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Density Creep or Deluge--Lake Anne and Reston

Community, by John Lovaas, on 03/14/07 at 08:20 AM
Several major land use issues are now confronting Reston. The overarching one is whether or not to finally prepare a new zoning ordinance (the original, unique Planned Residential Community Ordinance is 40 years old and hopelessly out of date) and development plan—OR to just take all developer requests as they come in, treating them on an ad hoc basis. That is where we are now. And, the supervisors seem unwilling to rock the boat by inconveniencing developers' projects in the Supervisors' election year.

Let's see what might result from this county ad hockery by looking at a specific instance of creeping density and potential impacts. Projects now in process within a half-mile radius of Lake Anne Village taken together will add around 4,000 residential units plus perhaps as much as 200,000 sq ft of commercial and retail building and several more parking garages. Hard to believe? Let's list them: Spectrum redevelopment (Reston Parkway, across from St. Anne's Church) alone will result in 1,443 new residences plus extensive office and retail space according to stories in this week's papers;

Parc Reston Condos at North Shore Drive and Temporary Road are about to go high rise, possibly adding 4-500 new units;

The still undisclosed new high density re-development at the Reston Regional Library and Rucker Homeless Shelter site will be mixed use with numbers still the Supervisor and developer's secret, but could yield another 500 -1,000(pure guess).

So far, we have possibly 2,500 to 3,000 additional homes, 5-6,000 more people BEFORE Lake Anne's densification itself is considered! I doubt that more than a handfull of people are aware of this density creep in the Lake Anne area, not to mention its impacts on traffic, schools, air and water quality. Still, the Supervisor and Fairfax County refuse to revise our 40 year zoning ordinance and plan which would allow us to decide where additional density will contribute positives to Reston, how to accomodate such density with additional infrastructure, and what limits and protections are necessary based on actual analyses.

Now, Lake Anne needs new vitality to benefit the merchants there whose businesses unquestionably slow to low levels in the winter. Without adding one single new residence, these businesses should benefit from having about 5,000 more people within 1/2 mile as outlined above. They would also benefit by having modest additional retail and perhaps an office building along North Shore to provide daytime foot traffic yearround. But, do they really need to bury and diminish the gem that is Lake Anne with the massive redevelopment being proposed by the Supervisor? Are 900 more residential units, two to three office buildings, double the retail now there and at least two major--and very visible--parking garages needed?? Already, the county's Architectural Review Board has noted that the Supervisor's consultants "design guidelines" will diminish the Heron House tower and more. Lake Anne will be overwhelmed to provide some additional customers for Plaza merchants. If the 5,000 more residents within half a mile will not suffice, maybe the addition of 2,000 more on top of Lake Anne itself will do it. 7,000 more people in this small area of Reston does not seem like density creep. It's more of a density deluge!

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by Enoch, on 03/14/07 at 09:17 AM
Can you elaborate on what is "hopelessly out of date" about the old ordinance? What precisely is wrong with it? The main complaint I have heard about it is that the density cap is unsatisfying to certain parties, but in my view that is a GOOD thing about it, not a problem that needs fixing. If anything, revising the ordinance will result in more density, not less, and if you oppose this, you might want to consider whether or not it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.

As for the thousands of additional residences, I am curious whether the developers actually think they can sell them. One hears that there is a glut of condos on the market, and even the market for SFH is not doing all that well. What is the economic basis for the purported desire of the developers to push through these massive projects? If these new residences won't sell, why do the developers want to build them?

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by John Lovaas, on 03/20/07 at 02:02 PM
Enoch, If you'd like the design guidelines that the Supervisor's consultants have come up with for Lake Anne, you can get them on the county's website supposedly. If you can't get them there, give me a call and I'll send you a copy for you to review before the March 28 meeting at Lake Anne Elementary School. The guidelines allow for something like 3.5 million square feet of residential, office and retail stacked up on Lake Anne Village. And, they will likely try to use the PPEA vehicle they've used on the South Park and Ride so as to keep community participation to a minimum. John

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