Since April, the Reston Association Board of Directors has worked with the county to build a constructive relationship and to build trust. We are working together for the betterment of Reston, and we are seeing progress — slow, but definite — on many fronts.
Land use has been our No. 1 topic of conversation with the county, including and especially the county’s proposed density increase. Our approach since April has been to encourage more conversation with the community and more time to deliberate and understand the impact of the proposal. Once the hearings are complete, and once the county has an opportunity to revise — or postpone — its proposal, RA intends to take an official position on the matter and present that position to the county.
Commendably, the county granted our request to delay enacting the proposed density change and instead to hold an additional community hearing. As we hoped, this enabled Restonians to get engaged on this critical issue, to understand the extreme gravity of the proposal, and to make their voices heard. On Monday, Sept. 25, we saw that result, and it was impressive and gratifying. I feel our constructive approach has merit, and I want to continue the conversation with the county.
Make no mistake, though. My feelings on the proposal itself are clear. We need to hold the line at 13.
Reston is a planned community. The roads, schools, parks, pools, paths, courts and housing were mapped out with attention to detail and a focus on a livable community. When they did the math, taking into account all of these amenities and features, they came up with 13 people per acre. We’re approaching that number, and looking around our town, I’d say they were right on target. Reston is built out and complete, just as it was planned to be from the start. But now, of course, it’s more than full because that plan did not envision the explosive growth along the Toll Road, a fact that only heightens the need for more infrastructure, schools and recreational facilities.
Reston is a marvel of community planning, and 13 people per acre is a core element of that marvel. Raising that number in isolation — that is, without adding parks, schools and roads — wrecks the model, plain and simple.
Finally, a cautionary note. Keeping the density at 13 helps to save us from golf course redevelopment. At 16, however, both courses can be turned into residential areas at the expense of open, green space. Now, the county promises us it won’t ever let that happen. But once upon a time, the county promised us that 13 was the right number.
The county also says that if we raise this density limit, it will address infrastructure. Just like the Soapstone Connector they promised to build by 2014. Any changes to the density limit MUST be accompanied by changes in infrastructure. We need to see this happen together.
The county needs to earn our trust through actions, not words. If they are serious about addressing infrastructure needs, I need to see that happen first. Then we can talk about the density limit.
Until that time, we need to stand vigilant, and stand together. We need to hold the line at 13.
Eric Carr is an At-Large Director of the Reston Association Board of Directors