If Reston’s lakes have seemed a little low to you lately, don’t worry, you’re not crazy.
The Reston Association is running its annual dive inspections on all the dam spillways across each of the local lakes. The water level of the lake has been lowered by two inches today and yesterday to accommodate the inspections.
According to Nicki Bellezza, watershed manager for the Reston Association, the association contracts with firms to provide dive inspections every year to examine the concrete risers and spillways to make sure everything is functioning properly.
“During one inspection we noticed a small leak that we were able to repair at Lake Thoreau last year,” said Bellezza.
Restons lakes are not natural, but are artificial reservoirs built in the latter half of the 20th century to support the increased water runoff from new developments.
“The lake spillways allow water to tumble over into a large pipe, similar to a bathtub drain,” said Bellezza. “The structures also have gates that, when opened, allow us to lower the water level in the lake. We do not normally operate the gates unless we need to do inspections or for routine maintenance.”
The main challenge facing the lakes today, according to Bellezza, is corrosion of the spillways due to the age of the infrastructure. Bellezza said the Reston Association will review the results of the dive inspections and make decisions moving forward about future improvements to the lake infrastructure.
Photo via Twitter
Local nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) and ridesharing app Lyft are again partnering to offer free rides during the holiday season.
As part of an effort to combat drunk driving, WRAP will be sponsoring free Lyft rides starting this Friday (Dec. 14).
From 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., rides up to $15 are free with the use of a promo code. The user is responsible for any costs over $15. The offer will continue until Jan. 1.
Weekly codes will be posted at the Sober Rides website at noon on Dec. 14, 22, and 31. The weekly code is only valid for one ride.
According to the Virginia Highway Safety Office, there were 621 alcohol-related crashes in Fairfax in 2017, resulting in 331 injuries and 12 fatalities.
As the program is aimed at preventing alcohol related crashes, Lyft riders must be at least 21 years old to claim the offer. The code is valid for any rides inside the D.C. coverage area, which includes all of Fairfax County.
The SoberRide program operates during the December/January holiday season, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day and Halloween.
Image via Washington Regional Alcohol Program
Updated 2:30 p.m. — Elizabeth Kamp, owner of New Trail Cycling Studio, has specified that the opening is a private event
New Trail Cycling Studio, a new indoor cycling studio at Lake Anne Plaza (1641B Washington Plaza), is celebrating its grand opening this afternoon (Tuesday) in a private event from 4:30-6 p.m.
The grand opening will include finger food from Kalypso’s and a chance to win a five-pack of rides.
The indoor bicycling studio first opened its doors in early November with a series of preview classes. Participants can buy a pack of classes, from $22 for two classes for new riders to more expensive unlimited memberships. Riders receive free shoe rentals, towels and herbal washcloths.
The studio also offers specials — $65 for four rides for college students — and “Free New Trail 101” classes to teach proper form and explain cycling settings.
Photo via Facebook
As the year comes to a close, the Reston Bicycle Club topped $5,100 in donations to community projects that support bicycling.
“The Reston Bike club is proud to provide financial and member volunteer support to community initiatives that promote cycling for fun, exercise, and as a commuting alternative,” Club President Chip Magrogan said in a press release.
The club’s executive committee voted last week to donate to local bicycling organizations. Kelley Westenhoff, the vice-chairman of the Reston Bicycle Club, said the checks are in the mail.
TrailsforYouth.org, the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts and the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling will receive $1000 each, while $500 was donated to NOVA Cycling. Earlier this year, the club donated to the Be AMYazing Reston Youth Triathlon as well as the Reston Sprint Triathlon.
“2018 was our first year of formalizing donations with a grant application, etc. thus donations for past years are hard to track as they were on a more ‘as needed’ basis,” Westenhoff told Reston Now via email.
“That said, I’ve been on the board for two years, and was involved with some of the past donations, so I can say that this year’s total so far is the highest we’ve gone in a year — with the exception of some big projects we funded such as bike racks in Reston and the bike counter for [Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling],” Westenhoff added.
The club, founded in 1982, aims to promote bicycling around Reston and other nearby communities. Funding for philanthropy comes from club member dues and the club’s annual Century Ride, held in August.
Club membership includes social rides and training rides every day of the week from April through September and on weekends year-round. Membership costs $25 annually.
