Reston, VA

Colin Mills/File photoSpring and the Silver Line opening both feel a long way away right now. When you’re digging out from the latest snowstorm and reading about MWAA’s declaration that the line isn’t ready for turnover to Metro, it’s hard to convince yourself otherwise.

But believe it or not, we are getting closer to both. In the case of spring, the vernal equinox is on March 20, just a couple weeks away. (The real beginning of spring, baseball’s Opening Day, is a week and a half later.) With the Silver Line, unfortunately, we don’t yet have a firm opening date. But each day that passes brings us closer to both long-awaited events. For now, all we can do is wait.

In the meantime, we can pass the time by preparing for the impacts that the Metro will bring to Reston. The most notable of these is traffic. As RCA has stated repeatedly, new crossings of the Dulles Toll Road are key to easing congestion around the Silver Line stations. And of the proposed new crossings, the Soapstone Connector is the furthest along.

Last month, the County Department of Transportation presented the latest on the Soapstone project to the Hunter Mill Transportation Advisory Committee. RCA Vice President John Hanley attended the meeting, and he gave the Board an update last week. The good news is that the county understands the importance of the project and is moving it along; however, there are a couple of major questions that must be resolved before this important link in Reston’s transportation network can be built.

The last time I wrote about the Soapstone Connector, back in May, the County was evaluating several proposed alignments for the connector. They alignment has now been selected; it’s a hybrid of a couple of the previous options. And on the whole, it looks pretty good.

On the south side, the connector links up with Soapstone Drive, which is a definite plus.  You might have assumed this was a given, since the project is called the “Soapstone Connector,” but several of the alternatives would not have connected to Soapstone.)  The alignment passes through the existing National Association of Secondary School Principals building and generally follows the western side of Association Drive before crossing the Toll Road.

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Colin Mills/File photoRemember a few weeks ago, when I mentioned that RCA planned to fill open seats on the Board? I am happy to report that we received applications from some highly qualified and impressive candidates. At Monday’s Board meeting, we reviewed the applications we received, and interviewed the candidates that applied.

I came away with the same feeling I have when I’m reviewing nominations for Citizen of the Year: I’m really proud of the dedicated and hard-working citizens we have in Reston. I wish we had enough open slots to seat everyone who applied; each candidate has a lot to offer Reston and RCA. But we had only three seats available, and as with Citizen of the Year, we had to make a difficult decision.

But we did make a decision, and we welcomed three new members — Nick Georgas, Yavuz Inanli, and Annmarie Swope — to the Board. I’d like to introduce them here, so you can get to know the people who will be working on your behalf at RCA.

Nick Georgas first learned about Reston when he studied it in college. He was fascinated by what he learned, and he wanted to be part of it himself.  When he found the opportunity to live here, he gladly took it.  I’ve heard some version of this story from many folks who decided to live in Reston. When you combine that with the number of Reston natives (like me) who choose to stay, it’s a testament to the strength of Bob Simon’s vision and what a fascinating and well-planned community we have built together.

Nick is a landscape architect and planner, and he has observed the Fairfax County planning and development process up close.  He followed the discussion over the revised Comprehensive Plan with interest. Like us at RCA, he thought that several parts of the plan could be better from a citizen perspective, most notably the open space that will be provided in the station areas.

RCA has been very involved in land use and planning discussions over the last several years, and Nick allows us to strengthen a strength. We have brilliant analysts like Terry Maynard and Dick Rogers, and plenty of experience on the citizen’s side of the planning process. What we have lacked is engineering expertise and an insider’s view of the process, and Nick helps us out in both areas. I’m really excited to have Nick on board. Read More

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Colin Mills/File photoLast week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the revised Comprehensive Plan for Reston, paving the way for the development around the future Silver Line stations to begin in earnest.

The new mixed-use, transit-oriented development along the Toll Road corridor will change the face of Reston in the coming decades. Those changes offer the potential for Reston to be a thriving, forward-looking, 21st-century community. They also pose significant challenges that the community will have to face.

As you likely know, RCA expressed a number of concerns about the plan revisions. We are concerned that the plan doesn’t do enough to address the traffic that the new development will add to our streets. We’re concerned that the plan doesn’t ensure that Reston’s new residents have enough parks and athletic fields nearby. And we’re concerned about the plan’s implementation, and who will be responsible for ensuring that the plan’s goals and constraints are met.

Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors made only minor tweaks to the plan, and most of our concerns were not addressed. The Board did pass the follow-on motions recommended by the Planning Commission, the most important of which calls for “an inclusive process” to determine how the necessary transportation improvements will be funded.  But most of the issues we had with the plan passed by the Task Force are still there.

So is this the end of the road? Not even close. What happens next will go a long way toward determining whether our vision of Reston’s future succeeds. There’s still work to be done, and we need our citizens to remain active and involved.  Here’s an outline of the road ahead for Reston, and how RCA will keep remain involved along the way.

Let’s start with the “inclusive process” on transportation funding. Obviously, RCA will push to ensure that we and other citizen groups are included in that process. And we will work hard to develop an equitable plan that delivers the transportation improvements we need.  Read More

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Colin Mills/File photoAs you know, I’m a fan of snowy days. I hope you’re all warm and safe inside right now. But once the cars and the walk have been shoveled, the snowmen have been built, and the day’s sledding runs are complete, you might be looking for something else to do. If you are, and if you care about our community’s future, I have a suggestion: Why not apply for a spot on the RCA Board?

We have three available seats, and we’re looking for dedicated community-minded folks to fill them. If you read my posts on a regular basis, odds are that you’re interested in Reston and community issues. And thank you for that!  We need people who care about local issues. If that’s you, I’d like to challenge you to take the next step and get involved in planning our community’s future with RCA.

Last year was one of RCA’s busiest years ever, and 2014 is shaping up to be just as active.  It’s Reston’s 50th anniversary, and our community will be looking back at its history, but there are plenty of issues that will have us looking forward as well. The opening of the Silver Line and its surrounding development, the implementation of Phase 1 of the Master Plan and the preparations for Phase 2, the proposed new rec center… these issues are going to change the face of Reston and how we live, work, and play for decades to come.

RCA and its Reston 2020 Committee are active on the front lines of all of those issues and more. If you’re interested in helping to shape the community conversation and help plan for our future, RCA and 2020 are a great place for you to get involved.  Read More

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Colin Mills/File photoReston’s 50th anniversary is at hand. Lately, I’ve been at several meetings where the focus has been on Reston’s history. There are a series of exciting events planned for this year that will take a look back at our past. I’m excited about attending as many of them as my schedule will allow.

But you know me; I like to look forward. I like to think about the future, and where our community is headed.  Fortunately, just around the corner, we have an event in Reston that’s all about the future, and about fostering the spirit of experimentation and innovation that makes Reston special. And it comes as no surprise that this event is being put together by one of my favorite organizations: Nova Labs.

I’ve written about this terrific Reston-based nonprofit before.  In case you don’t know, Nova Labs is a makerspace.  That means that it provides space for people to create and build things, a place to collaborate with like-minded people, and an opportunity to learn about new technologies, tools, and skills. Basically, it’s a dream come true for people who like to make things.  I’m proud that Reston is home to a creative and exciting venture as this.

At last week’s RCA Board meeting, we received a presentation from Nova Labs. We learned all about the projects that they’ve been doing, such as using drones to do an aerial survey of the Wiehle Metro station and hosting programs designed to get kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).   We learned about their plans to move into a larger space within the near future.  And most interesting of all, we learned about their plans to hold a Mini Maker Faire, right here in Reston next month.

What’s a Maker Faire?   Basically, it’s the coolest show-and-tell you can imagine. It’s a gathering for engineers, crafters, tech types, and other makers to display and talk about their projects. The idea was hatched in the Bay Area by MAKE Magazine back in 2006. Since then, Maker Faires and Mini Maker Faires have been held across the country, and even internationally; combined, they’ve had over 1.5 million attendees.

What will you see at the Mini Maker Faire?  It all depends on the exhibitors, and what they choose to display. That’s part of the excitement; you never know what you’re going to going to see. The focus is often on displaying new technologies, but you might also see innovative projects in science, engineering, or the arts as well. You might see some robotics projects, a 3D printing demonstration, exciting new apps, breathtaking Lego sculptures, artisanal crafts, performance art demonstrations, inventions, and more. And you won’t just be able to see what other people are making; you’ll have the chance to learn how to create things too!

