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by Dave Emke — February 3, 2017 at 4:00 pm 11 Comments

Reston historical marker

Looking for something to do this weekend? Here is a sampling of what’s available in Reston:

  • The South Lakes High School Chorus is presenting its Broadway Night event tonight and Saturday.
  • Reston Town Center events this weekend include a kids’ cooking class at Il Fornaio, cartoon skate at the ice pavilion, Super Bowl festivities at American Tap Room and Mon Ami Gabi, and more.
  • Potomac River Running will be putting on its For The Love Of It 10K, beginning at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive), Saturday morning.
  • Reston Community Players will close out their run of “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” tonight and Saturday at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road).
  • Project-based charter school Ideaventions Academy (12340 Pinecrest Road) will be holding an open house Saturday.
  • Art exhibitions “CUT” and “Springtime in Winter” remain on display at Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market Street) and Reston Art Gallery & Studios (11400 Washington Plaza W.), respectively.
  • Del. Ken Plum will be at Lake Anne Coffee House (1612 Washington Plaza N.) on Saturday morning to discuss issues with his constituents.
  • Red’s Table (11150 South Lakes Drive) won’t just be offering beer specials Sunday during the Super Bowl, but it will unveil its new bison chili as well.
  • Kalypso’s (1617 Washington Plaza N.) will host a Super Bowl party Sunday, featuring regional foods from New England and Atlanta. A raffle will also be held to benefit Camp Sunshine.

by Dave Emke — February 3, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

Reston Relay For Life 2014/Courtesy American Cancer Society

For the 20th year, Reston is preparing to host its annual Relay for Life fundraiser to fight cancer.

This year’s event will be held May 20-21 at South Lakes High School. The fundraising drive will officially kick off Thursday, Feb. 9 with a celebration at the Reston Association conference center (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) from 7-9 p.m.

Relay for Life donationsRelay for Life is the American Cancer Society‘s largest fundraising event. All proceeds raised from the drive are donated to ACS to support local community programs and cancer research. As of Friday afternoon, the Relay for Life website reports more than $7,300 in local donations have already been pledged.

The Reston event’s goal is $175,000.

May’s event at SLHS will feature live entertainment, food, games and more. At the kickoff event next week, catered snacks will be provided by Trader Joe’s of Reston.

According to information provided by Relay for Life, the fundraiser — staffed and coordinated by volunteers — takes place in more than 5,200 communities across 20 countries. It has raised more than $5 billion since it began in 1985.

For more information, to register or to make a donation, visit the Relay for Life website.

by RestonNow.com — February 3, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Reston Association volunteers (via RA)

Reston Association is expanding its Volunteer Reston Service Awards in 2017 to include more recognition categories. Nominations opened Jan. 27 and can be made through March 17.

RA’s service awards recognize individuals, families, groups and businesses that make a significant contribution to the community through volunteer service.

The 2017 awards winners will be announced at a special ceremony during National Volunteer Week, Thursday, April 27, from 6:30-9 p.m. at The Lake House.

Every year, hundreds of Reston volunteers give their time to make a difference in the lives of those around them. RA volunteers participate in community cleanup and environmental events; take shifts at community events and festivals; serve on the RA Board of Directors, advisory committees and working groups; and others provide daily operational support to the association.

Completed nomination forms should be brought to the RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) and left for Ha Brock, RA’s volunteer supervisor. They can also be mailed in or emailed to [email protected].

Photo via Reston Association

by Dave Emke — February 3, 2017 at 11:15 am 87 Comments

ParkRTC sign in Reston Town Center

Reston Town Center merchants report a significant drop in sales from this time last year.

Now, an estimated 60 of those merchants are considering a lawsuit against Boston Properties over what they see as the cause of that decline — the installation of paid parking.

Aaron Mervis, who runs RTC’s Big Bowl, is one of the organizers of the group. Mervis, who has been in restaurant management since 2000, said he has never seen anything quite like this.

“I’ve never seen the amount of customers that are upset and are just flat-out boycotting the Town Center as a whole,” Mervis said. “As for retailers, I’ve never seen the amount of different retailers grouping together. Usually, when I’m talking to other retailers, it’s seeing what we can do to help cross-market each other’s brands. Talking about protesting and lawsuits, that’s unprecedented.”

Boston Properties initiated paid parking at Reston Town Center on Jan. 3. Backlash from the community, particularly on social media, began quickly thereafter. Mervis said RTC restaurants have been gathering to fight since the paid-parking plan was first proposed by Boston Properties last year, and retailers have since joined the groundswell as well.