Photo via Facebook
With help from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer, which offers aerial views of the county dating back to 1937, Reston Now has put together a review of how the Lake Anne area has evolved since the lake’s creation.
Like many of Reston’s lakes, Lake Anne is not natural. Photography from 1960 shows the open fields and forests just two years prior to the first development on the site.
According to the Walker Nature Education Center, the lake was first built in 1962 to compensate for the increased water runoff caused by new developments. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Lake Thoreau, Lake Audubon, and Lake Newport were also built across Reston.
While some of the water in the lake comes from underground springs, most comes from rainfall and surface runoff. The lakes store water as it flows through streams to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
By 1976, ten years after it was founded, Lake Anne Village Center took the form is essentially remains in to this day. The center was designed by architect James Rossant to emulate the Italian coastal town of Portofino but with then-popular brutalist themes. The center was designed to be located within a half-mile of most homes in Reston at the time.
Over the next twenty years, the aerial photography shows development on the periphery around the central plaza, like new subdivisions built near Lake Newport to the north across Baron Cameron Ave. New residential developments also emerged on the south side of Lake Anne.
To the southwest, the Lake Anne Elementary School went through substantial upgrades in the 1990s, adding air conditioning throughout the building. In 2003, construction began on a $2.1 million addition and renovation of the school. Forest Edge Elementary School to the east also saw substantial growth between 1997 and 2017.
In addition to the Holiday events we covered earlier, there’s plenty to do around Reston this weekend. This weekend should be especially busy for the more artistically inclined readers, with dancing, music, and photography events tomorrow and Sunday.
Tomorrow (Dec. 8)
Cookies with Santa (9 a.m.-12 p.m.) — Hot chocolate and cookies will be available for children and adults at an arts and crafts event hosted by the Reston Association at Lake House (11450 Baron Cameron Ave). The program is geared towards children ages 2-12. Admission is $15 for Reston Association members of $20 for non-members.
Singer Songwriter Crys Matthews (6:30-9:30) — The alternative rock singer-songwriter will be performing at the Lake Anne Coffee House & Wine Bar (1612 Washington Plaza) tomorrow night. Matthew is also scheduled to perform in January at a three-day event for Reston’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration.
National Parks Photography Exhibit Reception (7-9 p.m.) — Artspace Herndon (750 Center St) will host a reception for Jim Schlett’s gallery of national park photography. Most of the work was photographed during ling walked through the parks around dawn or dusk. The exhibit will run until Jan. 5.
2018 Reston Santa Bar Crawl (8 p.m.-1 a.m.) — The rules for a Santa Bar Crawl are simple: wear a Santa suit, or some other holiday costume, and hit up a series of Santa-friendly bars across Reston. A full list of participating bars is available at the event page.
Sunday (Dec. 9)
Christmas at the Farm — The Frying Pan Farm Park (2739 West Ox Rd) will offer cookie decorating, Sant-driven dractor rides, and more for $10 per person. Sessions at the farm are held throughout the day. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Sunday Afternoon Dance (2:30-4:30 p.m.) — The Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Rd) is hosting a dance for all skill levels, with music ranging from waltz and swing to modern dance selections. Partners are not required. The cost is $5 for Reston residents or $10 for non-Restonians. The event is followed by a County Western Dance from 5:30-8 p.m.
Photo via Facebook
Fairfax County Government is currently mulling over changes to its sign ordinance that has everyone from schools and parks to local realtors concerned.
At a Planning Commission meeting last night (Wednesday), the commission deferred a decision on the new sign regulations until Jan. 16 to allow for more discussion on the impact of the ordinance.
Currently, county staff are reviewing changes to the zoning ordinance to make the language content-neutral. The change is in response to the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, which ruled that localities that define sign categories based on the message expressed, or content-based, is unconstitutional unless it furthers a compelling governmental interest.
Rather than allow free reign for Fairfax residents of businesses to erect signs regardless of content, a proposed amendment would clamp down on sign regulations across the board.
Changes to the sign ordinance are widespread but often minor corrections. One of the biggest changes is that one freestanding building identification sign is permitted for each detached building and such signs must be limited to identifying the name of the building or the individual enterprises located therein, the address, trademark or identifying symbol of the building occupant.
According to county staff, minor signs (formerly referred to as temporary signs) were the largest challenge in the zoning ordinance rewrite.
“While staff acknowledges that the proposed language could negatively affect some developments that are currently exempt from regulation, we continue to recommend the language found in the draft text as it provides the closest level of regulation as the current provision.”
