Weekend Discussion Topics

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Williams-Sonoma in Reston Town Center to Close in January
  2. Planned Reston Tower Still Seeking Tenants
  3. Reston to Nearly Double in Size Over Next Quarter-Century
  4. Darwin Martinez-Torres Pleads Guilty to Murder of Nabra Hassanen
  5. Police: Reston Man Arrested After Firing His Handgun Into the Air

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

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Proposed Zoning Changes Spark Local Backlash

As Reston is projected to continue growing at a dramatic pace, Fairfax County is moving forward with a proposed zoning amendment to allow for greater density. But a group of Reston citizens are protesting the move, saying the proposed amendment is rushed through and under-explained.

The zoning amendment would increase the maximum population per acre in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) district from 13 persons to 15. Dwelling units per acre would increase from 50 units to 70 near Metro stations.

The Board of Supervisors is anticipated to authorize public hearings on the zoning changes at its upcoming Tuesday (Dec. 4) meeting. Public comment will not be heard at the meeting.

A group of citizens calling themselves the Coalition for a Planned Reston wrote a letter to Supervisor Cathy Hudgins saying that approval of the zoning amendment would be premature.

“The Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) is deeply concerned and dismayed by the announcement that you have requested County staff to move forward with the proposed PRC Zoning Ordinance Amendment,” the CPR wrote in the letter. “We strongly urge you to withdraw your request immediately and to complete the community dialogue to which you committed.”

The letter included a list of 23 areas where the groups say Fairfax County officials have supplied inadequate information. Among the criticisms of the zoning amendment are exemptions given to developers with proposals that do not conform with the Reston Master Plan.

Some of the topics of the letter involve the minutiae of zoning amendments but others — like what the CPR calls a lack of clarity over the expected number of students the added density would have on the school systems — could shape Reston for years to come.

This isn’t the first letter from the CPR over the issue. The group had previously sent a letter on Aug. 1 urging Hudgins to suspend action on the amendment. The Reston Association has also expressed concern about the impact of the zoning amendment.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Planning Commission Tackles Prickly Issue of Pet Hedgehogs

Chinchillas, hedgehogs and hermit crabs face scrutiny over health and safety concerns as the county debates legalizing them as pets.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission held a public hearing last night (Nov. 29) on possibly changing the definition of commonly accepted pets to include all three.

The proposed amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance was spurred by the increasing popularity of chinchillas, hedgehogs and hermit crabs as pets in recent years, according to the proposal.

Casey Judge, a senior assistant to the county’s zoning administrator, said that care for chinchillas is similar to rabbits and care for hedgehogs is similar to ferrets in her presentation to the commission.

Judge said that research for the proposal included consultation with nearby breeders and veterinarians for exotic animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was not contacted, she said.

Arlington and Loudoun counties allow hedgehogs and chinchillas as pets, with Loudoun County also permitting hermit crabs.

Arlington County has reported two hedgehog abandonments since 2013 and no reports of any strays, the presentation said.

Fairfax City and Falls Church either do not allow or are unclear about the legality of the three animals as pets.

During public comment, local James Hart brought up concerns about hedgehogs’ ability to spread salmonella. Hedgehogs, along with cats, dogs, frogs, hamsters and many other animals, can spread the bacteria, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In response to the salmonella concerns, Judge said that a common pet — turtles — poses the same risk for spreading the bacteria, according to the CDC.

Another concern that came up involved how well owners can care for hedgehogs, given their high levels of maintenance. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals that require space, exercise and room temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they do not start hibernating, according to the Hedgehog Welfare Society.

Judge said that it would be difficult to enforce requirements on temperature and enclosures for the animals.

Phillip Church from the county’s Animal Services Advisory Commission, which opposes the amendment, said that three vets he interviewed said hedgehogs are expensive and challenging to care for.

“I don’t think many people who are going to take home a hedgehog will give them proper care,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to give people the opportunity to abandon or unintentionally mistreat the animals.

