Reston, VA

2020 was the “single greatest year” for capital project execution in Reston Association’s history, outgoing RA president Julie Bitzer declared at the association’s annual members’ meeting on Tuesday (April 13).

However, a number of much-needed capital projects remain, and RA CEO Hank Lynch says the ability to fund them is “primarily my biggest concern” for the next five to 10 years.

Despite delays and shortages related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Reston Association managed to finish 85 of its 121 ongoing capital projects this past year — 70% completion rate.

The projects included Lake Anne dock upgrades and work at a number of Reston pools. RA also started renovating the Hook Road tennis court and making trash rack repairs at Lake Audubon.

There are 13 active projects, and 28 projects will be completed this coming year, according to the map available on RA’s website.

Lynch specifically cited the Hook Road tennis court renovations and the Lake Thoreau Pool project, which is expected to enter the construction phase in the fall, as “taking up a significant amount of capital work.”

$3.8 million was spent on all projects this past year, and $3.6 million is being budgeted for this coming year, Bitzer said.

Back in March 2020, a newly re-established recreational board facilities working group determined that a number of decades-old facilities were still in need of work.

“We have aging amenities…About half of [the swimming pools] are more than 30 years old,” Lynch said. “As we look to the next five to 10 years, five of these pools will require major renovations.”

Lynch noted that these renovations will take multiple years and require multi-million-dollar commitments.

However, RA’s budget for taking on these big projects is lacking, and the association may need to make some hard decisions going forward.

“Our assessments have really not kept pace with our anticipated long-term spending demands that we now found ourselves facing,” Lynch said. “We are really going to have some tough choices to make when it comes to some of these larger price-tag items.”

According to the presentation at the annual meeting, a huge chunk of members’ $708 annual assessment already goes towards maintaining and improving facilities as well as providing recreation services.

58.5% of the annual assessment dues goes towards these three categories. That’s about $414 annually per member.

RA members suggested some other ways to raise revenue, such as re-starting boat and Lake House facility rentals, particularly with weddings and other big events potentially returning this coming year.

But officials made it clear that the biggest potential source of much-needed revenue would be to raise annual assessment rates again. Rates went up each of the past two years, though there was a decrease in 2017.

How to fund capital projects will be one of the top issues that RA’s new board of directors and president Caren Anton will have to address in the coming year.

“Keeping our assets and facilities in top condition remains a top priority for the board,” Bitzer said.

Photo via Youtube/Reston Association

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It’s time for Fairfax Water’s annual flush, meaning the fire hydrants are flowing and the water might smell a little funny.

Every year, water companies flush their systems in order to clean out and remove sediment from water mains and pipes that have accumulated. This sediment occurs from internal corrosion as well as natural build-ups of iron and manganese.

It also ensures that chlorine contraction levels, which disinfect the water, remain steady since chlorine degrades in water over time.

The flush involves opening up fire hydrants and allowing water to flow freely. It may look like wasting water, but it ensures that sentiment, chlorine, and other materials are flushed out.

During this short period of time, Fairfax Water switches from using combined chlorine to free chlorine as their primary disinfectant.

Most of the year, combined chlorine — or chloramines — are used to treat drinking water. Produced by a chemical reaction between chlorine and ammonia, it’s not as effective as free chlorine in disinfecting water, but it can stay in the water longer.

Free chlorine acts faster than combined chloring to break up sediment, but degrades in a shorter period of time.

The use of free chlorine can also lead to the water tasting and smelling funny.

So, if you are taking a big gulp out of the tap and it tastes like pool water, that’s why.

If you or someone in your household is particularly sensitive to this taste and smell, storing an open container of drinking water in the refrigerator will allow the chlorine to dissipate.

Drinking water does have a shelf life, though, so it should be switched out regularly.

At the levels used in drinking water, both combined and free chlorine are considered safe by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Environmental Protection Agency .

All of this flushing began at the end of March and is expected to run until June 14 for most of Fairfax County.

Nearly 2 million people in Northern Virginia get their water from Fairfax Water, including nearly all of the county and the towns of Vienna and Herndon. It is Virginia’s largest water utility company and one of the 25 largest in the country.

Both Herndon and Vienna get their water “wholesale” from the company, meaning a third party or utility has the right to distribute water but not have the capability to treat their own water.

Herndon’s Department of Public Works does participate in the annual flush as well, opening up hydrants in both residential and commercial areas.

