Fairfax County Begins Moving Forward Proposed Reston Zoning Changes

Fairfax County is expected to move forward with proposed zoning changes for Reston that would increase the population density.

After 17 months of public engagement, the county’s Board of Supervisors is anticipated to authorize public hearings on the zoning changes for early next year at its Dec. 4 meeting, the county announced Monday (Nov. 19). The meeting will not be an opportunity for public input, the statement said.

The proposal would increase the maximum allowed population per acre in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) district — Reston’s primary zoning district — from 13 persons up to 15. The current density is roughly 12.46 people per acre.

“This 13-persons per acre limit has remained unchanged for several decades and does not accommodate the future residential growth anticipated in the Reston PRC near the future Silver Line Metrorail stations,” the statement said.

The proposal would also up the limit of 50 dwelling units per acre to 70 in the transit station areas planned for mixed-use development. This would mainly affect the Reston Town Center Transit Station Area, according to the statement.

County officials began small workgroup sessions hosted by the Coalition for a Planned Reston, a grassroots organization and Reston Association in July to discuss the controversial plan.

County planning officials have argued that the Reston PRC zoning change is needed to put into action Reston’s Master Plan, which allows for future growth over the next 40 years, especially around the Silver Line Metrorail stations.

Last September, Reston 20/20, Reclaim Reston and the Reston Citizens Association encouraged Restonians to fight the County’s proposal, which then had the bump on the people per acre in the PRC District from 13 to 16.

Coalition for a Planned Reston sent a letter Aug. 1 to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins to urge her to continue suspending further action on the zoning amendment while discussions were ongoing between the Reston community and Fairfax County staff.

Reston Association sent two letters last year to Hudgins. The first one expressed opposition to the amendment as currently proposed, and the second letter included a list of actions that should be undertaken before the amendment is considered any further by the county.

“Many believe that such increases would create an unsustainable burden on Reston’s infrastructure,” the Reston Association said in an April 11 statement. “Simply, we want to ensure adequate infrastructure to account for the increased growth, including, but not limited to, adequate schools, roads, parks, athletic fields, and natural areas, while protecting the Reston vision.”

Photo via Fairfax County 

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Indoor Cycling Studio Coming to Lake Anne Plaza

As winter sets in and the temperatures start to drop, if you’re looking for a place to keep up your cycling, New Trail Cycling Studio is opening next Monday (Nov. 26).

The indoor bicycling studio will be opening at 1641b Washington Plaza in Lake Anne Plaza. An official grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration is planned for Dec. 11.

In the meantime, owner Liz Camp said New Trail Cycling Studio will be running a week of free “preview” classes.

There’s two classes tonight (Monday) at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. More classes are planned on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. A full schedule is available online.

Prices vary by the number of classes, the cheapest being $22 for two classes for new riders. Unlimited monthly memberships are $165 per month for three months or $150 per month for six months.

All riders receive free shoe rental, towel and herbal washcloth post-workout.

Photo via Facebook

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Restonian Opera Singer to Perform at the Reston Community Center

A well-known mezzo-soprano, who resides in Reston, will take to the stage to perform a variety of songs.

Elizabeth Bishop, a long-time resident, will perform operatic songs and American folk standards, ranging from Gustav Mahler to Cole Porter.

She will be accompanied on the piano by Patrick O’Donnell, along with additional instrumental support from Salvatore Amadeo on the violin and Jihea Choi on the Cello, Paul Douglas Michnewicz, director of arts and events at Reston Community Center, told Reston Now.

“From Here to There” will take place at the Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road) at 7 p.m. on Dec. 16. Tickets are $15.

She has performed at The Metropolitan Opera and the Washington National Opera. In December, Bishop will travel to the Lyric Opera of Chicago for the role of Madame de la Haltière in “Cendrillon” — an opera adapted from Cinderella.

Bishop is part of the Reston Community Center’s lineup of old and new professional touring artists, including singer Jazzmeia Horn and DeRay Mckesson, a civil rights activist. This is her first time performing in the Professional Touring Artist Series, Michnewicz said.

Photo via Madeleine Gray Divatography

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Reston Association Receives ‘State of the Environment’ Report Summary

The Reston Association’s Board of Directors received a summary last week of the second annual report about the state of the environment in Reston.

