It was an inadvertent mistake, an accident, a subconscious slip-up.
After a large community backlash three weeks ago, county officials said they never intended to propose a commuter parking lot for Lake Anne revitalization.
"I didn’t mean to cause anybody heartburn," said Robert Fields, director of revitalization projects with the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
Last Thursday, Nov. 10, when the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation convened for its monthly meeting, Fields said it was his fault that language was put in to describe a proposed capital improvement project as a park-and-ride transportation facility. "I have since been educated to the sensitivity of that term," said Fields, who said the language was an accident.
When word got out that a parking facility was planned as a park-and-ride, property owners and residents overwhelmingly opposed it. The county has since deleted the language.
The RCRC, in conjunction with HCD, are now set to submit three proposed projects to the county for possible inclusion in the capital improvement budget program. The projects, which total $28 million, include a parking facility, a pedestrian safety and circulation system and a Lake Anne environmental improvement program. The board also passed a motion, officially requesting Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins "to explore the acquistion" of $250,000 to $300,000 for the retention of professionals to help with design planning and guidelines.
BUT AT LAST WEEK'S MEETING, as Fields discussed a revised description of a $6 million parking facility project for Lake Anne, RCRC board members insisted on numerous confirmations from the county that it had no intention of building a commuter lot at Lake Anne.
"If the county were to sponsor additional parking, then that parking would not be commuter parking — I did hear that, right?" said Martha Green, a Heron House resident who attended the meeting as a representative of Millennium Bank.
"Yes," said Fields. "The purpose is to provide supplemental and additional parking for community development and revitalization at the Lake Anne center area." Fields added that the parking facility could be used as a "bargaining chip" to give the community leverage when negotiating with a developer.
"It would not replace a parking requirement that a developer would have," said Fields. "It would be an addition — to support businesses and provide parking for people going to those businesses."
It was an important point for many at the meeting. "We want to make sure we’re not stuck with a commuter lot," said board member Eduardo Faubert, president of the Lake Anne Merchants Association. "This can put everybody’s fears to rest."
THE SECOND PROJECT reviewed at the meeting was a $2 million pedestrian safety and circulation enhancement project. The goal, said Fields, is "walkability." The board was excited about this project, but several board members said they didn’t know exactly what it meant. "These [types of] projects have been broadly defined to provide the community flexibility to design the types of initiatives definitive to each community," said Fields. As examples, Fields mentioned the project could include the relocation of a street or a bridge over a street.
Martha Green thought the focus of this project warranted more than $2 million. "Is there any possibility of rebalancing the money [between the $20 million for the parking facility and the $2 million for this project]? said Martha Green.
But it didn’t seem likely to Fields. "Keep in mind, the purposes of these descriptions are to get on the budget," said Fields.
THE THIRD PROJECT, called the Lake Anne environmental improvement program, would provide $6 million to repurchase the water rights to Lake Anne. According to the project description, large amounts of water are currently taken out of Lake Anne by Hidden Creek Golf Course, which affects water quality. The project suggests that these water rights need to be bought to protect the lake "from sudden withdrawal of inordinately large volumes of water for golf course use."
There is also an umbrella project that will provide $3 million to increase signage at all seven revitalization districts.
The 14-member RCRC board, made up mostly of property owners in the Lake Anne Revitalization district, has worked with Fields and others from the county to develop the three projects. In Sept., RCRC held a visioning session to flesh out project ideas. The three projects now under consideration and soon to be submitted to the county originated from that meeting.
Two ideas — purchase of the plaza and a water feature — were mentioned as possibilities by the county official who ran the session, but the board agreed to delete these from consideration, according to the meeting’s minutes.
FIELDS REVIEWED the remaining process for getting projects on the capital improvement budget program. The next step is for the RCRC and HCD to submit the projects to the committee of the county, who reviews the projects for the capital improvement budget. The three projects for Lake Anne will be submitted at the end of this week, Nov. 18. In early spring, the county will hold public hearings on the capital budget. "There will be general opportunity to speak about the capital budget," said Fields.
But several members of the RCRC board wanted to see the final language before the projects are submitted this Friday. "We are the beneficiaries of what you’re doing, and it seems we should be participating on this in a more formal way," said Howard Green, RCRC treasurer, who requested that the RCRC board have a chance to vote on the final language. However, Fields had already left the meeting, so the feeling was there wouldn’t be time.