by RestonNow.com March 1, 2018 at 3:00 pm 16 Comments

Voting in the 2018 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 5 through April 2. This week, we will continue posting profiles on each of the candidates. This is the last of those profiles.

Featured here is Ven Iyer, who is facing six other candidates for two at-large seats for a three-year term. The profiles are in a Q-and-A format. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. 

How long have you lived in Reston? What brought you here?

I have enjoyed living in Reston near Lake Anne for nine years. I was born and raised in Mumbai in a middle class family. After completing my bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering, I came to the United States to earn a Masters Degree in Computer Science. After graduation, I proceeded to take a job at IBM, which allowed me to live anywhere in the country and travel across the United States to customers. Eleven years ago, I was living in Florida, and planning to start my own technology company. I was searching for a place to call home, with plenty of open space and outdoor activities. I happened upon Reston, which was featured as one of the top places to live in America. I flew into Dulles to explore the area, and I was captivated by what Reston had to offer. After renting in Ashburn for a couple years, I bought my first home near Lake Anne in May 2009. I also went on to start my technology company. We are a small and minority-owned business, and our customers are Local, State, and Federal Government agencies. Thus, Reston has been instrumental in my personal and professional life.

What inspired you to run for the board? 

I want to stop the wasteful spending on projects Members clearly have expressed they don’t want. For example, the Board pushed for the Hook Road rec-area full-facility rebuild with a mere budget of $122,000. They proposed regulation soccer, baseball, lacrosse fields with lights, bleachers, pavilions; butterfly park, dog park, skateboard park and sculpture garden as “enhancements”, which Members found are invasive on neighbors and nature. This also shows that the Board is disconnected from the expectations of grass roots Members and there is influence from special interest groups. In another example, the Board insists that StoneTurn’s $45,000 business process review of the Tetra fiasco is forensic analysis. Members find that it is a 30-page report of process and policy philosophies devoid of individual culpability, law-breaking and conflicts of interest, also found in an HOA manual available at the Reston library or for $16.95 on amazon. Other examples are the $100k RA website with terrible user experience, glossy magazine with outrageous costs. I want to demand Board transparency. I want to stop the rapidly rising assessment bills – although RA brags that the 2018 assessments are lower, it is because new Members brought additional revenue and not because RA cut costs.

What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?

The biggest concerns for the Reston community are from wasteful spending and lack of transparency posed by RA, and threat of increased development posed by developers, Fairfax County and others set to benefit from it. Any zoning changes must be accompanied by planned growth and concomitant infrastructure without threat to Reston’s open and green space. Although RA may be viewed as a mere HOA with no enforceable ordinance by those who will benefit by increased growth, we must remind them that we are recognized as a hybrid government in many levels including courts. Also, the most common way people lose power is by thinking that they don’t have any. With about 22,000 households, our Members are our biggest asset in making our voice heard against zoning changes, and RA is in the frontline. We must, however, champion Member participation further in meetings, gatherings, protests and marches and increase our campaigning and lobbying efforts. Although we see hundreds of Members participate, it is a small fraction of the booming roar we can generate, and activist groups need further support. We also need DRB and Covenants to focus resources on deterring increased development over policing obsolete and burdensome design Rules on residents.

What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?

The RA Board is a highly cohesive group where its desire for consensus and agreement overrides critical thinking and correct judgment. Dissenting opinions are ignored or discouraged by the Board, and Member input is restricted in the interests of reaching a unanimous decision. Meeting minutes for this Board seem to show that there has been only one failed motion versus over a 120 of them passed unanimously. The voting majority and groupthink mode is evident when the Board unanimously voted to use $2.42 million of Members’ reserve money to pay off the Lake House loan. This was a rushed and self-serving decision by the Board in an effort to reduce the 2018 assessments by a mere $8.66, without due diligence, just weeks before its Directors are now running for re-election. They will spend a year’s time and $50,000 of the $122,000 budget to study the Hook Road rec-area but no careful analysis to support a $2.42 million decision? I want to avoid costly mistakes from groupthink, establish effective audits, Member inclusion and better two-way communications to improve transparency. I will remind RA that they operate with their Members’ money and trust, and the Board must always be cognizant of that.

