As Needs Evolve, Reston Association Struggles to Handle Covenants Workload, Property Inspections

It’s no secret that Reston Association’s covenant process, which maintains design standards for Reston properties, is often arduous and unwieldy.

In order to better administer the process, RA’s Design Review Board and Board of Directors are calling a special meeting to explore ways to improve covenant administration, reduce staff workload, and sort through staffing issues. The two boards will meet on Thursday (June 13) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. to address lingering concerns.

At a May 23 board meeting, RA’s CEO Hank Lynch said the organization is “overworking” its covenants staff, who spend most of their time processing applications for the DRB. The panel has jurisdiction over issues related to architectural integrity of properties.

That leaves less than a full working day to conduct property inspections, respond to requests for home resales, and ensure the physical condition of properties, including vegetation, is up to standard.

“I do feel strongly that we are not out there enough,” said Anna Donato, RA’s director of covenants administration.

Staff must inspect thousands of properties spread out over 11 square miles, according to RA. Walkthroughs by a team of RA staff can take up to a year for each of the 134 clusters RA oversees.

Donato said the department has also struggled to retain staff, who are working hard to maintain “100 percent customer satisfaction.”

The issue is only expected to get more complex as more properties in the community age and the need for maintenance increases with time.

She suggested the following measures to decrease workload and reprioritize projects:

  • Reduce the number of DRB applications submitted
  • Improve process of submitting DRB applications to provide more flexibility
  • Spend less time on DRB panel meetings and reallocate it toward more inspections and working with clusters
  • Perform inspections for use and maintenance only — which covers the physical condition and use of properties
  • Grant staff the authority to perform more and recheck neighborhood inspections

RA plans to distribute a marketing video to illustrate the challenges it faces. In the video, an RA staff member warns that failing to catch up on inspections and decrease workloads could result in permanent consequences.

“Otherwise the job of keeping Reston looking like Reston will become a distant reality,” the video states.

Photo via Jill Silton

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Op-ed: Wheelock’s Grand Scheme for a Grand Park Doesn’t Sell

This op-ed was submitted by Lynne Mulston, vice president of Reston Citizens Association, chair of Rescue Reston’s North Course Committee, and a member of Hidden Creek Country Club. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. We publish article and opinion contributions of specific interest to the Reston community. Contributions may be edited for length or content. 

What doesn’t Wheelock understand about the Reston community’s response to their plans to develop Hidden Creek Country Club?

The focus groups that were held last year should have sent a clear message that the majority of the participants want the open space golf course at Hidden Creek to remain as such. One focus group participant said, “You [Wheelock and Swaback] don’t get it. We already have our park and we don’t pay a cent for it.”

The members of Hidden Creek — many of whom are long-term residents of Reston, have chosen to raise their families here, paid their taxes to Fairfax County including the added Small Tax District #5 assessments for the pleasure of living here, joined Hidden Creek for its amenities including swimming, tennis and golf, a sport that you can play well into your retirement years. In fact, there are numerous senior members (70+ years of age) at the Club which also serves as the home course for McLean High School’s golf team.

I was shocked recently when I received photos of a display that Wheelock Communities has set-up in a member event room just off the Tavern Bar and Grill. Every inch of wall space is covered with posters, presentations, and pictures of the plunder of Wheelock’s vision to turn 164-acres of open space that Gulf Reston originally dedicated to the people of Reston.

Here are just a few of the details of Wheelock’s proposal for HCCC’s development:

  • 100+ acres and 8-10 tennis courts would be dedicated to Fairfax County Park Authority. That’s right! The open space that the Reston community pays NOTHING to maintain, would go the FCPA which our tax dollars fund. IOW, Restonians would now be tasked to pay so that Wheelock can make a profit by further densifying Reston despite that fact that the Reston Master Plan has always said both Reston golf courses shall remain open space!
  • Reston was originally planned with two permanent 18-hole golf courses to offset significant overall community density elsewhere. Now Wheelock wants to reduce the cumulative open space requirements by developing choice portions of the course. 650 homes would be placed on the open space that Robert Simon envisioned. Vehicular traffic on a proposed new road system would significantly add to the congestion we’re already experiencing. Our already overcrowded schools would be further stressed.
  • Fairfax County is planning to build a new 4-acre storm water management pond on the southern portion of HCCC to fix past development mistakes which result in flooding north of the Dulles Toll Road. Pursuant to this plan and Wheelock’s inability to develop land in this area due to it being a pipeline and floodplain, plans are to convert a huge part of the present course to other recreational amenities managed by the FCPA. The issue is if this is allowed, we taxpayers will pay in perpetuity for what now is ecologically precious open space.
  • Wheelock is promoting a false narrative that when golf course use is eliminated, draining water from Lake Anne will cease. Claims that Hidden Creek takes 150,000 gallons of water per day from Lake Anne are erroneous. At first glance, this sounds like a lot of water but let’s look at the FACTS:
    • The lake covers 27.7653 surface acres with an average depth of 13 feet. This means that the volume of the lake is 117,615,560 gallons.
    • Hidden Creek monitors the pond near Temporary Road and North Shore Drive regularly. Only when needed does Hidden Creek draw water from Lake Anne.
    • At maximum capacity, Hidden Creek’s pump can only pump 179 gpm. They rarely use it at that rate, but if they did, it would take 2.5 days to draw down the lake 1-inch.

