The Reston Merchants Association is not backing down in its opposition to paid parking at Reston Town Center, which it says has drastically hurt business.
In an announcement Tuesday, the group’s organizers says they plan to hold a town hall-style meeting in May to discuss the issue. Merchants, community leaders, elected officials and more will be invited to speak and take questions from citizens. RTC owner Boston Properties, which implemented the paid-parking system in January, will also be invited to participate in the event, according to the announcement.
In addition, the Merchants Association says it plans to work with community organizers to hold a march and rally in June to protest the paid-parking system. A march earlier this month, organized by citizen group Reston United, saw hundreds of participants.
“The community has spoken and they are fed up with paid parking,” said Aaron Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery and the head of the Merchants Association. “Not only is it expensive, but the app that people have to download to park is onerous, complicated and an invasion of their privacy. People don’t want to hand over their license plate number and credit card information to Boston Properties. As a result of all of this, we see that many of our best customers are boycotting RTC altogether and others have said they will never come back.”
Last week, one restaurant in the Town Center — Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge — filed a lawsuit against Boston Properties, arguing their lease agreement was violated by the paid-parking system and that it has been an impediment to conducting business. In Tuesday’s announcement, the Reston Merchants Association says its supports the suit and “is likely to seek similar legal action for similar reasons in the following month.”
Boston Properties has so far not backed down from the system, which charges $2/hour in parking garages Monday through Friday and $3/hour for on-street parking Monday through Saturday. It has said the impact of the system on Reston Town Center business has been “far less” than claimed.
The Reston Merchants Association, however, says retailers and restaurateurs have seen “sinking sales figures” and a “precipitous drop-off in foot traffic” in 2017. They say that is directly related to Boston Properties’ paid-parking initiative.
Figures reported Tuesday by the Merchants Association, which they say were provided with consent from companies’ owners or corporate officials, include:
- Red Velvet Cupcakery reports March sales are down 19 percent. It projects a yearly drop of 25%.
- Big Bowl reports sales down 26 percent in March. Sales were down 15 percent in February, and it is down 4,500 customers over last year.
- Busara reports March sales are down 18 percent.
- The Counter Burger reports March sales are down approximately 24 perent.
- Dawn Price Baby reports February sales were down 18 percent, while its other locations were up an average of 20 percent for the same month.
- The Eyewear Gallery reports February sales were down 29 percent.
- Potomac River Running reports March sales are down 37 percent, while its seven other locations sales are higher.
- Edibles Incredible Desserts reports February sales were down 28 percent.
- Ted’s Bulletin reports sales are down significantly on the year, while other locations have even or higher sales compared to last year.
“Paid parking is simply killing business, ruining our reputation and destroying the sense of community that has always been the pride of Reston,” Gordon said. “The merchants are suffering across the board from the greedy money-grab of one company and many of us are being driven out of business.”
Bozzuto Management brought the seventh version of its plan to redevelop St. Johns Wood to the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee for a public information session Monday.
Dozens of community members, many sporting yellow “Reclaim Reston” T-shirts, were in attendance to hear what Bozzuto and the P&Z had to say, and to give their thoughts on the matter — which, for the most part, haven’t changed.
The latest incarnation of the developer’s plan for the community features 481 mid-rise, multifamily units in two buildings. All townhouses that had been part of previous designs have been removed from the plan. Heights of the buildings have been reduced “significantly,” according to Brian Winterhalter, Cooley LLP commercial real-estate attorney, who presented the plan to the committee.
In addition, Winterhalter said a tree buffer along Center Harbor Road has been restored in its entirety; setbacks on all sides of the site have been increased; open space in the site plan has been increased to 55 percent; proffers have been added to account for pedestrian and vehicle safety on Center Harbor Road; and a community-gathering area and recreational facilities have been relocated and expanded.
With the changes, several members of the Planning & Zoning Committee said the developers are getting closer to where they need to be. But residents, who have been opposed to the project since it was first proposed in 2014, remained unwavering.