Fairfax Water also highly encourages commercial and residential property owners to flush their system if they’ve had to shut it down for an extended period of time during the COVID-19 pandemic. A thorough flushing is needed to clean out water that may have been sitting dormant in plumbing.

Water that remains stagnant for as little as two days can have mold, leeching, and other hazards in it that can lead to illness.

Photo via Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay

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Fairfax County residents will soon book COVID-19 vaccine appointments through Vaccine Finder instead of the county health department, a change that officials say will “allow greater flexibility and choice of where residents receive their vaccine.”

The health department announced last night (April 14) that it will no longer manage or accept appointments through their registration system after Fairfax County moves to Phase 2 on Sunday (April 18).

The county says the new system will lead to greater access, choice, and awareness of vaccine availability as it moves to vaccinating all residents over the age of 16.

“The Open Scheduling process allows easier access to vaccine sites closer to home,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Jeff McKay told Reston Now in an email.

Developed by Boston Children’s Hospital, Vaccine Finder shows available doses from approved vaccine providers across the county, including the health department clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and some private practices, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s blog.

Information about the switch will be disseminated in a variety of ways, says county officials, including their blog posts, social media, English and Spanish text alerts, countywide mailers, flyers, news media, and working with the county’s outreach team.

While the Vaccine Finder is not available in other languages, McKay says the county will film videos in “at least 7 different languages” explaining how to use the system. They are also encouraging folks to change their web browser settings to their desired language.

Residents will also be able to contact the county and Virginia Department of Health call centers to get assistance when registering for a vaccination.

Earlier this week, the county implemented a new call center system (703-324-7404) that will assist residents in registering in the new appointment system. However, the county warns that wait times for callers could be long.

Fairfax County residents can also now call the state call center (1-877-829-4682) for help in multiple languages. McKay says this gives residents “an additional resource,” since the state previously routed calls about Fairfax County back to the county’s call center, which is still available to provide help in multiple languages.

The county health department says that it will still schedule appointments for everyone who is registered in their system and on the waitlist (i.e. individuals who were eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1) prior to the system closing at 11:59 p.m. on April 17.

They should expect to be contacted within approximately a week about scheduling their appointments.

As of 3:30 p.m. today, there are 24,059 people on the waitlist. Read More

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Reston Association has elected two new members and re-elected one to their Board of Directors.

The board’s two open at-large seats went to Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, who won a second three-year term with 4,275 votes, and Timothy J. Dowling, who was elected for his first three-year term with 3,987 votes.

They both bested John Farrell by a relatively slim margin. The former RA Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee member received 3,719 votes, while 26-year-old software engineer Vincent Dory received 1,221 votes. There were 647 votes to abstain.

Voters could vote for one or two candidates on their ballots.

In the South Lakes District, Jennifer Jushchuk ran unopposed, though about 12% of the votes cast were abstentions.

The results were announced last night (April 13) at RA’s annual members’ meeting. Full results, including vote count and turnout, are publicly available.

The board candidates were announced in February. Voting opened on March 1 and closed on April 2.

RA Election Committee Chair Ed Abbott tells Reston Now that the election ran smoothly and was free of the technical glitches that cropped up last year.

“The Election Committee did not encounter any major issues in the election process,” he said by email. “The use of Zoom for the Candidate Forums and Meet and Greet Sessions went well thanks to the technical support of the RA staff and the cooperation of the candidates.”

Voter turnout also actually went up this year to about 19%, a roughly 5% increase from last year, Abbott notes.

Nonetheless, it remains low, something that the Elections Committee hopes to look into for next year.

“The Elections Committee will evaluate this year’s election process in the coming months and report to the Board of Directors,” Abbott said. “The evaluation will consider, among other things, increasing member participation, reducing costs and improving the overall election process.”

Voters could use either paper or online ballots, though nearly two-thirds of the votes came through online ballots.

The new board will select their officers at their first board meeting tonight (Wednesday). The officer positions include president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.

Reston Association’s outgoing president Julie Bitzer was first elected to the Board in 2015 and was president for the last year.

Image via Reston Association/YouTube

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Fairfax County will not be administering any Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines “until further notice,” following the advice by Virginia and the federal government.

“While this action limits the amount of available vaccine, its impact on the Fairfax Health District is minimal since the Fairfax County Health Department and its partners have primarily been using Pfizer vaccine for the past several months,” the county health department wrote in a blog post.

