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by Dave Emke — February 9, 2017 at 4:00 pm 0

Reston Association

(Updated Feb. 10 at 11 a.m. after a third candidate withdrew from the election)

Three of the 14 people who were registered to run for the Reston Association Board of Directors in this year’s election will not be on the ballot.

Don Wright, who was announced as a candidate for the North Point seat, and Hank Schonzeit and Kevin Witt, who were both announced candidates for the Apartment Owners’ seat, have withdrawn.

A six-person race for an At-Large seat remains, along with two-person races for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood and North Point seats. David Bobzien now finds himself unopposed in the race for Apartment Owners’ Representative.

Remaining candidates are:

At-Large Director (3-year term)
Roberto Anguizola
Eric Carr
Mike Collins
Charles Dorfeuille
Ven Iyer
HeidiAnne Werner

Hunters Woods/Dogwood District Director (3-year term)
Syazana Durrani
Victoria White

North Point District Director (2-year term)
Arlene Krieger
John Mooney

Apartment Owners’ Representative (3-year term)
David Bobzien

More information about each candidate is available at the Reston Association website.

The At-Large seat is currently held by Jeff Thomas; the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District seat, by Lucinda Shannon; and the apartment owners’ seat, by board president Ellen Graves.

Graves has reached her two-term limit. Neither Thomas nor Shannon, who are each coming to the end of their first term, applied for re-election.

The North Point District seat is currently held by Danielle LaRosa. LaRosa was elected in 2016 but will resign at the end of her first year. The person elected to fill the seat, either Krieger or Mooney, will serve the remaining two years on the existing term.

Votes will be cast by residents between March 6 and April 3. Election winners will be announced at the RA board’s April 11 meeting, with the new board to be sworn in the following day.

The four electees will join five returning members of the board: Vice President Michael Sanio (At-Large), Secretary Eve Thompson (At-Large), Sherri Hebert (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks), Julie Bitzer (South Lakes) and Ray Wedell (At-Large).

by Dave Emke — February 9, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

Reston Community Center logo

The Reston Community Center Board of Governors adopted their 2016-21 Strategic Plan last year, and they will discuss progress with the public next week.

The largest number of January updates to the Strategic Plan are in the section about expanding programs. In the plan, RCC identified goals that included “balanc[ing] services to neighborhoods within Reston with programming that brings the community together and fosters a sense of belonging to the community as a whole.”

Among the items listed in the update is a proposed building needs analysis to “investigate intersections feasible with Park Authority efforts related to indoor recreation facility planning for Reston and [to] seek differentiation from Reston Association efforts to date.” It also lists plans to coordinate summer programming options with Cornerstones, among other initiatives.

At the Monday night event, the RCC board also will discuss content for inclusion in their FY19 budget and capital project planning for the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center.

The public is invited to the meeting at RCC Hunter Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road), scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m. Monday, but it is requested RSVP be made to [email protected] by 4 p.m. Friday. Anyone would who like to provide input but is unable to attend is invited to contact the same email address.

by Dave Emke — February 9, 2017 at 1:30 pm 11 Comments

Houses backing up to Lake Newport soccer field

After a community input meeting Wednesday night on improvements to Lake Newport soccer fields, the Reston Soccer Association has requested the postponement of a Design Review Board session slated for later this month.

The proposal from Reston Soccer would include the installation of artificial turf fields, LED lighting and a clubhouse building at the fields. All would be paid for by Reston Soccer, but the project would need to be approved by member referendum.

Robert Anguizola, Reston Soccer president, said in an email to Reston Association CEO Cate Fulkerson that concerns of residents in the area deserve more time for consideration:

“During the community input meeting [Wednesday] night, we heard that many residents in the clusters surrounding the fields felt that they did not have adequate notice of the community meeting and the upcoming DRB Information Session. We also heard pleas from many for more time to absorb our proposal and to further engage with their neighbors, RA and Reston Soccer. That seems like a reasonable request and for that reason we respectfully request postponement of the February 21 DRB Information Session on the Lake Newport Soccer proposal.”

Residents of adjacent clusters — Bayfield Station, Arbor Glen and Concord Green — have voiced concerns including disruption of the community due to increased use of the field at later hours.

Video of the meeting is available on the Reston Association YouTube channel.

According to Mike Leone, RA’s communications director, Reston Association will inform residents of the communities that the presentation has been postponed.

Anguizola said Reston Soccer “looks forward to further engagement with the community on this important project” and would renew its request for a DRB information session later this year.

by RestonNow.com — February 9, 2017 at 12:35 pm 1 Comment

National Weather ServiceHigh winds that have been blowing hard through Reston today are expected to continue into the early evening.

The National Weather Service in Sterling has issued a wind advisory for the entire region that is scheduled to be in effect until 6 p.m.:

* WINDS…Northwest 20 to 25 mph with gusts around 45 mph.