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Colin Mills/File photoThe train is coming!  At last, the Silver Line will pull into Wiehle station within the next few months. And just in time, Fairfax County is finishing the revisions to our Comprehensive Plan to set the ground rules for development in the station areas. The draft Comp Plan goes before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, with a vote likely within a few weeks.

The good news is that over four years of work by the Master Plan Task Force is about to come to fruition. Those long meeting nights and discussions about Floor-Area Ratio and Levels of Service are over. I’m happy to have my Tuesday nights back, and my family feels the same way.

The bad news is that the Comp Plan still falls short in several areas. The plan doesn’t do enough to protect Reston’s quality of life, or to ensure that the station areas will be well-integrated into the surrounding community. In this week’s column, I’ll update you on where the process stands, highlight the areas where RCA believes the plan can be better, and explain what we’re going to do about it.

The last time I talked in depth about the Comp Plan was in the wake of the Task Force’s final vote in September. In that column, I spelled out why RCA felt the plan needed improvement. Since then, the plan has gone to the County Planning Commission, which reviewed and approved it.

The Planning Commission spent several weeks reviewing the plan, but ultimately made only minor changes. We were particularly discouraged that the Planning Commission disregarded the changes suggested by Reston’s citizen representatives, while adopting several changes provided by individual landowners and/or their lawyers.

As a result, RCA’s concerns about the plan are the same today as they were back in September. To refresh your memory, I’ll touch on a few of the key areas.

Traffic has been a key issue for RCA throughout this process. The development around the stations won’t benefit Reston if clogged streets mean that we can’t get to the Silver Line, or that the Toll Road becomes a virtual wall during the rush.

The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor has been cited as a success story for transit-oriented development; traffic in that area has actually improved over time.  Unfortunately, the County Department of Transportation’s modeling suggests that won’t be true for Reston; our traffic is projected to get worse — in some cases, much worse — if the Comp Plan goes forward as written.

That’s why RCA supports a goal of Level of Service E at Reston’s “gateway” intersections (where Wiehle Avenue, Reston Parkway, and Fairfax County Parkway intersect Sunset Hills and Sunrise Valley). Level of Service E means an average delay of 55 to 80 seconds at each of these intersections.  Currently, the Comp Plan calls for a “network” Level of Service E, a fuzzy goal that allows for delays of up to four minutes at the gateway intersections, according to FCDOT models.  That level of gridlock just isn’t acceptable. Read More

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Colin Mills/File photoLast week, the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved (with a few changes) the draft Comprehensive Plan amendment produced by the Reston Master Plan Task Force. The plan now goes to the Board of Supervisors.  I’ll be writing more about our thoughts on the plan and how we think it can be improved, but this week I want to focus on one crucial issue: providing athletic fields for Reston’s new residents.

You may have read an article on the field situation in Reston Now earlier this week. If so, you know that RCA and our Reston 2020 Committee have made this issue a priority throughout the Master Plan process.  So this week, I’ll explain why the field situation in the station areas is so challenging, and why we’re concerned that the Comp Plan doesn’t do enough to address the issue.

We already have a shortage of athletic fields in Reston.  As anyone who plays an organized sport (or with a kid who does) knows, the competition for field time around here is fierce. When I was a kid, our sports were a pretty casual affair: we played baseball and football in the common areas around our neighborhood. We played tennis in the road that ran through our cluster. When we could get away with it, we snuck onto the neighboring Hidden Creek Country Club golf course.  We didn’t use actual fields that much. Read More

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Colin Mills/File photoWinter has settled in with a vengeance! I hope you’ve all been coping well with the bitter cold we’ve had this week. While the temperatures we’ve had might not faze someone from Wisconsin or upstate New York, they’re pretty unusual for this area. Personally, I believe that cold weather builds character, but I’ve had a hard time convincing my daughter of that.

Perhaps when the weather is cold, it’s inevitable that the mind turns to places that are warmer. Places like Reston’s former Sister City  — Nyeri, Kenya,where it’s supposed to be in the low 80s today. It was around this time two years ago when I wrote about the history of Reston’s Sister City relationship with Nyeri and RCA’s role in it.

