Planning Commission supports overhaul of Reston Comprehensive Plan

Reston Town Center from the Dulles Toll Road (staff photo by Fatimah Waseem)

(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) The overhaul of the Reston Comprehensive Plan is barreling towards approval this fall.

At a July 19 meeting, the Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously approved a new version of the plan, which sets a comprehensive vision for the planned community and culminates more than two years of work by residents, officials and county staff.

The approval came after the commission deferred a decision to July 19 after a public hearings on June 28. The date was pushed back due to changes in public notice and hearing requirements.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider the plan at a Sept. 12 meeting.

The commission lauded the updated plan for its comprehensiveness and ambitious nature, overcoming what Braddock District Commissioner Mary Cortina said were “doubts” that the plan would obtain the commission’s approval.

Hunter Mill District Commissioner Carter added three amendments that were approved by the commission. He later noted that parsing the language of the plan to achieve perfection was likely not “the best use” of the plan.

“We live in the house of reason is what I’m trying to say,” Carter said.

Specifically, he deleted a street connection from American Dream Way to North Shore Drive in response to significant pushback from residents about safety and security for pedestrians and vehicles. The street was also retained as a local street, Carter said.

He also added a reference that calls on planners to consider heritage resources guidelines related to Association Drive — a historic area that is slated for some redevelopment and repurposing.

Carter also removed a sentence that encourages multifamily units within a half-mile of Reston’s Metro stations, noting that multiple attempts to reframe the sentence further obfuscated its clarity.

“This bullet has been edited several times,” Carter said. “The more we edit it, the worse it gets in terms of clarity.”

Underway since 2020, the Reston Comprehensive Plan update lays out the county’s vision for the 6,750-acre area’s development, touching on everything from transportation to density recommendations for the transit station areas and village centers.

The proposed draft was shaped by county staff and a community task force convened by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn in 2020.

Providence District Commissioner Phil Niedzielski-Eichner lauded Carter and his staff for their work on the plan.

“I think the Reston community knows how much you have invested in getting to this point,” he said.

Other commissioners also praised county staff and Alcorn for pushing the update to the plan through — a significant planning effort that Niedzielski-Eichner compared to community planning for the City of Alexandria, an area comparable in size to Reston.

In follow-on motions, Carter encouraged the county to explore how Site Specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) applications for Reston would fit in with the new plan — once it’s approved by the board.

Reston’s SSPAs were temporarily set aside earlier this year due to the ongoing discussion of the comprehensive plan.

Carter also called on the county to improve pedestrian, bicyclist and vehicular connection to Reston’s Metro stations in a comprehensive manner. Suggested areas of study include appropriate bicycle lanes, signal timing, design standards and guidelines, new crosswalk refuge areas, and on-street parking.

Carter said priority areas include Wiehle Avenue, Reston Station Blvd, Town Center Parkway, Sunset Hill Road, Sunset Valley Drive and adjacent local streets. He suggested continuous cooperation between stakeholders like county and state transportation officials, the Fairfax County Park Authority, Dominion Energy and area land owners.

Cortina also praised Restonians for their input on the plan.

Niedzielski-Eichner said that while some chapters were removed from the task force’s version of the plan, that work was not in vain. It will “resonate” in the county’s broader effort to update its overall comprehensive plan.