How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?

I am grateful to this country; it has facilitated everything I’ve achieved, and that makes me want to give back even more. I have actively participated in prevention of St. Johns Wood high-rises, unwarranted Hook Road full-facility rebuild, replacing natural Lake Newport soccer fields with artificial turf, Fairfax County zoning changes that would eliminate our golf course open spaces, paid parking at Reston Town Center, and the Density Cap Increase. I have been involved in community service with Fairfax County organizations. At HART, I drove a van of rescue animals for adoption events, fostered rescue dogs and house checked potential adopters. At FACETS, I assisted parents and children affected by poverty and mentored students towards well-paying careers in technology. I am running for the RA Board, At-Large Seat because I believe my positions on key issues will benefit the entire Reston community. You can learn more at veniyer.com or facebook.com/voteforven. Finally, during my campaign, I have met some terrific Restonians with excellent insight into the issues and solutions, and many who are eager to help. I am certain that I can do my job better with their involvement and hope that the community will participate in making my service successful.

Click here to view video statements or read candidate statements submitted to RA. 

Photo by Reston Association

by RestonNow.com March 1, 2018 at 2:45 pm 3 Comments

Voting in the 2018 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 5 through April 2. This week, we will continue posting profiles on each of the candidates.

Featured here is Travis Johnson, who is facing six other candidates for two at-large seats for a three-year term. The profiles are in a Q-and-A format. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. 

How long have you lived in Reston? What brought you here?

My family has been part of the Reston Association for just under four years.  We’ve had a Reston address for longer than that, though, as, prior to this, we lived in Deepwood for about four years.

What inspired you to run for the board? 

I love my home and my community, and I want to serve them as best I can.  I moved here because I want this place, with its historic beautiful open spaces, its diverse and friendly population, and its safe and sustainable lifestyle, to be a place my two daughters will always be happy to call home.  I want to preserve those elements for my daughters and their children. I see serving on the Board as a vehicle for doing that, not just for my family, but for the community at large.

What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?

  • Mismanagement. I’m sorry to say that I think the Reston Association has, until the relatively recent past, with the Board new majority, been poor stewards of our Association’s resources. We purchased Tetra in 2015 at close to twice its market value without a real plan for its use. We’ve seen project cost overruns that careful oversight and having the necessary controls in place could have prevented.
  • “Cash Cow” vs a Community. Fairfax County government doesn’t think of Reston as the thriving community filled with people who live and work according to a sense of shared values like you and I do. Fairfax County sees Reston as a pot from which they can draw resources to pay for activities in the rest of the County. It’s why they want to increase our population density. Not because it will help our community in any way. It’s wrong.
  • Losing the family feeling. One thing I’ve heard from long-time residents of Reston is how the community felt like a big family. I know my family feels that when we go to festivals in and around town or when the kids are playing soccer or participating in local theater.  But, it doesn’t feel like that for all of us. Large segments of our community have grown detached from one another. We don’t know our neighbors anymore. We don’t look out for each other. In the not too distant past, Board members would shout and yell and insult each other. This atmosphere contributed to all sorts of problems. We need to bring back the community feeling in Reston.

What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?

  • I hope to bring oversight and prudent management to the Association. Before any project is considered for approval, we need to see a plan that includes a detailed mission statement, frequent milestones during which the Association staff can report progress back to the Board, so the Board can subsequently report back to the membership. I will request community impact assessments for any large-scale project to ensure member needs are met. I will help the Board avoid the mistakes past and pay attention to Members’ needs.  And I will work hard to help the Board make the best possible decisions using the best possible information.
  • I will work with other members of the Board and other members of the community to make our community’s voice heard to the County government and, if necessary, to the Commonwealth government. Specifically, I will encourage the Board to work closely with other Reston-based community groups to firmly assert that we do not want the population cap increase forced on us. We will say it as often as we need to and to as many people as we need in the hopes that we can make that point.
  • I will work with the Board of Directors to engage Reston in activities that will bring us closer together and make our community safer. I’ll work with the clusters to encourage more year-round activities so neighbors have more opportunities to get to know each other. We’ll also work to step up our Neighborhood Watch programs which will enable our neighbors to look out for each other ‘s safety.  We’ll work with community organizations to utilize more of our empty spaces like the parking lot at Hunter’s Woods or the soon-to-be redeveloped spaces at Tall Oaks for year-round community activities.  I will encourage the Board to reach out to community groups throughout Reston so our currently underserved members can be included.