The county health department says this latest setback does not affect any of its clinics or appointments, and the “small amount” of the J&J vaccine that was being used will be substituted with the other vaccines.

“Fairfax County did not receive any J&J vaccine this week, and we were not expecting any next week. A small amount of J&J vaccine remaining from last week and allocated for this week will be substituted with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to avoid any cancellations at our Health Department sites,” the county said.

They also advise those who did receive the J&J vaccine to contact their health provider if they develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended this morning (Tuesday) that use of the J&J vaccine be paused while they review reports that six recipients, all women, developed a rare disorder involving blood clots after taking the vaccine.

In total, more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine has been administered across the country, and the FDA is classifying the adverse, though dangerous, reactions as “extremely rare.”

The CDC and FDA say their recommendation comes “out of abundance of caution” so that further review and study can be done.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced just before 9 a.m. that Virginia would follow the federal government’s guidance and temporarily pause its use of the J&J vaccine until an investigation is complete.

“This pause is reassuring in that it demonstrates that the systems that are in place to monitor vaccine safety are working,” Virginia Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said in a statement. “We look forward to a thorough review by federal health officials.”

Neighboring jurisdictions in the D.C. area, including Arlington, Alexandria, D.C., and counties in Maryland, have all also paused their use of the J&J vaccine.

This is the second snag that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has hit in the past two weeks after a production mess-up at a Baltimore manufacturing plant contaminated as many as 15 million doses.

As a result, many states, including Virginia, have had their vaccine orders significantly cut. Virginia was expected to receive only about one-tenth of the number of doses of the J&J vaccine this coming week than the previous week.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told Reston Now that the county did not anticipate getting any of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine this week or next week due to that supply shortage.

“The possible side effects of the vaccine are concerning for our national vaccination efforts because they [are] significantly dependent on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” McKay said. “At the end of the day however, safety and efficacy is most important and we are lucky we have two great vaccine options still available.

Earlier this month, Fairfax County committed to the same goal as the Commonwealth in having everyone over the age of 16 be eligible for the vaccine starting April 18. However, that was contingent on there being a sufficient supply.

Northam reiterated during a press conference outside Metz Middle School in Manassas, which hosted a vaccination clinic today, that Virginia still hopes that all adults who want to get vaccinated will receive their first dose by the end of May.

“Hopefully, this is just a small setback that we’ll overcome,” Northam said.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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Reston pools are reopening for the season starting May 15 with similar restrictions and guidelines as last summer.

The heated pools at North Shore and Ridge Heights will be the first two to reopen. The rest of the Reston Association’s 12 available pools will open in phases on May 29, June 1, and June 12.

Like last summer, reservations will be required, even for open swim, so that the pools can limit capacity and maintain 10-foot social distancing requirements.

Residents will be able to book two-hour blocks for open swim and one-hour blocks for each lap swim and water fitness.

A registration system will open on May 10 at 9 a.m., allowing reservations to be booked on a rolling basis one week in advance of each day.

This is how RA plans to operate the pools for the moment, but it could change later in the summer, RA Director of Communications Mike Leone wrote in an email to Reston Now.

“The situation remains fluid and RA will continue to monitor it as we move into the later spring and summer,” Leone said. “It’s possible the procedures could change if the Governor further relaxes social distancing and gathering restrictions, but for now we are following similar guidelines as last summer.”

Cleaning protocols instituted last summer will still be in effect, according to Reston Aquatics.

All spas, hot tubs, and spray features will remain closed, in accordance with a March 23 Executive Order from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Starting on May 15, North Shore Heated Pool will be open on Mondays through Fridays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ridge Heights Heated Pool will also be open on Mondays through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Leone says that the opening dates for specific pools is based on known activity levels, and the timing of all the pools’ openings corresponds with the beginning of summer break for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Besides a high number of students using the pools, RA aligns the pool openings with school dismissals, because local high school students are often hired for lifeguard positions. Hiring enough lifeguards has been a challenge in the past.

Below are the opening dates for the rest of the available RA pools:

May 29

  • Dogwood
  • Glade
  • Lake Newport

June 1

  • Golf Course Island
  • Lake Audubon
  • Newbridge
  • North Hills

June 12

  • Autumnwood
  • Hunters Wood
  • Uplands

Three of RA’s pools — Lake Thoreau, Shadowood and Tall Oaks — are closed due to capital improvements, according to the website.

