A proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would have increased density limits in Reston’s planned residential community district has been indefinitely deferred after a vote by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during its Mar. 5 meeting.
Hunter Mills District Supervisor Catherine Hudgins moved for the board to defer consideration of the proposal on Tuesday after months of vocal community opposition and in accordance with a recommendation from the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
Because of the board’s vote to defer, a public hearing on the proposed amendment scheduled to be held on Tuesday did not take place.
The Coalition for a Planned Reston, a group of resident volunteers from Reston 20/20, Reclaim Reston, and the Reston Citizens Association, thanked the Board of Supervisors for its decision.
“CPR agrees it is in the best interest of the community to re-examine the plan for village centers and other community areas and issues, and then reconsider the PRC,” the coalition said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Hunter Mill District supervisor’s office and county staff to outline a process and timeline for this to happen.”
The Board of Supervisors first adopted a zoning ordinance amendment to establish Reston’s PRC district in 1962, according to the report proposing the new amendment from Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning staff.
PRC districts were intended to be distinct from more traditional zoning districts for using population density to govern the community’s overall size and character and allowing unused density to be transferred from one development to another, giving developers more flexibility.
The board set a maximum overall density of 13 people per acre for all three of the PRC districts established at that time.
However, when the county revised the factors it uses to compute population density in the PRC districts in 2007, staff determined that a zoning ordinance amendment would be needed to allow Reston to accommodate anticipated future growth with the increased development around Reston Town Center and in the Dulles Corridor as well as the impending arrival of Metro’s Silver Line.
The zoning amendment that was under consideration by the county would have increased the maximum persons per acre allowance in the Reston PRC to a number between 13 and 15, though a 16 people per acre limit was initially proposed.
The amendment also proposed giving the Board of Supervisors the ability to approve residential development that exceed the existing limit of 50 dwelling units per acre for mixed-use properties in high-density areas, specifically the transit station areas around Reston’s Metro stations.
The limit would have been increased from 50 to 70 dwelling units per acre for developments located within a transit station area specifically identified in the Reston Master Plan for mixed use.
Since Fairfax County started the public engagement process for the zoning amendment in May 2017, Reston residents have consistently voiced concerns about the potential consequences of the county’s proposal, questioning how the density increases will affect schools and transportation as and how development would affect the area’s golf courses.
In a letter sent to Hudgins on Mar. 27, 2018, the Coalition for a Planned Reston and the Reston Association argued that tweaks to the Reston Master Plan that they argued would eliminate the need to increase the PRC district density caps.
Among the suggestions were the creation of a Reston Housing Trust Fund to support new affordable and workforce housing, the eradication of a proposed future road between American Dream Way and Isaac Newton Square, and limits on redevelopment in Reston’s village centers to existing mixed-use areas.
After holding a workshop on Jan. 10 and a public hearing on Jan. 23, the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously on Feb. 13 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny the proposed zoning amendment and instead revisit it after developing a comprehensive plan amendment that would be coupled with any density cap adjustments.
The commission recommended that the new comprehensive plan amendment address residential dwelling unit limits in Reston’s village centers while clarifying that mixed-use development at the village centers is limited to areas already designated for non-residential uses, and that the existing high-density, multifamily land use category does not provide unlimited density to those sites.
The planning commission also recommended that the Board of Supervisors establish a citizen task force to work with the Hunter Mill District supervisor’s office to develop a recommendation on the comprehensive plan amendment and to evaluate “appropriate modifications” to the PRC district density cap, according a transcribed excerpt of the commission’s Feb. 13 meeting.
Hudgins cited the planning commission’s recommendation as justification for her board matter calling for the Board of Supervisors to defer consideration of the proposed zoning amendment.
The planning commission’s “solution is that we should examine the plan for the village centers and then reconsider the PRC amendment,” Hudgins said. “This will take time and I will be working with staff and community representatives to outline a process and timeframe for this to happen.”
The Coalition for a Planned Reston credited “the involvement and action of thousands of Restonians” that wrote letters, made phone calls, attended meetings, and talked to officials for convincing the Board of Supervisors to drop the proposed amendment.
“This was the decisive factor in achieving this result,” CPR said in its statement. “A great deal of work will need to be done to ensure citizens’ voices are heard and that the guiding principles of Reston are not pushed aside for short-term, self-interested gain.”