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Reviewing Lake Anne’s Future

Group holds additional meetings to dissect document.

The Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation (RCRC), the community group for the Lake Anne revitalization process, is in the process of reviewing the consultant recommendations for the comprehensive plan text and design guidelines.

The group decided at its regular board meeting last week on Thursday to hold additional meetings to tackle the major issues presented in the recommendations.

"We should have a series of meetings to go through this book [the recommendations] in some detail, so we can come to out with some sort of cohesive endorsement of it," said Howard Green, treasurer of the RCRC board. Members of the board agreed that the recommendations, as presented to the community at a March 29 meeting, covered the general concept of preserving Lake Anne well. However, they did not think the proposed numbers — including residential units, building heights, green and open space preservation and garage units — were explained well enough.

"The qualitative report, I have no issue with," said Van Foster, board secretary. "The quantitative, the numbers are too high. It looks like a lot," he said.

Vice President Phil Tobey agreed with the nature of the recommendations. "The qualitative issues are here. It is the quantitative piece that the people are concerned about," said Tobey. He said he had a feeling the community needs to test levels of development that could occur at Lake Anne before it supports plan recommendations.

The Reston Association representative on the RCRC board, and a member of the community-based technical advisory panel (TAP) that advised the consultants, Robin Smyers, also had some problems with the numbers in the recommendations. She said it was sickening that the consultants only included the high end of the level of development discussed at TAP meetings. "They went with the high end of development as opposed to ranges of development," said Smyers.

"We didn’t spend a lot of time on math; [building] heights and densities," said Tobey, the other TAP member on the RCRC board about the TAP meetings.

THE NOTION THAT the consultants recommended more possible development than some community members may deem appropriate was noted in Green’s remarks. He said there was a disconnect between the outcome produced from the charette in 2005, in which the community decided that 1,307 units would be appropriate for Lake Anne revitalization. He said the consultant recommendations call for a higher number of units than the agreed number in "Option E" of the charette. "’Option E’ should be the basis by which we should try to reduce the density" in the recommendations, said Green.

Foster said that even though the consultants argue that the original plan for Lake Anne calls for five residential towers, not just the Heron House, the proposed number of units in the recommendations is more than five towers could accommodate. "Even the numbers in ‘Option E’ were pretty high when you really looked at them," said Foster.

"Let’s have the consultants come in and say where the numbers came from," said Lee Rau, the Hunter Mill District’s representative on the county’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

Walt Peter, the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church representative on the RCRC board, said there are two ways to minimize density without altering the numbers in the recommendations too much. One way is to limit building heights. The proposed residential towers are defined to be minimum 14 stories high in the recommendations, but are not limited in height. The other way to limit build-out, and an issue Peter considers of great importance and relatively ignored in the recommendations, is to impose parking requirements. "Parking is the biggest issue, and it is not fully addressed," said Peter. He argued that a developer could not build as many units as are outlined in recommendations without providing adequate parking at the right sites for its tenants. Not allowing shared parking in the area — such as parking for multiple buildings in the same garage — would force developers to use some of the area they are developing for parking.

Peter, however, is not proposing the changing of the numbers — such as the floor to area ratios (FAR), the relationship between the size of the building to the size of the land it occupies. "Developers like to see maximum FAR. We want to make it as attractive as possible to developers," said Peter.

"We have to remember, the whole idea is to bring the developers here," said Tobey.

BOARD MEMBERS ALSO discussed the pros and cons of producing renderings of possible levels of development. Anne Strange, Washington Plaza Baptist Church representative, said the consultant report is hard to understand. "It is hard for people to conceptualize" the recommendations, she said. Walt and Tobey argued that the danger of presenting a rendering could give the community a wrong sense of what to expect in terms of development. Leigh said he can see both sides of the issue. He said if renderings are made, community members had to know the drawings would not represent what a developer’s vision might be.

Smyers thought an important question raised at the March 29 meeting, and one that needs to be answered, is how much green and open space there is at Lake Anne. She also wanted to know what 15 percent of the area constitutes, as the consultants recommended that much be preserved for green and open space. Green asked whether green roofs constituted green space.

Another issue raised at Thursday’s meeting was how the future plan could ensure the right type of retail comes to the village center. "The nature of retail, that’s not in the report at all," said Rick Thompson, the Lake Anne Condominium representative on the RCRC board.

"We talked at length about the character of the merchants," said Smyers. "This is not going to be a Starbucks and a Best Buy location," she said. Smyers said the RA Design and Review Board could ensure that only retail characteristic with the village center could go there.