Reston, VA

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of the world including Metro planning, but officials say the construction phase of Phase II of the Metro Silver Line has managed to stay on track.

Marcia McAllister, the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Communications Manager, noted that Phase II is 99 percent complete. McAllister shared the update during the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Metro Monday Jan. 25 virtual meeting about COVID-19’s financial impact on Metro and the Silver Line.

“COVID has had very little effect on our construction,” McAllister said. “As you know, construction workers were allowed to continue to work and they did work, and our contractors have put in extra hours to make up any time they may have (needed) when they may have had cases of COVID.”

She added that the project is undergoing system testing and that coordination is happening daily with Metro moving forward. While the project’s eventual opening will be up to WMATA, the goal is to turn it over to the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority in late spring.

When Metro takes control of the project, it will conduct its own testing before opening the second phase. During a Metro Monday meeting on Dec. 10, head of capital delivery for Metro Laura Mason estimated that Phase II’s tentative start of service would begin in the fall of 2021. The completion of the project has been delayed by more than a year.

McAllister also addressed rumors about the construction budget funding for the project.

“Our funding is completely intact. There’s been no change in the allocation of funds,” she said. “In fact, we have already spent all of the Phase I money that came from the federal government to fund this project. That part is set in golden stone.”

Loudoun County Supervisor and Metro Board of Supervisors member Matt Letourneau reiterated McAllister’s budget comments and clarified that the construction budget for the project is not related to Metro’s capital budget. Letourneau went into further detail on Metro’s financial standing during the ongoing pandemic and the federal COVID-19 relief package signed on Dec. 27 to support transit.

The overall region is expected to receive about $830 million, with about $720 million going to Metro. Metro will keep about $600 million of the funds and allocate about $108 million to local providers.

“That will allow us to essentially balance the FY (fiscal year) 21 budget with about $95 million of that,” Letourneau said. “We had planned some fairly significant, but not necessarily painful, cuts coming in February that we’re going to be avoiding.”

The remaining $515 million allocated to Metro will be used to help balance the fiscal year 2022 budget. Metro will pass a budget in the mid-March to early April timeframe. However, Letourneau cautioned that the federal funds would not cover the entire fiscal year 2022 budget.

Unless additional federal funding is received, Letourneau said, service cuts and employee layoffs are potential threats in January 2022. He estimated that the layoffs could encompass an estimated 2,500 people.

“The Metro board has not done anything to delay the opening of Phase II as a matter of Metro policy or budget policy,” Letourneau said. “Thus far the position of the Metro board has been whenever the project is been turned over and deemed acceptable and safe, and gone through testing, we should open it.”

Since the inception of the pandemic, Letourneau estimated that Metro rail ridership is between 10 and 15 percent of what it was prior to COVID-19, while bus ridership is around 50 to 60 percent. He added that if additional federal funding is not provided, the fiscal year 2022 budget process will involve considering $171.4 million service reductions for the last six months of the fiscal year.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn urged officials to open phase two as soon as it is ready and practical.

“As we think about the Metro budget and going forward, we have to keep in mind that the long term viability of Metro depends on using rail,” Fairfax County Supervisor Walter Alcorn said.

Letourneau echoed Alcorn’s statement by that saying Phase II should continue as previously planned despite challenges and low ridership.

“If we are trying to recover, if we want to be part of that recovery, we know that the highest growth part of the system is the silver line; it is the Dulles corridor,” Letourneau said.

The WMATA Board voted to authorize a public process to participate in discussions on the fiscal year 2022 budget in February. Hearings are anticipated to begin in early March and the board is then expected to approve a budget in April.

Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Seniors living in two of Fellowship Square’s housing communities have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The first dose of the vaccine was distributed on Jan. 18 at Lake Anne Fellowship House in Reston. Another dose was administered at Lake Ridge Fellowship House in Woodbridge on Jan. 19. The vaccine will be provided for residents at Hunters Woods Fellowship House in Reston in February.

The move falls in line with the Virginia Department of Health’s Phase 1b for distribution of the vaccine: “Vaccinate Frontline Essential Workers, People Aged 65 years and Older, People Living in Correctional Facilities, Homeless Shelters and Migrant Labor Camps, and People aged 16 through 64 years with a High Risk Medical Condition or Disability that Increases Their Risk of Severe Illness from COVID-19.”

The vaccine was administered door to door through a mobile health collaboration with local CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. The mobile units will return to administer the second dose of the vaccine.

“While we will continue to keep safety precautions in place, we now at least can offer our residents the additional level of health, safety and security that being vaccinated against COVID-19 brings,” Christy Zeitz, CEO of Fellowship Square, said in a press release.

“There is a lot of excitement among our residents and staff – they have been looking forward to this day for many months.”

Fellowship Square houses more than 700 seniors between its three housing communities. The organization is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit with a reported average resident age of 78.

The nonprofit says it has combatted COVID-19 in its residences with proactive safety and sanitation efforts. It has also provided regular educational updates in more than nine languages that are spoken throughout its communities.

Fellowship Square has also organized a “Check In and Chat” effort for volunteers to call residents to check on their well-being and offer companionship. The organization also has volunteer opportunities through “Fellowship Fresh” to deliver food donations to residents’ doors.

