Top Stories This Week

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

  1. EXCLUSIVE: Reston Town Center’s Vapiano at the Center of Alleged International Money Laundering Scheme
  2. As Needs Evolve, Reston Association Struggles to Handle Covenants Workload, Property Inspections
  3. Report: Amazon Moves to Acquire Herndon Property
  4. UPDATED: In Democratic Primary, Former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Wins Hunter Mill District Seat
  5. JUST IN: Bulova Suggests Possible Legal Recourse Against Comstock’s Campaigning Restrictions at Reston Station Plaza

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

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.

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Taste of Reston and More This Weekend in Reston

Our weekend pick is Taste of Reston — Northern Virginia’s largest outdoor festival — which kicks off today and runs until tomorrow (Saturday).

Here’s a recap off the festival, which will bring food vendors, local restaurants, and others together for two days of food-related fun.

Parking will be free during the event.

Tomorrow (June 15)

  • Family Fun Entertainment Series (10-10:45 a.m.) — Enjoy the Uncle Devin Show, an interactive musical experience, that takes kids on a magical journey through the land of percussion. Parking is free on weekends at Reston Town Center.
  • Stop-motion animation workshop (1-3 p.m.) — Exhibiting artist Stephanie Williams will lead workshop participants on stop-motion animation at the Greater Reston Arts Center. Registration is $30 and all materials are included.
  • Trip to Nationals vs. AZ Diamondbacks Baseball Game (2:15-8:15 p.m.) — Reston Association is organizing a trip to Nationals Park. Registration is $54 for RA members and $62 for all others.
  • Bookworms Club (11 a.m.) — Young readers will dive into “PAR-TAY!: Dance of the Veggies” at this weekly bookclub. Younger readers are welcome to join at any time.
  • Summerbration Fun Brunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) — Enjoy flow circus at the Reston Station Plaza in this free event for all ages. Parking is free on weekends in the Metro Parking garage.

Sunday (June 16)

  • Bird Walk (7:30-10:30 a.m.) — Beginner and expert birders are invited to scout for birds in this walk, which is cosponsored by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and The Bird Feeder store. Registration is not required and the walk is for adults only.
  • Summerbration Fun Brunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) — Meddle in mad science during this free event at Reston Station Plaza. Parking is free on weekends in the Metro Parking garage.
  • Chess Club for Kids (2-3 p.m.) — Learn tactics and end game strategies at Reston Regional Library. Players of all strengths are welcome to join.
  • How to Stand Out in the College Admissions Process (2-3 p.m.) — InGenius Prep will give a presentation on how to standout in the admissions process, and Susan Shifflet, a former assistant director of admissions at Yale, will also offer her insights.

Photo by Don Renner

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UPDATED: Police Respond to Domestic Incident at Lake Newport

(Updated at 3 p.m.) A domestic incident prompted the closure of Lake Newport Road earlier today.

A suspect wanted on a felony warrant was arrested during the incident. Local police responded to a report about a family member having a dispute with the man at around 9 a.m. today (Friday).

The situation, which is contained to the 11700 block of Summerchase Circle, caused the police department to close Lake Newport Road between North Point Drive and Newport Spring Court.

Residents in the immediate neighborhood were told to remain in their homes until further notice. A reader told Reston Now that neighbors heard loud banging.

FCPD did not release any other details about the incident to Reston Now.

 

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Op-Ed: On Reston National Golfcourse

This op-ed was submitted by Walter Alcorn, a former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner who recently won the Democratic Primary for Hunter Mill District Supervisor. 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. 

Recent reports that the Reston National Golf Course has been acquired by two Baltimore area real estate developers, Weller Development and War Horse Cities, have placed many Restonians on alert.  The fate of the golf course has been a hot button issue for the community since 2012 when the previous owner attempted to assert its right to develop the course without an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

Weller Development and War Horse have stated that they “are focused on building relationships and working with the communities we serve, and we look forward to being part of the Reston community for years to come.” I’ll take them at their word, but these new owners, and the Reston community, should understand that if elected to the Board of Supervisors whether I would consider even initiating any possible change to the Comprehensive Plan will be guided by two simple principles.