Recently, I’ve had some conversations that have convinced me that the time might be right to reunite these old Sister Cities. So this week, I’d like to tell you about the conversations I’ve had, and how I think resuming relations might be a boon for both cities.

A couple months ago, I received an email from a woman named Anne, who had come across the 2012 piece I wrote about the history between Reston and Nyeri. As luck would have it, she had been thinking about helping Reston and Nyeri become Sister Cities today. When she found out that this relationship had already existed, she said she “got energized just thinking about the art of the possible.” She asked if we could meet to discuss it further, and I gladly agreed.

It was a cold and rainy night when I arrived at Cafesano to meet with Anne and her friend Catherine. But once we began talking, their energy and enthusiasm quickly helped me forget the cold. Anne and Catherine grew up across the street from each other in Nyeri. They both wound up emigrating here separately, and they were delighted to discover that they were neighbors again in America.

In the course of their conversations, they often talked about creating a connection between Nyeri and their new home. They said they were excited for this meeting, because it meant that they would start taking action on their long-imagined idea.

They told me about growing up in Nyeri, and what the town was like. The major industry in Nyeri is agriculture, especially coffee and tea farming, but there are also several bottling plants and the home of East Africa’s leading dairy, Brookside Dairy. Nyeri is also a tourist destination, both for tourists seeking natural beauty (the city is located in the foothills of Mount Kenya) and history (the grave of Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, and the hotel where Queen Elizabeth II acceded to the throne are in Nyeri). The more they spoke, the more interested I became in seeing Nyeri for myself.

Nyeri, Kenya/Credit: News24 Kenya.comI asked Anne and Catherine what they thought should be the basis of the Sister City relationship. They said Nyeri would benefit most in planning and economic development. They described Nyerians as being very bright, well-educated, and entrepreneurial, but said that Nyeri has been struggling in recent years for a lack of planning. It’s a fairly large town, but it has few planning ordinances and growth has occurred in a somewhat haphazard fashion. If someone wants to start a restaurant or a shop, they just build it wherever they can find the space. You can imagine the kind of problems that sort of scattered growth can cause.

Anne described how much she loved seeing Reston’s growth according to its Master Plan, and she felt that seeing a place as well-planned as Reston would help encourage and guide Nyeri in its development. Being able to talk to our leaders about how we’ve planned and managed our growth might provide Nyerians with some ideas they can implement. Read More

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Colin Mills/File photoHappy New Year, Reston!  As I enjoy one of my favorite New Year’s traditions, the NHL’s annual outdoor game, I will continue a tradition of my own by sharing my resolutions for RCA in 2014.

Looking over last year’s resolutions, we hit on some and missed on others.  We succeeded in revamping our website and relaunching our newsletter, and John Lovaas did officially turn the candidate forums over to RCA this year.  In other areas, like the Master Plan Task Force, we didn’t have as much success as we would have liked.  Despite that, 2013 was an extremely busy year for RCA, and we wound up dealing with a variety of issues that we never knew would come up when the year started.  Who knew on New Year’s Day 2013 that we’d be fighting to protect our County libraries, or debating the fate of a parcel of trees at Lake Anne, or considering whether or not to build a new RCC rec center?

2014 looks to be another big year in Reston, as we prepare to celebrate Bob Simon’s 100th birthday and our community’s 50th anniversary.  We’re no longer a New Town; we’re a mature community.  And 2014 will inaugurate two things that will likely transform Reston’s future: the Silver Line and the redevelopment of Lake Anne.  The former will spur the growth of new neighborhoods around the stations; the latter will spark the rebirth of Reston’s oldest areas.  Both hold great promise and excitement, but also the possibility of disruptive changes for our community and our citizens.

Like all of Reston’s leading organizations, RCA will be looking toward the future in 2014.  The actions we take now will set the stage for Reston’s next 50 years.  With that in mind, these are my forward-looking resolutions for RCA in 2014:

Advocate for a citizen-driven process for Phase 2 of the Master Plan Task Force. Phase 1 of the Task Force is in the books, and the plan recommendations for the station areas will soon be approved.  In 2014, we will turn our attention to the rest of Reston, most notably the village centers.  The planning we do in this phase will shape what our community looks like in the decades to come.