I will also act as an example of the kind of behavior I want to foster. I will not engage in the inappropriate behavior I’ve seen some Board Members exhibit in earlier years. I will attempt to build strong working relationships with my colleagues and act as an intermediary between them. We are adults who care about our community and we should act that way.

How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?

I have over almost two decades of experience in project management. I know how to make projects work on time and within their budgets. I have served on my condominium board and served as the Neighborhood Watch coordinator in Deepwood. I work to finance and coordinate social justice activities at my church.  Bringing diverse populations together in the interest of safety and community is my passion. I will bring this experience and this energy to my tenure on the Board of Directors.

Click here to view video statements or read candidate statements submitted to RA. 

Photo by Reston Association

by RestonNow.com March 1, 2018 at 2:30 pm 31 Comments

Voting in the 2018 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 5 through April 2. This week, we will continue posting profiles on each of the candidates.

Featured here is Sridhar Ganesan, who is facing six other candidates for two at-large seats for a three-year term. The profiles are in a Q-and-A format. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. 

How long have you lived in Reston? What brought you here?

I have lived in Reston for over 19 years. After an international finance and business degree from Columbia University, I was working out of New Jersey for Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, when I traveled to Reston in 1997 for a conference.  My wife and I found this small new town to be charming.  After numerous trips to Reston over a year, we relocated here in 1998.

What brought me here was work, but what made me choose Reston from all of the neighboring towns was a combination of things:

The small town feel, lakes, open space, walkability, very little density, proximity to an airport and, believe it or not, I liked Reston for TRAFFIC.  Yes, even with fewer lanes on Reston Parkway and a very incomplete Fairfax County Parkway that did not run all along Reston, traffic flow was just fine then.

Reston seemed like a great place to drop down roots, chase my version of the American dream and raise a family. I am exactly where I want to be.

What inspired you to run for the board?

Seven years ago, I decided to leverage my varied and global experience for public service in civic issues and Education. I served on the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) budget taskforce in 2015 that identified potential cuts of up to $100 million to deal with expected funding shortfalls.

In 2012, I joined the Reston Citizens Association (RCA) board and served as its President from 2014 to 2017.  During that time, we opposed higher Planned Residential Community (PRC) density; the opening up of Reston National Golf Course for development; Town Center paid parking; and any re-development that would force low-income seniors out of Lake Anne Fellowship House.

Given its central role, we also focused on Reston Association (RA) and its serious missteps on the acquisition and renovation of the Tetra/Lakehouse property.  These experiences led me to the conclusion that the best place to reform RA was from within.

I now serve as Treasurer of Reston Association (RA) and am an At-Large Director.  With strong support from the current RA Board, I led the establishment of many operational reforms at RA, since my appointment in June 2017.   I want to finish what I started at RA, so I am running for a new 3-year At-Large Term to reinforce the reforms to make RA work better for its members.

What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?

Density:  The issue of greatest importance to Reston is the County proposed increase in density from 13 to 16 persons per acre in Reston’s PRC district.  Combined with the growth in the Transit Station Areas (TSA), an increase in the PRC population from the zoned limit of about 74,000 to 100,000 seriously threatens the future of Reston we know today. Property developers recently expressed concerns about softness in the Reston market, so where is the demand and why the rush? Reston’s current transportation and other infrastructure cannot support such growth.  The public response has been a loud “NO” to higher density. RA’s role should be collaborative with its members and other community organizations to shape Reston’s destiny.