The new Lake Thoreau pool is set for a groundbreaking in October with a likely reopening in May 2023. Shadowood is also expected to undergo a full-scale renovation, and Tall Oaks has had past issues with contamination.

Image via Reston Association/YouTube

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Given a quick glance, Great Falls Nike Park appears to be just baseball fields, a trail, and a parking lot near an elementary school just off Leesburg Pike in Herndon.

Visitors who take a closer look, however, might stumble across a small, odd dome-like structure mere feet from a parked Toyota — a remnant of the key role that the Fairfax County park played in protecting the nation’s capital from a potential Russian missile attack during the Cold War.

Located 1199 Utterback Store Road, Great Falls Nike Park is one of three Fairfax County parks that were once home to anti-aircraft missiles designed to bring down Russian projectiles aimed at D.C. landmarks. The other two sites can be found along Fairfax County Parkway and in Lorton.

“We felt Russia, and other countries, had the ability to potentially attack us,” David Buchta, heritage conservation branch manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority, said. “And these missile sites were specifically designed to keep that from happening. The [parks] are certainly an interesting relic of curiosity left over from Cold War times.”

Despite the recent end of one war, the world hovered on the brink of another in the mid-20th century. The Cold War was a time of tension, particularly between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the federal government felt like they needed to protect D.C. from attack.

So, the government acquired land around the city to set up sites for their anti-aircraft missile launch systems. They were christened NIKE sites after the Greek goddess of victory.

Due to the abundance of rural land available at the time, Fairfax County became the site for three of these military installations, which all opened between 1953 and 1955.

“The idea was to create a ring of defense,” Buchta said. “The range of the missiles was pretty limited, but it was enough that we could protect the entire corridor of D.C. out to the Atlantic Ocean.”

Straddling the Herndon and Great Falls border, the Great Falls site sat on land that was owned by dairy farmer Mark Turner before the government acquired it by exercising eminent domain. Another site cropped up off of Fairfax County Parkway at what is now Pope’s Head Park. The third and largest site was on land that was part of the Lorton Prison Complex.

Each of them consisted of a launch area and a control area that was located one to three miles downrange.

For the Herndon site, the control area was on Turner Farm, while the missile launch area was about a 1.5 miles west along Utterback Road.

The Herndon and Fairfax sites were smaller and very similar to one another, but a historical report produced by Fairfax County describes the Lorton missile site as a “double site” that served as “a national showpiece” for the NIKE program. In 1958, the missiles in Lorton were even upgraded to include nuclear warheads.

The Herndon site also boasted a special feature: a radar dome, a repeating structure that was intended to be reflective and bounce signals to another location, Buchta says. Read More

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Monday, April 12 

  • Rock the Park (10-11:30 a.m.) — Find a new pet rock! Join NoVa Parks staff for a hike down to the stream at Potomac Overlook Regional Park to introduce yourself to a new rock friend. Then, paint it in whatever colors and designs you like. Afterward, search the nature center for more pet rocks hidden by staff.

Tuesday April 13 

  • Cicadas in Your Garden (7-8 p.m.) — Prepare your garden for Brood X. Adria Bordas, a horticulturalist with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, will help local gardeners prepare — and protect — their gardens from the millions of cicadas that are set to emerge in our area come May. This is a virtual event.

Wednesday, April 14

  • Fundamentals of Falling (6-7 p.m.) — Learn how to take a fall safely while exercising. This course from Fairfax County Public Library and the Virginia Spine Institute will help you learn movement patterns and techniques to reduce the risk of injury when you inevitably fall while exercising.

Thursday, April 15

  • Yoga with the Magnolias (5:30-6:30 p.m.) — Take a small, socially distant, in-person yoga class at Carlyle House Historic Park’s Magnolia Terrace in Alexandria. The class is limited to six students to ensure proper spacing. Find a gentle flow while peering into the beautiful scenery.

Friday, April 16

  • World of BBQ (6 p.m.) — Hear James Beard Award-winning chef Rodney Scott talk about the secrets of barbeque in this virtual event hosted by Barnes and Noble and accessible via the store in the Mosaic District.