Photos courtesy Fellowship Square

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Makers Union is striving to embody the moniker “Pub For The People” with an offering of local products and community engagement throughout Reston Town Center.

The restaurant, a project by Reston-based company Thompson Hospitality, opened this past August at 1811 Library Street. It replaced American Tap Room, which closed in December 2019.

The restaurant’s general manager, Alex Brown, bills the establishment’s concept as an effort to provide a welcoming atmosphere and traditional American dishes “with a twist.”

“We wanted to really kind of create a space where everyone feels comfortable celebrating whatever life’s occasion is,” Brown said.

The menu reflects a variety of the restaurant’s ideals with trying something a bit different while paying homage to the local makers of the area. The menu features a diverse sampling from 30-layer deep-fried lasagna to yuzu lemon drop martinis.

“An occasion doesn’t have to be a birthday or anniversary. We really believe that when you go out to dine, whether it’s for lunch, brunch, dinner, celebrating happy hour with friends or maybe it’s just a casual lunch or dinner during the week or on the weekend, it’s a celebration.”

Makers Union offers an eclectic menu for lunch and dinner options as well as its happy hour, “The People’s Hour.” It also features a brunch with à la carte and family-style options.

“We wanted to bring the idea of a pub into the modern day… so food, beverage and décor while still holding true to traditional pub value – welcoming, energetic & celebratory environment,” Brown said.

The menu items feature a sampling of local wares from makers when possible for food and drink. A list of those makers can be found on the restaurant’s site.

“Obviously being a local Reston based restaurant, we really wanted to feature and celebrate local makers,” Brown said.

“Everybody who kind of had a piece in helping put this restaurant together is a group of makers. Everybody has different backgrounds in different areas, whether it be breweries, roasters, chefs, distillers, farmers. So a group of makers came together to kind of create this pub for the people.”

That celebration of local makers has spilled into the restaurant’s work to try and create a familial feel within the community.

The restaurant, like so many others in the area and country, was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to adhering to local, state and federal guidelines for safe business practices, Brown said the restaurant has significantly leveraged its to-go program to aid in establishing itself in the community. It has also offered free delivery within Reston Town Center.

Makers Union has also hosted a ghost kitchen pop up for another Thompson Hospitality restaurant, Big Buns Damn Good Burger Co.

“We say we’re made in Reston for Reston,” Brown said.

“We really wanted to look at what Reston Town Center was missing and what we felt the community was looking for, and then use that to kind of ideate the restaurant.”

Makers Union hosted a soft opening with a to-go event in August. It has since had a dog costume contest for Halloween and a “Yappy Hour” that allowed patrons to bring their dogs to the patio introduce the restaurant’s happy hour.

Brown says the restaurant is eyeing future opportunities to connect and serve the community, including offering Super Bowl Sunday dining packages and Valentine’s Day weekend specials.

“We just want to continue to get to know the community and really just grow the business through excellent food and high-level service in an amazing, clean environment with welcoming décor,” Brown said.

Photos courtesy Makers Union

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As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18, there are a few community and government office closures to be aware of.

Fairfax County

County offices and the County Circuit Court will be closed Monday.

The Fairfax Connector will operate on holiday weekday service. A full list of routes affected is available online.

County libraries will be closed. Colvin Run Mill and Sully Historic Site will be closed.

All county RECenters will operate at regular hours. The following nature centers will be open from noon to 4 p.m.: E.C. Lawrence, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond and Huntley Meadows.

The visitor center at Riverbend Park will be open from noon to 4 p.m.

The farm at Frying Pan Farm Park will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the indoor arena will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment. The visitor center at the park will be closed Monday.

Green Spring Garden’s horticultural center will be open from noon to 4:30 p.m., and its historic house will be closed.

Reston

The Reston Community Center Hunters Woods will host its 36th Annual Reston Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration with events on Saturday, Sunday and Monday that can be found online. The location will also be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday.

Reston Community Center Lake Anne will be closed all day Monday.

Herndon

The town offices and Herndon Community Center will be closed Monday.

Recycling normally collected on Monday will be collected Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Metro, DMV and more

WMATA will have an altered schedule from Saturday through Monday. Metrorail will operate from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Sunday. On Monday, trains will run from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. operating on Saturday service frequencies, every 12-15 minutes on the Red Line and every 15-20 minutes on all other lines.

All DMV offices will be closed Monday.

Photo courtesy of Center for National and Community Service

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As we look forward toward closing the book on 2020 and ring in 2021, there are a few noteworthy closures around the county to be aware of.

Services and government offices throughout Fairfax County have altered their schedules in observance of the New Year’s holiday.

The full list from around the county is as follows:

Fairfax County Government:

  • County government offices will be closed on Jan. 1.

Fairfax County Courts:

  • The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

Reston Association:

  • Reston Association offices, including the Central Services Facility and Nature House, will be closed Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 in observance of the New Year holiday.

Reston Community Centers:

  • RCC Hunters Woods is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Jan. 1.
  • RCC Lake Anne is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, and it is closed on Jan. 1.

 Public Schools:

  • Fairfax County Public Schools remain closed through Jan. 1 for Winter Break. All students will resume classes virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Monday, Jan. 4, is an independent day.

