committee, which meets monthly at RA’s headquarters, is comprised of 15 members who are a mix of professionals in development-related fields and non-technical residents. Two of the members have served for 20 years on the committee and others have more than 10 years experience.
“There’s a lot of knowledge there. There’s a lot of history there,” said Arthur Hill, the committee’s vice chairman who has been an RCA member for the last decade.
APART FROM the P&Z Committee, RCA membership has dwindled into the single digits. At the organization’s next election, however, a group of Reston residents is hoping to breathe new life into the one-time political powerhouse.
Mike Corrigan, a former RA board member, has filed candidacy forms for RCA’s presidency and 11 other community activists have filed or are planning to soon. The election will be held at the Reston Festival on July 10 and 11 at Reston Town Center.
Corrigan said he has no objection to the P&Z Committee moving to RA because he believes RCA should evolve into primarily a forum for dialogue on issues facing the community.
“It has been a big part of RCA, but RCA’s role is to assist in a broad way to facilitate community discussion,” he said.
Foremost on Corrigan’s agenda is to discuss the issue of Reston’s governance, specifically whether the community should incorporate as a town or city. Corrigan has said he believes Reston should become a town for more political clout, independence and accountability.
By folding the P&Z Committee into RA, power would become more centralized in Reston. Such a move could bring Reston closer to becoming an incorporated municipality, Corrigan said.