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Spreading the Word on Density

RCA plans to increase awareness about proposed zoning change critical to future development in Reston.

The county’s chief planner will soon be hearing from a dismayed Reston Citizen’s Association.

At the group’s monthly meeting Monday, the board agreed to lead a campaign to increase awareness about a zoning ordinance change that would redefine how residential redevelopment is done in Reston — something it thinks the county has been remiss about up until now.

In June, Jim Zook, the director of planning and zoning, told local residents about a significant ordinance change he intends to present this summer to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for their decision later this year.

“I think a lot of people left that meeting very confused,” said Jim Hubbard, one of RCA’s newly elected board members. “Basically, what they’re saying is that everything in Reston is going to be looked at [for redevelopment]. You could go from a situation where no more density is allowed to something that says the population could increase by 50 percent.”

UPSET BY THE LACK of information about what is actually being proposed, the RCA plans to send a letter to Zook asking for clarification in writing. In addition, the citizens' group plans to hold a public forum on the subject.

Zook’s proposed ordinance change comes on the heels of a situation that could soon shut down Reston’s residential development.

The existing Planned Residential Community (PRC) zoning ordinance governs most of Reston, roughly 6,200 acres. The PRC “caps” residential density at 13 persons per acre. County officials said earlier this year that Reston will soon hit its residential density ceiling.

“My impression is this [zoning ordinance change] is on a much faster timetable than people realize,” said John Lovaas, who was recently elected to the RCA board.

Other RCA board members agreed, arguing that the timetable leaves little time for residents to get up to speed.

“[Zook] doesn’t want to be the guy to tell developers to stop,” said Hubbard, suggesting the county’s motivation to fast-track the change.

RCA ALSO expressed disappointment about the lack of citizen involvement in the process. Why hasn’t a community group been formed to work with county staff to develop the zoning change, wondered Lovaas. “You’re talking about something that will shape this community for the next 50 years,” said Lovaas.

Corrigan, RCA president, said that the entire experience is shaping up to be another example why Reston should be a town, which would have control over zoning and would be better situated to hear from and respond to residents.