Simon: ‘Don’t Listen to the NIMBYs’

by Karen Goff June 29, 2015 at 9:30 am 2,035 26 Comments

Reston founder Bob SimonReston founder Bob Simon told the Reston Association Board last week that they should stop listening to residents who decry traffic, expense and other issues that get in the way of progress here.

“For the past several years, Reston has been run by the NIMBYs (“Not In My Backyard”),” Simon said, recalling issues such as a tennis facility at Lake Newport and the more recent bocce court proposed for a pocket park off of South Lakes Drive.

“This is why I am here — to strengthen your resolve, all the way up to the [Fairfax County] Board of Supervisors,” the 101-year-old founder told the RA Board at its regular meeting. “A lot of attention is paid to the naysayers. It is a bloody fact when an issue comes up, people in favor stay home and NIMBYS come out to holler. A good NIMBY knows first thing you holler is traffic. It takes sophisticated analysis to know whether it will affect traffic. But that is what they use to terrify the board.”

Simon recalled several proposals that he said would have benefitted the community, but which died due to community conflict.

“There were three proposals to cover RA tennis courts,” he said. “In each case, NIMBYS prevailed. There was a proposal for Barton Hill, where they were going to cover the tennis courts and then you climb up the hill to the houses. People brought forth a 13-year-old girl to testify who told us if we covered the tennis courts she would not dare go out of the house.”

Simon said if he had the responsibility of starting bocce here, I would “have had a budget of $127 for the bocce court and would have had two stakes and bunch of balls.”

Bocce was proposed and discussed in 2013 and 2014 and met with neighbor pushback. Neighbors close to Cabots Point, where the courts were planned and approved by the RA Board, said traffic, crowds and a possible increase in crime would happen. They also did not like the way the association and then-South Lakes Director Richard Chew went about notifying residents of the possibility of bocce.

“Bocce is a lot of fun,” said Simon. “Can you imagine the traffic that would be with two old gentlemen throwing balls on the ground?”

Ultimately, after nearly a year of discussion, the board voted to revoke its approval after it determined the cost estimates would be exponentially more than originally forecast.

“I beg of you, when the happens, no matter what there will be NIMBYs there telling don’t do it,” said Simon. “You listened on Bocce. Don’t do that again.”

Simon also spoke out on village centers. He encouraged the directors to look at the future of Reston as plazas surrounded by mixed use, rather than continuing to have strip centers serve as village centers.

The Reston Master Plan amendments recently put planning in place in the event developers want to make over the existing village centers. They will not need a comprehensive plan amendment to make changes.

Simon originally planned Reston’s village centers to resemble Lake Anne Village Center. But by the time the subsequent village center’s were built, Simon was no longer involved in the project and Hunters Woods, South Lakes, North Point and Tall Oaks were built in a more traditional, suburban manner.

Bob Simon/file photo

  • Guy Montag

    Great, they can start off by placing a court in this mans back yard and opening up his driveway for parking

    • RestonResident

      That is more or less what he did. Mr. Simon lives at Lake Anne. He uses the businesses nearby and everyone parks near his home.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    It’s got to be tough, Mr. Simon, watching your vision and hard work being hijacked by others. Still, you are only one amongst a hundred thousand Restonians. We are all as equally enititled to a vision of our neighborhoods as you are.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    Bocce doesn’t t take a budget you can play right now. They have done so in Italy Spain and everywhere ignoring authorities and doin what’s best for the community.

    With respect to tennis, there are aside from a few hard core tennis players very few that come out. Most of the time tennis courts are empty. Covered facilities are also empty during the summer. Some facilities have already gone broke. Golf is on a similar path as many clubs have struggled, arguably Reston National is doing well but we never saw the books.

    With respect to the Nimbys, yes, true the mind set exists. But it’s also true that RA is not seeking a debate instead rams decisions and expenses down residents throat.

    I love Robert for what he has done for our community and I appreciate to hear his views. It’s good to be schooled by an old timer, it keeps you humble.let’s hope he sticks around for another 100 years.

  • MJay

    Mr. Simon is correct about the NIMBY playbook, which occurs in virtually every community in this country. However, in Reston, the RA is its own worst enemy. In many respects, the ill-advised Tetra debacle was a costly preemptive attack by the NIMBY crowd to head off any semblance of smart development before it could even be considered. Poor leadership and a knee-jerk mentality from the RA board and the CEO will continue to contribute to an overall atmosphere where neither the NIMBYs nor the proponents of smart development–to include Mr. Simon–will be happy.

  • reston is changing

    The bocce example serves as a microcosm of the larger problem facing proposed changes in Reston. Residents seem to think “getting involved” means poo pooing anything and everything without any consideration of potential benefits and / or progress. Their position always seems rooted in fear of ANY change.

    BTW Everyone knows bocce courts are magnets for criminals. They spend as much time playing bocce as they do committing crimes.

    • Mike M

      Residents seem to not want to get behind every whack-a-doodle idea that pops into someone’s head. Take pogo-stick racing. Should I get behind a Reston built and maintained pogo stick racing course? Why?

      No one said anything about crime and bocce ball (even though there was that Siciclian connection . . .). No one said that. Strip mines aren’t associated with crime either. Shall we establish one in your cluster?

      It would be change and change is good. Right? (Chaos, by the way, is freakin’ awesome!)

      • reston is changing

        re-read what you wrote and try again.

        • Mike M

          I’m good. Thanks.

    • Cluster Tycoon

      I think you are wrong. Reston came up with over 4000 volunteers to help with the games this week. I think the term Nimbys stems from a longstanding feud that the old man had when his entourage was split up and divided by a younger bull.

