Sunday, September 8, 2013

Reston 2020 Focuses on Draft Comprehensive Plan Language

By Terry Maynard

Over the last month, RCA’s Reston 2020 Committee has focused on the first complete draft of the proposed new Reston Master Plan for the transit station areas, so-called Draft Version 5.  The committee found the draft plan unacceptable. 

In an eleven page letter to the County Planning staff, Terry Maynard, Reston 2020 Co-chair and RCA representative to the Reston Task Force, detailed the draft’s shortcomings both general and specific.   Two specific additions drew particular criticism:  Expanding the walking distance by five minutes (a quarter mile) and considering hotels as a residential use.  At the more general level, the letter critiqued the increased ambiguity of the draft language, including the failure to address implementation and associated financing and phasing issues in any meaningful way, the amorphous language concerning parks and recreation, and other topics.  The letter concluded:  “We are extremely disillusioned that a reasonably acceptable development scenario has turned into this amorphous, directionless mass of words. We hope that you can return this draft plan to a useful guide for development in Reston’s station areas consistent with Scenario G. If not, it will be extremely difficult for us to support it.”

To add emphasis to the letter, Maynard read a forceful statement on behalf of RCA at the August 13, 2013, Reston Task Force meeting concerning the failure of Draft Version 5.  In part, he stated: 

Unfortunately, as Scenario G has been written up by County staff in draft Comprehensive Plan language, the goals and constraints in that scenario have been utterly destroyed. Each draft has been less satisfactory than its predecessor as a planning document. At this point the draft language has no spine or muscle to achieve the goals and limits it professes.

  •       The latest draft, even more than its predecessors, includes numerous weasel words and phrases that undermine achievement of the planning goals of Scenario G, such as extending the TOD walking distance by five minutes in direct contradiction of County TOD policy.
  •             It omits or minimizes vital details for critical planning elements, such as phasing, implementation, financing, and incorporating parks and recreation to serve future residents and employees in the transit station areas.
  •             It overlooks opportunities that would serve the longer term development of the station areas, including moving now to acquire air rights along the Dulles corridor and calling fora recreation center in one of the station areas.
  •              It generally calls upon the current Reston community, and specifically Reston Association, to provide space and financing for amenities that serve station area residents and workers without any commitment that the new residents would become members of RA.

Maynard and RCA President and Reston 2020 Coordinating Committee member Colin Mills followed up on these concerns in a meeting with Heidi Merkel and Richard Lambert of the Planning staff on August 26, 2013.  In that meeting, they learned that the County staff had abandoned the ideas to extend the walking distance time and to count hotels as residential space.  They were also assured that new language would be forthcoming on parks and recreation, and an evolution in language concerning transportation as well as new resident membership in RA.  Many issues remain surrounding the key implementation language.
The Reston 2020 Committee is looking at possible options engaging the Reston community more broadly in addressing the shortcomings in the draft plan.  Work will need to be done quickly since the final draft plan is scheduled to go before the County Planning Commission for a hearing on October 30, 2013. 

Draft Version 6 of the Comprehensive Plan was due before the next task force meeting on September 10, 2013, but that has now been postponed.  Reston 2020 will review and comment on it with the same thoroughness as previous drafts.     

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