* IMPACTS…Gusty winds will blow around unsecured objects. Tree
limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A Wind Advisory means that winds of 45 to 55 mph are expected.
Winds this strong can make driving difficult…especially for
high profile vehicles.

When combined with today’s temperatures in the 30s, the winds are going to make bundling up important.

by Dave Emke — February 9, 2017 at 11:30 am 72 Comments

Reston Town Center Red Garage

(Updated at 12:40 p.m. to correct title of Kathy Walsh. She is marketing director of the Fallston Group, not of Boston Properties.)

Following Monday’s meeting of Reston Town Center merchants discussing their concerns with Town Center owner Boston Properties’ handling of paid parking, Reston Now reached out to Boston Properties with some questions.

Printed below is the full text of the responses received from Kathy Walsh, marketing director of the Fallston Group and a spokesperson for Boston Properties.

Q: Has Boston Properties met/spoken with any of the merchants since paid parking began? Are there any plans in the near future to do so?
A: Yes. Boston Properties team members remain in routine, personal contact with merchants, particularly around the paid parking model and its roll-out. The ongoing communication occurs at differing levels within each organization, from business owners to management.

Q: Does BP have any response to the claims sales went down 10-50 percent in January?
A: Although Boston Properties generally doesn’t receive January revenue data until February or March of the same year, they have specifically reached out to retailers to more quickly analyze January 2016 to January 2017 revenue data. Upon close analysis, it is clear that some of the most vocal retailers who have publicly claimed year-over-year sales are down due to paid parking are actually experiencing sales increases for that time period. It is important to emphasize this is a 30-day snapshot and not a longer-term trend, and this reflects a small sampling of retailers. Boston Properties will continue to closely analyze all revenue activity.

Q: Has there been any discussion internally at BP about what this change has done to the business climate at RTC?
A: While Boston Properties fully expects to see some change upon the onset of paid parking, our data reflects far less impact than what is being reported publicly by certain merchants. For instance, when analyzing parking occupancy in garages Monday through Friday from 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., there were 68,000 visits in January, compared to 72,000 in November, which is naturally higher as the holiday shopping season kicks off. We believe this is a normal seasonal decrease. Interestingly, data shows that, on average, those visitors stayed longer in January – 4.59 hours – as compared to November (4.5) and December (4.25).

Q: A business owner at [Monday]’s meeting claimed she signed a new lease last year and BP’s plan to switch to paid parking was not disclosed. Was the intention to implement paid parking disclosed to all incoming/renewing businesses?
A: Without exception, there is language about paid parking built into every lease, so any renewing or new tenants should have been fully aware of the possibility.

Q: Is BP confident about maintaining paid parking as is?
A: While Boston Properties is confident paid parking is here to stay, the paid parking model has only been activated for five weeks. As Boston Properties continues to monitor impact and feedback, Boston Properties will assess if modifications to the system and process are necessary.

Walsh also said paid parking has not been the explicit reason for any retailers leaving Reston Town Center since its implementation.

“Every tenant who has left either already planned to leave Reston Town Center and was in the process of negotiating their departure or closed their doors for other business reasons.”

Walsh said 13 retailers renewed leases in the Town Center in 2016. Already in 2017, she said, two have renewed and four new retail leases are in progress.

The spokesperson also stressed that Boston Properties has determined that many owners of Reston Town Center establishments have “a very high degree of concern” about what people representing their businesses are saying publicly:

“Through Boston Properties’ efforts to engage retailers, they have determined that many of the most vocal people allegedly representing Reston Town Center retailers are employees rather than owners of those establishments. Boston Properties has had numerous discussions with owners and senior managers who have indicated they do not share their employees’ views or approve of their behavior in response to paid parking. In fact, Boston Properties has received numerous calls from retailers who expressed a very high degree of concern about the public posture of a few. Candidly, they want no part of those who are attempting to dissuade customers from coming to Reston Town Center.”

In regard to the ParkRTC app, Walsh said the number of phone calls and emails regarding questions about the app have “dropped significantly,” though she says Boston Properties understands some people continue to experience frustration.

“Boston Properties is continuing to work to implement changes to make it even more user-friendly. Many people are successfully using the app, with 78% of daily parkers paying via the app. There have also been 75,000 downloads of the app to date, with an average of 1,000 new downloads per day.”

While a number of people have expressed fears about the security of the app, Walsh said those worries are unfounded:

“The ParkRTC app is supported by Passport, the largest provider of mobile payment software for parking in North America. Both Passport Inc. and Reston Town Center take the important responsibility to protect credit card information very seriously. Passport conducts regular audits of its information security systems to ensure there are no vulnerabilities — data security is core to their business. In fact, Passport employs a two factor authentication (2FA) process that requires first-time users to verify their identity by entering a text authorization sent to verify device ownership in addition to a pin number. Passport also holds compliance with PCI DSS Level 1 certification, the most stringent data security framework administered by the PCI Security Standards Council. Passport will never sell or distribute ParkRTC user information to third parties.”

