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Votes

Who Will Help?

Residents opposed to process behind park and ride development continue to voice concern.

Residents who live near the South Reston Park and Ride — the location for a proposed housing development — are concerned that they are not allowed to know the details about the development, since it is proposed under a public-private partnership. The Public Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure (PPEA) Act of 2002 protects the developer's proprietary rights in the matter.

"So much that is riding on this PPEA actually precludes citizen involvement," said Sue Bowman, alluding to other public-private projects in Reston, such as the Wiehle Avenue station development. Bowman and other members of the citizens' group, as well as Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), addressed the issue at Thursday's Reston Association Board of Directors meeting, Jan. 25. "We look to you as people who represent us in Reston and represent the quality of life in Reston," said Bowman. "You will keep seeing us every month," she told the RA Board.

Hudgins said Fairfax County decided that county-owned land should be used to advance public causes, such as affordable housing. Hudgins held a public meeting with the group in December, but faced hundreds of people who came out to oppose the development and the process. She reiterated on Thursday that county staff is yet to come back to the supervisors with its recommendation on the proposal. "This is not a land use case, it's only a proposal for that property," said Hudgins. "If it's going to be [a land use case] it will have to go through the full-blown process." Hudgins said she expects the county staff to present its recommendations in February.

"WHEN WILL you take a position, and how will you be involved," Abby Grissinger, a concerned resident living near the park and ride, asked the RA Board. Grissinger added that the development, which also proposes a multi-story garage, is not safe for the neighborhood. "There is no such thing as a safe garage. We don't want that and I don't think anybody else would want that," said Grissinger.

Director Rick Beyer said he understood the group's concern, and advised the residents to continue showing up at meetings. He added that the issue reminds him of the 'Taxation Without Representation' slogan seen on some Washington, D.C., license plates. "I feel for you," said Beyer. "This is about bringing more money to the county. You will find that the developers and the county will be very good partners," he said. Beyer added that Reston lacks representation in Fairfax County. "We don't have representation and I don't know that we ever will if we don't get incorporated," said Beyer.

Director Robin Smyers said she was glad to see the group at the meeting again. "Your voice is positive and strong," said Smyers. "You will be heard based on the way you're delivering your message."

The issue is gaining prominence in Reston, in large part thanks to the group's efforts to attend public meetings and hearings.

WHILE THE GROUP'S efforts may or may not bring change the process behind PPEA-proposed developments, it seems the efforts are too late for the South Reston Park and Ride development. State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) said there has been no discussion about PPEA on the Senate floor or in the Finance Committee during this year's General Assembly session. This is because the concerns of the residents were raised too late for the Dec. 11 deadline for requests for drafts to Legislative Services. However, she said, she and Del. Ken Plum (D-36) are working on raising awareness of the issue in Richmond.

Plum said there has been some discussion about the issue and that other delegates are concerned about the process as well. "There is a privacy information group looking into how to balance the business interest and the public's right to know," said Plum. However, he added, whatever the group concludes will likely not help the current circumstance at South Reston Park and Ride, because that proposal is already under way.

Reston Association's Planning and Zoning Committee invited the Fairfax County Director of the Department of Purchasing and Supply Management, Cathy Muse, to speak about the process the county follows regarding PPEA. The issue is on the committee's agenda for its Feb. 5 meeting.