That’s why it’s essential for Phase 2 to be led by the citizens of Reston, and our vision for the future.  We’ll need to solicit widespread citizen input, and integrate that input into the decisions we make.  I’d like to see RCA work with RA, ARCH, and other citizen organizations to ensure that Phase 2 reflects the vision of the citizens, possibly using the Lake Anne redevelopment process as a model. Read More

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Colin Mills/File photo Winter has come early this season! Being a snow lover, I welcome this early taste of the white stuff.

Certainly, it’s a welcome change from the largely barren winters we’ve had the last couple of years. The snow and ice meant a surprise four-day weekend for my daughter Leslie. For my wife and me, this meant working from home.

While I was tapping away on my computer and watching the flakes fall, I thought about the phenomenon of telecommuting. It’s pretty remarkable that technology has advanced to the point where we can be practically as productive outside the office as in it.

One of Bob Simon’s founding principles for Reston was that “the people be able to live and work in the same community.” In a way, telecommuting is the ultimate version of that goal: people living and working in the same house. And there are people who think that this is the future: widespread telecommuting will be what saves us from traffic paralysis and environmental degradation.

Maybe they’re right. But the move toward telecommuting is emblematic of a troubling trend in our society, toward less face-to-face human interaction. That trend runs the risk of damaging our sense of community.

We live in an increasingly atomized society; we spend less and less time in the company of others. For a lot of folks, life is a continuous cycle: from home to work to shopping and back home again. With the new self-checkout feature at grocery stores, you can get in and get out without having to talk to another person at all. It’s a lonely way to live.

Civic and fellowship organizations are a lot less popular than they used to be; so is going out for bridge night. Many of today’s leisure activities can be done at home alone (video games, surfing the
Internet, etc.). Lots of people work out at the gym, but that’s a solitary pursuit too, a time to plug in the headphones and unwind from (or get ready for) the day.

The office is one of the few places where we really spend time with people outside of our families anymore. If we’re no longer going into the office every day, what happens then? We are social creatures; instant messaging and video conferencing aren’t a real substitute for face-to-face contact as our primary source of human interaction.

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Colin Mills/File photoOur New Town isn’t so new anymore. Next year, we’re going to celebrate Reston’s 50th. We’re a community with a real history now.

To our credit, we’ve been taking steps to recognize and  preserve that history. The Reston Museum, with its series of talks about the early days of Reston, has done a great deal to capture the stories of our past. The forthcoming movie “The Reston Story” should also help in preserving our collective memory. And of course, Lake Anne Plaza is recognized by Fairfax County as a historic district.

However, there’s another aspect of our history that I believe deserves some thought: how best to remember our most dedicated and distinguished citizens. Of course, we have awards like Best of Reston and RCA’s Citizen of the Year, which recognize the people who are doing good work in our community currently.

But I’m thinking about memorializing those Restonians who are no longer with us, but who made lasting contributions that deserve to be remembered by future generations. We should publicly honor those people who helped make our community the great place it is today.

Now is the time to think about this. The pioneer generation of Restonians is getting older. I wish they could all be immortal (as Bob Simon appears to be), but unfortunately, they won’t be with us forever. Read More

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Colin Mills/File photoHappy Thanksgiving, everybody! It’s time once again to gorge ourselves on turkey, mashed potatoes, and mediocre football games. It’s time to battle the traffic and cold weather to gather together with our families and friends. But most importantly, it’s time to give thanks for the blessings in our lives.

And as I’ve done every year since I started as RCA president, I’d like to take this moment to share with you what I’m thankful for here in Reston. This is one of the annual traditions that I enjoy the most.

It’s easy to read the headlines and become focused on the problems and threats we face. Whether it’s the government by crisis in Washington or divisive issues like the Comprehensive Plan and the Lake Anne land swap here in Reston, it’s easy to find things to be upset about.

But despite the often-depressing headlines, we’re also very fortunate. Reston is a great place to live, work, and play, and that’s just as true today as it was 50 years ago when Bob Simon was turning his dream of a New Town into reality. Whatever challenges we may face, they pale in comparison to the many benefits and blessings we enjoy.