Judge said that breeders self-regulate for responsible pet owners and provide a plethora of resources, guides and training to ensure the animals will be safe at their new homes.

Local Mark Spisak likened hedgehogs to porcupines in his public testimony and said that demand for them as pets fuels an exotic pet trade that poses risks to animals. “I can see no advantage to wild animals being kept as pets,” Spisak said. ‘They should live their lives outside as nature intended.”

The commissioners lauded testimony from a student from Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church, who argued for legalizing pet hedgehogs.

The student, who said he has cared for his turtle for eight years and his monitor lizard for two years, said that he believes hedgehogs are easier to care for than reptiles, based on his research. He also gave an overview of hedgehog breeding — since the importation of wild-caught African pygmy hedgehogs to the U.S. was banned in the 1990s, people have to go to local breeders for one.

If the county approves the amendment, he said he would get a hedgehog.

Mike Bober, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Alexandria, also voiced support for hedgehogs as pets.

Mary Cortina, an at-large member of the commission, asked to delay a decision on the proposal until the meeting next Thursday (Dec. 6). The county’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter in January.

Hedgehog photo courtesy Kelly W.

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‘STRETCH’ Exhibit Coming to Greater Reston Arts Center

If you could do anything, what would that be?

The Greater Reston Arts Center selected five artists based on their answers to that very question for an upcoming exhibit called “STRETCH.”

The exhibit, slated for Dec. 15 through Feb. 9, will present new work by James Huckenpahler, Monroe Isenberg, Katie Kehoe, Melanie Kehoss and Harry Mayer.

The website provides a glimpse into what some of the artists plan to create.

Huckenpahler, a D.C.-based artist who works mainly in digital media, will make large digital prints of a three-dimensional landscape of his X-rayed laptop.

Isenberg, a sculptor and installation artist who mostly uses wood and steel, will create an immersive installation that “investigates the relationships that become apparent in the space between the spirit world and ourselves.”

For the exhibit, Kehoss, who focuses on light boxes, plans to explore the “origins of food-related phenomena related to the history of sugar.”

While specifics for the exhibit are not available yet, the website says Kehoe is currently diving into ecological concerns in places that are expected to go underwater due to climate change. Kehoe, who works in performance, interdisciplinary sculpture and drawing, documents herself carrying or wearing hand-made life-jacket, life ring, bodyboards and buoys made from salvaged materials.

Lastly, Mayer, who draws upon mundane experiences and humor to create his sculptures from construction materials, “proposes to give the viewer a visceral experience that encourages a sense of playfulness.”

“STRETCH” is curated by Don Russell, a guest curator, and Erica Harrison, the associate curator and festival director of the art center. This exhibit marks Greater Reston Arts Center’s third biennial exhibit with a guest curator supporting local artists.

The Greater Reston Arts Center plans to host a reception — free and open to the public — from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 15.

Photo via Greater Reston Arts Center website

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Book Talk With Bestselling Author and More This Weekend in Reston

There’s plenty to do this weekend around Reston. We posted a list of holiday events in the area throughout December, but for Reston Grinches already tired of Holiday cheer, here’s our Christmas-free list of weekend events — including a signing by New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci.

Tonight (Nov. 30)

Vinyl Invention at Crafthouse (10 p.m.-1 a.m.) — Rock/Funk band Vinyl Intervention returns to Crafthouse Reston (1888 Explorer St) tonight. The group is a Washington, D.C. based cover band that performs songs mainly from the latter 20th century.

Tomorrow (Dec. 1)

Mystery Author Extravaganza (1-3 p.m.) — The Sisters in Crime Chessie Chapter will host an afternoon of book talks at the Reston Regional Library (11925 Bowman Towne Dr). The afternoon features mystery authors from throughout the region discussing their books and the genre, as well as a book market with authors available for autographs.