A representative from real estate investment company Macerich said at the meeting said the company had a laundry list of concerns but has been working with county staff to whittle those issues down. Another local realtor at the meeting said the new ordinance could push the open house signs and corner signs off of local lawns and into the already crowded right-of-way spaces.
The sign ordinance changes sparked concern with the inclusion of language that would remove government exemptions from sign ordinances.
“Staff has received comments from both Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), neither of which is in favor of eliminating the current exemption status. Of particular concern to the Park Authority is the limitation on the size, number and location of minor signs permitted for non-residential uses in a residential district. These signs are used to announce summer concert series, camps and other activities at the parks. The schools have raised concerns with the proposed height of permitted freestanding signs for non-residential uses in residential districts which is proposed to be limited to 8 feet in height.”
As a result, staff said at the Planning Commission meeting that there would be modifications to the ordinance allowing some exceptions for schools and parks.
Planning Commissioner Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner said at the meeting he was generally in favor of holding Fairfax County government accountable to many of the same sign regulations as the public.
“There’s something to be said with us being able to model our behavior consistent with what we expect from the private sector,” said Niedzielski-Eichner. “There is a different benefit to be realized to the public with the park authority and public school [having] latitude with signs, but frankly I’m comfortable with them doing it within a regulatory context… not unfettered.”
Photo via Flickr/Alan Levine
(Updated 4:50 p.m.) As it starts to get colder, some veterans and families around the region don’t have a home to take shelter in.
The Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant in the Reston Town Center is collecting unused, or gently used, sweaters and sweat pants as part of a “Sweats 4 Vets” program.
“We do have a homeless problem in Reston,” said Joe Becker, general manager at Not Your Average Joe’s. “It’s not front page news, but if you look around it’s there.”
Becker said the collection is a partnership with Northwest Federal Credit Union.
“Every fall, going into winter, we collect [sweat-clothes] for veterans,” said Becker. “We have hypothermia shelters in the area that we get these clothes out to.”
The collection is starting to fill up, and Becker’s goal is to have it overflowing. Normally the clothing is collected at the beginning of December, but Becker said the weather made him want to keep collecting for a few more weeks to get more sweat-clothes.
“It’s halfway full, so it’s getting up there,” said Robert DeSilva, a manager at Not Your Average Joe’s. “We prefer new items, but we will take slightly used [sweat-clothes] in all sizes and cuts.”
DeSilva said the collection will continue for two more weeks before the clothing is donated to local shelters.
“There’s plenty of veterans on hard times right now,” DeSilva said. “We need to take care of those who have taken care of us.”
Photo via Not Your Average Joe’s
Updated 11:20 — The Ping-Pong Tables were removed, from the project and the story.
Construction on new upgrades for the South Lakes Village Center could be coming next year.
The upgrades proposed by the Chevy Chase Land Company were approved by the Reston Association Design Review Board in June. Plans include upgrades like an amphitheater and a fire pit.
The upgrades are planned to help turn the aging commercial center into a local destination, though earlier this year residents nearby said they were concerned that the upgrades could lead to increased noise levels and vandalism.
Idrissa Sesay, assistant property manager of South Lakes Village Center, told Reston Now in an email that the company is still working on a construction timeline.
“Our marketing director informed me that we are working on the construction timeline now, but hoping to have [the construction timeline] complete this coming spring,” Sesay wrote.
According to the Design Review Board’s approval, the upgrades would add also add a bicycle rack and a bike repair station to make the area more bike accessible.
Photos via Chevy Chase Land Company
This story has been updated
The trial began earlier this week for Jude Lovchik, charged with abduction and sodomy.
In 1995, four roommates in Reston were held at gunpoint and sexually assaulted. The case had gone cold until Lovchik’s ex-wife told Arlington County police that Lovchik had confessed the actions to her and had her recreate the scenes.
According to the Washington Post, the victims of the assault testified during the opening day of the trial. The women said their attacker had forced the women to perform sexual acts on each other and on him, then worked meticulously to cover his tracks.
One woman testified that she was made to drink Gatorade to remove the evidence from her mouth and that he vacuumed the bedroom where the assault occurred. After going through their address book, the women said the attacker also threatened to kill their friends and family if they reported the assault.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jessica Greis-Edwardson, who said DNA swabs from Lovchik matched biological material found in the mouth of one of the victims.
