The purpose of the June 6 community meeting on the proposed Reston Comprehensive Plan Amendment 2020 (PA 2020-III-UP1 Hunter Mill (plan) at Lake Anne in Reston was to “get everybody up to the same speed,” according to the host, Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter. “These plans often take a long time to create. Everybody gets kind of tired of them at the end, but this is the time to be excited about (them). That's the reflection of what your community is going to be like. My experience has been (that) there is never a perfect comp plan,” Carter said.
According to Carter, people often try to add a sentence here or there. The time for that was over. However, if there is something wrong, Carter said, “Yes, let’s correct it,”
Individuals who served in the plan’s chapter development and those in Reston leadership roles urgently flagged specific issues they opined needed to be addressed now rather than join the long queue of the Countywide site-specific plan amendment process.
“Fix it,” said John Farrell referencing multiple concerns, among them language saying the Lake House could become office space. Farrell is president of the Reston Association.
“This plan is lacking and actually sends us backward,” said Michelle Kimmel, who served on the plan’s Interim Task Force and Save Our Sunrise, dedicated to raising awareness about development and issues along Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston.
“The way this plan is written, it incentivizes Inova (Emergency Room Reston/Herndon) to leave Reston," she said. The free-standing emergency room is a department of the nonprofit healthcare provider Inova, at 11901 Baron Cameron Avenue. Kimmel said the loss of that facility could mean the loss of medical providers and equitable healthcare. The Community Health section of the comprehensive plan amendment “ensure(s) accessible and equitable health care access for all residents.” The equity section states, “Potential impacts and benefits to the different communities in Reston should be considered when reviewing/approving zoning applications.”
William (Bill) Penniman of the Reston Community Center Board of Directors and who also served on the plan’s interim task force, said sections of the plan are “diminished,” referencing the stronger environmental protection recommendations the task force put forth, but staff used language from the last plan. The county needs to revisit this, he said.
Jennifer Jushchuk, vice president of Reston Association Board of Directors, called attention to the property that Comstock owns on the south side of the metro. “There's not a ton of language on what that access looks like, but I will call it the heart of access from the south side of Reston to that Metro Station. I would say that we should be pretty specific about what we're looking for.”
Their voices added to a litany of others with concerns or comments, among them John Mooney of Reston Association, Lynne Mulston of Reston Citizens Association, and Tammi Petrine, Reston 20/20.
The urgency, so late in the game, was because the tentative schedule leading to approval of the Reston Comprehensive Plan looms. The Planning Commission Public Hearing is June 14, Planning Commission Action is June 28, and the Public Hearing and Final Approval by the Board of Supervisors is July 25.
Carter kicked off the meeting by presenting the 27-page 'Reston Comprehensive Plan: Extending the Legacy of New Town Planning in America' to a group of about 45 people. The explanatory document, which is not the 140-page Proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment PA 2020-III-UPI May 24, 2023, is rich in photographs and features an introduction explaining the plan's vision, principles and history, followed by the plan's nine elements or chapters: Land Use and Design; Transportation, Environmental Stewardship; Parks, Recreation and Open Space; Public Facilities; Affordable Housing; Heritage Resources; Public Art; and a New Town Planning chapter with an introduction, Equity, Community Health, and Economic Development sections.
Farrell said that in the current text of the plan, The Lake House is possibly being redeveloped as an office. "Reston Association has no intention of redeveloping The Lake House for office ... It would be inappropriate to have that option in the comprehensive plan. It would disrupt people who spent the money to buy it and reserve it in its current state," Farrell said.
Farrell added a second concern related to a provision in the county zoning ordinance, Article 6-110 Open Space, paragraph 2, of the Planned Development District Regulations, a requirement to provide recreational facilities in all PDH Districts in conjunction with approval of a final development plan. The provision of such facilities is subject to the provisions of Sect. 16-404, and such requirements are based on a minimum expenditure of $1,900 per dwelling unit for such facilities.