First, any proposed amendment must, as a threshold matter, have the support of the Reston community, and particularly the support of the homeowners and communities adjacent to the golf course. These residents would be most directly affected by any proposed development. They bought their property with the expectation that it would remain a golf course, as called for in the Comprehensive Plan, and those expectations deserve to be respected. In addition, there also must be support from the broader community (e.g., golfers and users of trails through the course).

Second, I don’t believe that the quality of any business decisions made by the property owners are relevant to land use decisions of the Board of Supervisors. If the new owners paid a speculative premium for the property hoping to find a path to development, and if they are unable to secure community support for such development, in my view that is simply the risk of being an entrepreneur in our free market system.

The Reston National Golf Course has been a part of the fabric of Reston since the community was founded in 1964. I understand the concerns of residents in protecting Reston’s open space for recreational, environmental and livability reasons. And with the current Comprehensive Plan designation arrived at unanimously by the task force formed to draft the Plan only a few years ago, I do not support changing the Plan’s designation that this property be a golf course. At some point in the future if the new owners of the golf course can devise a plan which garners clear and broad community backing (including neighboring communities) I would support initiating a process to consider changing the Comprehensive Plan. If not, they should accept the fact that they bought a golf course and look at how to involve more of the community in the lifelong sport of golf.

Photo via Walter Alcorn

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During Special Meeting, Reston Association Mulls Fixes to Covenants and Design Review Process

(Updated at 2:57 p.m.) Reston Association’s covenants department is once again contemplating ways to streamline its services and address staffing issues.

At a special meeting yesterday (June 13) between its Board of Directors, the Design Review Board and other staff, Anna Donato, RA’s director of covenants administration, suggested temporary fixes, including starting design and review meetings at an earlier time and editing guidelines to allow more DRB projects to be completed without applications.

The suggestions are part of an effort to improve the covenants’ departments services and create more room for staff to complete property inspections, address home resale requests, and other issues not directly within the purview of the DRB.

The DRB is primarily focused on preserving the architectural integrity of Reston Association properties, while covenants typically involve issues related to  use and maintenance, which refers to the physical condition of properties. Covenants staff also provide support to the DRB, which is an independent agency within RA that reviews exterior improvements of properties within RA.

Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, said that diluting the DRB’s role and process by limiting staff support or curtailing the DRB’s function is not sustainable fix for the “systemic problem” and “staffing crisis” that faces the covenants department.

New needs have changed the role of the covenants department over the last decade. The level of detail required for DRB applications has increased significantly and decision letters are much more details — departing from the days when applications were stamped with an “approved” label. Furthermore, redevelopment had generated more applications and RA recently started requiring its own properties to go through the DRB process.

Last year, the DRB processed 2,097 applications — up from 1,904 in 2016 and 1,835 in 2017.

Donato said workload increases justify the need for one full-time inspection, one full-time cluster specialist, and two vehicles to perform services, including property inspections.

Issues facing covenants staff have been a topic of discussion for at least a decade. 

In October 2017, staff contemplated ways to address covenants requests. In 2006, a study commissioned by RA assessed the efficiency, processes and organizational structure of the covenants department. 

That study by BDO Seidman LLP was brought to the attention of Donato several weeks ago. It laid out several problems with the department, including high turnover, no standardized training process for new hires, lack of retention, and significant manual and duplicated efforts.

The report suggested that the department clarify its goals and mission, revise its recruiting process and improve the department’s overall performance levels.

At-large Director Ven Iyer said he was concerned that RA’s covenants policies were driving away residents. In some cases, covenant inspectors flag longstanding issues that previous inspectors have not acknowledged — leaving some members to foot the bill of unanticipated issues.

Some RA members say the covenants process needs more teeth and consistency.

For example, when John Robinson bought his home, he says a covenants advisor listed necessary repairs required by the seller less than a week before closing.

“The structure is inherently broken if they can only create problems during the sale process and are not empowered to fix them,” Robinson said.

W. Neal Roseberry, a DRB member, disputed Iyer’s comments that RA’s design covenants were causing residents to move out. He said RA’s policies are designed to maintain property values and a desirable community.