The development would top out at five stories at its center — and the property sits at the highest elevation in North Reston, concerned residents pointed out.
“Size matters when you propose to place a nearly 60-foot-tall building on the highest point of the highest ridge in the area, so it towers above the surrounding neighborhoods,” he said while listing potential problems with the development. “There are more reasons to send the developer again back to the drawing boards — or preferably, back to Maryland.”
Reston Fire and Rescue Station 25 (1820 Wiehle Ave.) is in line to be replaced, and a county meeting Monday will allow residents to learn more about what’s ahead.
The fire company will be relocated while the work is underway. At Monday’s community meeting, the proposed temporary facility for the fire company will be discussed by county staff.
The temporary fire station is slated for 1800 Cameron Glen Drive, on approximately nine-tenths of an acre at the former Reston Hospital Center helipad site.
“This temporary site was used when the police station in Reston was renovated — they used it as a temporary parking lot,” said project manager Lisa Goddard, of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. “We can use it for our benefit while the permanent [fire] station is under construction.”
Goddard said the timing of the property being used as a temporary fire station will not interfere with the proposed Reston Town Center North expansion into the area.
Reston Fire and Rescue was one of five fire stations approved for replacement and/or renovation under the county’s 2015 Public Safety Bond Referendum. According to Goddard, work on the new facility is estimated to take place from spring 2019 through late 2020. It will be in the same location.
Construction of the temporary fire station is expected to begin next summer, Goddard said.
Goddard said the proposed temporary fire station will feature a modular building for the living quarters and office space, with a tent membrane over a steel structure for the apparatus bays. She said a full restoration of the temporary site, with removal of all improvements back to its original state of a grass lot, will take place after the fire company moves into its new permanent home.
No trees will be removed in the implementation of the temporary fire station, Goddard said.
The new fire station on Wiehle Avenue, according to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, will cost about $13 million. It is needed due to “outdated infrastructure and critical operational space deficiencies.”
“The existing 2 1/2-bay station lacks sufficient space for existing equipment, operational support functions, adequate female living space and a workout facility to maintain physical fitness. Reston is one of the areas projected for high-density commercial and residential development as a result of the expansion of the Metrorail to Dulles Airport. A larger replacement fire station with multi-functional response capabilities will be constructed at the existing site to address the anticipated increased demand for emergency medical, fire suppression, and all hazards services.”
The community meeting on the proposal is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive).
Only a few larcenies have been reported by the Reston District Station of the Fairfax County Police Department in the past week.
1800 block of Cameron Glen Drive, property from vehicle
2200 block of Cocquina Drive, identification card from vehicle
2500 block of Congreve Court, wallet from business
11600 block of Stoneview Square, bag and sunglasses from vehicle
11700 block of Summer Chase Circle, laptop computer from vehicle
1600 block of Washington Plaza, cash from business
Reston District Station officers did have to deal with a group of teens who were allegedly shooting a BB gun at vehicles on Route 7, which we reported last week. The investigation also continues in the death of a man found in a car down an embankment in Herndon last week.
Anyone with information about any of the incidents reported by FCPD should call 703-691-2131 or 1-866-411-TIPS(8477), or text “TIP187” plus the message to CRIMES(274637).
Spring is in the air and people are thinking about all the ways they want to spruce up the outside of their homes. It’s exciting. But in Reston, it may not be fast.
If you are part of Reston Association, that plan is going to have to be approved, and it takes time. Here is a primer on the RA Design Review Board application process.
First, this is not something you need to dread. The DRB application procedures are very easy to follow. It just takes a little bit of time. But you will have help along the way: the Covenants Advisors are one of Reston homeowners’ greatest resources that nobody knows about. They are here to help make the design review process the easiest part of your renovation project.
DRB Application Procedures
The Reston Association website has all the phone numbers and forms you need. Here is a recap of the DRB application procedures.