Walsh said Boston Properties has implemented, or plans to implement, a number of system improvements in response to customer feedback, including:

  • Doubled the number of parking ambassadors, primarily at night for retail shoppers
  • Added educational signage
  • Added a list of validating retailers to the app
  • Updated the FAQs on the website
  • Coming in March, look for an upgraded credit card pay station with a screen three times the size of the current screen and that provides better functionality in extreme weather

Walsh said a task force is working to ensure the future of Reston Town Center is bright.

“Boston Properties has assembled a task force consisting of development, leasing, marketing and property management personnel representing residential, commercial and office properties who are meeting with national consultants to develop and implement a strategy designed to ensure Reston Town Center remains an upscale destination and draw for those looking to live, work, shop and play.”

Aaron Mervis, who manages Big Bowl restaurant and is one of the organizers of the merchants’ group opposing the current paid parking system, issued this statement to Reston Now in response:

“It is important that Boston Properties understands that the Tenants’ goal is to improve the situation in the Reston Town Center and protect their businesses, which will also benefit Boston Properties. Tenants have expressed a large list of concerns directly related to the paid parking, including decreased sales and a significant rise in customer complaints about both the complexity of the system and the cost.”

“Boston Properties’ desire to wait while continuing to analyze the effects on business in the hope the uproar will recede will only make it more difficult to convince disenchanted customers who have changed their eating and buying habits to return. They have many options.”

“While owners and managers of establishments are upset, we also encourage management from Boston Properties to speak directly with the employees of the various stores in the town center for their thoughts on the impact of paid parking. Many of these employees receive tips or commission. As business has slumped, hours have been reduced and they are earning less in commissions and tips.”

by Del. Ken Plum — February 9, 2017 at 10:15 am 9 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photo

Most people can remember the flowchart from high school civics class that graphically showed how a bill becomes a law.

According to the chart, a legislator gets an idea for a bill that is drafted, introduced into one house of the Legislature where it is heard by a committee, sent to the floor for a vote if approved, and sent on to the other house for the same routine. Generally, that is what happens in the best of circumstances, but reality is much more complicated.

I can best make my point about what really happens in too many cases by reviewing the erratic course of a couple of bills in this session of the Virginia General Assembly that will not become law.

There is an increasing realization that many legislatures — including the General Assembly in Virginia — are not as responsive to public opinion as would be expected from democratically elected bodies, because of the way that legislative boundaries are drawn. An intense campaign by an organization named OneVirginia2021 has made many people aware that under the current system of having the Legislature drawing its own district boundaries, legislators are picking their voters rather than voters picking their representatives.

By comparing voting histories with census numbers, district boundaries can be drawn that are safe for incumbent legislators. The likelihood of incumbents being defeated is so slight that they go unchallenged. I have been working on this issue throughout my political career and once again introduced legislation to establish an independent legislative redistricting commission. My bill was sent to the Privileges and Elections Committee, where it was assigned to a subcommittee. The subcommittee allowed me and others with similar bills to make presentations with comments from the public.

A survey of my district indicates that about 80 percent of my constituents support a nonpartisan approach to drawing district lines. Other legislators introduced bills to accomplish the same result. My bill and all the others were swept together in one motion and defeated by a vote of four to one. On this important issue, four legislators made the decision for the entire 140 members of the General Assembly.

This is not an unusual situation. My bill that would have required universal background checks for gun purchases had the support of the governor and 90 percent of my constituents. It was sent to the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee and then to a subcommittee of five legislators, four of whom have an A+ rating by the National Rifle Association. There was little surprise when my bill and all the other common-sense gun safety measures were defeated by a vote of four to one.

Under the Rules of the House, the Speaker of the House makes all committee assignments. Rather than a balance of points of views, the committee membership is stacked to reflect his position of the majority party. The Speaker also decides which committee will consider which bills. The rigged committee membership makes it easy to explain how a bill does not become a law in Virginia.

by Dave Emke — February 9, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Plaza America -- Feb. 7, 2017

Snow Forecast Disappoints — Snow that was predicted to fall overnight didn’t amount to much of anything in Fairfax County, but it will remain windy and cold today. Warmth is expected to return soon, with 60s or even low 70s possible again Sunday. [Capital Weather Gang]

Three Divas Readying for Upcoming Show — Reston’s three divas (Beverly Cosham, Menda Ahart and Felicia Kessel-Crawley) will perform Friday, Feb. 17 at Reston Community Center, Lake Anne. Though the concert is free, seating is limited and reservations are encouraged. [Reston Museum]

Notable Death: Ralph Edward Groening — Groening, a longtime Reston resident, died earlier this week at the age of 97. Groening was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, and worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for several decades. [Reston Patch]

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