The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved a plan by the JBG Cos. of Washington and Chevy Chase to build 498 multi-family residential units, plus some half-million square feet of office space and 145,000 square feet for "minor commercial uses" on a 35-acre site around the Reston International Center.
The project approval was delayed after the Planning Commission received numerous e-mails, letters and other contacts from Reston residents anxious about the increased density in the area and the heavy traffic along Sunrise Valley Drive. A contingent of perhaps a dozen residents came to the final approval day for the project which was several weeks after the public hearing to express their concerns.
Residents were also concerned that there be easy access to the new Metrorail stop planned for Wiehle Avenue. This is one of the stops planned in the Reston area of the so-called Silver Line, the Metrorail extension from East Falls Church to Dulles International Airport.
Frank A. de la Fe, the Hunter Mill representative on the Planning Commission, read a list of nine specific actions that JBG must take in addition to its other proffers in order to carry out the project.
JBG AGREED TO:
* Conduct an analysis of traffic along Sunrise Valley Road
* Possible transportation improvements with the consent of the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation that there would be pedestrian access facility across Reston Parkway to an existing bike and recreation trail along Reston Parkway.
* Participation with the Reston Metrorail Access Group in connection with access to the planned Wiehle Avenue Metro station and above grade pedestrian crossings of Reston Parkway.
* Provide 12 percent of the total number of dwelling units as "workforce" housing and will coordinate with the county under new rules for those benefits with the appropriate county agencies. The developer gets a bonus of space for full price units if the firm complies.
* That the cellar space shall be limited to "ancillary uses that does not generate parking requirements." This is to prevent developers from placing the work force housing in those areas.
* To use "signature architecture," not stock plans and that it be reviewed by the design review board of the Reston Association. The architecture shall be "complementary to Reston International Center and the Sheraton Hotel," which are both existing structures on the property.
De la Fe and Reston Planning and Zoning Committee vice chairman Arthur Hill said that since JBG bought the property from earlier developers, the Planning Commission had relatively little control over it.
Hill, who was not part of the protesting residents group, warned his neighbors along Indian Ridge Road that it would be impossible to reverse, but he understood their concern.
"If you’re on Indian Ridge Road waiting to break into the traffic on Sunrise Valley Drive, density and traffic means something to you," he said.
The JBG project was also approved by the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee. Hill said it is a "long term project," likely to unfold over 10 years. The whole Northern Virginia region has an enormous amount of vacant office space and the condominium market is virtually defunct.
THE PROJECT is tied to the planned Metro station and even at its best pace it is unlikely that trains will be running short of five years. Certainly housing, office and real estate financing markets look bleak until 2009 or beyond, Hill and others agreed.
Hill said that John Schlichting, managing director of JGB Cos., told him that in the future the firm is thinking of a "four star hotel" and luxury retail markets.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the project on the Planning Commission’s recommendation in January.