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Draft Reston Comprehensive Plan outlines future of development, but some questions remain

Reston Town Center on a sunny day (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After more than 50 meetings, Fairfax County will present draft amendments to Reston’s comprehensive plan at public meetings this fall, advancing the first major update to the planning document since 2015.

The process kicked off in 2020 to determine how new development will impact the community, public infrastructure and growth-related issues. Reston has seen more than 50 rezoning applications since the last update in 2015, prompting concerns about growth management.

At a media briefing today (Wednesday), Hunter Mill District Alcorn noted that the update covers all of Reston, unlike previous plans that addressed only parts of it.

“This is one Reston. This is all of Reston,” Alcorn said.

The new plan will go to the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Nov. 2, followed by a vote by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 6.

A 31-member community task force approved draft recommendations on Aug. 28 after 58 public meetings. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn convened the task force after he took office in 2020.

Some controversial topics — like granting a developer more density for providing more community benefits — remain unresolved. A county-led subgroup is studying the issue, according to Alcorn. It’s unclear if the provision will make to to the final report.

Rather than broadly limiting, restricting or expanding development, the plan makes site-specific changes to a limited number of areas. 

In Town Center North, where land is jointly owned by the county and Inova, the plan suggests limiting residential development to Inova-owned property and a maximum of 1,000 residential dwelling units. In the same area, nonresidential development would be limited to 150,000 square feet. County-owned land would be reserved for civic uses with some retail.

Near a proposed extension of South Lakes Drive and north of the Dulles Toll Road, the draft calls for redevelopment. In the Roland Clarke Place neighborhood, a provision for public uses was added in an area currently planned for about 75% residential and 25% non-residential development.

Affordable housing — one of Alcorn’s priorities — remains unchanged outside of Reston’s transit station areas. But within the TSAs, the proposed language recommends setting aside at least 12% of residential units as affordable housing.

For proposals with high density — 1.0 floor-area ratio or above — an increased proportion of affordable housing is expected, although no specific numbers are cited. Overall, rental rates for Workforce Dwelling Units within the TSAs target mostly 71 to 90% of the area media income.

“It’s still one element that’s out there,” Alcorn said. 

Additionally, the draft report leaves language on preserving Reston’s two golf courses untouched, though a study group recently argued that change is needed at the Reston National Golf Course. 

Alcorn acknowledged that more open space is needed in Reston. The plan calls for indoor and outdoor cultural activities, community gathering spaces, and enhanced public art.

It also embraces a multimodal transportation system, along with placemaking guidance in transit-oriented areas.

The plan covers 14 areas based on the seven guiding principles championed by Reston founder Robert E. Simon. New topics include a community health chapter with categories like food systems, active living, social cohesion and health care services.

An equity chapter builds on the county’s One Fairfax policy to remove barriers that “perpetuate injustice in our society” and build a more “inclusive economy,” according to St. Clair Williams, a senior planner with the county’s Department of Planning and Development.

Similarly, the planning principle of economic development is consistent with the county’s policies, but the recommendations are simply “aspirational,” Williams noted.

He noted that public meetings will continue through September with stakeholders before the planning commission’s official review.

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