1. Contact RA to find out who your Covenants Advisor is. They’ll meet with you and advise you on your project and everything you’ll need for your application.
2. Submit your application. The application can be found on the RA website. The application includes the following:
- A detailed written description of the proposed exterior modification or addition
- Scale drawings
- A site plan showing the size and location of project
- Photographs of the existing condition
- A brochure, detail sheet or catalog photo of materials
- Estimated project completion date
- Signatures of at least three different property owners adjacent to or within view of your alteration or improvement. If your property is located within a Cluster Association, at least one of the signatures must be that of a Cluster Officer.
3. Bring in or mail your application to the Reston Association.
4. Property Visit. RA staff and/or members of the DRB may visit and possibly photograph your property for reference.
5. Attend the DRB review panel meeting. While not all projects go in front of the full DRB review panel, if your project does require it, you should plan on attending the meeting. Your Covenants Advisor can you let you know when it’s on the agenda.
Those are the basic steps. If your application is rejected, you can appeal the decision. Or you can revise the plans to meet RA Design Covenants and Guidelines and resubmit your application. However, if you work with your Covenants Advisor and follow the RA guidelines, your project should be approved and you are on your way!
What do you have planned? Let me know.
Some Work on Phase 1 of Silver Line Project Ongoing — The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says some work connected to the first phase of the Silver Line still needs to be completed. All significant work is done, according to MWAA, but continuing projects include realignment of Old Meadow Road in McLean. [WTOP]
SLHS Softballer Heading to Europe — Alyssa Smith, a freshman at South Lakes High School, is raising money to travel to Europe to play softball for the Student-Athlete USA Team. Alyssa is the center fielder for HRYS Glory 16U and has hopes of playing Division I college softball after she graduates. [GoFundMe]
Bluegrass Series Wrapping Up at Frying Pan Park — The Bluegrass Barn series at Frying Pan Farm Park (2739 West Ox Road, Herndon) will come to an end April 9 with a performance by The Boxcars. Tickets are now on sale. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Gillespie Wins County GOP Straw Poll — A Fairfax County Republican Party straw poll over the weekend has Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman, firmly in the lead in the GOP race for Governor of Virginia. Gillespie is facing Corey Stewart and Frank Wagner in the primary, which takes place June 13. [WTOP]
Fears of area residents about a septage receiving site coming to Hunter Mill Road have officially been flushed.
The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services announced today that it has decided to permanently close the failing Colvin Run Septage Receiving Facility off Route 7 in Great Falls. However, it will not build a new site to replace it.
The most suitable proposed site for a replacement facility, the county had said, was on Hunter Mill Road at Lake Fairfax Park.
“I am pleased the County worked with the community in addressing the various concerns/comments and worked out a solution that is both a win/win for the community, the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services and the haulers,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said in a media alert Monday announcing the county’s decision.
The county began examining its septage receiving sites in October 2014. It was determined the aging Colvin Run facility was no longer satisfactory, and it was eventually closed in June of last year due to safety concerns. Since then, haulers transporting septic waste have rerouted to other facilities that accept Fairfax County septage.
In the process, the county has determined that it will be much more cost-effective to allow the waste to continue to be hauled elsewhere instead of constructing a new facility.
“The high costs of purchasing property and constructing a new facility makes it impractical to recover expenditures through reasonable service fees. Further, the alternative disposal options for county-generated septage which were instituted during the temporary closure of the Colvin Run Facility (including options at the Noman M. Cole Pollution Control Plant, the Upper Occoquan Service Authority facility, and D.C. Water’s Blue Plains facility) have worked effectively and will be able to meet future needs.”
Septage is collected from the 21,000 Fairfax County homes that do not have public sewer service. It also comes from portable restrooms at parks and public events, as well as from grease traps at restaurants.
The site on Hunter Mill Road, one of six proposed by the county, was near the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Area 6 Park Operations/Lake Fairfax Maintenance area — an isolated, employee-only part of the park. A public hearing on the proposal last February in Reston drew heated contention.
