The Fairfax County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed amendment to the Planned Residential Community (PRC) Ordinance last week on Thursday. The ordinance governs three areas of the county, but it is only in one of those areas, Reston, that its proposed changes have generated a heated debate.
"We do have to expect change. Over the next 20, 30, 40 years, Reston will look quite different than it does today," said Reston founder Bob Simon, testifying in front of the Planning Commission. He urged the commissioners to vote for the proposed changes in factors that determine the population, and therefore density, in PRC districts.
Under the current population factors, there is a potential of building a maximum of 4,106 dwelling units in parts of Reston governed by the PRC ordinance. However, all but roughly 800 of those units are already under the approval process for development. The population factors proposed under the amendment would allow an additional 3,815 dwelling units — a total of 7,921 units — to be built. Simon argued that not changing the factors, and therefore not expanding on Reston's building potential, would hurt the two-year long revitalization efforts at the Lake Anne Village Center.
"We're entitled at Lake Anne to have more people," said Simon. "[Changing the factors would show] good faith on your [Planning Commission's] part, so we can see more people at Lake Anne," said Simon. He said Lake Anne should be framed with density, as additional residential development would aid the village center's year-round viability. Simon added that Lake Anne is limping, although it is not dead by any means.
RESTON ASSOCIATION director Bill Keefe, speaking at the RA's special meeting on the proposed PRC amendments on Feb. 12, also said that not changing the factors now would hurt Lake Anne. The RA voted 4-2 to delay voting on the factors until the entire PRC Ordinance is reviewed. "Lake Anne would suffer if the cap is reached. Lake Anne loses out," said Keefe at the Feb. 12 meeting, as he voted in the minority.
However, RA director Robin Smyers, representing the Lake Anne/Tall Oaks district on the RA board, voted in the majority during that meeting, to delay changing the population factors. Smyers also sits on the Board of Directors of the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation (RCRC), which is guiding the Lake Anne revitalization efforts. In a recent interview she said she voted against changing the factors now, because it impacts the entire Reston area, not just Lake Anne.
Smyers said that her recent work with the RCRC's Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) has encouraged her. The TAP was established in November to present the RCRC and the rest of the community with conceptual designs for Lake Anne revitalization, which could then be taken to the community. She said TAP's work has been efficient and quick, and it has shown her that it does not have to take a long time to get tangible results on issues concerning the community. "The TAP involvement has been rejuvenating," said Smyers.
Much like the work of the TAP, Smyers believes that a community-wide effort to review the entire PRC Ordinance, does not have to take a long time.
WHILE SIMON TESTIFIED on Thursday about the need to change population factors soon, other Restonians testified about the need to review the entire ordinance before changing the factors. Mike Corrigan, president of the Reston Citizens Association (RCA), said the proposed amendment to the ordinance failed to address concerns of Reston residents. "Specifically, residents are concerned that the changes fail to provide any integration of transportation planning, fail to address the lack of affordable housing and fail to address watershed and lake sedimentation impact," said Corrigan. He said there is a better way to amend the ordinance. Most everyone agrees, he said, that the development approval process should be changed from an administrative to a legislative process that seeks approval from the Board of Supervisors. However, Corrigan urged the Planning Commission to defer changing the population factors. "Form a task force of Reston residents, with developer and county staff consultation, to do a complete review of the PRC ordinance and, ideally, those elements of the comprehensive plan that apply to the issues the county staff and residents have raised," said Corrigan.
When the Reston community agreed to an addition of roughly 10,000 units in Reston's Center for Industry and Government (RCIG) district — running along the Dulles Toll Road — it was told the units would be built with the arrival of metrorail to Reston, said Corrigan. "There is no similar improvement in transport, public roads, etc. in this [proposal]," said Corrigan.
Robert Goudie representing the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH) said ARCH opposed changing the factors in absence of a broader review of the ordinance. Goudie said that changing the factors with the approval of roughly 10,000 dwelling units in the RCIG, the Greater Reston area could see as many as 35,000 additional residents.
President of the RA Board of Directors, Jennifer Blackwell, asked the Planning Commission not to change the population factors immediately. "Certainly the population factors should be changed, they're outdated," but there needs to be a community-based task force to look at how to change those factors, said Blackwell.
Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner Frank de la Fe asked what would the task force study? He asked if Blackwell is suggesting the task force look at the comprehensive plan and other things, or if it would be set up to look at the population factors. If so, said de la Fe, "What would you use other than the latest census?"
"The entire ordinance is 40 years old, not just the population factors," answered Blackwell.
"RESTON OUGHT NOT to change, it is a very stable community," said Reston resident Dave Edwards. He said it was important to look at the ordinance, and Reston's comprehensive plan, soon. "The community is so energized right now," said Edwards.
Reston resident Terrill Maynard said changing the factors without reviewing the rest of the ordinance would bring 16,000 people into Reston without matching the necessary infrastructure for them. "I strongly support RA's recommendation to have a task force look at it, and maintain, or even strengthen, Reston's reputation as a pioneer in planning communities," said Maynard.
Joe Stowers took the middle ground, asking the Planning Commission to adopt the changes, but also immediately set up a task force to improve the ordinance. "Although I support county staff's proposal, many in the community do not support it," said Stowers.
The Planning Commission moved to defer its decision to the March 15 meeting. The Board of Supervisors will hold its public hearing on the issue on March 26.