RA Operations, Processes, Controls:  A second major issue is completion of the restructuring of RA operations started by the current Board majority and assuring that these changes become ingrained in RA. There were some serious problems that the Tetra/Lake House property acquisition, renovation and planning showed.  They include:

  • The process of decision-making, the high purchase price, the questionable appraisal, the lack of negotiation, and inadequacy of the referendum materials.
  • The lack of controls, which led to serious cost overruns.
    Poor use planning for the property without fiscal responsibility or careful analysis.
  • Many improvements have been made during 2017, but continued focus on corrective action is necessary to make RA prudent, cost-effective and responsive to members.

What should RA be? Third concern is to work with sports groups, members, clusters and other groups to do some soul-searching on RA’s strategic vision.  Many RA assets are aging.  Replacing/updating them will cost more than the Reserve Study estimates.  Bumper sticker slogans such as “Wasteful Spending” are easy, but even hard work can only yield so much cost reduction without crippling services and RA operations, so that is not the answer to everything.  RA cannot be all things to all people, so it is time for an honest discussion about what RA should be and what it should deliver to its members.

What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?

I want to continue the reforms instituted by the current Board and continue the positive change. I am leading the establishment and implementation of internal controls, oversight of policies and procedures to avoid a Tetra/Lake House repeat. I want to achieve the following for more effective functioning of RA for the benefit of members:

  • Complete a comprehensive analysis of recreational facilities (pools, ball-fields, tennis courts) to inform the public about usage/demand and member benefit, supply, revenues, expenses and cost to update or replace.
  • Comprehensive analysis and update of the Reserve Study for maintaining, replacing and updating aging RA assets.
  • Reinforce rigor in planning new investments, improvements to amenities, validate cost estimates, purchasing/contracting procedures, and ensure major projects and programs are implemented on schedule and within budget.
  • Make RA a leader in voicing/advocating for the community’s needs on issues like PRC Density and work in collaboration with members and community organizations.
  • Establish a process and system to seek out quantifiable member feedback on major issues and policies.
  • Continue to drive more transparency through open meetings, public reporting and disclosure, and to strengthen Board oversight of on-going operations.
  • Establish a routine process for review of RA rules and regulations for flexibility and materiality.

How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?

I bring 20+ years of operational, financial and executive leadership experience, including as Chief Financial Officer of a publicly traded company that I steered to a NASDAQ initial public offering.

My experience spans media, satellites, telecommunications, technology and education in the US and international markets.

I am an entrepreneur who has started-up several new ventures around the world and an executive who has helped restructure companies and businesses. My nature is to roll up my sleeves, dive into details, fix issues and get things done.

I have dedicated several hundred hours to digging into RA and it’s restructuring during my eight months as a very hands-on Treasurer and Director. I have demonstrated the vision, skillsets and passion necessary for public service. Some of the accomplishments are:

  • Achieved reduction in assessments; 1st time ever in RA’s history.
  • Shaped budget, led in-depth budget sessions, provided more public input opportunities than before.
  • Moved RA towards rigorous, analytical approach for programs and capital projects.
  • Driving the establishment of solid decision-making processes, internal controls, policies and procedures to avoid a repeat of Tetra/Lake House disaster.
  • Providing strong, diligent review of the adequacy of contracts and their performance.
  • Reconstituted, reformulated fiscal committee for greater engagement and Board support.

I believe that my background, commitment to public service, time and effort I have put into RA and the results achieved will help me as a board member over the next years.

Click here to view video statements or read candidate statements submitted to RA. 

Photo by Reston Association

by Fatimah Waseem March 1, 2018 at 2:00 pm 0

A high wind warning will be in effect from midnight on Friday through 6 a.m. on Saturday.

Widespread power outages and downed trees are expected as winds of 25 to 50 miles per hour course through the area.

Wind gusts of 60 to 70 miles per hour are also possible, according to the National Weather Service.