But Fairfax County Public Defender Dawn Butorac said the evidence tying Lovchik to the crime was flimsy, saying there were inconsistencies in the DNA evidence and noting that Lovchick’s ex-wife, who was in the middle of the divorce when she reported Lovchick’s confession, had motive to lie.
Lovchik faces up to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges, including abduction and sodomy. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Photo via Marion County Jail
(Updated 12:20 p.m.) Reston is home for Charles and Julie McCool, but more often than not you’ll find them on the road.
The Reston couple runs the travel blogs McCool Travel and Fun in Fairfax VA. Charles’ blog is dedicated to maximum travel with minimum expenses. Charles currently has 21,594 followers on Twitter, while Julie has 12,057 followers.
Emailing from a chair once occupied by Jimmy Buffet in Pascagoula, Charles shared some travel tips for Restonians hoping to see the world on a shoestring budget.
Charles said he worked in a cubicle office space in downtown Washington D.C. until 2.5 years ago. Since then, Charles says he’s been traveling full-time and working remotely.
“My personal budget was tight so I heavily researched ways to stretch my dollar but optimize my travel opportunities,” said Charles. “This year my wife and I have flown to Copenhagen and Ecuador for free (using credit card points).”
Charles also notes on the blog that links in the articles may be affiliate links which pay a commission, and that the site is an affiliate of Amazon’s advertising program, meaning the site earns advertising fees for links to Amazon.
Recent features on the McCool Travel blog include dining recommendations around Gettysburg and website recommendations to help prepare for trips. Julie McCool’s blog features more local free outings, like Ten Free and Fun things in Washington D.C.
One of Charles’ top recommendations is for travelers to be flexible.
“Being flexible is my number one rule of travel,” said Charles. “When someone locks in the idea of taking a certain trip at a certain time, that inflexibility often leads to higher prices. For instance, going to Disney World in mid-June (after school is out) or the Caribbean for Spring Break; those are peak travel experiences. Being flexible means, in these cases, maybe doing a road trip to US National Parks.”
On some of the more bare-bones trips, Charles says little touches like getting food from grocery stores instead of fine restaurants can help make a difference in the travel budget.
On a post about lodging, Charles recommends looking for house-sitting opportunities, volunteering, or working at a place that offers residence. Charles noted that farms, lighthouses, and resorts can all offer lodging for work in off-seasons.
If you have to pay for lodging, Charles says identifying which locations offer breakfast can help reduce meal costs, and inquiring about a refrigerator to store groceries can reduce that further.
Charles said his next big trip planned won’t be until a June cruise, but he’s looking into bicycling from Houston to Key West in March or April.
“You do not have to invent, or re-invent, the wheel,” said Charles. “No matter where you want to go, and how you want to do it, there is undoubtedly someone who has already done so (and most likely has a travel blog to talk about it). General suggestions include reading various travel blogs and websites (like mine), be involved in Facebook and Twitter discussions, find people doing what you want to do and ask them for advice.”
Photo via Twitter
(Updated 3 p.m.) Gabe Aparicio, a 9-year-old Reston student, has been working on a project that involved 3D printing for space technology and had some questions. So who better to ask than a board of NASA experts?
A photo of Aparicio asking a question at a Nov. 29 meeting regarding commercial space traffic was NASA’s featured “Photo of the Day”.
“It was a really great opportunity to hear about the technology he only normally sees in movies,” said Sam Aparicio, Gabe’s father. “It was quite a treat.”
Aparicio is a member of the “BrainStorm Troopers”, a team of students at the Nova Lab Robotics in Reston. The labs are a maker space in Isaac Newton Square that, among other activities, runs programs that help children learn about science and technology.
Laura Carey, one of the co-coaches for the team, said the name was chosen by the avid Star Wars fans in the group.
The BrainStorm Troopers are one of the Nova Lab Robotics teams working in the FIRST Lego League, a challenge for students ages 9-11 built around designing robotics with legos to combat a certain challenge. This year, BrainStorm Troopers’ challenge was called Into Orbit, tasking students with identifying challenges humans would face in deep space exploration and work on devising a solution.
“They use the Legos to build robots,” said Marybeth Haneline, President of Nova Labs. “For their research question they looked at 3D printing in space, so [Gabe] asked NASA about 3D printing.”
