Draft Reston Comprehensive Plan revised to avoid conflicts with county policy

Construction continues on the Reston Row neighborhood in Reston Station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County staff have pared down the draft of Reston’s proposed comprehensive plan from 180 pages to 133.

At a Fairfax County Planning Commission workshop on March 30, staff walked through their amendments to the proposed plan, a process that kicked off more than two years ago with a community-driven task force initiated by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

The task force approved draft recommendations on Aug. 28 after 58 public meetings, significant public feedback and rigorous debate. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn convened the task force after he took office in 2020.

Overall, staff’s version of the plan avoids policy and prescriptive language in specific areas, particularly land use. It also combines chapters about equity and community health — previously created by the task force as separate chapters — under the umbrella of “new town elements.”

St. Clair Williams, senior planner with the county’s Department of Planning and Development, said the change was intended to avoid language that could clash with current county policies, particularly the county’s One Fairfax policy on equity.

“There were concerns raised regarding new chapters. Was it created new policy or was it something that was exceeding current county policy?” Williams said.

Revising the community health section was challenging due to the lack of a formalized, countywide health policy that the plan could use as a basis, he said.

Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter emphasized that staff’s edits are intended to “implement…instead of create new policy.”

“We’ve tried to emphasize the use of active verbs,” Carter said.

A road network near Association Drive was revised by staff in order to allow flexibility in the future. It now highlights that an east-west connection between Soapstone Drive and Association Drive should avoid tree areas.

The county is considering a major site-specific plan amendment (SSPA) that would redevelop the buildings on Association Drive into a mostly residential project.

Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina said she hoped that nomination would preserve some of the historic aspects of the site.

Other major land use decisions in Reston’s transit-oriented areas were removed from the plan. Those proposals are currently being pushed through the SSPA process, which includes several redevelopment pitches for major projects in Reston.

The plan also adds additional water retention and quality targets for new development. Other general elements related to air, climate, resiliency and invasive plant species were removed, though the new draft has sections on vegetation and “green buildings.”

Staff also revised language guiding the number of full-size athletic fields in Reston’s TSA, saying that the “equivalent of 12 fields” should be provided.

“Staff had identified some of the challenges with finding sufficient space for full-size fields,” Williams said.

No land use changes for Reston’s golf courses are recommended — a major point of contention in the community.

For affordable housing, the plan ups the bar on requirements for developers on Reston projects.

In Reston’s transit station areas, affordable housing requirements for rental workforce dwelling units (WDU) are higher than surrounding areas. In the TSAs, 12% of units should be set aside as rental WDUs — half of which should target households making between 71 and 80% of the area’s median income.

The countywide policy requires that 8% of rental units in residential developments be set aside as WDUs.

Staff will release their final version of the plan on May 11. Public hearings are slated before the planning commission on June 14 and June 28, with potential action on the latter date. Meetings are tentatively scheduled with the Board of Supervisors this month, though the schedule is subject to change.