Saturday, April 17

  • Pollinator Garden Dedication (10 a.m.) — Join in-person or virtually for the dedication ceremony of the new Margaret Kinder Education and Pollinator Garden at Lake Accotink Park. The pollinator garden has 800 plants of 14 varieties with a number of interpretive signs. Kinder, its namesake, is a county educator, naturalist, and a longtime volunteer at the park.
  • Nature Kayaking (2-4 p.m.) — Paddle Lake Fairfax in a kayak with a Fairfax County Parks Authority naturalist. Learn about all the flora and fauna in the lake and what might be swimming underneath your kayak. A single kayak rental is included in the cost.

Sunday, April 18

  • Bird Walk (7:30-10:30 a.m.) — Join fellow birders for an early morning walk around Bright Pond in Reston. A limited number of participants are allowed, and masks must be worn at all times.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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It is farmers market season, and Fairfax County has a plethora of options for anyone looking to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables.

The county operates 10 markets under the Fairfax County Park Authority, but there are also many privately-owned markets, many of which are open year-round.

The county-run markets, however, are strictly seasonal. While they closed for a period of time last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, four of them eventually re-opened.

This weekend, the first of those markets will put out its produce for the 2021 season:

  • Burke: VRE parking lot (5671 Roberts Parkway), Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon, starting April 1
  • McCutcheon/Mount Vernon: Sherwood Regional Library (2501 Sherwood Hall Lane), Wednesdays 8 a.m. to noon, starting April 21
  • Old Town Herndon (700 Lynn St.): Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., starting April 22
  • Reston: Lake Anne Village Center (1609-A Washington Plaza), Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting May 1
  • Oak Marr RECenter (3200 Jermantown Rd.): Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting May 5
  • Wakefield Park (8100 Braddock Rd.): Wednesdays from 2-6 p.m., starting May 5
  • Annandale: Mason District Park (6621 Columbia Pike), Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting May 6
  • McLean: Lewinsville Park (1659 Chain Bridge Road), Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting May 7
  • Kingstowne Towne Center (5870 Kingstowne Towne Center): Fridays from 3-7 p.m., starting May 7

The county-run markets all run through at least late October, with several continuing into December.

What makes these markets unique is that they’re strictly producer-only, meaning vendors can only sell what they’ve raised, grown, or made on their own farms. All farmers and producers also come from within a 125-mile radius of Fairfax County.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the county has enacted strict safety protocols.

Visitors can browse markets in “pods” of up to four people, but only one customer can approach a stall at a time. Vendor sampling has been prohibited, and people are being asked not to “linger.” Online sales are strongly encouraged.

If 10 markets aren’t enough, there are plenty of privately-run farmers markets around the county.

FRESHFARM runs about 30 markets across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, including five in Fairfax County:

  • Oakton: Unity of Fairfax Church (2854 Hunter Mill Rd.), year-round on Saturdays from 9 a.m to 1 p.m.
  • Mosaic: The Mosaic District (2910 District Ave.), Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., started April 4
  • Reston: St. John Neumann Catholic Church (11900 Lawyers Rd.), Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m., started April 7
  • Springfield: Springfield Town Center (6699 Spring Mall Dr.), Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting May 1
  • The Boro: 8301 Greensboro Dr., Thursdays from 3-7 p.m., starting May 6

The NOVA Central Farm market in Vienna is also on Sundays and open year-round, though hours shifted slightly on April 1.

The Reston Farm Garden Market is also open year-round and daily on Baron Cameron Avenue. Its two “neighborhood markets” will open this month:

  • Springfield: Cardinal Forest Plaza (8316 Old Keene Mill Rd.), open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting April 15
  • Herndon: Fox Mill Center (2551 John Milton Dr.), open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting April 20

If you want to cross county lines, there is also a number of farmers markets in Arlington.

Be it sweet strawberries, appetizing apples, lucious lettuce that you may desire, there are plenty of options in Fairfax County for community members to get their fill of fresh food and support local farmers.

Photo via Sven Scheuermeier/Unsplash

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Developers broke ground yesterday (Wednesday) on a much-discussed new senior living community in Great Falls.

Slated to open in the summer of 2022, The Residence of Colvin Run at 1131 Walker Road will be a 53,000 square-foot facility set on 2.8 acres. It’s about a half-mile from the Colvin Run Mill historic site.

The senior living facility will offer 62 single and double occupancy units for adults 65 and older. That includes 44 assisted living apartments and 18 memory care residences.

