After a spirited member-comment session, the Reston Association Board of Directors decided at their meeting Thursday to indefinitely table a proposal from Reston Soccer to renovate the Lake Newport soccer fields.
About a dozen members of three clusters adjacent to the fields — Bayfield Station, Arbor Glen and Concord Green — spoke before the board to express their concerns about the project. The issues at hand include the worries about lighting, artificial turf’s effect on the environment, and increased disruption to the community due to field use at later hours, year-round.
“Neighbors from the most affected clusters are united in our opposition to Reston Soccer’s proposal and are angered at the manner in which the Reston Association has mismanaged this project,” said Eric McErlain, Bayfield Station homeowners’ president and organizer of a community coalition called Preserve Newport Fields. “In our view, the proposal violates RA covenants concerning the conservation of green space, and we believe it amounts to a taking of a shared community resource for the private gain of Reston Soccer.”
Similar issues were brought up during a community meeting on the proposal earlier this month. After that meeting, Reston Soccer requested a Design Review Board session on the proposal that had been scheduled for Feb. 21 be postponed.
Residents expressing their concern about the proposal pointed to Reston Soccer’s ongoing fundraisers as proof that the project’s approval by the board was a foregone conclusion. Director Julie Bitzer (South Lakes District) said the proposal’s timeline remains in its early stages.
“To think the horse is out of the barn, and that we put the cart before the horse, is jumping to a conclusion,” she said. “We’re not there yet.”
In their decision to table the proposal, the board also directed CEO Cate Fulkerson to work in collaboration with the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee and other strategic partners to develop a five-year strategic plan describing future amenities and facilities to serve RA and its members.
A number of residents of the communities around the fields stated they did not feel they were properly alerted to proposal and to each stage of the process. The board voted to direct Fulkerson to work with the Community Engagement Advisory Committee to develop a member-notification process — similar to the 21-day notice requirement established for design review applications — to gather community input when considering major recreation amenity proposals.
“Our communication out to the community of some of the changes is not perfect,” Bitzer said. “We have a lot of work to do to make sure we get the message out… [and] we need to do better on that.”
At-Large Director Ray Wedell cast the lone opposition vote on the decision to table the proposal, saying he believes it should be scrapped altogether.
“We can push the can down the road and say, ‘Let’s look at it later on and analyze it further,’ [but] we have a lot of other things to look at,” he said. “I don’t see this ever happening; I think the objection from the people is too strong, too organized.”
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