They can build the recreation facilities themselves or instead give a cash contribution to the Fairfax County Park Authority, according to Farrell. He said that when the developers try to give funds to RA, that is not permitted.
"But the zoning ordinance specifically said that those improvements can be on adjacent property. RA has adjacent property," Farrell said. "So I don't understand the county attorney's position. It does not appear to be grounded in the zoning ordinance or in law. It appears we have the county attorney making policy. It’s not their job ... Fix it."
Carter responded, "At least we have a heads-up on the plan.”
Following Carter’s presentation on the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces chapter, Farrell said, "You and I have met regarding this chapter and its deficiencies, which are multiple. The most important one being that for the dominant, overwhelming role that Reston Association plays in providing parks and recreation to the community here, it is either denigrated, dismissed, or ignored."
Farrell qualified RA’s sizeable holdings, saying the association owns 1,350 acres of open space, 55 miles of trails, 15 pools, and 54 tennis courts. But the way the plan’s current language is written, it "suggests that the Park Authority has to approve whatever RA wants to do with its property in response to our community."
"That is thoroughly inappropriate. That language needs to be changed so that the people of Reston who elected us ... to advance their interests are clearly recognized."
Carter said during his presentation that the plan removes two streets in Reston. One is the conceptual "Road from Nowhere" (misidentified as "The Street to Nowhere’) that cuts through Hidden Creek Country Club. "That is gone." The second is the proposed road connecting American Dream Way to North Shore Drive, which is causing "great discussion."
According to the minutes of the Reston Association Board of Directors Meeting, June 30, 2022, by RCA Reston, on the ‘Reston Comprehensive Plan Task Force Updates,’ "Vice President Maupin indicated that the only issue in the Transportation chapter is the proposed road connecting American Dream Way to North Shore Drive. County staff wants to have this connection, while Fairfax County Supervisor Walter Alcorn opposes this connector road. This will need to be resolved in the RCP (Reston Comprehensive Plan)."
Carter said, "There is another of these SSPAs, a site-specific plan amendment, coming. If we can’t resolve it here (in the Reston Comprehensive Plan Amendment), that (an SSPA) will resolve it," he said.
Chapter leader Kimmel, to whom Carter offered the microphone, said, "I just want to make sure everyone is aware the original plan for Reston had set aside land in Reston Town Center north for a voluntary, inclusive medical center or hospital." Kimmel explained that the word "voluntary" is important because that term means that if you went there, needed health care, and couldn't afford it, you would still be treated.
Kimmel described Reston Hospital Center as a major "profit entity," HCA Health Center owns it, is publicly traded, and is one of the largest healthcare providers in the country. According to Kimmel, currently, Reston benefits because it has access to two providers: Reston Hospital Center HCA and Inova’s stand-alone emergency services, part of the Inova system. Many of Reston’s primary care physicians are incorporated there. The way the plan is written now incentivizes Inova to leave Reston, according to Kimmel.
The Board of Supervisors approved a land swap in 2015 that gave Fairfax County the freedom to develop every area on its own. INOVA has blocks 2, 4, and 6, where the free-standing ER Center is located, and the Cameron Glen Health and Rehab Center building was demolished in early 2023. Each individual block will go through its own zoning and development approval process. Kimmel said that the plan is written in such a way that Inova is granted all housing density on its land. It takes the land currently used for healthcare services, "Now, all of a sudden [it] increases the value (of the land) immensely because now this is going to be demolished and turned into high-density housing," said Kimmel.
"We lose access to our major provider, and we also lose that vision… that everyone in Reston could get health care right now,” Kimmel said. At Reston Hospital, “if you cannot afford it, you will not get health care. You will be able to if you go to the ER; you will certainly be stabilized, but you're not going to stick around for long. So this is a major issue," she said.
According to Kimmel, in the plan, the ice-skating rink on Sunset Hills is incentivized. Language in the plan says it is "an important community facility,” and then it should stay there.
"We would like to see that same language used to describe the emergency room."