Comstock and County Clash Over the Legality of Campaigning at Reston Station Plaza

by Fatimah Waseem May 24, 2019 at 9:45 am 0

Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, has barred political campaigning at Reston Station Plaza — a policy that clashes with the county’s official position on the issue.

Conflicting stances on the permissibility of political campaigning at the plaza has piqued some concerns about the privatization of public spaces in Reston.

A spokesperson for Fairfax County told Reston Now that state election law “doesn’t prohibit campaign activities including voter registration on private property.”

Comstock leases Reston Station Plaza from Fairfax County under a 99-year ground lease. This public-private partnership does not prevent political campaign activities, the county says.

The company, however, has adopted a longstanding policy that political campaigning is not allowed at the plaza, according to Maggie Parker, Comstock’s vice president of communications.

“It would be like me setting up shop on Walter [Alcorn’s] front lawn,” Parker, who is also a candidate in the race for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, said. 

Alcorn, who is also running for the seat vacated by longtime Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, said volunteers from his campaign were recently barred from campaigning outside of the Starbucks on the plaza.

He says a security officer told campaigners that political activity was not allowed at the site.

“It’s unfortunate that what should be publicly usable space is being operated as private space,” Alcorn said. “This is one of the challenging and frustrating things about where we are as a community. We’ve really privatized our public spaces.”

Parker, who has campaign signs plastered along a fence near the entrance to the garage at Wiehle-Reston East, said she is seeking Comstock’s approval for all candidates to campaign at the plaza before the primary election on June 11.

“Given the interest in the campaign, I would like an opportunity to challenge our management and have one day — maybe the Thursday before the primary — for all candidates to come out. I would love to work on that,” Parker said.

Jubal Thompson, general counsel for Comstock Companies, noted that Reston Station Plaza’s unique public-private partnership sets it apart from other Metro stations, which may allow political campaigning.

“Comstock has a 99-year leasehold interest for the exclusive use to the land and the improvements it makes to the property. So effectively Reston Station Plaza is private property with public access rights,” Thompson wrote in an email to Reston Now.

Alcorn also took issue with Parker’s campaign signs on Comstock’s property, which he says muddies the line between private and public interests.

Parker noted that her signs are on private property.

“My company is very enthusiastic and support of the campaign and the signs are all on private property,” she said. “I wouldn’t go stick my signs in someone’s yard without them agreeing.”

Comstock’s marketing team is open to selling sign space to any candidate, she added.

Photos by Fatimah Waseem

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