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NEW: Developer questions county’s handling of proposal for new Reston library

Reston Regional Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A developer that filed a competing proposal for a new Reston library and affordable housing is calling into question Fairfax County’s handling of an unsolicited proposal it received for a new library near the same site.

Developer Norton Scott says the county mishandled the solicitation process after developer Foulger-Pratt filed a proposal to redevelop 4.5 acres of land at the intersection Bowman Towne Court and Town Center Parkway in October 2021.

Norton Scott is petitioning the county to incorporate more public opportunities to review other sites for the library that the company says would better serve Reston residents and are more in line with Reston’s comprehensive plan.

“They are sliding this through in a way that circumvents the public process that is so inherent to planning in Reston,” Chelsea Rao, vice president of Norton Scott, told FFXnow.

The Foulger-Pratt proposal — which was publicized with significant redactions — would redevelop the 4.5-acre property into an apartment building for working families and a new library, while demolishing 30 affordable rental townhomes on the site. What’s publicly known is that roughly 350 affordable housing units across two buildings with a garage and the library are planned.

The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) issued a call for competing proposals earlier this year — all governed under the provisions of the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, which lays different groundwork for public-private partnerships.

To date, the Norton Scott proposal is the only competing application received.

Located near Reston Regional Library’s current site and a neighboring lot owned by the developer’s subsidiaries across from the police station’s parking lot, the Norton Scott plan would have consolidated three county-owned parcels with a one-core parcel to the south.

It would’ve created a 1.8-acre plaza, 39,000-square-foot library, a new homeless shelter, a performing arts center, a human services building, and 582 housing units — including 354 affordable units. The plan would also preserve existing affordable housing on the Bowman Town Center Court property.

But FCHRA spokesperson Benjamin Boxer told FFXnow that Norton Scott’s application was deemed non-responsive because it involves a completely different site.

“Norton Scott’s competing proposal was non-responsive to the solicitation because the site for their proposal was located on entirely different property owned by the Board of Supervisors, as well as a separate parcel owned by Norton Scott, not the FCRHA-owned property identified in the request for competing proposals issued by the FCRHA,” Boxer said. “Norton Scott may submit its own unsolicited proposal for the other location, and they were so advised over a month ago.”

Rao says Norton Scott’s competitive offer complies with all the provisions of the PPEA, including a submission within 45 days of the call for competing offers.

The FCRHA held a public hearing on the Foulger-Pratt proposal on Sept. 15.

“This process smacks of an attempt by the County to engineer a sole source award to rush a project through by skirting the rigors of its own procurement procedures,” Rao said at the hearing. “We encourage the Supervisors to reject this award and have the staff go back to the drawing board, to comply with the public procurement act and give full consideration to all competitive proposals.”

A task force intended to analyze public facilities in the Reston Town Center North Area — including a future library — was convened by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn earlier this year. The task force will commence soon, but if FCHRA enters into an agreement with Foulger-Pratt, they will review the draft, according to a spokesperson for Alcorn.

Amendments about the future of the library were generally left out of the ongoing overhaul of Reston’s Comprehensive Plan.

Overall, Rao says the community is better served through Norton Scott’s proposal and, at a bare minimum, a more comprehensive public engagement process.

Norton Scott’s bid to redevelop the library and the Embry Rucker Community Shelter was previously rejected in 2015. An appeal to redevelop another conceptual plan for a 13-story building with 58 condos behind the library was rejected in 2019.

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