County Libraries, Recreation Centers:

  • All Fairfax County library branches, community and regional, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. They will all be closed on Jan. 1.
  • All Fairfax County RECenters, except George Washington RECenter (GWRC), will be open at their regular times and close at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31. GWRC will be closed on Dec. 31. All RECenters will be closed on Jan. 1.

Town of Herndon government and services:

  • Government offices will be closed on Jan. 1.
  • The Herndon Community Center will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 31, but it will be closed on Jan. 1.
  • The Town of Herndon will not provide trash collection on Jan. 1. Trash that is normally collected on Friday will be picked up Thursday, Dec. 31.

Public Transit:

  • Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service plan on Jan. 1. Check here for operating routes.
  • Fairfax CUE service will not be provided on Jan. 1.
  • WMATA Metrorail service will open at 5 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. through Dec. 31. Service will open at 8 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. while operating on a holiday schedule with Sunday service intervals on Jan. 1.
  • WMATA Metrobus will operate on a regular schedule on Dec. 31 and will go to a Sunday schedule for Jan. 1.
  • Metro’s customer information call center will be closed. Automated information is available by calling 202-637-7000 or online at wmata.com
  • WMATA’s regular fares and parking fees will be in effect on Dec. 31. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, while parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities on Jan. 1.

County Trash and Recycling:

  • There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection on Jan. 1. To ensure all trash and recycling is collected, the county urges for all materials to be placed at the curb or street line by 6 a.m.
  • County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed on Jan. 1 and reopen on Jan. 4.
  • The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31 and all day on Jan. 1.

Photo by Elisha Terada/Unsplash

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For Reston to move forward, it first has to look back.

Fairfax County recently published a draft of a Historic Resources Survey of Reston for the community to review.

The study is a step toward documenting the historic value of sites in the area for architectural or historic significance. It does not predetermine the future use of any of properties. The survey can be used to identify sites that, if significant, can be nominated to Fairfax County’s Inventory of Historic Sites, the Virginia Landmarks Register or the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Hunter Mills District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is hosting a virtual community meeting on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. for residents to ask questions and discuss the draft. Questions and discussion will follow a presentation by a consultant hired by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

State-hired firm Hanbury Preservation Consulting conducted the survey after Fairfax County was chosen to participate in Virginia’s Survey and Planning Cost Share Program in 2019.

The project provides data on “several residential clusters, a subdivision, two golf courses, two churches, two schools, and a handful of commercial buildings” to be reviewed before consideration for future National Register nomination.

The survey includes a look at 51 individual properties and eight potential historic districts that were built between 1961 and 1978. The eight districts include:

  • Hickory Cluster townhouses
  • Waterview Cluster townhouses
  • Coleson Cluster townhouses
  • Mediterranean Villa Cluster townhouses
  • Fairway Apartments
  • Golf Course Island townhouses
  • Ring Road subdivision single-family dwellings
  • Cameron Crescent apartments

The eight districts were surveyed to identify boundaries, research historical significance, provide a preliminary count of properties in each district and record each district’s physical characteristics.

The draft shows recommendations for nine resources or sites to be “potentially eligible” for NRHP eligibility. The draft also includes three resources with an “undecided” designation that require further study. It also recommends that any property listed as “potentially eligible or meriting further study should undergo intensive survey in the event of planned demolition or modifications.”

It also includes other recommendations for providing greater reconnaissance-level documentation of buildings that are scheduled for demolition. It also offers recommendations for the county to pursue guidance for the preservation of sites that utilize modern materials such as concrete.

“The Reston community is very proud of our history and our landmarks and we appreciate this opportunity to document our historic resources within an established standard,” Alcorn said in a press release.

“This inventory is an important step toward identifying buildings and places in Reston that should be noted in the Fairfax County comprehensive plan as worthy for their historic value.”

To participate in the Jan. 5 virtual meeting, you can sign in from the county’s website or listen in on the phone by calling 1-844-621-3956 and using the access code: 179 469 1739. The meeting will also be livestreamed on Alcorn’s YouTube channel.

Photo courtesy Reston Historic Trust and Museum

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As the holiday season comes to a close and the new year approaches, it may be time to throw out your old Christmas tree and greenery.

Residents of Fairfax County have between Jan. 11 and 22 for recycling Christmas trees. Live Christmas trees of less than eight feet will be collected curbside outside of single family and townhouse communities on regular garbage collection days during the time period.

Residents may schedule a brush pickup for a tree removal after Jan. 22.

Fairfax County residents can also drop off their trees at the I-66 Transfer Station or the I-95 Landfill Complex. There is a $7 recycling fee per tree at the recycling center. All decorations and stands must be separated before disposing of trees.

In the Town of Herndon, Christmas trees will be collected curbside on residents’ individual trash days between Jan. 8 through the 15. The town requests that all decorations be removed from the tree and placed as close to the curb as possible.

The National Christmas Tree Association lists other recycling options as follows:

  • Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management.
  • Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
  • Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed). Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper.
  • Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden.
  • Paths for hiking trails: Some counties use shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers.
  • Living, rooted trees: Get a rooted (ball and burlap or containerized) tree and plant it in your yard. (It’s a good idea to dig the hole in the late fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.) Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates.
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Despite a few stalled plans, Pupatella, an award-winning Neapolitan pizza restaurant, is set to open in Reston this week.

