Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now this week.
- EXCLUSIVE: Reston Town Center’s Vapiano at the Center of Alleged International Money Laundering Scheme
- Fairfax County Police Investigating Mob Assault in Reston
- Pool Closures Continue as Reston Association Looks to Hire More Lifeguards
- Funds Approved for Makeover of Reston Parkway Intersection
- JUST IN: Big Buns and matchbox Coming to Reston Station by 2020
If you would like us to follow-up with you about your tip, please include your contact information. In recent days, we have received tips with incomplete phone numbers and email addresses.
Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.
(Updated at 4 p.m.) Fairfax County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova is pushing back against Comstock’s restrictions on campaigning at Reston Station Plaza.
In a strongly-worded letter sent to Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, today, Bulova said she was very shocked and disturbed to learn that Comstock was unfairly restricting public access to the property.
The company has allowed Maggie Parker, its vice president of communications and also a candidate for the Hunter Mill District Seat, to campaign on the plaza, Bulova said.
“Allowing one’s own employee to engage in such highly protected activity in a public area, while excluding other candidates from doing the same, is clearly wrong and cannot be tolerated,” she wrote.
But Parker says that she has not campaigned at the plaza because of Comstock’s policies.
“I think the letter is unfounded because I don’t think the chairman has all of the facts,” Parker said. “I am doing nothing that the other candidates are not able to do. I am tired of being bullied and I’d like to step forward with the elections and the people’s business.”
The free speech issue has sparked recent debate on the legality of the developer’s longstanding policy to bar soliciting, including electioneering and campaigning, at the plaza.
Bulova has directed the county’s attorney to evaluate legal remedies against Comstock, noting that the plaza may constitute a public forum. As a result, free speech rights may be violated.
“As the county attorney completes her research and the board evaluates its legal remedies, I ask Comstock to do the right thing without necessity of legal action,” Bulova wrote.
Several candidates running for the seat of Hunter MIll District Supervisor and residents have told Reston Now they’ve been told to leave the plaza after attempting to distribute campaign materials or campaign.
Laurie Dodd, a candidate who was concerned about the policy after friends campaigning for other candidates were told to leave the property and apply for a permit, pushed state and local officials to take a stance on the issue. Although the state and county’s election bodies said the issue was not within their jurisdiction, Dodd said Bulova was open to discussing the matter. At her request, the American Civil Liberties Union took the matter to Bulova’s office.
Walter Alcorn, also a candidate running for the seat, also expressed concerns about restrictions on campaigning at the plaza.
In previous days, county officials told Reston Now that state election law allows campaign activities on the property, but declined to discuss the issue further. The plaza was constructed through a public-private partnership and Comstock leases the plaza from the county through a 99-year ground lease, according to the county.
Clemente told Reston Now that its policy is out of respect for Metro commuters and others who come to Reston Station. He previously noted that he was open to scheduling a candidate meet-and-greet on the plaza as an exception to the policy.
Here is the text from my letter: pic.twitter.com/4vW5kGc49x
— Sharon Bulova (@SharonBulova) June 7, 2019
This story will be updated.
The 11th annual Love Your Body Yoga Festival is set for Sunday, June 9 at Reston Town Center.
The festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — rain or shine. This year, organizers will celebrate all area non-profit organizations that use yoga as a tool to transform society.
Organizations will be featured on the main stage and will lead a group class. Attendees can enjoy talks, enjoy music, and take part in a mix of yoga classes.
The event launches the start of Virginia Yoga Week, during which studios and teachers will offer free classes throughout the state.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Southgate Community Center. The event is presented by Beloved Yoga.
More information is available online.
Tomorrow (June 8)
- Gardening Classes (9-10 a.m.) — Get your hands dirty and learn how to grow your own fruits and vegetables in this class. Students will meet with a Fairfax County Master Gardener to learn how to maintain a compost pile, plant seeds, and tend your garden to make it thrive. The class is $40 for Reston Association members and meets at the organization’s headquarters.
- Worldwide Knit in Public Day (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) — Bring your favorite yarn and needles or use materials provided by Reston Regional Library to knit in public. The event is sponsored by Fairfax Library Foundation.
- Bookworms Club (11 a.m.) — Young readers will explore a new theme in this weekly session at Scrawl Books. Readers are welcome to join the club at any time.
- Summerbration Fun Brunch: Mark Jaster (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) — The stilt walker and face painter performs at Reston Station Plaza in this free event.
- Young Actors Theatre (3 p.m.) — Young actors between ages 7 and 15 take to the stage at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage to present original musicals that are the result of 10 weeks of classes and rehearsals. The event is free and open to all, but attendees must request tickets by emailing [email protected]. Tickets are distributed on a first come, first serve basis.
Sunday (June 9)
- Digital Photography Essentials Workshop (1-6 p.m.) — Dive into an introductory class with Mary Louise Ravese on how to use a digital SLR or mirror-less camera. The class, which takes place at ArtsSpace Herndon, costs $125.
Some residents are concerned that restrictions on political campaigning at Reston Station Plaza raise free speech issues. But local and state officials versed in state election law say the question of whether or not campaigning is allowed on the plaza is a gray area.
That’s because Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, leases the plaza from Fairfax County through a 99-year ground lease. The county says that state election law still allows campaign activities, including voter registration, on the private property.
Several residents who have unsuccessfully tried to campaign and distribute leaflets on the plaza say they’ve been told to request permits from Comstock before distributing materials.
