Wednesday, June 21, 2023
The comprehensive plan determines “how Reston should and should not change in the future.” said Supervisor Walter Alcorn said on Jan. 14, 2020, introducing the amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for Reston. The plan amendment is important because Reston's planned development, infrastructure, and environment are changing even faster than they did before 2020 when the Reston Phase II plan amendment for village centers and residential areas was adopted, and 30 rezonings were approved.
When the Fairfax County Planning Commission convened for its meeting on Wednesday, June 14, it granted unanimous approval to defer action on the Reston Comprehensive Plan Study application PA 2020-III-UP1 Hunter Mill, until June 28. Additionally, the commission approved keeping the record open for written comments through June 28. The Reston Comprehensive Plan Study was scheduled for decision and public hearing.
During the discussion that preceded the end of nearly three hours of public testimony, Commissioner John Carter, Hunter Mill District, said, "No rest for the weary on this," indicating that the matter at hand would require further attention and action.
During the discussion, Carter mentioned several issues that needed to be resolved. The first is that projects are underway in the Reston Transit Station Areas (TSAs). These could be considered in follow-on motions.
Environmental concerns remained confined to the policy plan and did not go beyond it. Concerns should have translated into tangible action. According to Carter, there may be areas where they need to exceed current efforts, particularly in the TSAs. Carter clarified that he was not suggesting the implementation of a distinct environmental section for every area. Instead, he proposed something “a little more nuanced” might be beneficial.
Carter admitted that those developing the environmental section expressed frustration with the outcome, citing that it did not go further.
To Carter, "aesthetics" was not the correct word to describe what he referred to as "communication."
“I think our plans are not keeping up with what we should do and how they communicate,” Carter said.
He recommended incorporating graphics with descriptive captions that provide context and convey the intended message rather than simply presenting a visual of flowers. According to Carter, the matter falls under the jurisdiction of the planning department.
Carter stressed the Reston case is a widely recognized plan that has been extensively studied across the United States as a part of the New Planning Movement.
“People are going to be looking at the way we communicate … It’s about the look and feel of the way a plan is created, its fonts, what’s on the pages; all of that is worth a look,” Carter said.
The public hearing was an outpouring of emotions as community members testified about various issues. “Comments by the community warrant solid consideration,” said Chairman Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner. “This process has gotten us to the point where those very specific recommendations can be made by the community.” Niedzielski-Eichner is chairman of the commission and represents the Providence District.
The issue of roads in Reston had a particularly profound impact on the attendees. During the discussion, three roads were mentioned by Michael Garcia, Transportation Planning Section, FCDOT. A six-lane recommendation for the Sunset Hill road stretch between Reston Parkway and Wiehle Avenue has been proposed. Two other roads are as problematic. One is Reston Parkway, located south of Sunrise Valley Drive. The other is Fairfax County Parkway, described as "basically a freeway for the most part." The remaining Reston roads have been designated as "people first" zones, prioritizing local traffic, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Opportunities arise for calm, localized roads.
Garcia said their priority is to establish connections to improve traffic flow. Turn lanes and road widening are often considered viable options, but these measures are typically only implemented as a last resort. According to Garcia, there is planned prescriptive guidance on implementing change.
Commissioner Mary Cortina, Braddock District, expressed the confusion regarding the transportation plans. There seemed to be a discrepancy between the proposed plans and the actions taken, she said, as transportation actions focused on widening.
Cortina revisited the testimony that had been presented to them. A balancing act remains a crucial aspect. Reston residents claim it is difficult to get from one end of the community to the other. “I still see a bit of a mismatch with the road network and with the goals of Reston,” Corina said.
"You add more traffic lights in order to improve the level of numbers perhaps … trying to satisfy all of these different issues… Trying to understand where it is the most important capacity(wise) and where it's most important to slow the capacity,” Cortina said.
According to Cortina, describing arterial roads on every arterial road in the county, such as Route 50 and Braddock Road, along with adding trees, sidewalks, and benches, would thrill her. She was not sure why those in Braddock District couldn’t have that too. Cortina said Reston is quite different from the rest of the county but suggests, "we need to go a little bit further and really scrutinize these road widening."
The Commission announced plans to create a chart to itemize all comments received. However, the task still needs to be completed. On July 12, the Commission may make a decision contingent upon their ability to present the chart in a manner that effectively conveys the comments.
In a unanimous decision, the commissioners cast their votes to defer their decision and keep comments open until June 28.
Timeline: Recent Actions and Tentative Schedule Forward
Original Staff Report Published May 24, 2023
Plan Amendment Addendum June 13, 2023
Planning Commission Meeting June 14, 2023
* Action Deferred to June 28, 2023 with comments remaining open
Planning Commission Meeting June 28, 2023 (Revised: 6/14/23)
Board of Supervisors Meeting Public Hearing July 28, 2023