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Vote on overhaul of Reston’s new comprehensive plan deferred again

Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter discusses the Reston Comprehensive Plan at a June 28 meeting (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will take another stab at a major overhaul of Reston’s defining planning document next month.

At a Wednesday (June 28) meeting, the commission once again deferred a decision on the extensive update of Reston Comprehensive Plan to July 12 — a move that Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter said would allow staff time to incorporate proposed revisions. The commission first deferred a decision on the project on June 14.

The draft under consideration is the product of more than three years of work and dozens of community meetings.

In May, staff released its version of the plan after a first draft was formulated last year by a task force assembled by Hunter Mill District Walter Alcorn in 2020. On June 13, staff also released a 25-page addendum to the report.

Ahead of the commission’s meeting, the county released a chart with county responses to all public testimony received at the last public hearing — a move that Carter said was unusual but helpful to delineate proposed recommendations and the responses from the county.

“We don’t usually go through and address each of the people that testify,” Carter said.

Carter — who walked through a series of suggested revisions during the Wednesday meeting —  said the transportation section clearly identifies multimodal components and removes the infamous “road to nowhere” that cuts from Isaac Newton Square to American Dream Way through the Hidden Creek Country Club golf course.

He said he opposes a proposed road connection from American Dream Way to North Shore Drive — a connection that drew significant opposition at the public hearing earlier this month.

Citing safety concerns, Carter said the connection would be dangerous and contradicts the county’s recent consideration of a project that essentially makes American Dream Way a private street.

“If we’re leading this, we just approved a project that did not provide that connection and made American Dream Way a private connection,” Carter said.

Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina called a bicycle map in the plan “unreadable” and in need of edits.

“I’m hesitant to continue to put that forward in there without being able to understand what it says or where its going,” Cortina said.

According to Carter, the environment section was pared down in response to concerns that it exceeded the limits of the policy plan and set higher standards for stormwater management in Reston than elsewhere in the county. Those policies include moving towards net-zero energy use, achieving LEED platinum for more buildings, and adding more electric vehicle charging stations.

While these regulations are “good ideas,” the “form” was not right, Carter said.

“I know we struggled quite a bit with that chapter, but I think it’s come out pretty good,” he said.

Carter stressed the need to ensure Reston is able to retain existing market rate affordable housing within the transit station areas (TSA) while establishing new affordable housing.

He seemed to share Cortina’s concerns about the document’s readability, saying that he initially hoped it could have been a gold standard for other similar policies in the county and throughout the state with a combination of graphics, fonts and other enhancements.

Franconia District Commissioner Daniel Lagana suggested adding Geographic Information System (GIS) components to the plan — a suggestion that Chris Caperton, deputy director of the county’s Department of Planning and Development, said was a possibility in future iterations.

Carter said he was still happy the plan was reduced by roughly 40 pages and emphasized more active verbs. He pitched several options for imagery and captions to staff.