Reston Association Election: Meet Ray Wedell

Ray Wedell/Credit: David Madison for RAVoting in the 2015 Reston Association Board of Directors elections is now open. We will be running candidate profiles Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The profiles are in a Q-and-A format so each candidate has an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words.

Today’s profiles are of At-Large Candidates, both of whom are running unopposed.

Ray Wedell is a leader with Rescue Reston, the advocacy group aimed at protecting Reston open space. He is a Realtor in Reston and has a background in finance.

Reston Now: What makes you want to serve — or continue to serve — on the RA Board?

RW: I love my involvement with, and the positive citizen reaction to, the work on the Rescue Reston Board (preserving the Reston National Golf Course from the ravenous reach of redevelopment by private interests).

Given the intense growth in Reston both now and in the immediate future, we are at the vortex of future growth in Northern Virginia, with complex issues involving the environment, traffic, rising employment, impacts on property values, and the entire Reston way of life. Rather than observe the change and debate its impact from the outside, I prefer to help drive the change in the direction we need it to go.

As hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said, “Do not focus on where the puck is; focus on where it is going.”

I have the ability to not get lost in the past or present, clinging to the status quo so to speak; we need to be able to anticipate the nature and dynamics of a changing environment, and steer it in a positive direction for Reston residents.

RNWhat is the biggest issue facing RA right now and do you have an idea to improve it?

RW: There are three major issues: 1) Preserving open space and not relinquishing Reston land to private developers for their commercial interest; 2) Preserving open space and not relinquishing Reston land to private developers for their commercial interest; 3) Preserving open space and not relinquishing Reston land to private developers for their commercial interest.

When the rubber meets the road, so to speak, I have experience in working with teams of outstanding residents who can rally the necessary citizen support to make sure this remains a reality. You will get more than words in defending this issue.

RN: How can RA members better understand what the board does and how can they be better involved in improving our community?

RW: We all share responsibility here. I often hear of the need for RA to provide “greater outreach,” and that is always important. I believe that is being addressed in a meaningful way by the current leadership from our CEO, Cate Fulkerson, and I don’t think I am speaking out of school by saying that she would agree with me that this needs to continue and be a major focus of the Board.

However, there is also a void in citizen participation which is so crucially important. My phone line is always open; my @RayWedell Twitter account is always live. I can be reached by email — often the simplest and most obvious things to you can be a total blind spot to me or other RA Board Members.

Tell us! Keep abreast of our activities! Challenge our opinions! Jump in the pool …t he water’s fine. That’s how positive change takes root.

RN: . Some of the criticism of RA recently is wasteful spending, lack of transparency and rising assessments. What can be done to improve or at least improve perceptions of all of these things?

RW: I have not been on past boards, so cannot specifically comment to any line items in the budget which need massaging at this time. But I have a financial background, and I love the idea of accomplishing much in the most efficient manner, so I am sure we will be digging in deeply on a multiplicity of issues in this regard. In any organization this size, there will doubtless be a constant need to change, redirect, eliminate budget items as the changing needs of the community become more obvious.

RN: 2015 and beyond is an important time for Reston’s growth as several large residential developments are in the works, and most of the residents will be RA members. What can the board do in the next few years to adequately prepare to serve thousands more people?

RW: I am not sure there is enough space to adequately answer this question. But let’s go with the Reader’s Digest version: I will start with the disastrous effects that a re-zoning of Reston National Golf Course would have, not only on those living on or near the golf course, but on the entire Reston community.

Under no circumstances should the RA Board show anything other than outright, vociferous, meaningful support to save this essential land from any rezoning efforts of any kind. If possible, we should buy the golf course. I cannot be more passionate about any issue than I am about this one, and this is the one area in which we aren’t talking semantic “lines in the sand” but rather, all-out citizen involvement in counter attacking any threat to this area. And should RA funds be used, if necessary, to make this happen? Yes. Unequivocally, yes.

As for planned residential developments, and those under construction, is there anything other than “luxury” housing permitted any longer in Reston? I personally believe that the development community is way ahead of itself regarding the economics of these projects, but I will leave that issue up to them.

For us, the most obvious impacts will be the inevitable traffic congestion, pressure on school districts, and effects on pricing of existing housing stock. I have a long and deep real estate and financial background, and consider the balancing of all these issues the Rubik’s Cube facing all of us.

It will be imperative for RA to have a significant seat at the table with the county zoning authorities, and essential to understand the future development and direction of the Reston Town Center Association (RTCA). It is no secret that the RTCA is centered on urban core development, and decisions being made there will impact the economics of any decision made in the surrounding Reston communities.

Having spent much time following and studying the Spectrum zoning case and future development planned at the RTC, I still shudder to think of the impending traffic issues which will bleed into the rest of the Reston communities.

We need to be aware of these issues, and perhaps our respect among the Fairfax zoning people will allow us to be in their ear even in cases in which we have no direct authority.

Also keep this in mind there is tremendous high-density growth planned for the corridor up the Dulles Toll Road and future Metro sites. There are also disputed areas of land (off Baron Cameron, where Home Depot is located being the most obvious and contentious) which the RTC wants to grab control, versus the Reston Association. Should that occur, it WILL result in a more developer-friendly, high density use for these lands. Baron Cameron should be firmly established as THE line of demarcation between the Reston Town Center authority and the Reston Association authority; RTCA to the south of Baron Cameron and RA to the north.

By the way, it is my business to know and understand the Reston Town Center and anticipate growth and change there; we need to have a closer partnership with them to reduce the often mutual mentality that we are separate islands, rather than one Reston.

One final point. There are many garden apartments in Reston that serve the valuable purpose of clean and affordable housing. They are not distressed. They are not dilapidated. They are not crime infested. The mania toward endless construction of all things luxury needs to be balanced with a knowledge that a very large and necessary segment of our population cannot be ignored.

“Redevelopment” of existing structures currently meeting this need cannot be subject to simple market vagaries dictating that they convert to modern “luxury units”. The pressure for “additional tax revenues” driven by higher-priced units cannot overwhelm the need for such housing.

Photo: Ray Wedell/Credit: David Madison for RA

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