The new site at 1821 Wiehle Avenue will host a soft opening on Wednesday, tentatively at 4 p.m. and will feature the local chain’s full menu.

Michael Berger, one of the partners of the business along with founders Enzo Algarme and Anastasiya Laufenberg, said the Reston location will only offer takeout service for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic. However, Pupatella looks forward to offering dine-in service at some point in the new year.

Pupatella already has locations in Arlington, Richmond and Washington, D.C. The Reston location marks the second Pupatella to open this year after one in Dupont Circle in the District opened in August.

The Reston restaurant was initially scheduled to open in early 2020, but was delayed by the county’s permitting process.

“It didn’t really ever cross our mind that we wouldn’t open them. We just decided to shift the service model for now and kind of go through this with everyone else that’s going through this too,” Berger said.

“We’re very fortunate. Our industry is definitely on some hard times. I really feel for a lot of our colleagues that didn’t have the ability to pivot as much in their business model just because of the style of service they were.”

After its soft opening, the restaurant will eventually feature an outdoor waiting area with benches and heaters, as well as tables with fire pits for on-site dining.

The importance of opening this location is more than just business for Berger, as it hits on a personal level.

A Reston native, Berger is a South Lakes High School graduate that grew up around the Tall Oaks area. He is also quite familiar with the location of this Pupatella as he was a regular visitor of the Pizza Hut that occupied the site until it closed late last year.

“I went to that Pizza Hut numerous times for Little League parties, swim team parties, general neighborhood gatherings,” Berger said.

“So I’ve told my friends that I almost feel like I’ve been entrusted with this historical site in Reston. Everybody that’s been in Reston for more than a few years knows that complex. It has almost a brand of its own.”

Hearkening back to Berger’s alma mater, the Reston restaurant will feature a graffiti art installation done by the South Lakes High School art department along with one of the school’s teachers.

As a throwback to the location’s time as a Pizza Hut, Berger said it will also feature a tabletop arcade game machine with Pac-Man, Galaga and other games.

“For years and years and years, that was just such a neighborhood gathering place,” Berger said. “It really was the neighborhood pizzeria, and we’re just so excited to bring back a neighborhood pizzeria to the community.”

Photos courtesy Michael Berger

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The Reston Association’s (RA) Board of Directors listened to a presentation about its surrounding environment as part of the Reston Annual State of the Environment Report (RASER) on Thursday, Dec. 17.

Doug Britt, a Virginia Master Naturalist and chair of RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee, presented the RASER study update to the board and RA’s members. The update has 18 authors and coauthors that include members of RA’s environmental advisory committee and outside individuals.

The update conforms to RASER’s five objectives listed on RA’s website:

  • Summarize existing quantitative environmental data for the Reston community in one publicly accessible document.
  • Establish an environmental baseline that can be reassessed annually to facilitate the identification of environmental trends and to evaluate the efficacy of environmental improvement and conservation programs and initiatives.
  • Provide relevant and timely environmental information that can help RA and its board of directors in shaping future policy and programs.
  • Help educate and inform Reston residents and other interested parties about Reston’s environmental health.
  • Create a living document that can be revised and expanded as deemed appropriate to meet future environmental challenges and information needs.

This latest RASER update focused on 21 natural resources or environmental topics. Each topic was color-coded green (good), yellow (fair), red (poor), or black (undetermined) to indicate its overall condition.

The following attributes received a green status: air quality, drinking water, wastewater treatment, hazardous materials and toxic waste, and environmental education and outreach.

Fair attributes include: streams, lakes and ponds, urban forests, meadows, landscaping and urban agriculture, birds, wildlife management issues, and light pollution.

Poor attributes include storm water management and solid waste management.

Undetermined attributes include: wetlands, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, invertebrates, noise pollution, and climate change.

Britt described storm water management as “perhaps the biggest existing problem” in Reston. He estimates that the issue dates back to the lack of strict county regulations when Reston was expanding in the 1960s and 1970s.

Single-use plastics are one of the primary concerns that resulted in solid waste management receiving a poor rating. Britt added that litter created by personal protection equipment and food carryout materials have been a unique issue in 2020.

Britt said the RASER group would come back at another board meeting to present a standalone report on energy efficiency. He said there is a plan to include the category in the 2020 RASER update, but the subject was so “complex to take on” that the group decided to separate the subject from this update.

The RASER project team will return to RA’s board in either January or February to present a combined list of recommendations for RA and a report card on how attributes have been addressed.

The board approved to accept the report as it was presented Thursday. Now that the nearly 200-page report has been accepted by the board, the full copy of it will be available to the public on RA’s website under the environmental page.

“This group has been the most amazing group of volunteers,” board member Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza said of the RASER project team.

“It’s been a pleasure to watch them work. Their dedication is just unbelievable.”

RASER was first published in July 2017 and updated in 2018. It is now updated and published biennially while the RASER project team publishes a report card and recommendations annually.

