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Group Pushes for Parking on County Property

Planner discusses Lake Anne recommendations with community group.

Two factors emerging from recent discussions of Lake Anne revitalization plans are the need for sufficient parking and a need for an economic study to determine what level of density is necessary to entice developers to the area.

"Parking can’t be accommodated in Sub Area 1 [current parking lot, north of Washington Plaza]," said Rick Thompson, at last Thursday night’s Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation (RCRC) meeting. Members of the RCRC board had an opportunity to present their ideas and concerns to Fairfax County planner Heidi Merkel. President of the board, Kurt Pronske, suggested that all public parking and any overflow parking at Lake Anne be built on the site of the Cameron Crescent Apartments. Fairfax County owns the 17-acre property. Pronske said the area could provide sufficient parking for merchants’ customers during the transition period, allowing their businesses to survive during the construction of future projects. He added that county’s ownership of the land is convenient for building parking on the site.

"Put initial parking on Area 4 [the county-owned land], then everything else falls into place," said Guy Rando, a Lake Anne resident and urban planner.

THE IDEA WAS also brought up at the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee meeting last week on Monday. Members of the committee thought parking in that area would be too far away from the merchants for customers to use it.

Still, other members of the RCRC board pushed for it. Walt Peter, who represents the Good Shepherd church on the RCRC board, said the county could suggest that future Lake Anne developers help pay for that parking through proffers. "It’s a wonderful win-win situation for everyone," said Peter.

Lake Anne resident Joe Stowers said transition parking was also discussed at Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) meetings. The group was put together to assist consultants in their recommendations for the Lake Anne plan. He said TAP discussions paid a lot of attention to the need for parking that would handle the construction period. However, he said, their discussion did not focus on the county-owned area by the Crescent Apartments, but on the Lake Anne Office Building site and the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church site, which are much closer to Washington Plaza.

Peter dismissed the idea, saying it would be too costly to a developer to acquire the parcel, build parking during the transition period, tear down the parking and then build whatever the developer intents on building. Parking on the county-owned property, he said, was realistic.

ANOTHER RCRC BOARD member, Howard Green, said the county should try to find some money to conduct an economic analysis that would determine what density would entice developers to build projects according to the comprehensive plan. "Until we have an economic study, we don’t know where we are," said Green. "We don’t know how much we can shrink [the density]."

Peter said that kind of a study does not interest him, because economic feasibility is something a developer would have to determine. Lee Rau, the Hunter Mill District representative on the county’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority, said there was an economic analysis in 2005. "What level of density is required is within the first study," said Rau.

However, Martha Green, the Millenium Bank representative on the RCRC board, said that study had too many discrepancies in it, and did not accurately reflect Lake Anne’s needs.

Merkel answered some of the community’s concerns raised at public meetings in March and April. She said the staff is dedicated to writing the language of the comprehensive plan in a way that would preserve the existing affordable housing at Lake Anne. "We are certainly interested in preserving the Fellowship House and Cameron Apartments," she said.

Merkel also said that the county staff is considering ways of increasing the suggested open space in the plan. "There’s not a number that we have started honing on, we’re definitely open to more than 15 percent open space," she said.

Another concern she addressed was that of the building heights. The recommendations suggest that high-rise buildings be a minimum of 14 stories high, without a maximum number of stories placed on them. Merkel said the county staff is still trying to understand some of the things written in the consultant report, but doubts that the plan text will include such language, but would rather establish a range of building heights. "If someone came with a 11-story [building], would we say, ‘No, try again,’" said Merkel about one of the reasons why the minimum height might not be included in the plan.

WHILE ONLY FOUR members of the public attended Thursday’s meeting, the turnout was significant for the scarcely attended RCRC meetings. Lake Anne resident Mary Buff said she was concerned that the issues raised in revitalization discussions have distanced themselves from real issues affecting the people who live there and their environment. "We really have lost the discussion of quality of life, and that was a big part of the charette," said Buff. She said one of the main issues in the 2005 charette was the environmental health of the lake. She is concerned that neither the consultants nor the county staff have addressed the issue yet.

Peter said that level of scrutiny is required under stormwater management when a developer submits a site plan. "When you develop, you have to show you can deal with" environmental impacts of the development, he said.

Fred Swartzendruber, the president of Hickory Cluster at Lake Anne, said the future development of the Wiehle Avenue metro station had not been addressed yet. He said his cluster, and Lake Anne Village Center in general, is well within the impact zone of the metro station. He compared the possible future situation with what happens at the Vienna station today. He said that once the garages fill up in Vienna, the drivers start circling the local neighborhoods to find a parking space. He argued the same would happen at Lake Anne, and it could become a transportation hub for many people.

Rando, who has submitted his own plan ideas to the county, will present them to the county’s Architectural Review Board on June 14, which is also the next RCRC meeting date.