Fairfax County Government also offered the following tips:

  • Before sunset tonight, secure outdoor items like trash cans, lawn furniture and other objects. Trim tree branches away from your home.
  • Be prepared for possinble power outages. Keep digital devices charged and plan to use flashlights.
  • Report power outages to your provider. Dominion Energy’s line is 1-866-366-4357.
  • Contact the appropriate entity to report downed trees and wires. A complete list is available here.

To contact Reston Association to reported downed trees on RA property, call 703-437-7648.


by Anna Merod March 1, 2018 at 1:30 pm 1 Comment

This March nine Reston schools will showcase art from students at the Reston Community Center Lake Anne and Hunters Woods locations.

The exhibits are a part of Youth Art Month, a national observance organized by the Council for Art Education, which has been celebrated since 1961.

Works by students from Aldrin, Armstrong, Dogwood, Forest Edge, Hunters Woods, Lake Anne, Terraset and Sunrise Valley Elementary Schools will be showcased at RCC Lake Anne from March 3 to April 2 in the Jo Ann Rose Gallery and 3D Gallery. A reception will be held March 11 from 2-4 p.m.

Works from Langston Hughes Middle School will also be on display at RCC Hunter Woods from March 1-31.

The mediums used by students in kindergarten through eighth grade include watercolor, chalk and oil pastels.

“This is my absolute favorite time in our exhibition schedule,” wrote RCC Arts Education Director Cheri Danaher in a press release. “We are able to celebrate the work of our students and the importance of art education in our schools and community at large.”

Photo by Reston Community Center

by Fatimah Waseem March 1, 2018 at 11:30 am 28 Comments

As Boston Properties announces a mix of new commercial tenants, the Reston Merchants Association continues to decry paid parking at Reston Town Center roughly eight months after ParkRTC scaled back its parking structure.

Seven businesses reported a downslide in revenue over the last year, losses that owners said were caused by paid parking.

Others worry that parking will drive out small businesses and cause RTC to lose its appeal and accelerate its transformation into a downtown similar to other town centers. Tenants also say customers often express gripes over paid parking.

Last June, Boston Properties, RTC’s owner, changed its paid parking structure, which originally charged for weekday parking, following major outcry from tenants and customers. Parking is free for one hour during the day and after 5 p.m. Street parking is $3 for one hour and $6 for two hours, with no charges on Sundays.

The narrative by merchants upset over paid parking stands in stark contrast to official statements from Boston Properties, which currently owns more than 4.6 million square feet in RTC. The company has successfully inked long-term leases with major tenants.

Although the company did not respond immediately to a request for comment, the company indicated RTC is a “top experiential” development in the country.

New commercial tenants have recently signed long-term leases with the company, including Balducci’s Food Lovers Market, &Pizza, Muse PaintBar and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls.

“We have listened to the community and are thrilled to announce a combination of new national, regional, and local retailers that will continue to enhance the shopping experience. Developing best in class retailers that strengthen Reston’s connection to the Town Center is our priority,” wrote Stephanie Friedman, director of leasing at Boston Properties, in a statement announced new developments in RTC.

Aaron Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery, said that despite changes to the structure, requiring customers to pay for parking was the “worst decision” made by RTC. He reported a 37 percent drop in income over the last two quarters of last year, as compared to 2016.

“What took decades to make us the true center of Reston has been undone by one shortsighted, money-grabbing decision. Reston Town Center is more a ghost town than town center,” Gordon said.

Ray Pugsley, owner of Potomac River Running, said business between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. is “terrible.”

“Even when doctors refer people to use, they tell us that their patients refuse to patronize Reston Town Center,” he said.

In the statement, other businesses reported the following:

  • Big Bowl reported a 15 percent drop in sales compared to 2016. A major portion of the drop happened during lunch hours, when parking is not free.
  • Ben and Jerry’s estimated a 10 percent decrease in sales.
  • Pitango reports an 11 percent drop in sales last year, as compared to 2016.
  • Edibles Incredible Desserts reported $135,000 in losses last year compared to the previous year.
  • PR Partners says its new quest business is down an average of between 25 and 30 percent “as a result of paid parking.”