Photo via Reston Association/Facebook

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The Reston Comprehensive Task Force heard from a panel of community leaders from various organizations about on how to plan for open space and public art during a meeting earlier this week

The 32-member task force is chaired by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn to review and make recommendations for Reston’s Comprehensive Plan. The group, which met on Monday, includes representatives from community organizations and various backgrounds.

Alcorn asked the task force as a whole to consider its recommendations for guidance on how to treat open spaces, including what percentage of public or private-public space should be aimed for. Alcorn requested that the group consider reviewing general accessibility for open space, maintenance responsibilities, and gathering a broader sense of placemaking for open spaces.

“The issues that we’re talking about here tonight are typically not ones that are addressed, if at all, very much in a comprehensive plan,” Alcorn said Monday night. “Most of the open space issues where they’re addressed are addressed in terms of recreation use, in terms of trees saved, in terms of more what I would call them traditional open space issues.”

The topic of open space was addressed by a panel that included Larry Butler from Reston Association (RA), Robert Goudie from Reston Town Center Association (RTCA), Diana Smith from Herndon Reston Indivisible, and Abby Dunner and Tom Barnett from Fairfax County’s Office to Prevent and End Homelessness (OPEH).

Butler opened the discussion with a question for the task force and panelists to consider about the different operations between private open space and “truly open space.” He listed potential concerns in the difference of private corporations and true public entities, namely in the different protections and risks each has to consider.

Goudie followed up by listing the benefits of private ownership of open spaces and how it has impacted the RTCA, which has both a commercial and a residential partnership. His listed benefits included:

  • Public treasury can struggle to fund required maintenance and upgrades that private funds can more easily handle.
  • Private ownership can protect or preserve some space in the community free of political activity.
  • Privatization can provide flexibility and limited bureaucracy in closing streets and creating events.

He used a few examples to clarify his position with the costs associated with the Mercury Fountain Plaza, Town Square Park, and West Market Stormwater Pond. Butler itemized the costs associated with the maintenance and renovation of each to demonstrate the private association’s ability to directly prioritize renovations and repairs that he assessed would quickly run up costs on the public coffers.

Smith also touched on the issue of public space available for political activities. She raised issues during her presentation about the hindrance created by the lack of public open spaces for those activities. She also advocated for the consideration to use the new Reston Regional Library redevelopment as a kick-start to reclaim the rights for publicly open space.

“If the Reston open space plan is successful, in my opinion, there will be no more ceding of Fairfax open space land to developers,” Smith said. “The community will be the owners and managers of our public open space, and we will have democratically selected places we can go.”

Barnett presented the final part of the open space panel as he urged the task force to also recognize the challenges created for the homeless or unsheltered population by the type of public properties in the area.

During the second panel, Leila Gordon from Public Art Reston (PAR), Lisa Mariam from ArtsFairfax, and Jaynelle Hazard from GRACE curated the discussion on public art.

The trio gave various examples to support the continued introduction of public art in the area.

“It will be vital, I think, for whatever revisions you come up with to the Reston Master Plan, that you continue to support and endorse a robust presence for public art,” Gordon said to the task force.

Mariam and Hazard also encouraged the task force to consider strengthening the language supporting public art by describing art as beneficial to the community’s identity and overall wellbeing.

Gordon added that it is critical to recognize the cost associated with commissioning and creating public art projects as well as maintaining the collection.

“You can’t expect that significant public art can be realized without multiple funding resources,” Gordon said. “You need to support the notion of funding from the public coffers, funding from the private sector, funding through the development process through specific proffers for public art amenities, and funding from individuals and community resources.”

The task force’s next meeting is on Jan. 11.

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The timeline for completion of the second phase of the Silver Line continues to be the subject of uncertainty.

Phase II of the Silver Line has the potential to open in the fall of 2021, at the earliest. That is subject to change, however, as there are multiple issues that must be resolved first.

Laura Mason, head of capital delivery for Metro, discussed 28 issues with Phase II of the Silver Line project during Metro’s Safety and Operations Committee meeting on Dec. 10. She detailed the status of 14 quality issues previously brought forth, as well as 14 unresolved issues.

Of the 28 total issues discussed during the meeting, 10 are unresolved, eight are underway where a tentative agreement exists and resolution is in progress, and 10 are resolved. Metro will require the resolution of the issues by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and its contractors before accepting the project.

When MWAA reaches a substantial completion date (SSCD) after resolving issues to an acceptable level by Metro, Metro will conduct 150 days of operational readiness testing and pre-revenue activities before the potential start of service. MWAA currently projects a SSCD of April 1, 2021.

“Based on an April substantial completion, that would yield a tentative forecast of a start of service in the fall of 2021,” Mason said.

“However, we maintain that Metro will not set a date until all identified issues have been resolved to meet our acceptance and we have a clear path to an acceptance of the project.”

She clarified that MWAA’s response to the unresolved issues will determine the path forward and the timing of the ultimate acceptance or rejection of the project.

The 14 new issues presented at the meeting consist of four categories: component failures, stations and systems, yard buildings and other open issues with resolutions already underway.

“Individually, each of these issues is not on critical path. However, taken together, they represent concerns to the acceptability of the project,” Mason said.