Concerns of residents included not just the possibility of odor, but also flood potential and increased truck traffic over Hunter Mill Road’s one-lane bridge.
Photo of closed Colvin Run facility courtesy Fairfax County
Pedestrian lighting — or lack thereof — is a hot topic in Reston, and Reston Association’s Environmental Advisory Committee weighed in on it at last week’s meeting of the Board of Directors.
EAC member Melissa Gildea said the committee’s opinion is that there is no correlation between increased lighting and a reduction in crime, and they also say bright lighting on walkways and paths has an adverse effect on wildlife.
“A lot of times, what we do with lighting is completely unnecessary,” Gildea said. “There is no reason to have anything lit like the day.”
In its official recommendation for lighting in regard to safety, the EAC says:
“We recommend that night lighting is only used where there is a documented need for it for human safety. In considering where to place lighting, the activity level of the area should be considered. Recreation areas active at night may require lighting, while pathways in wooded areas and in natural meadow areas should remain dark to protect plants, insects, birds and animals in those spaces. Designed environments can help deter crime; having green space is a documented crime deterrent.”
“The reason you use lighting has to be important enough for us to disrupt the environment and disrupt ourselves,” Gildrea said. “Passive surveillance [not lighting] is the No. 1 way to keep crime down.”
Gildea said research in cities including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York found that increasing lighting in secluded areas such as alleys actually increased crime in those places.
“You can’t reduce crime by lighting an area,” she said. “The criminals could see what they were doing.”
The EAC’s official recommendation does say that it would be in favor of “amounts of lighting that published research indicates will foster a perception of safety in a neighborhood.” In places where lighting is deemed appropriate, the EAC recommended lighting that is near the ground and very low-level.
Director Ray Wedell took umbrage to the claim that increased lighting does not decrease crime, saying anyone looking to prove something can find a study to support any preconceived notion. To prove his point, he cited a study he found that indicated the opposite of the research EAC cited.
“We have to make our own decision based on common sense,” he said. “Don’t just say that it doesn’t work. If properly deployed, it works alongside all kinds of other things.”
The board voted unanimously to send the EAC’s findings to the Design Review Board and the Pedestrian Lighting Working Group for consideration. The board will have an opportunity to review any proposals for pedestrian lighting before they are implemented.
Dogs will be the guests of honor Saturday during the “Wag Fest” celebration in Reston.
At the event, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dog lovers will have the opportunity to, among other activities:
- Learn about the county’s nine dog parks and find out about opportunities to serve as a volunteer dog park monitor
- Visit with search and rescue dogs from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue’s Virginia Task Force 1
- See a police K9 unit demonstration
- Treat their dogs to handmade doggie treats
- Get a lesson in dog park etiquette and speak with service dog trainers
- See the latest in doggie goods from local vendors of dog merchandise and services
- Purchase a dog license
Among the presenters will be the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, Weber’s Pet Supermarket, Gordon’s Grill and Off-Leash K9 Training LLC.
The free event will be held both inside and outside the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive). For more information, call 703-324- 8662 or visit the event’s Facebook page.
In response to a rumor that a Q&A session between RA members and St. Johns Wood owner Bozzuto was being set up, CEO Cate Fulkerson said nothing like that is happening.
A plan for a 91-unit assisted-living facility on Sunrise Valley Drive will go before the Fairfax County Health Care Advisory Board next week.
Fairfax County is conducting a survey on the perception of homelessness, a Herndon High grad hopes to represent Sri Lanka in marathon at world championships, more.
Volunteer Reston and the National Wildlife Federation partnered for a tree-planting event Friday at the Old Trail Natural Area.
It’s the first weekend of spring. Get out of the house and enjoy yourself!
A community meeting to gather ideas for the Hook Road Recreation Area is on the backburner after debate at Thursday’s RA Board meeting.