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Supervisors need more time to consider Reston master plan changes

By Karen Goff

Wednesday - 1/29/2014, 9:32am  ET

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors needs more time to go over the impact of changes to the Reston Master Plan.

After Tuesday’s public hearing — in which more than a dozen Reston residents and members of the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force spoke — Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins suggested the board revisit the subject at the Feb. 11 board of supervisors meeting.

“There are some unfinished things,” said Hudgins, pointing out the implementation of the plan, which will guide development around Reston’s three upcoming Silver Line transit stations, is crucial.

“The plan is the plan,” she said. “Implementation will be the critical part. How do we move forward? Considering the enormity of this, that is most important. We want to make sure we are not changing the ground rules that [Reston founder] Robert E. Simon founded.”

The Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force spent more than four years working on the changes. The draft was recommended for approval by the Fairfax County Planning Commission with suggestions for additional review earlier this month.

The draft allows for high density, with a business/residential ratio of 50/50 within a quarter-mile of the Metro stations at Wiehle-Reston East, Reston Parkway and Herndon-Monroe. The area from one-quarter to one-half mile would be slightly lower density and 75 percent residential. The areas beyond a half-mile from transit would be largely unchanged, though they will be addressed by the task force in the future.

Many Restonians, including founder Simon, spoke at the public hearing about flaws in the draft plan. Some of the main themes: traffic impact, open space, recreational areas and the necessity for all new residents to be part of either Reston Association or the Reston Town Center Association.

Several noted that traffic from north to south Reston is bad now — and going to get exponentially worse once Metro opens. The first Reston station, at Wiehle Avenue and Sunset Hills road — will likely be open in the next few months, though Metro has not announced a date.

“We in South Reston like to be able to get to the town center area,” said resident Kathy Kaplan. “What is going to happen when we have 40 to 100 million square feet of development?”

Kaplan told a the supervisors about recently taking her granddaughter to the Reston Hospital Center emergency room.

“She was in acute anaphylactic shock,” she said. “We almost did not get through the intersection at Reston Parkway. What I am saying to you, I want you to amend this plan to make it more workable so when my grandchildren grow up, they have a reason to stay here. If you block us and nothing can move north and south, businesses will leave.”

Groups such as Reston Association, the Reston Citizens Association and the Alliance of Reston Homeowners and Clusters said they generally support the plan changes, but want to see their concerns addressed.

“If development is done right, it can enhance the community,” said RCA President Colin Mills. “But the plan falls short in several areas. “Traffic: the Dulles Toll Road corridor is a big bottleneck. It divides the community in half  Our traffic is predicted to get worse – in some cases much worse -if plan goes forward. Athletic fields: the plan calls for only three new fields. Those [new] residents will need places to play. Implementation: we are not concerned with what is in the plan, we are concerned with what isn’t there. It’s in everyone’s best interest we get this right.”

Several speakers criticized Hudgins for the makeup of the task force, which they said was skewed heavily in favor of developers and not residents. They pointed out that the county is under tremendous financial pressure to have the maximum number of residents and businesses here in order to boost its tax base. Additionally, they want to ensure Reston residents will not face an additional tax — similar to the Tysons Corner area — in order to implement the plan.