The issues with the yard buildings involve safe occupancy and correcting problems to ensure Metro’s ability to use the facilities to maintain its fleet of rail vehicles once the line goes into service.

The component failures brought forth detail a collection of components that require replacement even before the system has opened for operations. Mason cited concerns “about the durability of the project” when discussing the component failures.

For example, the contractor has replaced more than 1,500 insulators that were exhibiting cracks as of April 2020. Several thousand damaged track fasteners have also required replacement.

Mason said the damage to the direct fixation track fasteners is one of the biggest areas of concern. The fasteners, which are used to hold the rail in place at the appropriate height and angle, typically have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years. She did label the issue as underway after conversations with MWAA and its contractor.

Two other primary concerns she listed are the installation of the station platform pavers and deficiencies of cross bond spacing.

The station platform paver installation was initially identified as an issue after Phase I and brought to MWAA’s attention in late 2017. Issues with the installation consisted of systemic joint failures at pavers, water penetrating setting bed, and significant efflorescence deposits at the platform edges.

The installation problem is considered a maintenance issue, not a structural issue, for the platform.

The cross bonds spacing issue exists in 20 locations that Metro identified as deviating from design criteria and industry practice. It is regarded as a high-risk item, but a resolution to address the issue is already underway.

“There are and will continue to be other issues that come up, and we will try first to resolve them at the project level,” Mason said.

“We’ve also implemented bi-weekly executive coordination meetings for technical review between myself, my counterpart at the Airports Authority and executives from the contractor teams.”

The project has faced a number of issues that have delayed its completion. More than 11% of the concrete panels at five of the six new stations on the extension were discovered to have cracks that needed to be repaired.

Issues with concrete and leveling were also found in September 2019, while defective concrete rail ties delayed progress in March 2019.

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The Reston Annual State of the Environment Report (RASER) will be presented to the Reston Association (RA) during its regular board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 17.

Doug Britt, a Virginia Master Naturalist and chair of RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee, will present the study update and the state of Reston’s environment to the RA board and members.

The comprehensive study is roughly 200 pages long and comes on the heels of more than 1,000 volunteer hours to update the report on its bi-annual basis. The report covers 21 different environmental attributes of the community that includes natural resource maintenance, health of wildlife, air quality, and environmental education and outreach.

The study is co-led and co-edited by Robin Duska, a former environmental advisory committee member, and includes the work of 18 authors and co-authors. The authors include members of the environmental advisory committee and outside individuals with specialized expertise.

“For each topic that we address, we collect the most reliable information that we can about the subject here in Reston,” Britt said.

“When we don’t have enough Reston data, we’ll look at county data, regional data and state data. And then we organize each topic around a background that defines the environmental attribute and then an existing edition section, and then a conclusion section.”

RASER’s five objectives are listed on RA’s website as the following:

Summarize existing quantitative environmental data for the Reston community in one publicly accessible document.

Establish an environmental baseline that can be re-assessed annually to facilitate the identification of environmental trends and to evaluate the efficacy of environmental improvement and conservation programs and initiatives.

Provide relevant and timely environmental information that can help RA and its board of directors in shaping future policy and programs.

Help educate and inform Reston residents and other interested parties about Reston’s environmental health.

Create a living document that can be revised and expanded as deemed appropriate to meet future environmental challenges and information needs.

The report was expanded this year to include two attributes: solid waste management and climate change. It also utilizes a larger amount of visual exhibits with 182 photos, tables or charts.

To make the report more user-friendly, most references will include hyperlinks to more information on subjects or view the original sources.

Each attribute in the report is given a subjective assessment of its condition. Each assessment is given a traffic light rating of green (good), yellow (fair), or red (poor), and unlit icons signify that more information is needed on the topic. In the 2020 study, five subjects were given green, eight yellow, two red and six are unlit.

“Every time we update this report, we find more and more information that helps us understand the nature of the topic,” Britt said.

“I think we have come a long way from 2017 to where we are now in our understanding and documenting the status of the attributes and how they’re changing with time, if they are.”

Britt clarified that there were not “any major changes in the subjective quality of the attribute from the previous report.”

Portions of the study will include possible changes RA can create an initiative for, while individual residents can address other items. However, many potential changes will come from outside the community at the county or state level.

Various items will be highlighted for discussion through the study. Among those is a fact Britt said came out of a new chapter of the study on water management wherein it was found that residents in Reston use 19 million plastic bags per year and less than 1% of those are ever recycled.

Over the years, Britt has witnessed efforts being made in Reston to mitigate existing issues. Among those efforts have been Reston utilizing stream mitigation banks to restore over half of the area’s perennial streams, and RA adopting a program to secure lakefront areas with biologs to prevent erosion.

Also, based on a recommendation in RASER, RA applied for and received a grant to put on a local workshop last year on what individual homeowners can do to capture and retain storm water runoff on their properties.

Britt expressed that one of his primary concerns with this study is to get board approval for public distribution to allow for more exposure to it for a broader range of stakeholder in the community.

The RASER presentation next week will be separate from recommendations and a report card for protecting or enhancing individual attributes. Britt is planning to present those items apart from the full report in the RA board meeting in January or February.

