Lake Anne—Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Besides being a charming place to live, Lake Anne Village is Reston’s historic heart, the place where it all began in 1964. In fact, our little home here in Reston’s first cluster was first occupied by Bob Simon’s construction manager for the village—Mr. Schultz. We love it. Lake Anne is a pleasant blend of urban and suburban, residential living and commercial center. Its center, Washington Plaza, is a mixed residential-commercial condominium. Plaza businesses are an eclectic mix, many going back 20 years or more. Among them are four very good restaurants, the used bookstore (Reston’s only bookstore), three barber shops, and a pharmacy with great snack bar, a post office and a Lake Anne original pharmacist who knows all the medical histories and all the gossip. Business is OK in the spring & summer, but tails off in winter. The merchants are our neighbors and we are among their best customers, sometimes their only ones on cold evenings. The merchants have a charming locale, complete with a beautiful lake, but need a lot more traffic. This is where the long awaited redevelopment and expansion comes in. I see a light at the end of the tunnel. It is a bright light cast by the exciting plan crafted by Republic Land/Lake Anne Development Partners (LADP). This plan actually keeps the village charm, while adding needed density with a walkable design and activities near the Plaza. Furthermore, 32 percent of the 900 plus units planned are affordable and workforce housing, fulfilling Mr. Simon’s vision of homes for all income levels. It is an inspired project with broad support.

Then, a glitch. Two weeks ago, Reston Association got a report the Condo Association was dumping landscape refuse in the RA-owned wooded area at the east end of the Plaza. When RA asked that they cease and desist, the response was that it really didn’t matter because the trees were coming down for a new parking lot! This was how most RA staff, RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee volunteers and the community first learned of a tightly held land swap deal. I’ve learned the deal was okayed by the outgoing CEO in May and kept under wraps, hidden for five months from the public, staff and even some Board members. In exchange for a lovely acre of old growth woods, RA will get a narrow, swampy strip of County-owned land on Baron Cameron. The wooded RA lot could serve as a park, perhaps with nature programs for children of hundreds of new residents. Instead, the tree canopy will be cut down for a 124-car parking lot. The swap promoters at RA put the swap deal on the RA Board Oct. 24 meeting agenda for final approval just days after the dumping incident. However, when the news got out, there was strong public opposition, resulting in postponement of final action until the Nov. 21 Board meeting. Why? First, the swap is a very bad deal for Reston. Those promoting the deal propose to accept an unusable plot of ground in exchange for a wooded lot which wreathes the historic Plaza and could become a neighborhood park. The swap also runs counter to RA policy to protect and even expand our tree canopy, and counter to the new County comprehensive plan for this land unit. Second, there are nearby alternatives for Plaza parking. For example, the Condo Association owns a parking lot at the other end of the Plaza could very well meet Plaza parking needs according to a knowledgeable landscape architect. While it might be reasonable for RA to offer to enhance (& save) its plot for park use, why shouldn’t the Condo make its own parcel available for its own members on the Plaza to use? Third, promoters of the swap point out that the developer is also offering cash, including up to $200,000 for Lake dredging. In fact, if there were no swap at all, such contributions would be typical proffers for such a project in any case. In sum, this is a bad deal for Reston and is unnecessary for the completion of the planned and badly needed development project. The Reston Association Board should vote no on Nov. 21.