Doug Britt, a Virginia Master Naturalist and the director of Reston Association’s first Reston Annual State of the Environment Report, gave an overview of the 2018 Annual State of the Environment Report (RASER) at a Reston Association meeting on Thursday (Nov. 15).

The study is intended to give readers a better understanding of Reston’s current environmental conditions in order to provide a baseline against which future changes to the environment can be measured.

The second RASER updates all of the topics addressed in the first one, along with adding new topics and recommendations. The results of the first RASER arrived in January after it was published last July.

The report has 11 new recommendations, which include the following:

  • Schedule dredging when nuisance aquatic weeds are dormant
  • Enforce shoreline distribution regulations for cluster shoreline properties
  • Create a plan to alert residents about lake safety issues
  • Assess whether de-icing salts are affecting water quality
  • Partner with organizations to conduct native plant education programs, to use edible plants in landscaping and to distribute leftover food
  • Determine baseline noise levels throughout parts of Reston

The report also has an analysis of 19 environmental attributes — rating them on a scale of green (good), yellow (fair), red (poor) and undetermined — and adds in excerpts from Fairfax County’s Environmental Vision Document. “I feel confident as a community that we are way ahead of a lot of other county committees in meeting the revised vision document of the county,” Britt said.

Attributes that got a “green” rating include air quality, drinking water, wastewater treatment, hazardous and toxic waste and environmental education.

Streams received a bump from “red” to “yellow” status this year after more diversity than expected was found in them over the summer, Britt said, adding that almost half of Reston’s streams have been restored. Lakes and ponds, urban forests, landscaping, wildlife management and light pollution also got bucketed in the “yellow” rating.

Attributes that lacked enough data for an adequate rating included wetlands, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, invertebrates and noise pollution.

Only one received the “red” designation: stormwater management. “When Reston first developed in the early 60’s and 70’s, the stormwater was typically shunted from development sites into nearby receiving sites as quickly as possible trough impervious surfaces,” Britt said. “This resulted in the streams not being able to handle the capacity of storm surges.”

South Lakes District Director Julie Bitzer said at the meeting that she has had a lot of residents talk to her about erosion and stormwater management, because of the amount of rain this year. “I think that is something we need to look at,” she said.

Britt encouraged the board to move away from the “band-aid approach” of expensive lake dredging to remove sediment and instead focus on soil erosion prevention, which he said will be a more cost-efficient choice for improving streams and water quality issues. He also suggested that the board empower residents to help by using low-technology solutions like rain gardens and also set higher standards for developers.

Britt also provided a breakdown of the progress of the 61 recommendations made in last year’s report. Two have been completed, while the rest include 14 lacking progress, 20 with limited work done and 25 with “substantial” progress.

“I don’t want anybody to get the idea that because only two were fully completed, that this designates some ignoring of these recommendations, because very few of the recommendations were what I would call ‘one and done,'” he said.

The three highest priorities should be protecting Reston’s urban forests, improving surface water quality and maintaining “robust” education and outreach programs, Britt said.

RASER recommendations will continue annually, while updates will come every other year, Britt said. The next updated text is expected to be released in 2020.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Legal Insider: Five Considerations for Federal Employee Disability Retirement Cases

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

By Kimberly H. Berry, Esq.

One of the more typical types of retirement matters that our firm handles involves the representation of federal employees in the disability retirement process before various federal agencies and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Federal employees thinking about filing for disability retirement should consider the following five issues as they debate whether or not to proceed.

1. How Serious are the Federal Employee’s Medical Disabilities and are They Linked to Duties in Their Position Description?

When making a disability retirement decision OPM evaluates a federal employee’s continued ability to work with their medical condition in the context of the duties described in their position description. OPM uses the phrase “useful and efficient service in your current position” to describe the degree to which a federal employee can carry out their job duties.

If the medical disability is not considered serious enough, or not fully supported by medical documentation and evidence, then OPM may deny the disability retirement application.

2. How Long is the Medical Disability Expected to Last?

The duration of a medical disability is very important when OPM makes a disability retirement decision. OPM generally requires that a medical disability be expected to last at least 1 year.

When considering whether to file for disability retirement, it is important for a federal employee to consider the expected length of the individual’s medical disability. Disabilities with shorter durations can be problematic for federal employees in the disability retirement process.