Mervis also runs Wildfire restaurant at Tysons Galleria, and he said the trickle-down effect of the parking controversy reaches there as well.

“People are openly talking about it at the bar, saying they are only there because their friends won’t meet them anymore in Reston, or they themselves refuse to park in Reston,” he said.

Cosmetics store Origins closed in mid-January, citing paid parking as one of the reasons. The Bike Lane also announced last month it is actively seeking relocation outside of the Town Center.

Orange parking garage, Reston Town CenterMervis said estimates provided by Town Center merchants show a 10-50 percent decline in sales from January 2016. He said Big Bowl validates two hours’ parking for its customers, but the system doesn’t make sense from neither the business’s nor the customers’ standpoint.

“A $4 beer and $4 for parking, that doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “Our customers are appreciative that we’re doing it… but they still say they’re not coming back. They say it’s too much of a hassle.”

The merchants are planning a meeting Monday at Vapiano restaurant (1875 Explorer Street) to continue to discuss their future plans, including potential litigation. In a press release, reasons for their unrest are spelled out:

Besides being onerous, the system itself is driving people away. It includes:
— Having to download an app, which customers say is confusing, does not work well
— Pay stations are often not working and confusing
— Little or no assistance from Boston Properties and no way to explain the system to non-English speakers
— Confusion: Some retailers have provisions allowing free guest parking in one lot but not another
— Filled parking spots forcing guests to park in a different lot where a retailer may not validate (not all retailers can afford to purchase validation codes for all lots)
— Overnight charges for restaurant guests who have been drinking and want to leave their cars overnight while they walk/taxi/Uber home
— Forcing guests to park in nearby development and angering tenants
— There is no quick parking accommodation for guests to do pickups, dropoffs, etc.
— Unclear rules about weekend parking (holidays? Fridays nights?)
— Validation codes have major limitations (guests must change garages to have their ticket validated for both a movie and dinner at certain restaurants)
— Guests with disabilities without smartphones must find a pay station (not conveniently located)

There are also issues which affect the retailers:
— Negative publicity has spilled over to the retailers
— Employees are affected and are looking for other work
— All retailers are charged the same fee to validate parking (bad for small retailers)
— Employee parking is inconsistent and difficult to manage
— Parking security is not trained to help or answer questions
— Retailers are struggling to hold weekday events because people who would attend do not want to deal with paid parking
— Boston Properties has made changes without notification

“This is unbelievable, what’s happening, what they’re doing,” Mervis said. “Guests don’t want to deal with this. They just want to come in and eat.”

Rob Weinhold, spokesperson for Boston Properties, said it would be “inappropriate” for the real estate trust to speculate on or respond to the merchants’ legal threats. However, when contacted by Reston Now, he did wish to clear up “misinformation” about parking validation “that requires immediate clarification:”

“Each retailer and restaurateur, at their sole discretion, decide[s] which garages they choose to validate. As previously communicated, each retailer and restaurateur makes their own business decision about (1) participating in the validation program and (2) what validation terms they choose to incorporate within their unique business model, to include validating for all or select garages.”

Mervis said his restaurant is trying to do the right thing for customers by validating parking, but the end result is hurting their bottom line.

“We’re paying the same price as the guest pays,” he said. “We spent $1,600 in January to validate parking, and at our price point, that has drastic effects for us.”

by RestonNow.com — February 3, 2017 at 10:15 am 9 Comments

Ed Abbott addresses RA board - Jan. 26, 2017This is an op-ed submitted by Ed Abbott, co-coordinator of Reston Recall. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

Reston Association still lacks a Code of Ethics, but we know a conflict of interest when we see one.

Eve Thompson, Director At-Large, and her husband, Rick, own the Lake Anne Coffee House as well as their condo at Lake Anne. Her husband, Rick, heads the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association (LARCA), which represents the owners of commercial and private properties in Lake Anne.

One of many items on a very crowded agenda at the last board meeting was a discussion of improvements to the Lake Anne docks, above and beyond the necessary repairs that are already in the budget. Mr. Thompson explained the project to the board with a very nice slideshow. He showed the board the location of the new docks and what a nice improvement they would make to the ambience of Lake Anne.