Monster Drawing Rally (1-5 p.m.) — Over 50 artists from across the Washington, D.C. region are scheduled to come together at the Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market St) for a live drawing event. Artists will be creating their work on-site, all of which will be available for purchase at $75 each. The event is free and open to the public. All proceeds benefit the exhibition program.

Shrek The Musical (1-2:30 p.m.) — Tomorrow is the opening for the Nextstop Theatre Company’s (269 Sunset Park Drive) production of Shrek The Musical. Tickets are available online and the show will run until Dec. 22.

Sunday (Dec. 2)

Capital ‘Cross Classic (8:15 a.m.-4 p.m.) — This race is the series finale of the BikeReg Super series. The race will be held at Lake Fairfax Park (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive). Proceeds from the race will benefit the Lake Fairfax Sustainable Natural Trail System program, which aims to build new sustainable trails and restore existing trails in Lake Fairfax Park.

David Baldacci Author Talk and Book Signing (2-4 p.m.) — New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci will host a free author talk and book signing at the Reston Regional Library. Baldacci is scheduled to read from his new book, Long Road to Mercy, and free copies of the book will be given to the first 100 registrants.

Photo via Facebook

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Planning Commission OKs Parking Changes for Tall Oaks Village Center Redevelopment

The Fairfax County Planning Commission approved Thursday night (Nov. 29) parking and access adjustments for the Tall Oaks Village Center redevelopment.

Stanley Martin’s redevelopment would transform the Tall Oaks Village Center (12022 North Shore Drive) into a mostly residential neighborhood.

The redevelopment will create 156 residential units, which include 42 two-over-two multi-family units, 44 single units and 70 multi-family units in two residential buildings. It also plans to add nearly 8,500 square feet of retail and 5,800 square feet of office space.

The commission approved:

  • a 200-square foot privacy yard requirement for single-family units
  • tandem parking for the two-over-two dwelling units to count towards the off-street parking requirement for multi-family dwelling units
  • a modification for the required number of loading spaces
  • a modification for the transitional screening and barrier requirements

Ellen Hurley, who represents the Braddock District, abstained from the vote.

The shopping center, which was anchored by a Giant grocery store until it closed in 2007, has struggled without a stable grocer. Roughly 86 percent of the shopping center was vacant in 2016, according to the application.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved in July 2016 the owner’s plan to redevelop the retail center into a mixed-use project.

The development has been held up several times this year. Reston’s Design Review Board delayed voting on several aspects of the plan for several months. The garage size requirements stalled the redevelopment.

Another issue was the bus pad and bus service for the site. At the time of the approval, the county was planning to continue Fairfax Connector bus service through the development. The Fairfax Connector has since decided to no longer provide bus service through the development.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider the project on Tuesday (Dec. 4).

Rendering via Fairfax County Planning Commission

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Top Style by Kate Noda Hair Studio Moves to Lake Anne Plaza

A new hair salon arrived in Lake Anne Plaza last week.

Top Style by Kate Noda Hair Studio offers haircuts for women, men and kids; coloring; styling; makeup; and other services. The salon opened in Reston on Thanksgiving (Nov. 22), an employee told Reston Now.

The salon updated the address on its website from a location in Tysons Corner to the one at Lake Anne Plaza — 1641 N. Washington Plaza, Unit A.

A Facebook post in June said the salon would in Tysons until September and shows a video of the Lake Anne Plaza spot under construction.

Photos via Top Style by Kate Noda/Facebook

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Friday Morning Notes

Overcome writer’s block before NaNoWriMo ends — Join fellow locals from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Reston Regional Library to finish up the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel before midnight tonight. [Fairfax County]

Take a dip in the pool — Summer is long gone, but pool time isn’t. “The Family Splash” from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Reston Community Center is $13 for residents. [Reston Community Center]

W&OD Trail project continues — A major 1.2-mile stretch of the trail’s bike path in Falls Church will be turned into a dual path — one for bikes and the other for pedestrians. The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority is providing $3.2 million for the project. The trail also faces planned construction over Wiehle Avenue. [Falls-Church News Press]

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