Commentary: Independent Progressive: Proposed Zoning: Way Too Much, Way Beyond Fairfax County Competence

Commentary: Independent Progressive: Proposed Zoning: Way Too Much, Way Beyond Fairfax County Competence

And the beat goes on. We’ve had our last community meeting on Fairfax County’s plan to rezone Reston’s PRC (Planned Residential Community) areas from 13 to 16 persons per acre, according to the Zoning Administrator. The next step presumably will be the “public hearing” at the County Planning Commission, followed by final approval by the Board of Supervisors in Spring 2018?

The last in a series of town hall meetings at South Lakes High School attended by 800 or more was all heat, little light. It did serve to demonstrate deep and widespread community opposition to the plan. Lost in upset and anger was Supervisor Cathy Hudgins’ suggestion in a prior meeting of possible compromise between 13 and 16 per acre. A senior County planning official later confirmed that compromise was still on the table, but as far as I know the Supervisor has not mentioned it again. Without it, dialogue is not in sight.

This push for massive growth is, I believe, driven by County staff and politicians thirsty for revenue from the limitless high end growth potential they see in a prostrate, powerless community. Fairfax cannot ratchet up growth for their coffers in Herndon, Fairfax, or Vienna, for example, because, despite their smaller populations, they are self-governing. Reston is not.

Growth need not be a bad thing. In fact, a more urban Reston was part of Mr. Simon’s vision. However, support for major new growth must be conditioned on Fairfax providing genuine guarantees that such growth will not include further decline in our quality of life, a decline which is already underway. Unfortunately, when Supervisor Hudgins and Zoning Administrator Johnson speak of increasing persons per acre from 13 to 16 — and much more in the transit station areas — they offer no tangible assurances that quality of life will not be trampled in the process.

What do I mean by “quality of life?” For me, quality of life includes: transportation infrastructure that enables us to travel around Reston without humongous hassle and delay; public schools to fully serve kids K thru 12 and even university as Simon envisioned; adequate fire & rescue service; and, parks, open spaces, and recreation facilities proportionate to what we have had for all ages — all part of Mr. Simon’s vision of “the good life” in Reston.

But the County provides no credible assurances, and no actual plan or financial scheme for doing any of it. If you look in the new Reston Master Plan, you’ll find tons of planned new density and density bonuses for residential and commercial development shoehorned into maps. Now, look for the additional parks, open spaces, recreational facilities, schools, firehouses, etc. You won’t find them because they are not there. What scraps you may find are nowhere near proportional to what exists. Yet, all of these plan elements are within the power of Fairfax County (not Reston) to fund and provide.

Notice I’ve not mentioned transportation infrastructure? That’s because Fairfax County does not have the authority to approve/build anything beyond tiny neighborhood streets — and these they can only do with the good will of developers through “proffers” in this Dillon Rule state. Most streets and main arteries, including three additional crossings of the toll road, are strictly the purview of the Commonwealth of Virginia, typically requiring 20 or more years from concept to construction as is the case for the Soapstone crossing, for example.

In order for Reston to grow and be faithful to the Reston vision, Fairfax County needs to do one of two things: either cut its plans for growth to levels commensurate with Reston standards and actually feasible, say for a population of 70,000 20 years from now — not 120,000; or, demand that the Virginia legislature authorize a referendum asking Reston residents if they wish to decide these matters as a self-governing entity OR remain subjects of Fairfax County.

Next: Reston Association, in its frantic search to use Lake House, now provides subsidized child care for 19 kids in a marketplace loaded with alternatives.