RA’s CEO Hank Lynch said that he stands by covenants staff who work hard in stressful circumstances. He also stated that discussions about the report by BDO was “counter-productive.”

“If you don’t like the rules, go live somewhere else,” said Charlie Hoffman of the DRB said.

Discussions on solutions going forward will continue in the coming months.

In introductory remarks during the meeting, Cathy Baum, RA’s board president, also called out Reston Now for “irresponsible” reporting on issues facing the covenants department.

Baum, who is an elected by RA members, incorrectly stated that a Reston Now story left the impression staff had been interviewed for the story — even though the story explicitly stated staff remarks were referenced from a May 23 board meeting.

Reston Association also took issue with a recent poll about members’ experiences with the covenants department. Baum accused Reston Now of using the poll to “stir the pot of negative comments.”

“Irresponsible journalism or journalists have no place in this community,” she said.

Baum did not contact Reston Now about her concerns, although RA’s spokesperson contacted Reston Now about the poll, which he stated was being used to “drive comment engagement.”

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Planning Commission Approves Scaled Back Version of Reston Heights

After several deferrals, the Fairfax County Planning Commission finally approved plans to scale back JBG Smith’s Reston Heights development.

The developer is seeking to remove 215,000 square feet of office space and 3,600 square feet of retail from the mixed-use project, which is located at 11830 Sunrise Valley Drive.

But plans were delayed after commissioners expressed concerns about limited stormwater management on the site. The owners of 7-Eleven, which owns the Exxon gas station adjacent to the site, also raised concerns about sharing an access road between the two sites.

At a meeting on Wednesday, June 12, Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter said JBG Smith resolved all outstanding issues.

The road between the 7-Eleven parcel and JBG Smith’s property will remain open to vehicles and pedestrians.

The commission also added a condition to augment the proposal’s stormwater manager in order to make up for the loss of trees along Sunrise Valley Drive.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote on the project on June 25.

Photos via Fairfax County Government

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South Lakes High School Boys State Champion Soccer Team Embodies ‘International Spirit’

Over the weekend, South Lakes High School won its first state championship in boys’ soccer. School officials attribute the team’s success to partnership and cooperation between a team that is mostly composed of first and second generation immigrants.

Many of the players are English Language Learners who are assimilating into the general student body. 

“Not unlike its broader student body, the soccer team has drawn its strength from its diversity to bear the odds to make history,” Emily Burrell, an SLHS news liaison, wrote.

Last Friday, the halls of South Lakes high school were resonating with sounds of cheer and support as the community gave the team a royal send off to their semi-final and final games. This victory will resonate in the hearts and minds of the students as they build on their experience as part of the South Lakes soccer family and move ahead in pursuit of their version of the American dream. One can but wonder if this is not what Robert Simon envisioned when he spoke of creating an equitable community where “the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning, and take precedence for large-scale concepts.”

Students are from more than a dozen countries, including Taiwan, Nigeria, Sudan, Japan, Guatemala, Turkey and Afghanistan — a testament to the international nature of the sport itself.

The program was built by Coach Marty Pfister over the past 12 years. Because many students have jobs to help with family expenses, the team’s coaches were flexible throughout the year to help economically disadvantaged students balance school, work, and sports.

Assistant Coach Aanand Vasudevan says the struggle to juggle jobs and schools has helped make the students stronger on and off the field.

Photos via SLHS

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Friday Morning Notes

Silver Line Construction Snag Could Delay Opening — The contractor responding for building the new rail yard near Dulles Airport revealed their latest schedule slipped 67 days in just one month. The estimated completion date is now set for late July 2020. [WTOP]

Project to Widen Route 7 from Tysons to Reston Breaks Ground — The project held its groundbreaking ceremony yesterday (Thursday). It would add a third lane from Leesburg Pike in each direction from Reston to Tysons. [Tysons Reporter]

Triple Left Lane Closure Overnight on the Dulles Toll Road Next Week — Drivers should expect 20-minute stoppages nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, June 19 through the morning of Monday, June 24. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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