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Column: County Rushing “Dysfunctional” Master Plan?

A bit over four years ago, the Hunter Mill District supervisor announced the formation of a community Task force to prepare a new Reston Master Plan to shape Reston, complete with rail service, for a generation. The supervisor said it was a vital mission, top priority, to be completed during 2010. Then, she left the room—and the planning process. Fast forward—the train is about to arrive and the task force has yet to complete even the first half of its work—the comprehensive plan for three new rail station areas. Part two will treat the rest of the community. Why the task force is three years behind schedule is a matter of opinion. Some, including the task force chair, seem to think that the county staff was not up to the job, either because the Board of Supervisors made Tysons Corner their number one priority or because they were simply understaffed. Others point to a lack of competence in-house to do key transportation analyses. In any case, the supervisor, for reasons no one can explain, never took the action necessary to assure the task force had the priority and the resources needed to do the job. In fact, the best analytical work for the task force has been produced by our own volunteer Reston Citizens Association. While having only one seat on the task force, RCA volunteers (over 60 in total) working as the Reston 2020 Committee of the RCA have produced and presented more than a dozen well-researched analytical contributions for the new plan and its implementation. During four years of painful slogging, this task force, broadly representative of the community plus a strong contingent of developers, has written several plan proposals that were never adopted internally. Now, suddenly, the Board of Supervisors seems to be in panic mode—announcing formal hearings for part one of the new Master Plan: Oct. 30 before the County Planning Commission (consisting of political appointees from each supervisor’s district); and final review by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5. At its last meeting, the task force commented on the latest staff draft Master Plan. It was not well received. Disappointment was expressed with the overall quality and lack of attention to excellence in design and architecture. RCA went much further. While commending the work of task force members for reaching some difficult compromises including “densities, mixes [of uses], RCA concluded that in the draft the “goals and constraints … have been utterly destroyed.” The RCA spokesman noted that the county contradicted its own Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) policy, proposing higher density further from the station. He also said the draft:

  • omits or minimizes critical planning elements, “such as phasing, implementation, financing and incorporating parks and recreation [in] stations areas;”

  • calls on current Reston community and Reston Association to give space and financing for amenities to serve station area residents and workers with no commitment that new folks would become RA members and pay their fair share;

  • “gives developers … opportunity to build what they want, in the density they wish at places of their choosing,” further clogging already congested roads; and,

  • fails to identify 100 acres of parks recommended by the County Park Authority to serve 40,000 new residents and 50,000 workers, leaving the burden on us.

Is the county really going to try to ram through such a disappointing product, one that will guide Reston development for a generation? Find out at the next public task force meeting, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Community Center in Lake Anne. For more information go to: reston2020.blogspot.com.