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Waiting for Lake Anne Plan

Reston P&Z examines effects of PRC amendment.

Hunter Mill District planning commissioner Frank de la Fe did not come before the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee (PZC) on Monday night to discuss Lake Anne revitalization, but questions regarding it could not be avoided. Among other factors in revitalization, de la Fe and members of the committee discussed the approval process and timeline for the Lake Anne plan amendment.

Joe Stowers, a Lake Anne resident familiar with the revitalization process, said the county would like to complete the process this summer. "They are hoping they can have public hearings before the August recess," said Stowers at Monday night’s meeting.

As it stands now, a team of consultants has handed its recommendations of the plan amendment to the county. The county staff will look through and revise the recommendations, which will then go before the county’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for public hearings and approval. A couple of public meetings are planned between now and the end of the process.

According to de la Fe, the next step is the April 25 public meeting at Lake Anne Elementary School. The public will have a chance to comment on the consultant recommendations at that meeting, and the county staff will then consider the comments and prepare its own language for the Lake Anne plan. The vice chairman of the Reston PZC, Arthur Hill, asked when the committee would have a chance to see the plan language proposed by the county staff.

"I would think you would want to look at it as soon as it’s available," said de la Fe. Since there is only a short amount of time between the April 25 public meeting and the May 7 PZC meeting, de la Fe said the staff language might not be ready before PZC’s May meeting. The committee, however, ought to be able to discuss the proposed plan in its June meeting.

QUESTIONS WERE ALSO asked regarding details of the proposed plan amendment language. The consultant recommendations call for a number of high rise buildings in the area to increase residential density at Lake Anne. Lake Anne resident Howard Green argued that potential high rise buildings could negatively impact the viewscape for the people visiting the historic Washington Plaza. If the future visitors are looking up at the high rises, their view will be different than the view present there today. "That is a significant change in ambiance," said Green, who also raised concerns about the historic district boundaries at the site.

The chairman of PZC, David Vanell, said that since Lake Anne carries a lot of weight in the Reston community, any future development plans would have to go through an intense public process. "Any proposal [at Lake Anne] is going to receive scrutiny like no other," said Vanell.

Rick Thompson, president of the Lake Anne Condo Association, asked if height restrictions could be added to the plan language. The consultant recommendations define the high rises in the Lake Anne area as buildings with a minimum of 14 stories. "There is no maximum on the other end," said Thompson.

THE QUESTION OF height limitations also arose in a broader Reston perspective. Hill asked de la Fe whether there has been any movement on part of Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) to initiate a community-based initiative to review the Reston comprehensive plan and perhaps the Planned Residential Community (PRC) Ordinance. The Reston community requested such an initiative in light of the recent amendments to the PRC ordinance, which raised Reston’s development threshold under the density cap to almost 8,000 more residential units. Hill is concerned that there are currently no height limitations in the ordinance, and development proposals could come in that could alter Reston’s skyline. "If there is no height regulation in that zoning law, I’m very much afraid that sky is the limit," said Hill, referring to Reston’s PRC district.

"That’s where the comprehensive plan comes in," said de la Fe. The plan could be used to guide any future development under height restrictions. However, Hill said that the comprehensive plan only offers guidance, whereas the ordinance is the law. He argued that the community should review the ordinance, as well as the comprehensive plan.

De la Fe also briefed PZC on development proposals that may come in front of the committee in the near future. He said most proposed developments that PZC will see are project plans it has already seen. Given the recent change in the process under which new development in the PRC district goes through — thanks to the PRC amendment approved in March — those projects will have to go through the new county approval process for PRC development plans, which will offer public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.