The following statement was delivered by RCA Board member Connie Hartke at the Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing on the proposed amendment to Reston's Comprehensive Plan on November 13, 2013. The Planning Commission voted to defer the decision on the Comprehensive Plan amendments until December 5.
My concern is the lack of provisions for recreational amenities within the TSA boundaries. The Plan starts the discussion on page 74: recreational needs generated in the TSAs should primarily be met within the mixed use developments of the TSAs. But then it goes on to say that elements of the larger Reston area’s robust park & recreation system may be able to be improved to meet the needs of future residents and employees. Some will be possible, but how much? For example, 12 athletic fields are required for the new population. 3 are specified within the TSAs. Does that mean suburban Reston must provide the other 9?
Reston cannot be relied upon to take on the expense and maintenance of the majority of new recreational amenities. 28,000 housing units will ultimately exist within the TSAs. Suburban Reston is already built out. There will be VERY LIMITED athletic fields which can be lighted. Whatever does not get specified within the TSAs is a gamble. Neighborhood protectionism is notoriously strong in Reston. We should not rely on areas outside the TSAs to provide the majority of the recreational amenities for the TSAs.
I know the county wants this new community to be a great success. At the joint forum that we held in Reston last month, I was impressed when Richard Lambert mentioned that Fairfax County is excited to have this opportunity to “build” the County’s first ever real mixed use transit oriented development. Vienna was already built out when the metro went in; Tysons is the mess that it is. Reston, with its shift from suburban office parks to true residential/ commercial mixed used development, gives our County the opportunity to shine.
We can upgrade a few athletic fields. Put a band-aid here and there. But the opportunity to create something exceptional is WITHIN the corridor.
I’m asking you to send this plan back to the task force and challenge them to come back with a defined recreational plan that will compete with the likes of Long Bridge Park on the edge of Crystal City. Owned by Arlington County Parks and Recreation, it is a model for what we need within the TSAs.
It has 3 full-size, multi-sport, lighted, rectangular synthetic turf athletic fields, walkways and artwork, with the high rises of Crystal City literally across the street. When I attend the Virginian Elite Soccer Tournament each Memorial weekend, I pay to park in an otherwise empty commercial garage and walk across the street to this fantastic sports facility. In future years I can hop the metro over. Listen to this description of the Park and imagine this being said about a premier facility in Reston:
“Long Bridge Park is a distinctive showplace of environmentally sound redevelopment, with a central expanse of attractive public green spaces and high-quality outdoor recreation facilities that are accessible to all Arlingtonians, conveniently linked with nearby urban corridors and the Potomac riverscape, and coupled with complementary private redevelopment.”
Another really important amenity that is ideal within the TSAs is accessible playgrounds. Under new ADA rules, playgrounds built or altered after March 14, 2012, are required to have wheelchair-friendly surfaces and equipment. Playground accessibility is a civil right. A truly accessible playground requires more space than the traditional. Some worry that giving up space for recreation will cut into Fairfax County tax revenues. Build a place where more folks want to live, and the revenue will come. My husband and I own two wheelchair accessible vacation cabins. I will put our revenue and number of nights rented per year up against any of our neighbors. We gained financially with accessibility.
Create a Reston that keeps the essence of our community. Strive to be named again in Money Magazine’s best places to live small cities survey. Challenge yourselves and your developers to create a design that is true to Reston’s Live, Work and Play motto.