  • Capo

    What is most disheartening about Robert E. Simon’s comments is that he does not see that the use of the term NIMBY is truly derogatory and insulting. The term implies that residents who have the most immediate and substantive reason (that is, that their homes, neighborhoods, privacy, and personal lives) may be affected negatively by one transaction or another. These individuals have their reasons. They deserve to be listened to. They deserve respect. They do not deserve to be categorized by yet another term that attempts to lump together a stereotype about a group of people…or segment of society. Let’s drop the term NIMBY from our discussions, even when our community’s founder uses it. Let’s acknowledge that there may well be reasons that are cheapened by the stereotype. The term itself denigrates the conversation and undermines the community values that, I hope, will continue to prevail in Reston…despite the unfortunate use of the term by Robert E. Simon.

    • reston is changing

      I am going against my better judgement by responding to this troll post.

      Are you serious?

    • Love Mr Simon

      You have to love an older gentleman who calls it like it is. NIMBYs, or as RA likes to call them, Affected Parties, are ruining Reston for the vast majority of the people who live here and have things that are way more important in their lives than attending RA meetings. Perfect example are the new RA Architecture Review Board Guidelines. These are just making RA more powerful and give them more ability to dictate what happens on properties. In order to stop them, normal people will need to ban together, go to meetings, rally other home owners, and go through extraordinary hoops to get them stopped. Meanwhile, the small pocket of NIMBYs sit back and watch as more rules are put in place to allow them to slow down progress and encourage people to not make improvements to their homes and properties. I would love RA to make it easier for homeowners to leave the association. Giving people that opportunity would show RA how much they are valued. I would much rather pay a little extra to go to Life Time for their beautiful pool than go to one of the dilapidated RA pools with no amenities.

  • Enough already

    This man will be long dead before the ruination of Reston happens, and which is already underway…he sold out long ago, banked his $$$$, and now can assume the “visionary messiah” mantle and call for progress, etc…we’re rapidly transforming into the Arlington/Clarendon gridlock of ugliness, and being loved to death by the greedy developers….

    • Guest

      Bob was actually fired from his job here, which is why he left. I wouldn’t say he “sold out long ago, banked his $$$”

  • Mike M

    Isn’t it just time for those of us who live and work here to sit down, shut up, and do what Bob says?

    Naaah! Traffic is a killer Bob.

    By the way, didn’t run off to Switzerland in an anit-American huff when Reston didn’t get developed the way you wanted. And isn’t it safe to say that what went your way didn’t actually work?

  • Ming the Merciless

    “I am retired and don’t drive, so why should I care about traffic anyway?” — Robert E. Simon

  • Nyla J.

    Ahhh the NIMBYs….. the old school Restonians who tapped out of “real life” for early retirement decades ago after cashing in on their well-timed Reston real estate transactions. The NIMBYs endorsed just enough development to entice others to come and “live, work and play” and pay quadruple or more for what they paid for their homes in the late 70’s early 80’s, and now they’re hating on us, the new school Restonians, for wanting to do the same??

    My crappy old townhouse (and entire cluster I hope) is up for sale to the highest bidder! Reston sold out a long time ago. I can’t wait to do the same.

  • MJay

    Development with a coherent plan. BTW, didn’t know calling someone a “liberal” as an insult without a modicum of thought would be so easily bantered about. But if you’re for development without a coherent plan as your response suggest, as they say in the South, “bless your little heart.” But since I like to take traffic and infrastructure into account in my planned developments, I prefer to consider it pragmatism.

    • Mike M

      Oh! So NIMBYs who don’t like development unless it takes traffic into account are OK? Count me among those NIMBYs. Take Wiehle Metro for example. Pedestrian traffic also counts in my NIMBYism.
      PS: Liberals are to Socialists as green appleas are to red apples. And Socialists are fools!

  • Jersey Jerry

    Have been
    gone 10 years and it looks like some things NEVER change ~ so I’ll just set up my ‘Pop
    Corn Stand’ and if it’s OK w/RA I’ll just read and laugh a lot!!!

    • Mike M

      Sorry, JJ. You can’t do that in Reston.

  • LakeAnneZorro

    While Mr. Simon might tend to overuse his favorite term, the two examples in his remarks to RA are indeed classic NIMBYisms.
    But what do you suppose was behind the tag team combo of the Lake Newport NIMBYs and the RA Board that pulled off the Tetra con?

  • Paul

    His message is very clear: the people who live here, pay RA fees, and pay property taxes need to be overruled, you (the RA Board) know better than they do, you MUST have the resolve to control them.

    Property owners in Reston need to stand up against this type of tyranny. What exactly is the problem with openly discussing proposals with the people most affected by the decision and outcome? Nothing. The RA board needs to realize they are not any smarter or more important than everyone else.

  • Rational Reston

    I actually sort of agree with Bob Simon. The NIMBY/Sky is falling crowd has had a stranglehold on RA and that will restrict some good things that may come Reston’s way.

    However, Mr. Simon is misplaced in describing tennis and bocce as examples. These are examples of RA funds paid by the whole to pay for the enjoyment of a select few. RA continues to run the farce of tennis where their facilities go unused a vast majority of the time, all while utilizing RA dollars to keep these courts at a pretty pristine state.

    A bocce area could be set up on a grassy area at low cost, but RA can only think in terms of Cadillac’s and not in terms of Honda’s.

  • Greg

    As if Robert Simon’s socialist developments have flourished. Were it not for numerous county and tax-payer funded bailouts, Lake Anne would be long gone.


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