File photo.

by Del. Ken Plum March 1, 2018 at 10:15 am 5 Comments

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Last week Democrats in the House of Delegates were able largely to sit on the sidelines as Republicans debated among themselves whether Virginia should expand access to medical care through the federal Medicaid program. Arguments that had been used by Democrats to support Medicaid in the past were now being used by Republicans to support their newly found support for expansion.

The news is good since Medicaid expansion could only come about with bipartisan support. When the final vote was taken on the issue, only 31 Republicans voted “nay” and all Democrats voting “aye” with 20 Republicans making the total for passage 69 votes. There was a sense of relief as a goal for which we had been working for more than a half dozen years moved closer to realization.

The news was not so good on the other side of the Capitol. The Senate passed a budget that did not include further Medicaid expansion. While there was an effort to amend the Senate bill to include the expansion of access to health care, it failed along a straight party line vote. Final passage of a budget for the next two years requires that the bills passed in each house be identical. A conference committee made up of House and Senate members must resolve the largest imbalance in the budget that I have ever seen before its final adoption.

If I had predicted before the session where we would be at this point I would have said that the Senate would have passed a version of Medicaid expansion but the Republicans in the House were maintaining their opposition. At least that’s what the public pronouncements and the rumor mill suggested.

How could we have been so wrong? I believe that the predictions on the outcome of the session left out one very important consideration: the results of the 2016 elections. The House’s 66 to 34 Republican control was diminished to a close margin of 51 to 49. For weeks it appeared that Democrats might take control. Among the losses were senior members and committee chairs who were opponents of Medicaid expansion and were expected to win re-election easily. The Speaker who opposed expansion retired.

The voters in 2016 sent a clear message that they supported Medicaid expansion. For most it simply did not make sense to leave more than ten billion federal dollars on the table when there were so many people without access to health care. Many more people went to the polls than usual to send the message to legislators. Whether it was public opinion polling or common sense that showed the Republican majority they were in trouble and needed to change the stance on issues, the public speaking through the ballot box brought about this very important change for Virginia.

How to explain the Senate vote? Senators with four-year terms have not been before the voters since 2014. They have not had a recent message from the electorate and could be in for a big surprise if they do not re-evaluate their positions. The real heroes in all this are the Indivisibles and other groups that mobilized voters in 2016 to elect responsive candidates. These new members are bringing balance to public policy as well as to the budget.

by Fatimah Waseem March 1, 2018 at 9:00 am 0

Welcome to the club — Reston Association added two new residential developments into the association. That’s a total of 98 units located at The Lofts at Reston Station and Valley & Park. [Reston Association]

An ode to Thomas Jefferson — Keep an eye out. Founding Farmers at Reston Station will open some time in early April. [Washingtonian]

Wind Warning in effect through 7 p.m. — The National Weather Service has issued a wind warning for Fairfax County. [National Weather Service]

Don’t forget: Reston Association assessments are due today — RA will have extended hours through today so members can make their final assessment payments. [Reston Association]

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

by Fatimah Waseem March 1, 2018 at 7:15 am 11 Comments

Boston Properties has secured another win after inking a deal with Leidos Holdings, Inc earlier this year.

Fannie Mae will lease 850,000 square feet in the future Reston Gateway, a 27-acre project that could include up to 3.5 million square feet of transit-oriented development, according to release by Boston Properties.

The financial services company had been scouting for space as it moves to consolidate its services and secure a new hub. Comstock Partners’ Reston Station was one project Fannie Mae was considering.

The company already leases space at several local sites, including a 185,000 square foot lease at One Reston Crescent that was signed in 2015.

Boston Properties touted the binding lease commitment, which validates “Reston Town Center’s unique position as a top experiential development” in the country, the statement read.

Fannie Mae will move into the new space as the anchor tenant in 2020. Reston Gateway could include up to 150,000 square feet of retail and a hotel and more than 1 million square feet in residential.

Rendering via Boston Properties


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