Here’s what I’m thankful for this year:

1. As always, I’m thankful for my colleagues on the Reston Citizens Association. We’ve faced a lot of issues in Reston this year, major issues with implications for our community’s future. And RCA has stayed on top of those issues and remained a strong voice for our citizens. That’s a testament to the hard work and commitment of our Board and committee members. 2014 is shaping up to be another active year in our community, and I’m glad I can count on my colleagues to keep up their good and dedicated service next year. It’s an honor to work with you.

2.  I’m thankful that the Silver Line is going to open soon. As long as I’ve been around, we’ve been talking about bringing the Metro to Reston. At last, it’s going to happen! Now when I head downtown to see my beloved Nationals (wait ‘til next year!) take thefield or visit the museums with my family, I won’t have to drive to West Falls Church or Vienna; I’ll be able to catch the train right here.

There’s still work to be done on this front; we must make sure that Toll Road users aren’t picking up too much of the tab for Phase 2, and we need transportation improvements to ensure that the Wiehle station doesn’t bring traffic gridlock. But these issues can be worked out. Getting rail to Reston is a huge and exciting step forward.

3. I’m thankful to the Reston Association and the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners for their continued work with RCA on community issues. Strengthening our alliance has been a major goal of mine, and I’m happy to say that we’re succeeded.

Our partnership reached a new level last month, as we submitted joint comments on the Comp Plan and held a community forum to let the citizens know what Reston’s future might hold.

This sort of collaboration is what community leadership is all about. I’m thankful for what we’ve done together so far. And I’m even more thankful that our collaboration is just beginning.

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Colin Mills/File photoRCA is a locally-focused organization. Our primary goal, as our name suggests, is to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Reston. As a result, our projects are usually Reston-specific. Every once in a while, though, we have a chance to do something that benefits people beyond our community’s borders.

One such effort has recently come to fruition for RCA’s Reston Accessibility Committee and its hard-working chair, Ken Fredgren. For the last two years, Ken and others have been pushing for the adoption of changes to Virginia’s statewide building code to make it friendlier to people with disabilities. Those changes have now been adopted, and the people of Virginia, not just Reston, will benefit.

How did RAC get involved in changing statewide building codes? As you might know, RAC works with Reston’s commercial property owners and managers to make their properties more accessible for people with disabilities. In the course of doing this kind of work, they have naturally become familiar with the relevant laws and codes. RAC felt that Virginia’s building codes could be improved to incorporate more language on accessibility.

To address this issue, in 2011 Reston’s delegate (and proud RAC member) Ken Plum sponsored House Joint Resolution  648, which established a working group to recommend accessibility-related changes to Virginia’s building codes and laws. And Ken Fredgren was tapped to serve on that working group.  This time, instead of helping property owners understand the accessibility regulations, Ken got to help write them.

One of the great things about the working group is the way developers, county and city permitting officials, and disability advocacy groups collaborated to develop their recommendations. It was a fine example of the good that can happen when the private and public sectors work together for a common goal.

After a year’s effort, the working group emerged in 2012 with a total of 7 proposed changes to the building code and one General Assembly bill that would provide tax credits for businesses that made accessibility-related improvements. Ken proudly presented the group’s products to RCA, and naturally we were in full support. In October of that year, RCA and several co-sponsors held a community forum to discuss the changes and urge Restonians to call and email in support of their adoption.

I’m not sure if Ken knew quite what he was in for. He had already been traveling back and forth to Richmond on a regular basis to meet with the working group, and over the following year, he made several more trips to present their proposals to the Board of Housing and Community Development (which makes changes to Virginia’s building code), then to discuss and make revisions to the proposals, and on and on.  These trips weren’t always easy for Ken, but he kept at it because of his commitment to the cause of accessibility.

The proposals went through several rounds of revision; some were dropped, others were modified.  It was a long and sometimes frustrating process.  But Ken persevered; he wrote letters to the Board, exchanged emails with staffers, and kept attending meetings.

In the end, the Board approved four of the working group’s proposals. Together, these changes represent a huge step forward in the building code.

Two of the changes are related to home construction.  One change will incorporate Universal Design standards, which makes buildings easier for older people and those with disabilities to use, for use in building new homes. Another mandates wider interior doors on the main floor of new dwellings, so that people in wheelchairs or mobility devices can move from room to room.  That second change is important for people with and without disabilities. Imagine if you invited a friend who uses a wheelchair to your house, only to discover she couldn’t use the bathroom because the door was too narrow.

The other two adopted changes relate to the number of accessible spaces required in parking lots.  Another increases the number of accessible parking spaces that must be constructed in large lots.  And the last one calls for additional accessible parking spaces in lots connected to medical facilities such as outpatient clinics and dentist’s offices.  A lot of RAC’s work involves adding or modifying accessible parking spaces, and I know that Ken is acutely aware of the challenge of finding accessible spaces in busy lots.

Thanks to the efforts of Ken and the HJR 648 working group, our building code is friendlier to people with disabilities than it has ever been. Almost 20 percent of Virginians have a disability, and I’m proud that my state’s building code is now working for them.  Parking lots, medical buildings, and homes are basic facilities, and people with disabilities should have the same ability to access them as people without.

As our population ages, these changes will also help Virginia remain an appealing place to live.  If people with disabilities can’t find homes with Universal Design features or can’t find places to park where they shop, eat, or go to the doctor, they’re less likely to remain in Virginia and spend their money here. Accessibility improvements aren’t just good for people with disabilities — they’re good for business.

I’m very proud of what Ken’s accomplished with the working group. These building code modifications are lasting changes that will make life better for Virginians with disabilities, their families and friends, and all of us.

And don’t worry — just because Ken’s been working on this effort doesn’t mean that RAC has stopped making progress on projects here in Reston.  They’ve remained active on several projects all over our community, and I look forward to sharing the news once they’re successfully completed.

Most of the work we do at RCA primarily benefits Restonians, and that’s great. But I’m really glad for this opportunity to do something that has a statewide impact.  Ken Fredgren is a model of hard work and dedication to service, and this example demonstrates how serving your community can have a bigger impact than you ever thought possible.

Colin Mills is the president of Reston Citizens Association. He writes a weekly opinion piece on Reston Now.

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Colin Mills/File photoWhere has this year gone?  I look at the calendar and see that it’s November, and yet it feels like 2013 just got started.  The sands have been flowing through the hourglass faster than usual this year.

One reason for that, I know, is that we’ve been dealing with so many major issues in Reston this year.  The coming of the Silver Line and the associated revision of our Comprehensive Plan has been the biggest one, but looking back, it’s amazing how much we’ve taken on this year: The battle over the Reston National golf course.  The proposed new RCC rec center. The Beta Plan and the future of our County libraries.  The Lake Anne redevelopment. And those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head.  No wonder 2013 hss seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.

One advantage to the way we’ve been flying through the calendar is that it’s now time for one of my favorite events: RCA’s Citizen of the Year award. We’re now accepting nominations for the 2013 award. Read More

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colinmillsColin Mills is the president of the Reston Citizens Association. He will write a weekly opinion column on Reston Now. 

Last night, four years of work on the Reston Master Plan Task Force came to a frustrating and disappointing conclusion.  The Task Force voted to send the new Comprehensive Plan to the Planning Commission, starting it down the road to approval before the Board of Supervisors.  RCA’s representative, Terry Maynard, voted “no” on the final product. I did not have a vote on the Task Force, but if I had, I would have voted the same way.

RCA was not satisfied with the latest draft of the Comp Plan, as evidenced by the report card that our Reston 20/20 Committee prepared this week, which gave it an overall grade of D.  We felt that the plan was seriously lacking in many areas, most notably parks and recreation, transportation, and implementation. We joined with ARCH and RA to produce a joint comment describing the areas that we felt needed improvement.

Unfortunately, the few changes approved by the Task Force last night did little to improve the plan. Therefore, we felt that we had no choice but to oppose it.

The lack of changes to the draft plan was not for a lack of suggestions. By my count, there were 15 sets of comments submitted suggesting changes to the plan, including ours. Unfortunately, the discussion last night was limited to a handful of subjects selected by the Task Force chair, Patty Nicoson. The Task Force did not even consider all of the comments made by its members.  Major topics such as transportation and implementation weren’t even discussed at all!  Since those were two of the areas that needed the most work, I was extremely disappointed that they weren’t even raised. Read More

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