It’s clear that Wheelock is betting their $14 million investment could net a return of $250 million; their investors are relying on their success. It’s up to us to show them why Reston was a poor choice for their exploitations. Vote for candidates who clearly state their intent to protect Reston’s golf courses. Save our community!

Photo via Lynne Mulston

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Report: Long-awaited Arrowbrook Centre Development to Finally Break Ground in 2020

The Arrowbrook Centre development, a mixed-use project approved by the county in 2005, is finally moving forward.

The owner of the site, which is near the future Innovation Center Metro Station, plans to build a 274-unit workforce housing project on the site. The project is expect to break ground near year and deliver in 2022, according to a Bisnow report.

Overall, the site includes 2 million square feet of development. The residential component of the project will move forward while the high-rise commercial component will linger on the drawing board until office demand increases.

In February, the county approved a $2.8 million loan to help SCG Development finance the project. A spokesperson for the developer said that the company plans to lease 36,000 square feet of retail in the building.

Here’s more from the report:

“It is important to create a walkable, mixed-use community with amenities,” Gravett said. “It’s an evolution of creating a cool place to be. The important part is that people want to live there.”

The Arrowbrook Centre development site, near the intersection of of the Dulles Toll Road and Centreville Road, is owned by the Ruth and Hal Launders Charitable Foundation. The Launders family has owned the property since 1947 and operates it through the entity Arrowbrook Centre LLC…

The highest-density part of the Arrowbrook Centre project is planned on a 10-acre parcel along the Dulles Toll Road and near the future Silver Line station. That portion would include three office buildings totaling 645K SF, a 150K SF hotel and a 250K SF high-rise residential building.

Jeffrey Fairfield, the manager of Arrowbrook Centre LLC, said the ownership group has been waiting for the office market to improve on the Toll Road before selling the commercial portions of the site to developers.

“If you had asked me in 2000 if it would take this long, I would have said no,” Fairfield said. “But in retrospect, I’m not surprised. Real estate development takes a long, long time.”

The developer went back to the county three years ago to add 280,000 square feet to the overall development, which was originally approved in 2005.

Pulte Homes is in the process of developing townhouses and condo units on the property.

Photo via Pulte Homes

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Reno of the Month: Open Concept Living — Is It Right For Your Home?

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

Unless you live in a new or recently built house, chances are your home was designed with distinctly defined rooms like the kitchen, dining and family room that are closed off from one another.

In some cases, this can be a blessing. If you are using the formal dining room as an office or playroom, it’s a simple step to close the door on the mess (or the noise) when you have visitors!

However, top of the wish list for most of the homeowners we work with is to make their main level feel “more open.”

Most homeowners are ‘over’ walls that block views between rooms or to the outside of the home, the labyrinth of doors that mean one has to be shut before another can be opened, or the dark, closed-in feeling of the kitchen.

Whatever the scenario, creating a more open feel for a space usually starts with removing doors and taking down walls. Although the overall square footage of a space doesn’t necessarily increase, the visual it provides makes it feel like a much bigger space. It’s also a much better way to use space.

With most homeowners rarely using a formal dining room even when they have one, and preferring to be able to see into the eating area or family room when they are in the kitchen, an open floor plan provides better flow between spaces and allows for flexibility in how it’s used. An open concept also allows for more natural light to flow throughout the entire area.

But wait! Before you get too carried away, a few things to consider:

  • A more open concept may not be for everyone. Noise travels, heating and cooling costs may change, flooring may need to be replaced throughout, wall space for artwork is reduced and having a line of sight throughout a space means any messes will instantly be on display. Take time to think about how you use your space before determining if an open floor plan is right for you.
  • Removing load bearing walls can be complicated and costly. Always check with a professional remodeler or structural engineer first to find out if the wall or column you want to remove is load bearing or houses electrical, mechanical or plumbing lines.
  • You don’t have to remove an entire wall to make a space feel more open. Removing a door and taking down part of a wall to create a larger framed entrance between 2 rooms can also make a space feel completely different.
  • Similarly, if square footage is at a premium and you want to retain storage or countertop space, removing the upper half of a wall but retaining the lower half and adding an island countertop (with or without cabinets below) is also a great use of space.

