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by RestonNow.com December 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm 37 Comments

This is an op/ed submitted by Dennis Hays, president of the Reston Citizens Association. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

Good governance requires a bond of trust between citizens and their elected and appointed officials.  This trust can best – in fact only – be achieved and maintained when citizens are confident officials have the community’s best interests at heart and all proposals and plans affecting the community are fully presented and discussed.

County officials are currently proposing to amend zoning ordinances to allow significantly more population density in Reston.  They make their case by stating such amendments are required to fulfill the vision of the Reston Master Plan.   More specifically, the Plan is the only justification given for proposals to add tens of thousands of new housing units without providing the basic infrastructure needed to support such growth. 

So, is the Plan by itself enough to satisfy the need for transparency and to engender trust?

County officials will tell you the Plan was developed by the “community” through an exhaustive series of meetings held over six years.  Sounds good, but the reality is something very different.  First, membership in the working group was heavily weighted toward developers and their attorneys.  Second, and equally troubling, the Plan has been amended after it was theoretically finalized, without community input.  The following is one example why this should be of concern to everyone who lives, works or plays in Reston.

In mid-2015, after community involvement had concluded, an unmarked line representing a new road mysteriously appeared on revised maps associated with the Master Plan (Staff Report, Appendix B page 60).  This new road would connect Isaac Newton Square and American Dream Way.  The stated purpose is to “construct or improve {a} local or collector street.”  What it actually does is cut through the full length of the fourth fairway and across the approach to the third green of the Hidden Creek Golf Course, thus destroying the integrity of Hidden Creek.   As several observers have pointed out – there is no such thing as a 16 hole golf course.

The placement of this road directly violates the letter and spirit of sections of the Comprehensive Plan rarely mentioned by County officials – the sections  which call for this area to perpetually be “open space, designated as a golf course.”   And open space and recreational areas – along with roads, bridges, schools and public safety – are among the issues ignored or shortchanged in the density proposals. 

So, where did this road come from?  No one knows–or will admit to knowing.  The Reston Association wrote to the County last January opposing this road and asking for an explanation of how it appeared.  Eleven months later they continue to wait for a response.

Perhaps this was a mistake, quickly corrected?  No, the road remains in the current edition of the Comprehensive Plan –  no longer in an appendix, but now promoted to the main body of the report (page 137).

Does the addition of this road have anything to do with the recent sale of Hidden Creek to a development company? One can only speculate. 

The County/citizen relationship is important enough to give the benefit of doubt as to how we got to this point.  But this can’t be ignored any longer.  County officials need to explain why this road appeared out of nowhere and why the County has refused to provide information on it, despite repeated requests.  Although it is late, it isn’t too late for the County to respond.  But there are only two possible explanations and courses of action:

First, the County acknowledges this was a mistake, perhaps just an overeager subordinate acting without proper review or authorization.  If so, the road needs to be immediately removed from the Plan.  Second, this was not a mistake and the County does want this road built and open space bulldozed.  In that case, the County needs to take ownership of the proposal and try to justify the multiple violations of its own rules and planning guidelines.

It’s a matter of trust.

by Fatimah Waseem December 4, 2017 at 2:45 pm 21 Comments

Behind the counter of Chef on Wheelsa food truck that serves up authentic Mexican burritos, tacos and bowls, stands the chef, Basir Ahadi, an immigrant from Afghanistan. The Reston resident’s love for Mexican food pushed him to operate a food truck business in 2011.

Last week, Ahadi marked another milestone in his culinary journey by opening his first brick-and-mortar restaurant, shifting his food truck business from the streets of Reston to the former site of Sweet Heat BBQ on 1810 Michael Faraday Drive.

The new restaurant, which will offer dine-in options for dinner beginning today, allows Ahadi to bring families together over dinner for authentic Mexican food made from local produce, he said.

“The main reason that I opened the brick and mortar was for people to bring their families for dinner. We were only serving lunch and we didn’t have a location. This is our way of becoming a very permanent part of the community,” Ahadi, who graduated from South Lakes High School, said. He has lived in Reston for 26 years.

As he shifts his business, Ahadi plans to operate only one food truck on Reston’s streets. He hopes to have a big party at a grand ceremony in the spring of next year to celebrate the restaurant’s opening.

The restaurant serves gourmet chicken, steak, ground beef, fish and veggie tacos, burritos and burrito bowls. It will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. this week. Delivery services will be offered soon.

by RestonNow.com Sponsor December 4, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Plaza America that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

Can an employer in Virginia require an applicant or employee to submit to a polygraph examination in order to make a hiring or retention decision?

Although employers in the private sector are permitted to use polygraph examinations on their applicants or employees, employers must adhere to strict rules. These include providing “the right to a written notice before testing, the right to refuse or discontinue a test, and the right not to have test results disclosed to unauthorized persons.” In addition, there are federal and state restrictions on polygraph usage.

Employee Polygraph Protection Act

On the federal level, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (29 U.S.C.§ 2001- 2009) provides for strict limits on the use of polygraphs in the workplace for applicants and employees. The EPPA bars most types of employers in Virginia (and other states) from requiring or even suggesting that a current employee or job applicant submit to a polygraph examination. The EPPA also prohibits employers from utilizing the results of any polygraph examination.

