A land swap that some view as critical to the revitalization of Reston’s Lake Anne community is moving ahead.
The Reston Association Board of Directors gave initial approval to an agreement with developer Republic Family of Companies, operating as Lake Anne Development Partners, to trade two 1-acre pieces of land.
Many Reston residents said they object to the RA giving up a heavily treed piece of land and allowing a parking garage to be built there.
Fairfax County has entered into a public-private partnership with Republic to redevelop the Crescent apartments, which the county currently owns, and to complete some other improvements to the Lake Anne Plaza area.
The RA-owned land in question is the best site for a 120-space parking garage, said David Peter, president and CEO of Republic Land Development and Republic Urban Properties. The company examined 11 different options before determining that the site was the only feasible option, he said.
“A renewed Lake Anne needs better parking than it has today,” Peter said. The preferred location “keeps all parking clustered along one road for easy access. It is also in line with [retail] industry standards.”
This makes it the most beneficial location for the current merchants at Lake Anne, who hope to see an increase in business with the redevelopment.
“Please remember that this garage is for the current merchants,” he said. “Our intent is to get them healthy before any of the other development on their existing parking lots gets going.”
Opponents of the land swap said that they believe the developer could find a better solution, if pushed, rather than clearing the stand of mature trees on the RA property.
The association counts environmental and tree preservation among its chief priorities, and many of the RA members speaking at a Thursday hearing said they are upset the board would consider setting these principles aside.
“Those trees belong to me and every other RA member,” said resident Diane Lewis. “I did not agree to give them away for somebody else’s benefit.”
Opponents of the swap said that the land the RA will get in exchange, a 1.1-acre parcel along Baron Cameron Road, is much lower quality and not something that would be developed under any circumstances.
The choice between two competing RA priorities — revitalizing Lake Anne and protecting the environment — was a difficult one for RA Board of Directors members. Eve Thompson, who represents the Lake Anne-Tall Oaks area on the board, said the goals were in conflict with one another.
“As difficult as the trade-off is … all things in balance, I believe this is the right thing to do,” she said, although she ultimately abstained from the vote.
Republic made a number of changes to its proposal over the past month to try and appease those concerned about the environmental impacts and tree preservation, including shifting the location of the parking garage to preserve more trees and hiring an arborist to start preparing the trees now so that they are more likely to survive the construction disturbances and giving the RA $100,000 for future tree preservation or planting.