Commentary: Fairfax County Puts Reston Rezoning on Fast Track

Commentary: Fairfax County Puts Reston Rezoning on Fast Track

On May 3, Fairfax County Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and other County officials, including Planning and Zoning chief Fred Seldon, told a community meeting their plans to rezone Reston from a maximum 13 persons per acre to at least 16 persons per acre. Supervisor Hudgins emphasized that the rezoning was a routine consequence of having amended the Reston Master Plan a couple of years ago, putting that “administrative plan” into regulatory form.

The reaction of the 150 or so people in the modern, new North County Police Station was dubious, rising to angry. The implications of the new zoning seem hardly routine, especially when, as the audience correctly saw it, they grew out of a Master Planning process dominated by the developers and their attorneys also well represented in the community room on May 3. These same interests are pushing the County to fast-track the zoning increase.

Restonians who spoke on May 3, including Terry Maynard, the Co-Chair of Reston 2020 and Reston’s top development analyst in my opinion, suggested that both the developers and Fairfax County politicians envisioned big bucks in profits and tax revenues from a rezoned, fattened golden cow named Reston.

So, what is wrong with additional growth? Certainly Founder Robert Simon envisioned Reston with an urban future with considerable high density growth. In fact, Supervisor Hudgins even suggested without sufficient growth, Reston would lose its dynamism and seem like a ghost town!

According to the critics there are, in fact, serious problems with Reston growing from our current population of about 61,000 inhabitants to at least 81,000 and perhaps as many as 100,000 in the next 20-30 years. The fundamental issue is that the Master Plan basis for the rezoning neither provides for, nor does Fairfax County have the capacity to deliver, the proportionate infrastructure and amenities that have made Reston a successful community. Supervisor Hudgins herself acknowledged that roads and related transportation infrastructure, already congested and inadequate today for cars and bicycles, will continue to lag envisioned development — e.g., the key Soapstone Dulles Toll Road crossing — is unlikely to be built before 2026. The same is true for schools and libraries to serve rising populations.

And the Master Plan as finally approved by Fairfax County is woefully inadequate in terms of even the County’s minimal standards for open space and park facilities, providing for only a fraction of the sports fields, playgrounds and other amenities. Developer pressure succeeded in minimizing such features vital to make us Reston and our community sustainable.

What they succeeded in getting was provision exceptional higher density in expanded transition station areas and Reston Town Center. And, in the real world of Fairfax County government, master plans and zoning ordinances quickly become fertile ground for continual exceptions requested and routinely granted by the Board of Supervisors to further expand upper limits. Attend a Tuesday Board meeting, and see for yourself the parades of exceptions.

Only one community meeting remains to speak your mind on the pay-no-attention-to-the-routine-rezoning-behind-the curtain show. That is May 24, 7 p.m., at Lake Anne Elementary School. After that, the proposal will head for the rubber stamp. For more information, go to