By RCA President Colin Mills
When you’re a community leader, you want to feel that you’re doing real good for your community. I’ve never had that feeling more strongly than last week, when we held a joint forum with Reston Association and ARCH on the draft Comprehensive Plan. Civic organizations coming together to inform our citizens about a complex issue with big implications for our future… that’s my idea of doing good. The forum was a triumph for our organizations and for Reston.
I’ve talked many times about my desire to work with other organization to help the community. Happily, the leadership at RA and ARCH feels the same way, and we’ve had many productive conversations about how we can join forces. The Master Plan Task Force provided the spark to bring us together; we realized that we shared many of the same concerns, and we decided we would be more effective as a chorus, rather than as solo voices.
We developed a joint statement of principles that we felt should guide the Comprehensive Plan. And we decided to hold a community meeting to let our citizens know where the Task Force process stands, the areas where we think the Comp Plan could be made better, and why this all matters. We also wanted to give our citizens a chance to ask questions and share their concerns.
We expected the forum would be well attended, but we didn’t realize how popular it would be. The meeting took place in the RA Conference Center, and it was standing room only. We set up an overflow room where people could watch on video, and that was standing room only as well. All told, over 250 folks showed up for. I haven’t seen a crowd that big at a community meeting since the Rescue Reston rally last September. It was great to see so many Restonians concerned about the community’s future!
Task Force chair Patty Nicoson started us off by explaining the Task Force’s vision for the Metro station areas. Next, Richard Lambert of the County Department of Planning and Zoning provided an overview of the Comp Plan as it stands. Then we turned it over to our panel, consisting of RA’s Andy Sigle, RCA’s Terry Maynard, and ARCH’s Jerry Volloy. Together, they addressed each of the principles in our joint statement, outlined the strengths and weaknesses of the Plan in those areas, and provided suggestions for improving it. (Those suggestions became a joint comment our three organizations submitted to the Task Force after the forum.)
After that, we took questions from the audience. My only regret is that we didn’t have time to answer them all; there were a lot of thoughtful comments. We did try to address common questions that were asked by a lot of different folks. Through these common questions, a picture emerged. Our citizens are concerned about what development will do to our traffic. They’re eager to see pedestrian and bike connections as well as roads. They’re worried about the impact to our environment and open spaces. They’re curious how we’ll find enough recreation space, so that the people who live and work here can also play here. They’re excited about the Silver Line, but worried about how the changes it brings will affect the Reston they love.
I closed out the forum by explaining why the Comprehensive Plan process matters. The decisions we’re making now will set the ground rules for development in Reston for the next 40 or 50 years. We’re creating the Reston that our children and grandchildren will live in. We’re seeking to balance the ability for Reston to grow and remain vital with the timeless values that we’ve always held dear.
This process brings a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous risk. If we get this right, we’ll succeed in updating Bob Simon’s vision and maintaining a vibrant community into the future. If we get it wrong, we risk losing the qualities and the balance that make Reston special. The Comprehensive Plan has real consequences for our traffic, our open spaces, our environment, our recreational amenities, and our quality of life.
All in all, it was a tremendous event. If you weren’t able to attend, you can watch the recording provided by RA.
Now it’s your turn. The best way to ensure that the Comp Plan is right for Reston is for you to speak up and get involved. The more citizens that the County and the Task Force hear from, the better chance we have. Fortunately, there are still opportunities for you to make your voice heard.
Please come to the next Task Force meeting, on Tuesday, October 29th at 7 PM at RA Headquarters. Members of the public can speak at the meeting. The Task Force is used to hearing the same old voices, and it would be great to see and hear from some new faces.
Once the Task Force approves the Comprehensive Plan, it will go before the Planning Commission on November 13, and the Board of Supervisors in December. We want to see a big turnout of Restonians who care about our community’s future!
In addition to the public speaking opportunities, you can also email your thoughts directly to the Task Force and to Supervisor Hudgins. Whether you like the Comp Plan or don’t, they need to hear what you have to say.
I’m grateful to RA and ARCH for standing together with us and keeping the public informed on this issue. (Thanks especially to Cate Fulkerson and the RA staff for their great work in setting up the forum.) I’m glad Patty and Richard came to give the Task Force side of the story. And I’m proud and honored that so many of our citizens showed up to see what we had to say.
The best part? We’re just getting started. All three of our organizations have really enjoyed collaborating, and we’re actively seeking other ways that we can work together for the good of the community. We are the custodians of Reston’s future, and we take that duty seriously. Stay tuned to see how else we will work to make Reston a better place.