Photo by Ruth Seviers

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn has experienced some unexpected challenges during his first year on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. But he says he has striven to meet each challenge by abiding by the chief principles he ran his election campaign on: community engagement and transparency.

In a recent interview with Reston Now, Alcorn said he knows it’s “going to be a tough early 2021” as the area deals with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but he remains hopeful of a productive future.

Among his agenda items is the progression of the community task force analyzing potential changes to the Reston Comprehensive Plan, which guides planning and land use decisions for the area. Alcorn’s agenda includes looking forward to the task force advancing and “wrapping up in 2021.”

“I know saying ‘wrapping up’ is kind of funny right now because we’re really just getting into some of the meatier issues,” Alcorn said Monday. “But I think we will get there and see that happen some point next year. Moving forward with that is definitely a priority.”

Alcorn said the task force represents an opportunity to continue an open dialogue with the public moving forward. Alcorn believes that the task force and county have structured the public meetings as close to having “real face-to-face meetings” to allow opportunities for questions or comments.

His plan for 2021 also includes revisiting efforts of revitalization at Lake Anne and looking at what needs to happen to maintain progress in the area. He is also planning to continue community engagement for the Wiehle Avenue crossing and the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the avenue that is planned to begin in the summer of 2022.

He is also looking to move forward with public facilities in Reston Town Center North, including the rebuild of the Reston Regional Library, the Embry Rucker Shelter, plans for a civic space for all of Reston, and additional public facilities in Reston.

Through 2020, the pandemic has created various issues including face-to-face public engagement opportunities and budget issues. A portion of those issues has been the county’s inability to proceed with some of the affordable housing financings that were initially expected this year.

“That’s been a disappointment to me. We’ve had to put off some of the financing, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t putting off moving forward with plans where we can,” Alcorn said.

Alcorn was able to host a couple of town halls early in the year before the COVID-19 outbreak, and he has been able to host more on virtual platforms. Those virtual town halls have included a meeting with Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler, as well as a recent meeting to discuss proposed updates to zMOD, the county’s zoning modernization process.

Alcorn listed the size of the change included in zMOD as one of the primary challenges that is being faced. However, through the Hunter Mill district town hall, Alcorn heard a number of comments and suggestions that he says he’s following up on with the county staff.

Proposed changes Alcorn says he’s reviewing include potential changes to the zoning ordinances for accessory living units and concerns that a potential increase could destabilize neighborhoods by exacerbating “localized issues” like parking and other concerns.

“That’s something I’m going to be focusing on more through January, and basically working with different stakeholders, some of the folks who showed up and testified at the town hall, and others,” Alcorn said of the zMOD proposals. “We’ll have another opportunity, one more for sure, over the next few months to try and parse that out a little bit more.”

With an eye on the future, Alcorn can look back on successful enterprises during 2020.

He has seen an encouraging re-engagement with the comprehensive plan in Reston and participation with it. He also touts an increase in transparency and accessibility with the public.

“I think it’s important to bring people together to think about some of these issues a little more broadly and consider them from different perspectives. I think in doing that, it opens up new doors and possibilities for action to move forward.”

Another success for Alcorn is getting design approval for the replacement of the Hunter Mill Bridge, including designs for anticipated future pedestrian improvements in the area.

Alcorn also points to a strengthened relationship with the town of Vienna as a success. As part of the relationship, Alcorn received approval from the county Board of Supervisors for a waiver of all county building and inspection fees applicable to the Vienna Police Facility Construction Project, which saved the town more than $400,000.

Another notable moment for Alcorn came in October, as he did not offer support for the comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of Hidden Creek Country Club based on feedback.

Through a reflection of 2020, Alcorn gives credit for aiding progress in the county and the district to the involvement of the community and its feedback. He particularly expressed his pride in the community stepping up to help others in the area as issues have mounted during the pandemic.

“Some of our needs continue to be very high. We have food insecurity. We have a lot of people that are facing eviction,” Alcorn said. “We’ve really seen a lot of folks step up and be very generous with their time, with their money and their energy to help address some of these real community problems.”

Photo via Walter Alcorn/Facebook

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While the cold temperatures settle in, Christmas trees and greenery have become a hot commodity in the area.

Farms, markets and Christmas shops are open around the Reston, Herndon and Falls Church area, ready to provide the centerpiece of the family home for the holidays.

The Reston Farm Garden Market has five locations to pick up Christmas trees, greenery, wreaths and accessories. These include its main location in Reston (10800 Baron Cameron Ave.), as well as spots in Herndon (2551 John Milton Drive) and Fairfax (3089 Nutley Street).

The market is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Dec. 24 at each location. The trees range in height from 4 feet to 12 feet, and are offered in three types of fir: Concolor, Douglas and Fraser.

Prices range from $89.99 and up for Douglas Fir, $49.99 and up for Fraser Fir, and a Concolor Fir is $69.99.

The market offers online shopping for pickup or delivery, within 10 miles of any of the five locations.

Krop’s Crops (11110 Georgetown Pike) in Great Falls is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The 20-acre farm features a variety of pre-cut Noble Firs, Fraser Firs and Douglas Firs that range from 5 to 14 feet.

Delivery of pre-cut trees is available upon request.