Unfortunately, neither Mr. Thompson nor Ms. Thompson, nor anyone else for that matter, volunteered the information that the presenter was the spouse of Director Eve Thompson. Nor did the Board discuss the possible conflict of interest inherent in having the husband of a board member present before the board as president of a condominium association seeking to get the RA to spend RA members’ money on a new capital spending project that would primarily benefit the property owners and businesses of Lake Anne.

A motion was introduced to hold a public hearing related to the proposed capital improvements of the docks. When Eve Thompson started to speak in favor of the motion, Director Lucinda Shannon raised the issue of Ms. Thompson’s conflict of interest. Ms. Thompson retorted that her ownership of a condo and a coffee house at Lake Anne were not conflicts.

So what are the obligations of directors when it comes to conflicts of interest (COI)? First and foremost, the COI statement must be complete and accurate, signed under penalty of being removed from the board. What does Ms. Thompson disclose about her potential conflicts? Not a whole lot. Her ownership of the Lake Anne Coffee House isn’t included. Nor is her husband’s connection to the Lake Anne of Reston Condominium Association.

Just to be clear, the statement requires that “all assets… located in Reston or involved in Reston-based activities” be listed. Ms. Thompson’s statement was incomplete and inaccurate when she signed it in April 2015, and it is still incomplete and inaccurate.

Since most directors are property owners in Reston, potential conflicts of interest are inevitable when the board conducts business. The right way for the RA board to handle these issues would be for a director to disclose a potential conflict up front, before the discussion starts. The other members of the board and/or counsel can then decide if it is appropriate for the director to participate or if she should recuse herself.

The worst way for a board to conduct business is for the director to fail to disclose a potential conflict and then disagree about it when called on it by another director.

If the board is so lackadaisical in enforcing its own COI rules, what other conflicts and self-dealing has occurred or is occurring? The Tetra property purchase comes to mind. This may be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We may never know unless we change the membership of the board.

by Dave Emke — February 3, 2017 at 9:00 am 3 Comments

Sidewalk in Reston

Thousands of Jobs Added in County — The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority says 160 U.S.-based and 34 foreign-based companies worked with them to add about 7,500 jobs in 2016. [Fairfax County EDA]

Reston Association Committees Meet Next Week — The calendar for Reston Association next week includes meetings of the Board Operations Committee, Environmental Advisory Committee and Community Engagement Advisory Committee, as well as the Design Review Board panel. [Reston Association]

Seniors Invited to See ‘Age of Love’ — Reston Community Center will host a showing of “Age of Love” for people 55 and up next Friday. The film is described as “comic and poignant.” Dessert and a discussion will follow. [Reston Community Center]

Polar Plunge is Next Weekend — Don’t forget, the 10th annual “Freezin’ for a Reason” Virginia Polar Dip is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 11 at Lake Anne Plaza. There is still time to get involved, or to just make plans to attend. [Lake Anne Plaza]

by RestonNow.com — February 3, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

On Fridays we take a moment to thank our advertisers and sponsors:

Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, the business community for the vibrant region.

BLVD, Comstock’s apartments at Reston Station.

AKG Design Studio, boutique design firm specializing in kitchen, bathroom designs and cabinetry sales.

Berry & Berry, PLLC, Reston law firm specializing in federal employment, retirement, labor union, and security clearance matters.

Reston Real Estate, Eve Thompson of Long & Foster Real Estate specializes in Reston homes.

Reston Carpet Cleaning, local cleaning service.

Becky’s Pet Care, offering friendly pet services in Northern Virginia.

Reston Community Center, serving Reston’s recreational and cultural needs.

MakeOffices, shared work spaces with five area locations, including Reston.

Boofie O’Gorman, Top Producer Realtor at Long & Foster Reston.

Goldfish Swim School, specializing in children’s swim lessons year-round.

Small Change Consignment, serving Reston’s kids for more than 30 years.

A Cleaning Service, professional residential and commercial cleaning.

Reston Montessori, private co-educational school for children ages 3 months to sixth grade.

Kalypso’s Sports Tavern, providing great food and drink at Lake Anne Plaza.

All Spice Cafe & Catering, bringing flavor to your events.

Bright Horizons at Commerce Metro Center, new child care facility in Reston.

Susannah Palik, residential Sales Agent with Long & Foster Real Estate.

Inform Fitness, personal training studio that offers results with 20-minute workout.

Fusion Academy, accredited private middle and high school for grades 6-12.

Reston Children’s Center, providing care, preschool and private education and summer camp enrichment.

Ryan Homes — Westmoore, Loudoun County’s hottest new Metro community in the heart of Ashburn.

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