Amenities will include an art studio, a theater designed for the hearing-impaired, several dining venues, an open-hearth brick oven, and a trail connecting to neighborhood businesses.

In terms of staffing, about 60 employees are expected to be on payroll, operator IntegraCare tells Reston Now.

Renderings depict an architecture that seems similar to a small cottage or a Craftsman-style look with lots of brick and wood.

Senior living facilities of this nature are becoming more in demand as the area’s population ages. In opening remarks, it was noted that nearly 34% of the Great Falls population is over 55 years old.

“In our experiences, we’ve found that seniors want to continue to live in the communities that they raised their families in,” IntegraCare CEO Larry Rouvelas said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “The need to build senior housing communities in the specific neighborhoods that people grew up in is an important part of their quality of life.”

IntegraCare also operates a senior living facility in Hunters Woods on Colt Neck Road.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust has been a consistent supporter of the project, stating that the development fulfills three of his goals for the district and Fairfax County at large.

“First of all, we’re very interested in economic development. This is a business. Secondly, we have a large population that’s aging, and this is a fantastic facility for them to age,” Foust said. “And third, from a land-use standpoint, it’s a beautiful building that’s going to fit into the character of Great Falls and make it even better.”

He also emphasized the concept of “placemaking,” as in providing amenities and creating a community that attracts companies and a workforce.

“It used to be that you built a factory and people came to that factory to work. Today, we build a community that people want to live in. The [workforce] comes to you and the employers come to them,” Foust said.

Foust also believes a greater supply of senior living options will be needed throughout Fairfax County in the future, since the county as a whole is getting older.

According to the county’s latest demographic information, about 14% of county residents — or 164,000 people — are 65 years old or older.

By 2025, that number is expected to tick up by 30,000 people and encompass 16% of the county’s total population. In 2035, as much as 17.5% of county residents — a total of 226,000 people — could be 65 or older.

“The aging of the population has created a need. Fortunately, we have developments like this one to try to meet that demand,” Foust said. “But demand right now far exceeds any supply that we’ve been able to create. So, it’s great to see this type of development occurring across the county for the foreseeable future.”

Construction on The Residence of Colvin Run is expected to take 15 months, with an additional two months for permitting. That puts the opening somewhere between July and September of 2022.

Work on the facility’s footings and foundations will commence in about a month, and then, in about three months, residents and passersby will see a steel frame being erected. The exterior skin will go on after that.

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Since Virginia’s new law barring the use of mobile phones while driving went into effect on Jan. 1, local police have written hundreds of citations.

The Fairfax County Police Department has issued “over 415 tickets” related to violations of the hands-free law since the new year.

The Herndon Police Department tells Reston Now that its officers initially issued warnings but did not ticket motorists for violating the law, which prohibits people from holding a handheld communications device while driving a moving vehicle on Virginia highways.

“The first two months of 2021 saw our patrol officers issuing warnings to motorists that were observed in violation of the law,” a Herndon Police spokesperson wrote. “Our goal was to inform as many people as possible of the change in laws.”

However, Herndon Police began issuing citations on March 1, and since then, they have written 43 citations for motorists violating the law.

The state law notes that violations are punishable by a fine of $125 for the first offense and $250 for any subsequent offenses.

The law was technically enacted on July 1, 2020, but was not effective until six months later so that a public messaging campaign could be established and law enforcement could be trained on how to enforce it.

There are few notable expectations to the rule, including emergency vehicle operators performing official duties, drivers who are lawfully parked, and someone using their phone to report an emergency.

While it is illegal to hold a mobile phone while driving, it remains legal to talk on a phone provided it is not in the driver’s hand.

According to Drive Smart Virginia, nearly 15% of all fatal crashes in 2020 involved distracted driving.

Preliminary Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data indicates that Fairfax County had the most fatalities related to distracted driving in the state last year, as well as the most injuries resulting from distracted driving.

Photo via Alexandre Boucher/Unsplash

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A pop-up vaccination clinic will be open at Southgate Community Center in Reston on Thursday (April 8) for a portion of eligible county residents.

The clinic is for residents 65 and up as well as individuals aged 16 to 64 with underlying medical conditions. It will run from 1:30-4:30 p.m. and is in partnership with the Fairfax County Health Department.

Appointments are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

To make an appointment, county residents can go to the community center at 12125 Pinecrest Road or call 703-860-0676 to sign up.

