Re-defining How To Count for Density

Re-defining How To Count for Density

Reston Association Board to take public position on the density cap issue.

The Reston Association Board of Directors will hold a special meeting Monday, Feb. 12 to take a public position on Reston's density cap issue. As the meeting approaches, the issue has become less about the density cap, and more about the language in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) Ordinance.

In December of 2006, the RA Planning and Zoning Committee narrowly endorsed Fairfax County's recommendations that the factors to determine the population be changed to better reflect today's residential communities. For example, the county would no longer count a detached house as a place where 3.5 people live, but a place where three people reside. In doing so, the county ensures that more people could move to Reston without changing the density cap of 13 people per acre.

"I support the way the county is going, but strongly recommend we don't just end it with quick fixes," said Joe Stowers at the RA Board meeting on Jan. 25. Stowers said the issue is that the PRC ordinance should be reviewed, not whether Reston will raise its density cap. He recommended a task force be formed to review the language of the ordinance. Stowers noted a review of the ordinance was conducted three previous times in the planned community. "We can deal with the impact if we change the ordinance," he said.

RA Director Bill Keefe agreed with Stowers. "It's not a density issue, it's a procedural issue," he said. Keefe asked that the RA Board and staff come up with a correct title for the discussion of the issue prior to the Feb. 12 meeting.

IN A LETTER to Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH) reflected Stowers' view and expressed concern that changing the population factors would not solve the issue. "We view possible changes to the PRC's dwelling occupancy factors as but one of a matrix of emerging and interrelated factors that will affect our community and its quality of life," read the letter, signed on behalf of the ARCH Board of Directors by President Frank Pfeilmeier. "We do not think changing the PRC Ordinance dwelling occupancy factors should be considered without also considering what is needed to address, and fund, the concomitant impact this and other converging developments in and around Reston will have on our existing infrastructure and services," continued the Jan. 26 letter.

The group applauded Hudgins' appointment of a committee considering the development issues near metro transit station areas in Reston and Herndon, but proposed she go further. ARCH proposed creating a land use task force to tackle the PRC Ordinance, modeled on the group working on Tysons Corner's land use issues. The letter concluded: "We emphasize that if necessary infrastructure and service improvements are identified, and adequate and reliable funding for such improvements and services is made available, increased density may well enhance Reston."

Reston resident Terry Maynard warned of the consequences of raising the cap, or lowering the factors to allow more population to fit under the current cap. "[Raising the cap] will seriously deteriorate the quality of life in Reston," said Maynard at the RA meeting. An increase in violent crime, traffic congestion and public service costs were all potential realities if the cap is raised, said Maynard, who conducted his own study of the affects of raising the cap. He recommended that the RA Board oppose any changes in the cap, and oppose changing the factors. If the board does approve changing the factors under county's recommendations, Maynard recommended lowering the density cap from 13 to 11 people per acre, so that the community can brace for the population increase.