This month, our project highlight features a Lake Townhome in South Reston. It’s hard to beat lake living in Reston!

This townhome has a gorgeous view and a great location, but our clients were ready to update the entire first floor of their home including the kitchen, family room and powder room.

We opened up the space between the kitchen and dining room to maximize the beautiful water view but retained usable storage space by adding under-counter cabinets. The kitchen is now lighter and brighter with an all-season view of the lake.

Our client loves a black and white color scheme, but the backsplash accent tile in the kitchen makes a statement and provides a pop of glorious color.

Ready for your home transformation? We’re always happy to discuss what works in your space!

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South Lakes High School Seniors Honored with Scholarships from Local Fund

Ten graduating seniors from South Lakes High School each received up to $16,000 from a local scholarship fund this month.

The Reston Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia awarded 10 scholarship to the students, who will be attending Northern Virginia Community College in the fall, on Sunday (June 9).

State Del. Ken Plum (D-36th), Moses Ulom of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and Monica Gomez, an SLHS pathways counselor spoke at the event.

The following students received awards:

  • Hadi Abdelhalim
  • Mathani Abdelrahman
  • Aamina Ahmad
  • Arnoldo Alejandro Avalos Alvarenga
  • Zayyan Budiman
  • Andrea Coca Ventura
  • Gisela Hernandez-Estrada
  • Priscilla Maradiaga
  • Tsiyon Wakjira
  • Brenda Yanes

Awards are available for up to six years as long as the student works to attain an undergraduate degree and demonstrates academic merit and financial need.

This is the fourth year the foundation has offered scholarship funding for SLHS graduating seniors. Academic performance, essays, financial need and recommendations are considered in the selection process.

Photo via Liz Blankespoor

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Following Allegations of Civil Rights Violations, Comstock Grants Campaigning Rights for Two Days

In anticipation of the Democratic primary tomorrow, Comstock Companies is now allowing campaigning and electioneering for two days at Reston Station Plaza after the county threatened legal recourse due to potential free speech violations.

Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, told Reston Now that the company is inviting all candidates on the June 11 ballots to campaign at the plaza today and tomorrow “on their own schedules and without the need to coordinate schedules with Comstock.”

The temporary change comes after Comstock came under fire for its longstanding restrictions on soliciting, including campaigning and electioneering, at the plaza. The county says the forum qualifies as public space — even though Comstock leases the property from the county through a 99-year ground lease. Comstock disputes this claim.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova lashed out against the company when she learned about the policy late last week. Bulova accused the company of favoritism and civil rights violation after she said it allowed Maggie Parker — Comstock’s vice president of communications — to post campaign signs but barred her opponents from approaching voters.

“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,” Bulova said in the letter, which threatened legal action.

Parker said that she never campaigned at the plaza and purchased large advertisements from the company at the plaza and on Comstock’s building — a possibility that she said is open to all other candidates.

Ads cost between $2,000 and $3,500 per week.

Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Virginia chapter, said the lease to the private company does not renege individual’s free speech rights.

Ray Morrogh, the county’s commonwealth’s attorney, directed the Fairfax County Police Department to decline any requests to prosecute individuals for campaigning at the train station and the plaza above it. 

“It would not be appropriate to prosecute anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in public areas,” Morrogh wrote in a May letter to the police department.

Clemente did not indicate what led to the two-day allowance for campaigning.

“Although we had hoped to provide the residents of the Hunter Mill District an opportunity to meet all the candidates in a casual setting during these last days of the campaign, we were unable to secure commitments from all candidates to participate in a coordinated event,” he said.

The debate over whether or not the plaza qualifies as a public forum was catapulted into the county spotlight after candidates running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor attempted to campaign at the plaza.

Over the past several weeks, candidates, volunteers for their campaigns, and a representative for a local advocacy group said they were kicked off the property and told to apply for permits.

Photo via Fairfax Connector

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Monday Morning Notes

Lane Closures Planned on Eastbound Sunset Hills Road — The road near the Wiehle-Reston East Station will be closed several days this week to allow Silver Line Phase II crews to complete stormwater management work. Closures are in effect today (Monday) and Thursday (June 13) from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Friday (June 14) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

The Post’s Sietsema Reviews Bombay Velvet in Reston — Tom Sietsema writes that the upscale Indian restaurant in RTC West has “fine aspirations with an uneven start.” [The Washington Post]

Reston-based SAIC Has “Stout Revenue Growth” — “Amid the torch-passing between outgoing CEO Tony Moraco and CEO-elect Nazzic Keene on Thursday’s first quarter earnings call, Science Applications International Corp. (NYSE: SAIC) delivered stout revenue growth fostered by its acquisition of Engility Holdings Inc. The Reston-based technology contractor reported $1.6 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 37% increase from the prior year, fueled largely by growth attributed to the Engility buy, which closed in January.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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