After years of meetings, several focus groups, an economic analysis and a $30,000 charrette, the area surrounding Lake Anne Village Center doesn’t seem any closer to revitalization, said Reston founder Robert E. Simon Jr. at a meeting last week.
“Three years ago, I had a developer ready to go, and populism took over — the idea that we should never do anything from the top down,” said Simon, who owns some commercial parcels at Lake Anne. “Let’s concentrate on getting a project at Lake Anne and let’s not let the NIMBY’s [Not In My Back Yard people] run the show.”
As a next step, the county recently contracted a consulting company for $42,000 to help develop design guidelines for Reston’s historic heart in partnership with a community-based technical advisory group. Members of the group have yet to be appointed by Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill).
But, like efforts before it, Simon said he isn’t sure the outcome will move revitalization any closer to fruition.
“With the design guidelines, then what?” said Simon. “If we have the courage to ignore the NIMBYs, let’s go out and do something good.”
SIMON’S IMPASSIONED plea for action, delivered at the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation’s monthly meeting last Thursday, ignited a no-holds-barred discussion airing the board’s frustration.
The board, which Simon is a member, decided to seek a special meeting with Hudgins, so she could define her vision for revitalization of the 40-year-old village center and the RCRC’s role within that vision.
“We need a tighter linkage with our supervisor,” said Howard Green, treasurer of RCRC, who also said, along with others, that there is a feeling the board has been marginalized. “After three years, I think it’s entirely appropriate for her to come to this meeting and lay out her vision for revitalization.”
With frustration spilling over, Simon offered a more expeditious solution. “I think it would be wonderful if the shackles of bureaucracy were removed,” said Simon. “Let a developer come in.”
He suggested that the county issue a request for proposals for a revitalization development project. “Instead of horsing around with guidelines,” said Simon.
SEVERAL BOARD members, equally impatient, echoed Simon’s frustration, but seemed less eager to bypass steps in the process.
The objective for the group has been to clear obstacles to the revitalization process, said Lee Rau, the Hunter Mill District commissioner for the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority. “The problem is it’s been taking too long.”
Robert Fields, director of revitalization projects with the county’s Department of Housing and Community Development, argued that the development of design guidelines would be an important step forward. He said it is likely the guidelines could facilitate a near-future amendment to the comprehensive plan for the Lake Anne area. “The guidelines leading to the comprehensive plan amendment gives [a developer] the ground rules [for redevelopment],” said Fields.