However, the EPPA does not apply to Virginia employees who work for federal, state and local governments. Polygraph examinations can often be part of the legal processing of a federal security clearance. The EPPA also does not apply to private sector employees engaged in security-related employment (e.g., security guard, armored car services). The EPPA permits polygraph testing, subject to restriction, of certain types of employees who are reasonably suspected of involvement in workplace theft or embezzlement that resulted in an economic loss to the employer. The Department of Labor has provided a good summary of the law under the EPPA act.

If an employer is found liable by a court under the EPPA for not following the law regarding polygraph use, the employer can be held liable for penalties up to $10,000; lost wages and benefits; and attorney’s fees. There is also equitable relief where an employee can seek reinstatement or lost promotions as a result of the employer’s violation of the EPPA. Thus, employers need to be extremely careful when considering the use of polygraph examinations under the EPPA.

Virginia State Polygraph Protections

Virginia provides additional protections for employees who submit to polygraph examinations. One major restriction bars questions about an applicant’s prior sexual activities. The 1977 Virginia law, in Va. Code Ann.§ 40.1-51.4:3, prohibits the use of certain questions during polygraph tests for employment, as follows:

“No employer shall, as a condition of employment, require a prospective employee to answer questions in a polygraph test concerning the prospective employee’s sexual activities unless such sexual activity of the prospective employee has resulted in a conviction of a violation of the criminal laws of this Commonwealth.

Any written record of the results of a polygraph examination given to a prospective employee by an employer shall be destroyed or maintained on a confidential basis by the employer giving the examination and shall be open to inspection only upon agreement of the employee tested. Violation of this section shall constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.”

(more…)

by Fatimah Waseem December 4, 2017 at 11:30 am 5 Comments

Sabino Vasquez-Murcia, a 29-year-old Herndon resident, was killed on Saturday when a car struck a parked vehicle he was sitting in on Saturday night. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office identified him as the victim of the crash today.

The driver, Julio Rivera, 39-year-old Herndon resident, lost control of his car and hit the parked car and a townhouse on the 700 block of Colonial Avenue in Sterling, the sheriff’s office said. The crash happened around 10:45 p.m.

Vasquez-Murcia was taken to Reston Hospital where he later passed away. The townhouse sustained minor damages and no one was injured inside, according to the report.

Rivera has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, DUI and driving on a suspended license. He is currently being held at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center on no bond, the sheriff’s office said.

File photo.

by Fatimah Waseem December 4, 2017 at 10:15 am 0

Retired NBA player Grant Hill visited South Lakes High School for his jersey retirement ceremony where he appreciated his Reston roots. The Washington Post published a recap of the ceremony this weekend.

Grant played four teams in his 19-year professional career as a basketball player in the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers. He was a seven-time NBA Allstar. As an eighth grader, Grant wore a tie to Langston Hughes Middle School in order to match the dress code of South Lakes High School’s basketball team, which had a dress code on game days.

According to the Post, Grant said:

“The last thing on my mind was the NBA or college, I just wanted to play here at South Lakes. That was what I wanted to do,” Hill said. “It was a different time . . . you spent your Friday nights watching high school sports and that was entertainment for a whole community, so I just wanted to play at South Lakes and that was pretty much it.”

No Seahawks basketball player with wear No. 32 again after the retirement ceremony. Local teachers and attendees told the Post the Grant’s presence brought closure to the community.

“Not only athletically but socially as a citizen of Reston, Grant brought a lot to the community with his overall demeanor in everything he does,” said Wendell Byrd, who stepped down as South Lakes coach in 2007. “Grant went away and continued to blossom and tonight he shared with the Reston area that ‘I’m still a Reston kid.’ ”

Junior point guard Cameron Savage told the Post that he felt like Grant opened up to the community in a cordial manner.

“For him to come back, it means the world for us,” Savage told the Post. “He had so much success, but he came back and treated us like we’ve known him for 30 years, he treated us like we were his best friends. Tonight was special.”

Photo via the Washington Post

by Fatimah Waseem December 4, 2017 at 9:00 am 2 Comments

Holiday Performances at Fountain Square on Wednesday –– Enjoy musical performances on Wednesday from noon to 2 p.m. at Foundation Square, including presentations by the Fairfax School Choir and the Drum and Fife Company. [Reston Town Center]

Swimmers from South Lakes High School Split Win with Langley High School — Varsity swim and dive teams from SLHS came out strong at their opening meet on Friday. The girls’ team won with 161-151 while the boys’ team lost 134-181. The team is scheduled to compete against Centreville High School on Dec. 8 at 8:30 a.m. [SLHS Swim and Dive]

Herndon Man Charged with Involuntary Slaughter in Sterling Crash — Julio Rivera, 39, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, DUI and driving on a suspended license on Friday after he hit a parked car and a townhouse on the 700 block of Colonial Avenue. A passenger in the car was taken to Reston Hospital, where he later died. [LoudounNow]

Reston Association Covenants Staff in Training — RA covenants staff will be in training today and for half-day on Tuesday. Staff will do their best to return all messages by the end of today.  [Reston Association]

Photo courtesy of SLHS Swim and Dive

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