Reston Comprehensive Plan task force kicks off outreach effort on interim recommendations

Construction in Reston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After hundreds of logged meeting hours, a community-led task force studying the Reston Comprehensive Plan is kicking off community outreach on its interim recommendations, completing a comprehensive overhaul to usher the plan into the future.

The effort, kicked off by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, has culminated in draft recommendations on the 14 areas of the plan, which is undergoing review by the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development. The move expands Reston’s original planning principles created by founder Bob Simon.

“The focus is more on tightening up the requirements going through as developers go through the rezoning process,” Alcorn said during a media briefing today (Thursday), adding that some believe developers are being asked to “do too much.”

Overall, the recommendations are intended to bring Reston — which is navigating the tension and opportunity of growth in transit-oriented areas and old development — into a new era. Millions of square feet have been built or are under construction now.

“To maintain and realize a successful community vision requires both fidelity to Reston’s original seven founding principles and creative responsiveness to Reston’s new challenges including the arrival of Metrorail and new business/ lifestyle models necessitated by COVID-19, climate change and rapid technological changes,” the draft recommendations state.

The plan was last updated in 2017 after periodic reviews since it was established in 1962. However, the most significant changes happened in 2014 and 2015 for the Transit Station Areas in Reston and plans for its villages and residential areas.

According to the task force, Reston has a build-out potential of between 127,909 to 157,912 people. That’s if every developer pursues and achieves maximum allowable densities in future developments.

Alcorn says these numbers were calculated for “transparency purposes” — not as population targets.

“The recommendations in the 2022 Reston Comprehensive Plan are designed to recognize, protect, and guide this harmony-in-the-making as One Reston moves towards full build-out,” the interim recommendations state.

A task force subgroup is exploring whether or not developers should be able to “earn their way to maximum allowable densities,” according to Alcorn.

The recommendations offer high-level guidance for future development. Task force members offered a general look at recommendations at a community town hall Wednesday night with Reston Association.

Alcorn expects some controversial issues to pop up, including a proposal to limit the number of residential units in Reston Town Center North from a minimum of 1,000 residential units to a cap of 1,000 units.

The recommendations create new priorities for community health — spurred by the pandemic — and a newfound focus on equity, which was a central pillar in Simon’s founding principles for the planning community.

“Reston back to its very beginning was at the cutting edge of social advancement and societal advancement,” Alcorn said, adding that the planned community was the first openly multiracial community in the state. The task force wants to ensure that equity is a feature of future planning efforts.

RA board member John Mooney and a task force member noted that the multimodal transportation must be strengthened and the relationship between land use and transportation must also be better managed.

The task force also encouraged the county to inventory existing public facilities and identify the need for future public facilities.

The group also wants to ensure that a clear vision for development that adheres to Reston’s planning principles is sought after and that affordable housing should remain a pivotal part of planning and redevelopment, particularly with the reuse of commercial properties.

County agencies are expected to provide input on the plan by early summer. Until then, a slate of community meetings will continue.

The final report is expected in August. Public hearings before the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors are planned in September and October.

The meeting schedule is below:

  • Reston Citizens Association, March 7
  • Coalition for Smarter Growth, March 14
  • Reston Town Center Association, March 14
  • Baltimore-DC Building Trades, March 15
  • Reston Planning & Zoning, March 21
  • Sierra Club Great Falls Group, March 29

The board moved to study Reston’s comprehensive plan in early January last year, pushing forward one of Alcorn’s first official moves when he took office.