Monday, November 11, 2013

Lake Anne Land Swap: Explore Parking Options to Protect Trees

by Connie Hartke

The Reston Citizens Association has 7 founding principles.  The first and last apply to our thoughts about the Lane Anne Land Swap:

  • Fostering man-made and natural beauty
  • Being a financial success as a community

The Republic/Lake Anne Development Partners have an excellent plan for Lake Anne revitalization, and RCA very much supports revitalizing the village center.  The problem: underground sewer pipes and a stormwater culvert were discovered in the middle of the spot where Republic Land Development was going to put underground merchant parking.  They can still put some parking there, but are 120 spaces short.

The previous Reston Association CEO agreed in principle to the proposed land swap, which runs counter to the RA Board’s adopted policy “Environmental Considerations for Future Development and Redevelopment within Reston.” It is also contrary to Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan specific to this land.  From page 162 of Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, 2013 edition:

“Tree preservation and/or tree cover should be a key condition of redevelopment in this Land Unit, in accordance with guidance in the Environmental section of the Fairfax County Policy Plan. The existing tree canopy in this Land Unit should be preserved to the greatest extent possible.”

Kevin Munroe has given a very clear and detailed review of the value of the RA parcel in his article on Reston PatchHe is well qualified, having previously worked 11 years for RA as an Environmental Resource Specialist plus 2 years with the Audubon Society of Northern VA as their Staff Naturalist and Program Coordinator, and the last 7 as the Manager of Huntley Meadows Park.  He suggests near the end of his article that “Parking lot designs can always be tweaked and re-oriented – if clearing a Reston Association natural area was taken off the table as an option, a creative solution would be found.”  We agree.

If this land swap proposal was brought to the table now under the current leadership of CEO Cate Fulkerson, we believe this would only be an option of last resort. Unfortunately it has moved beyond her control to a vote of the RA Board of Directors.  RCA urges the RA Board to defer the land swap proposal to allow time for alternative parking options to be fully explored.  Since RA and Republic are both working against a County-imposed deadline to start construction, we propose that the County’s deadline be extended to allow time for this exploration.

Cities across America are investing in planting projects trying to get what we already have on this RA parcel. If this stand of trees is leveled for a parking lot, which is so clearly counter to all that is Reston and the County Comprehensive Plan, then what precedent does this set for Reston redevelopment?

Reston Association and Fairfax County have an ethical obligation to exhaust all resources for alternative parking to save these trees.

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