3. Is it Possible for the Federal Employee to Survive on a Reduced Annuity?

If a federal employee is considering filing for OPM disability retirement, it is important to understand that this type of retirement can provide a federal employee with a lower monthly retirement annuity in comparison to full retirement. Therefore, we recommend that a federal employee consult with a financial advisor about the impact of a potentially reduced annuity before filing for disability retirement.

The good news is that an individual approved for disability retirement can generally work again in the private sector (not in other federal employment) and supplement their income (usually up to 80% of their prior salary) without losing their disability retirement income.

4. Are There Reasonable Accommodations that can be Made to Allow the Federal Employee to Continue to Work?

Sometimes a federal agency will work with an employee to provide them with a reasonable accommodation (i.e., change in duties, assignments, hours, telework or other adjustments) that can make the employee’s current position and medical condition workable and thereby avoid the disability retirement process, although this is less common.

As a part of the disability retirement process, a federal agency is required to certify that it is unable to accommodate your disabling medical condition in their present position.

The agency must also certify that it has considered a federal employee “for any vacant position in the same agency, at the same grade or pay level, and within the same commuting area, for which [you] qualified for reassignment.” Federal agencies typically do not have an issue with such certifications.

5. Does the Federal Employee have Medical Support for Disability Retirement?

Medical documentation and evidence is the most important consideration for a federal employee when filing for disability retirement. We also find that physicians will usually help their patients in the disability retirement process.

When OPM reviews disability retirement applications, they rely heavily on a federal employee’s medical evidence. As a result, physicians and their medical opinions are crucial in the disability retirement application process with OPM.

OPM will require physicians’ statements about a federal employee’s medical issues, and these physician statements can either make or break the potential outcome in the disability retirement application process. It is important for a physician to understand a federal employee’s position description and how their disabilities interfere with their duties.

Conclusion

If you are in need of assistance in the federal employee retirement process please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Updated: Global Tech Company Tobii Pro Opens U.S. Headquarters in Reston

(Editor’s note: This story was updated Monday at 11:15 a.m. with comments from the company.)

International tech company Tobii Pro opened its new U.S. headquarters in Reston last week.

The company celebrated with a grand opening last Tuesday (Nov. 13) at the new offices (12007 Sunrise Valley Drive Suite 400), according to a press release. The new spot has 23 people who work for the North American team, servicing customers in the U.S. and Canada.

The company provides eye tracking research products and services to more than 3,000 companies and 2,000 research institutions.

Founded in 2001, Tobii Pro is one of three business units that operate under Tobii Group. The company is headquartered in Sweden, with offices in China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Reston’s proximity to Dulles International Airport and its transformation into a “dense technology hub” drew the company to the site, Stephanie Ostrow, marketing director for the North American team at Tobii Pro, told Reston Now.

“Tobii Pro was looking to relocate to an area that represented the innovative nature of our company in a professional area close to an international airport,” Ostrow said.

The company had been eyeing Reston for about one year, and after reviewing more than 200 commercial properties, decided on the location because of the build-to-suit agreement, office park amenities and conference facilities, Ostrow said.

Tobii Pro has 190 people out of the nearly 1,000 employees worldwide at Tobii Group, Ostrow said.

Tobii Pro’s products include screen-based eye trackers, glasses for eye tracking, virtual reality and “gaze analysis.” Last month the company introduced the Tobii Pro Nano, which plugs into the USB port of a Windows laptop or tablet to collect gaze data. That data then gets used for psychology, cognition, marketing and behavioral economics research.

Photos courtesy of AxiCom and Tobii AB

This story has been updated

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Monday Morning Notes

Last day of Cornerstones food drive — Residents can drop off non-perishable food and other items, including toilet paper, at various locations around Reston to help families in need. [Reston Community Center]

Meditation workshop — Adults and teens can learn and practice meditation techniques in this workshop with facilitator Neil Goodman. [Reston Regional Library]

Managing fall foliage PSA — Reston Association wants residents to keep leaf debris in mind as they enjoy fall while it lasts. [Reston Today]

Don’t count on Yellow — Due to a 14-day capital improvement project, there won’t be any Yellow Line service from Nov. 26 through Dec. 9. Crews are planning to make structural repairs and upgrades to the Yellow Line Bridge over the Potomac River. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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