Supply is very limited, though, with only 120 doses available for those looking for their first shot.

In fact, appointments almost were already filled up, as of late Tuesday afternoon, Southgate Community Center director Richard Cabellos told Reston Now.

The community center was just alerted about 48 hours ago that it will be hosting the pop-up clinic, but few appointments remain available due to Southgate’s walkable location and demand.

“It shows how many people want vaccines in Reston,” Cabellos said.

This will be the second pop-up clinic at the community center. The first one took place on March 18 and had only 60 appointments available. Those, too, got snapped up quick.

Residents who got their first shot on March 18 are being invited back for their second in the morning of April 8.

The doses for those in need of their second shot have been set aside and do not factor into the 120 slots available for first-timers.

Cabellos says there are plans to do another pop-up clinic in the future, due to popularity and the ease in which the community center can set up a clinic on short notice.

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The Reston Association plans to spend more on lake management in 2021 than in previous years.

Lake Anne and Lake Thoreau suffered from constant algae blooms and overgrowth of invasive hydrilla in 2020, according to an RA community discussion last week about the lakes.

To manage those rather typical lake-related issues, the plan is to take a more “proactive” mitigation strategy, but that requires increasing the lake management budget, a possibility that was first discussed last fall in relation to a potentially toxic algae bloom that emerged in Lake Thoreau over the summer.

However, the investment is planning to be substantially more than initially thought.

In 2020, RA spent $17,000 for monitoring and treating lakes. In 2021, the plan is to spend about three times more money — nearly $52,000.

As stated at the March 31 meeting, this is largely due to Lake Thoreau.

Besides algae, Reston’s deepest lake also suffers from overgrowth of hydrilla, an aggressive, invasive aquatic plant that crowds out native species and impedes boating and fish habitats.

“Hydrilla is a big concern in Lake Thoreau,” said Bill Kirkpatrick of Aquatic Environment Consultants, which RA hired to manage the lakes. “Hydrilla grew late in the year, and the treatment was done on an emergency basis. We’ve revisited this and rethought the process.”

The plan is to start treatment early in the growth stage with a low, multiple-dose application of herbicide that is released slowly through clay pellets dropped to the bottom of the lake.

“It’s kinda like taking antibiotics,” Kirkpatrick said. “You don’t take all of it at once…You split it up to keep a certain concentration in your body.”

While this is a more expensive and time consuming way of treating the hydrilla, the hope is that it lasts much longer.

“It should suppress the growth and it never reaches that big die-off phase,” Kirkpatrick said.

While the hydrilla treatment will cost about $19,000 in 2021, the consultant believes that, if it is successful, no further treatment will be needed in 2022 or, perhaps, for several years beyond.

Starting in May, both Lake Thoreau and Lake Anne will be treated with low-dose algeasized concentrations on a monthly basis through September.

“The goal is to control the noxious algaes and allow the beneficial algaes to exist,” Kirkpatrick said.

Aquatic Environment Consultants plans to manage algae in this manner going forward, and the cost of algae treatment in 2022 is expected to remain the same.

All in all, it’s currently being estimated that the budget for lake management in 2022 will be $29,471 — about $22,000 less than RA anticipates spending in 2021.

The budget also includes funds to monitor lake water quality and to manage alligator weed, water primrose, and water lilies on Lake Newport.

The community discussion covered several other lake-related topics as well, including restocking the carp population, a new fishing line recycling program, and managing the Canadian geese population by tracking nests, counting geese, and potentially addling eggs.

“They cause traffic disturbances, they cause damage to people’s property, and they can put a huge amount of nutrients in the lakes, which can cause some of those algae blooms,” RA Watershed Manager Bill Peterson said. “We are not trying to eradicate the geese population, just trying to keep it down to an acceptable level.”

In recent months, the Reston Association has increased the assessment fee by $10, and as noted at the meeting, the boat mooring rate has also gone up.

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If the prospect of trillions of cicadas emerging from the earth fills you with excitement, Fairfax County’s official tourism organization has just the game for you.

Visit Fairfax has introduced a Cicada Stroll Bingo card where participants can mark off squares when they take photos of a cicada at certain locations for a chance to win insect-inspired prizes.

“While some may view the arrival of the Brood X cicadas as a nuisance, we here at Visit Fairfax choose to look at it as an exceptional opportunity for visitors and residents to witness one of Earth’s most remarkable natural occurrences – and have fun at the same time!” Visit Fairfax President and CEO Barry Biggar wrote in the press release.