But Comstock’s CEO Chris Clemente says that Comstock has no such policy for requesting permits.
“I cannot respond to the reports you have received about a days-long permit process since that is simply not true,” Clemente told Reston Now in a statement.
He clarified that Comstock has not revised its policy prohibiting soliciting on its private properties “out of respect for the privacy of residents, visitors, and commuters.” Instead, Clemente said Comstock’s policy revision was restricted to scheduling a candidate meet-and-greet for a few hours at the plaza. Candidates would get the chance to meet with voters and distribute campaign materials with no cost.
“To date, we have not seen any indication of interest from any of the campaigns (except Maggie Parker’s) to participate in such an event. What we have seen from some of the candidates is public criticism of Comstock for not allowing random soliciting of Metro commuters. It makes me think that the candidates, with the exception of Maggie Parker, have no interest in discussing their vision for the Hunter Mill District with members of the public,” Clemente said.
Parker, who is Comstock’s vice president of communications, is a candidate for the Hunter Mill District seat and has campaign signs on the property.
Other candidates can purchase advertising space for either $2,000 or $3,500 per week on two plaza locations. Parker said she paid for her ads on Comstock’s property. Comstock and Comstock-linked entities have filled up more than half of her campaign coffers — which exceeds all of her challengers’ fundraising for the latest reporting period combined.
Joanne Collins, a representative for Herndon-Reston Indivisible, said Comstock’s security told her to leave the plaza after she tried to hand out leaflets about Tuesday’s primary. Collins said she requested a permit from Comstock, but was told the process would take several days — possibly after the June 11 Democratic primary.
Residents say that the Fairfax County Board of Elections and the Virginia Department of Elections are mum on the issue. Laurie Dodd, a candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s Hunter Mill District seat, lodged a complaint with the state’s elections department, but was told the issue wasn’t within its jurisdiction.
Dodd said she was told the department only addresses issues within 40 feet of voting machines. The Attorney General of Virginia’s office offered the same statement, she said.
Others said they would file complaints with the county’s election board after the election in order to spend more time campaigning in other parts of the Hunter Mill District.
Dodd also noted that the cost of purchasing signage at the plaza was too high, especially since the election is just days away and the process would require Comstock’s approval.
The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney is looking into whether or not free speech rights are at risk of being violated.
Have thoughts about Reston Now’s coverage of Reston, Herndon and Great Falls? Want to share your opinions about local issues?
Reston Now welcomes letters to the editors and op-eds of specific interest to the Reston, Herndon and Great Falls community.
The key difference is that an op-ed can be an opinion piece about a local issue, while a letter to the editor responds directly to a Reston Now story.
Please email it to [email protected] You are also welcome to contact us with your idea for feedback before submitting it.
While there is no word limit, we suggest under 1,000 words. Contributions may be edited for length, content and style/grammar.
Reston Now does not publish op-eds relating to a specific candidate running for political office — either from the candidate’s team or opponents.
Thank you to everyone who has submitted op-eds and letters to the editor already.
Reston Association’s employees are working to remove a large tree that collapsed into Lake Thoreau during a recent storm.
Unlike previous trees that were removed with a crane, the tree in Lake Thoreau is being removed with saws and the help of boats.
RA also worked in coordination with a homeowner to make the project happen.
“With every project, we make sure it’s done safely and in a safe manner,” said Ali Khatibi, RA’s Central Services Facility manager, in a recent Reston Today video.
The homeowners association only removes trees on its properties. To request tree removal, residents should call 703-437-7658.
Video via Reston Today/YouTube
Lake Anne first received the award in 2012 and nabbed two additional awards during the first two years in the program.
Since then, the school has made changes to become more environmentally sustainable.
“Being an Eco-School permeates our school through energy conservation, recycling, water conservation, eco education, our bird houses, and our sustainable garden. Our students are eco stewards every day,” said Principal Jill Stewart.
The school has been involved in many environmentally sustainable projects, as told by Fairfax County Public Schools:
Since 2012, Lake Anne added a pollinator garden, a Monarch butterfly garden, a bird garden for all seasons, a mini meadow, a watershed garden for its dry pond, added solar panels to save energy, added raised beds to the courtyards, and started protecting bluebirds by adding a bluebirds nest box trail. The school also started a community edible garden to provide food for its families in the summer, established and grew a recycling program in the classroom and the cafeteria, participates in walk and roll to school once a month, and started a nature trail in the woods to facilitate nature observation. The school also certified its gardens with the National Wildlife Federation and the Monarch Watch program.
More information about the award is available online.
Photo via FCPS
Local Venture Firm Perfects Fundraising Methodology — Reston-based venture firm Proof.VC, which raised $34.5 million in the first round of funding could exceed that total in the second round. The company aims to perfect its fundraising strategy to invest in businesses like Beyond Meat Inc. and Bird Rides, Inc. [Washington Business Journal]
Reminder: Absentee Voting Deadline is Tomorrow — The last day to cast an absentee ballot is tomorrow at the county’s government center. Satellite absentee voting locations will also be open tomorrow only, including the North County Governmental Center. [Fairfax County Government]
South Lakes High School PTSA Nominated for Family Engagement Award — The group was nominated for the 2019 VA PTA Family Engagement Award. Members are thankful for families who volunteer throughout the year. “The recognition of the Virginia PTA is for you,” the group wrote in a statement. [South Lakes High School PTSA]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr