Reston, VA

Top Stories This Week

Before we head off into another weekend with COVID-19 abound, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Fairfax County COVID-19 Cases Show Signs of Slowing Down
  2. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Approves New Residential Development
  3. Bonchon Chicken Announces Grand Opening in Reston
  4. Affordable Housing Could Replace Herndon’s Residence Inn
  5. Electrical Accident Causes Reston House Fire

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 social distancing plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

Image via Google Maps

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Reston Association will need to get creative in order to fund its planned renovation of the Lake Thoreau Pool.

The majority of residents who spoke at the association’s board of directors meeting on Thursday expressed support for funding the project in 2021 so that it can reopen in 2022 as planned. Members urging board members to consider a variety of funding and design options if necessary to make it more feasible.

Suggestions included opening the pool up to non-RA members, turning the pool into a shallow-end-only facility to make maintenance easier, and opening up the pool deck year-round so that it could be utilized for other activities.

“Now that we are all living through this pandemic, we know the huge importance of outdoor spaces,” Giselle Agosto Hincapie, whose family lives in walking distance of the pool, said. “The idea of completely eliminating the pool or delaying the construction project is truly disheartening. I think a pool can be incorporated with year-round amenities in this space.”

Kimley-Horn, the consultant hired to develop design concepts for the pool project, estimates that its first proposal, a more straightforward renovation that stays within the site’s existing footprint, would cost somewhere between $2.9 million and $3.5 million.

This design would install a zero-depth wading pool in what used to be the facility’s deep end, expand the parking lot and bathhouse to meet Fairfax County and Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements, and incorporate an elevated observation and lounge deck.

A second proposal that would involve a more extensive overhaul of the site would cost between $3.8 million and $4.6 million, though Kimle-Horn landscape architect Ron Kagawa says there has been a “great preference” for the simpler concept.

Kagawa says a significant part of the project’s cost is tied to the need to level out the site so that it is more accessible and to construct an approximately 450-foot-long retaining wall along the lakefront and around the parking lot.

Chris Schumaker, Reston Association’s senior capital projects operations manager, estimates that if RA picks the first project concept, it would need to commit an additional $3.1 million on top of the $350,000 allocated to the Lake Thoreau project in 2020, possibly splitting the $3.45 million total cost between $1.6 million in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2022.

However, Reston Association also has five other pools and three tennis courts that are expected to need renovations between 2022 and 2031.

Adding these other projects on top of the Lake Thoreau pool funding, the association’s repair and replacement reserve fund could drop into a negative balance by 2023 and not recover until 2027, according to Schumaker’s projections.

“A lot of our facilities are nearing that 40, 50-year age mark,” Schumaker said. “We can safely assume there are going to be some major projects coming down the pike that we’re going to need to be aware of and planning for.”

RA’s Board of Directors will discuss options for financing the Lake Thoreau pool renovation in more detail during a special working session on Oct. 8.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston Association is urging members to avoid contact with Lake Newport after a possibly harmful algae bloom developed at the lake this week.

The association will continue to monitor the algae, but there are not immediate plans to treat the lake.

Forecasted rain and cooler temperatures should take care of the issue, RA wrote in a statement.

Residents should “regard the algae as potentially harmful” and avoid contact with the water. Pet owners should ensure their pets avoid ingesting or coming into contact with the water as well.

Anyone with additional questions should contact William Peterson at [email protected].

Photo via RA

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Since 2013, Reston Now has been reporting news about the Reston and Herndon areas. Recently, we started providing additional coverage of Great Falls.

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Some residents of Herndon say they risk their lives — or at least their cars — when they cross the intersection of Fox Mill and Pinecrest roads. Many report going minutes out of the way to avoid turning onto or off of the highway.

But those days of accidents and long waits in the left-turn lane may soon be over.

Next week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution to authorize a partnership between the county and state departments of transportation to install a light signal and construct left-turn lanes in the intersection, which has been the site of dozens of accidents in five years.

The meeting starts at noon on Tuesday, and can be watched online.

The signal was deemed necessary after the Virginia Department of Transportation studied the intersection. To get started, VDOT will need to conduct a preliminary engineering phase for this project, which will cost $900,000.

This money comes from a county and regional construction reserve fund.

Preliminary engineering for the project began in the fall, according to VDOT.

The county may be responsible for the remaining $4.8 million to pay for the right-of-way and construction phases of this project, but the state and county will look for additional sources of funding and find ways to share costs, the resolution says.

Before work on the signal could start, the transportation department did make improvements aimed at calming traffic. The road lines were repainted to add a left turn lane, which took aim at a frequent maneuver in which drivers going straight illegally moved around the cars that had to wait in a through road to turn left.

Additionally, stop and yield signs were installed and foliage was removed to improve sight distance.

This signal would answer the demands of Herndon residents. The intersection is home to a swim and tennis club, a popular bank and a church, and families must navigate it to get children to and from nearby schools.

In fact, three years ago, more than 560 people signed a petition to demand a solution for the intersection. The Fox Mill Estates Homeowners Association, a nearby community, continues to support the project.

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Pupatella is targeting a late fall opening in Reston, according to a company in Reston.

The estimated opening date is “pending any unforeseen issues with buildout and inspections,” the company representative told Reston Now.

Construction began in early 2020 after The Pizza Hut, which first opened in 1977, closed its doors.

Pupatella, a Neapolitan pizza restaurant, announced had originally planned to open earlier this year.

The 2,700-square-foot restaurant will be located at 1921 Wiehle Avenue. A patio for outdoor planing is also planned.

Enzo and Anastasiya Algarme started Pupatella as a food truck in 2007. The business has been named a top pizzeria, with recognition from The Today Show, The Washington Post, USA Today and the Washingtonian.

Photos via Chris Gieckel

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Friday Morning Notes

Candidate Forum for Town of Herndon Election This Weekend — Candidates for the mayoral and council elections will take part in a panel moderated by Brian Tumulty, who covers finances and taxes for The Bond Buyer. The event is hosted by the Dulles Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. [Dulles Chamber of Commerce]

County Grant Programs Expands Eligibility Criteria — “Expanded business sectors are now eligible to apply, including small hotels and bed and breakfast lodging facilities, along with film industry companies supporting production in the commonwealth.” [Fairfax County Government]

Virtual Career Fair Set for Oct. 8 — “The Hiring + Reskilling Virtual Career Fair will welcome job seekers of all backgrounds, especially those unemployed due to COVID-19. The open positions will span a variety of industries, and not all require a college degree. Open positions include store clerks, construction laborers, security guards, program managers, information security analysts, and more.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said his overworked, understaffed office is in a state of crisis, which could have deep ramifications for public safety.

“Potentially innocent people could be wrongfully convicted, or guilty people could be left on the street, making our community more vulnerable,” he told the Board of Supervisors in a meeting on Tuesday.

The short-term solution he proposed involves hiring 20 staff for about $2 million. He said this would ensure the office does not fall behind when felony trials resume in November, after being postponed since March due to the coronavirus. The 20 staff would not be enough, for example, to handle the influx of  potential evidence that would need independent review if every police officer starts wearing a body camera.

To ramp up the number of cases his office can prosecute thoroughly and ethically, Descano said he needs 137 attorneys and support staff, which would cost $19.1 million.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said they were surprised to hear Descano’s claim of unethical prosecutions and were experiencing a case of “sticker shock,” said Supervisor James R. Walkinshaw, of Braddock District.

“I think we’re all in a state of shock here,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay said.

A plan would need to be developed to address how these changes would impact other areas of law enforcement and justice, including the police department and the Fairfax County Attorney’s office, he said.

“While it is an emergency, we cannot respond to it like an emergency,” McKay said.

Supervisor John Foust, the Dranesville District Representative, told Descano, “You’ve found the problem, but I’m not sure you’ve identified the solution.”

The Office of the Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecutes crimes that occur in Fairfax County and felonies that occur in Fairfax City and the towns of Herndon and Vienna. It tries cases in the county’s district and circuit courts, as well as the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. The office works closely with state, county and local police departments.

But over the course of the year, Descano said he has had to cut back the number and scope of cases his office can prosecute.

The issue is a lack of state and local funding. Fairfax — the biggest jurisdiction in the state — receives less state funding in part because it tries to divert defendants from the criminal justice system. The state funds positions based on the number of defendants who make it to court and the number who are sentenced, Descano said.

He says local funding is low compared to surrounding jurisdictions, which spend up to four times what Fairfax County spends.

“A resident of Fairfax County can spend more on a gallon of milk than on the prosecution of crimes,” he said.

The ratio of officers to prosecutors is also imbalanced: For every prosecutor, there are 33 sworn officers making arrests, meaning prosecutors cannot keep up with the rate of arrests.

“We don’t have the time to do the cases properly,” he said. “The only way to give us more time is to add more staff. The reason we need this is without time, bad things can happen.”

These “bad things” include focusing on getting dockets cleared and farming out independent reviews of evidence to police officers.

“In essence, there were officers making case decisions as if they were attorneys, without the independent review of attorneys,” he said. “We like to think that has never happened in Fairfax County, but I’ve seen evidence that that has happened.”

Supervisor Pat Herrity, the Springfield District Representative, said he needs an executive session to be shown where the ethical issues are.

“I had not heard that before this issue came up and I think we ought to peel the onion on that skin a little bit,” he said.

Deputy County Executive David Rohrer, a former police chief for Fairfax County, defended previous commonwealth’s attorneys as well as the police department.

“I only observed the highest integrity and ethics in their staff,” he said.

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In a presentation to the School Board earlier this week, Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced that some students could begin returning to classes in schools in late October.

By late October, administrators estimate that 653 teachers can teach 6,707 students in school buildings for anywhere between one half-day to four full days a week.

The district is targeting students who receive special education services, attend preschool, are English-language learners, newcomers to U.S. schools or have limited formal education. High school students can also come for certain technical-education courses.

The move was heavily criticized by members of the School Board, who said Brabrand’s plan lacked important data that parents and teachers need when planning to start heading back to school.

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