Suggested sites to spot cicadas range from pieces of public art like Patrick Doughtery’s “Bird in Hand” in Reston Town Square Park to the Sully Historic Site in Chantilly. Other boxes to check include county hiking trails, shopping centers, a brewery or winery, near water, and at a restaurant (hopefully, not on your food).

Anyone who fills out two squares in their bingo card, plus the traditional “free” square in the center, can upload the card and accompanying photos for a chance to get a Cicada Care package with items like a custom cicada facemask.

Winners will be announced in May, and some of the best photos will be featured on the county’s blog and social media.

Cicada Stroll Bingo Card (Photo courtesy of Visit Fairfax)

The Cicada Bingo Card was conceived as a way to showcase “road trip travel” and encourage folks to visit outdoor county attractions safely in a “quirky kind of way,” Visit Fairfax spokesperson Ali Morris says.

She adds that this is also another way to encourage residents to visit and support their favorite local business as they recover from an extremely rough last year.

The D.C. region is expected to be the epicenter for the emergence of Brood X, a brood of cicadas that emerge only every 17 years. They spend their larva years underground, which is anywhere from two to 17 years, chowing down on tree roots.

There could be millions of them buzzing around in the area in the early summer. They’re extremely loud, thanks to the sound that the males produce by rubbing their legs together to attract potential mating partners.

While they are also big as far as insects go, they’re completely harmless. In fact, their long life cycles and the fact that they are so numerous are really their only defense mechanisms from predators.

The Brood X cicadas are expected to hit peak emergence in Northern Virginia in late May through early June. While they’ll be visible and audible everywhere, parks and other natural settings will be the best place to see and hear them.

They are also edible, to an extent.

“A few are not likely to hurt pets but too many could cause digestive issues,” Fairfax County Park Authority naturalist Tammy Schwab told Reston Now last month. “They are edible by people if you’re brave enough to try it.”

Photo courtesy Visit Fairfax

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The Herndon Town Council is considering adopting a new law that would prohibit the possession of firearms and ammunition on town property.

At its work session tomorrow (April 6), the town council will discuss creating a law that would prohibit “the possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof on Town property, in Town buildings or on certain other areas owned by the Town.”

As noted in a staff report, council members will have three potential outcomes to vote on at next week’s meeting on April 13, a town spokesperson confirms.

The council could vote to adopt the ordinance as written, defer consideration until budgetary impacts are determined, or advertise a public hearing to get public input.

This is the second time that the council has discussed a firearms ban as part of a work session after an initial conversation took place in September in response to Virginia General Assembly legislation that took effect last summer.

The state bill permitted localities to adopt their own ordinances prohibiting firearms in public facilities.

Herndon is a bit behind other local jurisdictions in considering a ban.

Arlington County and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church have already instituted a ban on firearms on locality-owned property, including courthouses, public parks, and community centers, and at public events. Fairfax County also adopted a similar ordinance for all county-owned spaces in September.

The staff report notes that Herndon’s ordinance is similar to the county’s, but “tailored to Herndon.”

The proposed ordinance calls for “increased security measures” like metal detectors to prevent access to these areas while possessing a firearm. It also mandates that a written notice about the ordinance be posted at entrances to the areas where the prohibition is in effect.

The staff report says that, so far, there has been no opportunity to determine the fiscal impacts of the law, including installation of metal detectors and posting signage.

The ordinance would have some exemptions. For instance, law enforcement, security personnel hired by the town or the state, active duty military personnel would be allowed to have firearms on public property, and educational activities like static displays and historical reenactments would be permitted.

The ordinance could also potentially allow for lawfully possessed firearms stored in a locked, private motor vehicle that is lawfully parked on town property or a public street.

A violation of the ordinance would be punishable as a class one misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Back in September, nearly all of Herndon’s councilmembers reached a consensus that more public input was needed, along with further research into how the ban was being enacted in neighboring localities.

Several councilmembers noted that a ban on firearms on town-owned property would need to clearly communicate that all guns are not going to be confiscated individual owners. Councilmembers also raised concerns about whether the ban would hold up legally, considering that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of individual gun owners in the past.

However, more recently, the Supreme Court has declined to rule on such cases.

Photo via Thomas Def/Unsplash

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