The farm also sells poinsettias, wreaths and other holiday decorations. Its “choose-and-cut” section of trees is temporarily closed this season.

Sexton Christmas Trees has its Great Falls lot open behind the post office at 10001 Georgetown Pike. The lot will have Fraser Firs up to 12 feet, and wreaths, garland and other Christmas decorations available.

The lot’s hours (weather permitting) are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The Merrifield Garden Center’s Christmas Shop is open in three locations, including Falls Church (8131 Lee Highway), Fairfax (12101 Lee Highway) and Gainesville (6895 Wellington Road). The garden center is completely open for customers to shop.

The center features an abundance of varieties and the sizes range from tabletop to 15 feet. The varieties include different firs, such as Fraser and Turkish, as well as different pines and a spruce variety. Additionally, wreaths, garlands, artificial trees and other decorative options are available.

The store hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Meadows Farms offers a variety of holiday greenery at 21 locations, including Falls Church (6461 Arlington Boulevard) and Herndon (11254 Leesburg Pike). Both the Falls Church and Herndon locations are open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Meadows Farms has cut Christmas trees from tabletop to 12-foot options, and a large selection of pine roping, poinsettias and wreaths available.

Photo via Reston Farm Market website

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The Fairfax County Board of Directors authorized the advertisement of the Zoning Ordinance Modernization (zMOD) project as recommended by the county’s staff during its meeting Tuesday.

This move will allow sufficient time to advertise the project before a planning commission public hearing on Jan. 28, 2021, and a Board of Supervisors public hearing on March 9, 2021, according to the authorized administrative request.

The zMOD project has been included on the Zoning Ordinance Amendment Work Program since 2016. The goals of the project “are to modernize the county’s zoning ordinance, to make the regulations easier for all stakeholders to understand, and to remove inconsistencies, gaps, and ambiguities” that have been incorporated into the current ordinance since its adoption in 1978, according to an executive summary of the project.

During a Hunter Mill district town hall on Monday, Department of Planning and Development planners Carmen Bishop and Casey Judge provided four reasons behind the update of the zoning ordinance:

  1. Unintuitive format and structure
  2. Outdated land uses and regulations
  3. Legal jargon and antiquated language
  4. Inconvenient on cellphones, tablets and other devices

The current zoning ordinance encompasses more than 1,200 pages. The project proposal includes streamlining the different regulations to make it user friendly, complete with hyperlinks throughout the document as well as tables and graphics that consolidate information.

The language within the current zoning ordinance may also convert to a “plain English effort,” according to Judge.

Though the board authorized the progression of the project, citizens are asking about the language and stipulations in the latest draft of the project.

On Nov. 25, a letter from Reston Association President Julie Bitzer to Hunter Mill district Supervisor Walter Alcorn listed areas of concern “that directly affect the Association and the larger Reston community.”

Among the areas of concern Bitzer listed is the timing of review and approval of the project. Bitzer raised issue with the “inadequate” amount of time to review and comment on the 741-page draft of the new ordinance before the planning commission hearings in January.

During the town hall Monday, similar concerns were heard about the speed in which the project is moving. Bishop and Judge assured the project has been discussed with people from all Fairfax County districts over the last two years.

During the town hall, which marked the 89th meeting about zMOD in the county, it was also explained that the project has been released in installments for over a year while some adjustments were made based on feedback from community engagement.

However, it was reiterated that the county is willing to continue meeting with the public to address concerns or continue to make adjustments based on feedback.

“We want the community engagement. The project has benefitted so much from the input that we have gotten, and so I don’t want to minimize the impact that citizens have already had on this project,” Bishop said.

“But we’re happy to continue the meetings and to continue to fine tune the document.”

Among the other concerns heard during the town hall and expressed in Bitzer’s letter were adjustments to accessory living units (ALU) and home based businesses.

The concerns specifically revolved around potential parking and traffic issues, and how proposed changes to ALUs and home based businesses may coexist with the rules set by homeowner’s associations (HOA) in the area.

Through the zMOD proposal, Judge assured that the project works to recognize “the residential character of these neighborhoods and making sure we don’t have people coming and going all day long.”

The proposed standards for the home based businesses include limiting each to two customers or clients at a time and six per day. The businesses will still require appointments only, each spaced 15 minutes apart. Each home based business will also be required to designate one parking space.

In Bitzer’s letter, she communicated specific concern about the option to remove the requirement that a person with a disability or a person 55 years or older live on the property to obtain a permit for an ALU. Bitzer expressed a belief that this adjustment may have “drastic unintended consequences,” including increased density and conflicts over parking and access.

During the town hall, it was clarified that dwellings with ALUs will be required to provide one additional off-street parking space for an interior unit approved with an administrative permit in addition to the off-street spaces already designated for the dwelling.

Another proposal stipulates that ALUs must meet health department approval and applicable regulations for building, safety, health and sanitation.

It was also clarified that each HOA will retain its covenants that will take precedent over the county’s regulations.

The final area Bitzer addressed in her letter was a point of support on behalf of the Reston Association for the proposed change requiring “the disclosure and showing of all easements on properties, regardless of easement width, on rezoning and entitlement plans being submitted for review.”

Image courtesy Fairfax County

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