So Much Depends On Parking

So Much Depends On Parking

Space and location of future parking may sway public opinion of plan.

Debate over whether too much, or just enough, development is recommended for Lake Anne Village Center may turn out to be fruitless. Additional density might not occur without provisions for additional parking space.

"Right now there is not enough parking to legally open another restaurant on the plaza," said Tom O’Brien, a Lake Anne Village resident. "There has to be accommodation for parking, if we do nothing else."

Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) held the second public meeting on the consultant recommendations for the Lake Anne comprehensive plan. Staff from county’s department of planning and zoning will write the actual language for the comprehensive plan, taking into account public input and consultant recommendations. The meeting, held at Lake Anne Elementary School on Wednesday night, April 25, provided the county staff with public comments and concerns, most of which centered around the issue of whether sufficient parking would be provided for any future development. A team of consultants, led by Basile, Baumann, Prost and Associates, wrote the recommendations for the plan that would guide future development, and revitalization, of the village center.

"Parking, many times, drives the development," said Buzz Drury, president and co-founder of Architecture, Inc., a part of the consultant team that produced the plan recommendations. The consultants’ presentation of the recommendations at the previous meeting, held in March, and the county staff presentation on its interpretation of the recommendations did not delve deeply into the proposed parking. The public inquired about it on Wednesday night.

"The discussion here leaves me clueless as to what we will have for parking," said Philip Maisel. "Are there any guidelines in the county for parking?"

Heidi Merkel, from the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, said there were parking guidelines in the Planned Residential Community ordinance, although she was not sure what those guidelines were. Drury said that for each residential unit built, the developer has to provide 1.5 parking spaces.

ONE OF THE MAIN parking issues is the location of future parking. The consultant recommendations call for construction of new parking on the site of the large surface parking lot north of Washington Plaza – sub area 1. The recommendations break the village center into five sub areas. The new parking at the site, according to the recommendations, should mostly be constructed underground. Some residents voiced concern at the meeting that the parking at that site is expected to accommodate overflow of parking from sub areas 2, 3 and 5 – area around Lake Anne Office Building, area around Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and area around Fellowship House respectively.

"We were assuming underground parking in [sub area] 1, [sub areas] 2 and 3 could share some of those spaces," said Kellie Brown, associate with Basile, Baumann, Prost and Associates. Brown added later that development in the area around Fellowship House could also share some of that parking, because of its proximity to the planned parking garages.

"How do you expect to get these old people to walk over" from the parking garage to the Fellowship House area, said Robert Serveiss, a resident of the Fellowship House.

"We would certainly make sure people who needed to have parking on site would have parking on site," said Merkel.

Lake Anne resident John Lovaas said it might be helpful if the county could provide an estimate of how much parking would have to be provided if maximum proposed development was achieved at the village center.

RESIDENTS EXPRESSED MORE than just parking concerns at the meeting. Chairman of the Reston Association Design Review Board, Richard Newlon, said he was concerned with county staff’s timeline for conversation with Reston community organizations. "Are you familiar with the design guidelines," said Newlon. "You should probably read them." Newlon said the county staff plans to have a conversation with the design review board too late in the process, once the staff makes its own report on what the text of the comprehensive plan for Lake Anne Village Center should be. "We might be more helpful to you if you come to us earlier," said Newlon.

Dave Edwards agreed with Newlon. "It might be beneficial if you speak to community organizations before it becomes a staff report," said Edwards, chairman of Reston Association’s transportation advisory committee.

Newlon also had another concern. He said developers have come in front of the design review board with proposals that did not conform to the guidelines, but told the review board that the county allows them to go ahead with the development. "It is a constant battle we have to fight," said Newlon. "The developers say, ‘This is what the county says we can do,’ and we’re like ‘Oh my God!’" He added that if too much density is allowed at Lake Anne, it might become problematic to make the edges of the new development conform to the rest of the new and old development. He was also concerned that a developer could come in and develop a 2-story building across the entire site. "It’s a density issue," said Newlon.

WASHINGTON PLAZA CLUSTER representatives, rather than ask questions, made a few recommendations to the county staff. John Carter, a professional architect, recommended that the staff cut the proposed density in half, while doubling open space. He said the proposed density is too high, especially given the capacity of the roads around the village center, such as North Shore Drive and Village Road. He also warned that design excellence had to be considered in any future development.

Merkel and Brown both argued that the proposed density is necessary in order to attract developers to the area. Those densities would financially justify a developer’s decision to redevelop land in the village center. Lower densities would not attract developers from a financial standpoint.

Reston founder Bob Simon, absent from the March meeting because of travel, chimed in on Wednesday night. "We’re seeing a report that brings us back to 1960s," said Simon about the period when he and others planned Reston. "This is a density we were talking about in the ‘60s." Simon said he did not agree with everything in the consultant report, but that the recommendations were beneficial for the village center. Simon said he was reluctant to tell those who did not like the report to move, but added: "If people don’t want to live in a community that this is going to be, then there are other communities they can move to."

Lovaas expressed concern that the plan approval process is moving too fast, given that public hearings in front of the county’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors are planned for this summer. He said that not all of the resident concerns were answered yet. "We danced around parking, so why can’t we take more time," he said.

"I don’t understand what is fast track about that," said Hudgins, adding that there will be a chance for public input in at least four settings before the plan is approved. Those four settings are staff report presentations in front of the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee, the Design Review Board, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. She said the public input received at Wednesday’s meeting would be analyzed in the staff deliberations, and that she welcomes more input as the process moves ahead.