Months of debate over how to approach building Reston out to its capacity could soon be over. Last week on Thursday night, the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that Planned Residential Community (PRC) ordinance amendments be implemented as drafted by county staff.
The decision means that, if the Board of Supervisors approves the draft, the population factors used to calculate Reston’s population would change. This would allow an additional 3,815 dwelling units — above the current 4,106 dwelling units available in Reston’s residential district. Throughout the debate, residents voiced concerns about allowing additional development without considering the supporting infrastructure first.
“We’re disappointed [with Planning Commission’s decision],” said Mike Corrigan, president of the Reston Citizens Association (RCA), one of the groups opposed to changing the factors before a broader review. He said changing the factors — the only one of the three changes in the amendment that generated controversy — at this moment is unjustified. “I don’t think it’s the best way to address growth in Reston,” said Corrigan.
Corrigan added that the county staff’s proposed amendment added substantially to growth in Reston without directing future development to places where it is needed, for example the Lake Anne Village Center. However, the RCA was not surprised by the Planning Commission’s action. “We were probably expecting it,” he said.
Vice chairman of the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee, Arthur Hill, said he also expected the county’s Planning Commission to vote as it did. Hill and other members of the P&Z Committee voted 7-6, with two abstentions, in December to recommend that the population factors be changed. The Reston Association board, however, voted 4-2 in February to recommend to the county not to change the factors before a more comprehensive review deemed Reston’s infrastructure adequate to accommodate the new residents.
“THEIR CONCERNS, as expressed, are not related to [the ordinance],” said Frank de la Fe, the Hunter Mill District representative on the county’s Planning Commission. “Not cars, not vehicle-miles traveled, not Reston employees, but population factors” govern the PRC ordinance, said de la Fe. “Under these [the proposed] population factors, we will be closer to what the real population of Reston is,” he added. Although they were supposed to be reviewed every three years, the current population factors were last reviewed in 1975.
In order to address residents’ concerns, de la Fe said Reston’s comprehensive plan needed a review. He said he would recommend to Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) to set up a community-based process to review the comprehensive plan.
Corrigan said such a process might address the concerns of those residents who wanted a more comprehensive review before more building was permitted in Reston. The review, however, would have to be completed before new developments were approved. “It is after the horse is out of the barn from our perspective,” said Corrigan about conducting a plan review after the change in population factors.
“That should be done,” said Hill about the plan review. “Whoever is appointed to do it should look at the comprehensive plan, should look at the zoning and figure out changes that are advisable,” he said. Hill estimated that such a process would take about a year to complete.
The chairman of the County’s Planning Commission, Peter Murphy, also addressed concerns raised at an earlier public hearing by Reston resident Terrill Maynard that crime rates would increase with increased population density. Murphy dismissed those concerns, stating that even though it is growing into an urban county, crime rates across Fairfax County have dropped. Murphy also said he recently visited a county in central Virginia, which is a lot less urban than Fairfax County, and read in a local newspaper an editorial warning of gang activity.
The supervisors will hold a public hearing on the PRC amendment on Monday, March 26. “We certainly anticipate attending the public hearing at the Board of Supervisors,” said Corrigan.