Haneline said students at Nova Labs Robotics were some of several teams throughout the region invited to NASA’s discussion of delivery of commercial payloads to the moon’s surface.
“They have been working all season long to understand what is the role of 3D printing in space exploration,” said Sam Aparicio. “It was really cool for him and his teammates to get validation that this is an area of great interest for NASA engineers. That was one of the highlights of the event.”
Sam Aparicio said Gabe’s involvement with BrainTroopers has not only been fun for a child who loves building with Legos but has also helped shape skills outside of science and technology.
“I’ve been enjoying seeing how this can translate into real-world problem solving,” said Sam Aparicio. “I think one of the big things, not just my son but all of the kids, is that they love learning about teamwork. In the school setting, harder for all of the kids to work on one problem… It’s just been fun for them to bond with other kids in trying to solve a big problem.”
Haneline said the Nova Labs Robotics teams are sponsored, in part, by donor corporations like BTI360 and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Haneline noted that Nova Labs Robotics is currently in a dedicated space in Isaac Newton Square, which is soon to be redeveloped, so the group needs to find a new home by the first of the next year.
“We’re looking for a corporate donor who might be willing to donate some space,” said Haneline.
Photo via NASA/Bill Ingalls
As Reston is projected to continue growing at a dramatic pace, Fairfax County is moving forward with a proposed zoning amendment to allow for greater density. But a group of Reston citizens are protesting the move, saying the proposed amendment is rushed through and under-explained.
The zoning amendment would increase the maximum population per acre in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) district from 13 persons to 15. Dwelling units per acre would increase from 50 units to 70 near Metro stations.
The Board of Supervisors is anticipated to authorize public hearings on the zoning changes at its upcoming Tuesday (Dec. 4) meeting. Public comment will not be heard at the meeting.
A group of citizens calling themselves the Coalition for a Planned Reston wrote a letter to Supervisor Cathy Hudgins saying that approval of the zoning amendment would be premature.
“The Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) is deeply concerned and dismayed by the announcement that you have requested County staff to move forward with the proposed PRC Zoning Ordinance Amendment,” the CPR wrote in the letter. “We strongly urge you to withdraw your request immediately and to complete the community dialogue to which you committed.”
The letter included a list of 23 areas where the groups say Fairfax County officials have supplied inadequate information. Among the criticisms of the zoning amendment are exemptions given to developers with proposals that do not conform with the Reston Master Plan.
Some of the topics of the letter involve the minutiae of zoning amendments but others — like what the CPR calls a lack of clarity over the expected number of students the added density would have on the school systems — could shape Reston for years to come.
This isn’t the first letter from the CPR over the issue. The group had previously sent a letter on Aug. 1 urging Hudgins to suspend action on the amendment. The Reston Association has also expressed concern about the impact of the zoning amendment.
Photo via Fairfax County
There’s plenty to do this weekend around Reston. We posted a list of holiday events in the area throughout December, but for Reston Grinches already tired of Holiday cheer, here’s our Christmas-free list of weekend events — including a signing by New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci.
Tonight (Nov. 30)
Vinyl Invention at Crafthouse (10 p.m.-1 a.m.) — Rock/Funk band Vinyl Intervention returns to Crafthouse Reston (1888 Explorer St) tonight. The group is a Washington, D.C. based cover band that performs songs mainly from the latter 20th century.
Tomorrow (Dec. 1)
Mystery Author Extravaganza (1-3 p.m.) — The Sisters in Crime Chessie Chapter will host an afternoon of book talks at the Reston Regional Library (11925 Bowman Towne Dr). The afternoon features mystery authors from throughout the region discussing their books and the genre, as well as a book market with authors available for autographs.
Monster Drawing Rally (1-5 p.m.) — Over 50 artists from across the Washington, D.C. region are scheduled to come together at the Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market St) for a live drawing event. Artists will be creating their work on-site, all of which will be available for purchase at $75 each. The event is free and open to the public. All proceeds benefit the exhibition program.
Shrek The Musical (1-2:30 p.m.) — Tomorrow is the opening for the Nextstop Theatre Company’s (269 Sunset Park Drive) production of Shrek The Musical. Tickets are available online and the show will run until Dec. 22.
Sunday (Dec. 2)
Capital ‘Cross Classic (8:15 a.m.-4 p.m.) — This race is the series finale of the BikeReg Super series. The race will be held at Lake Fairfax Park (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive). Proceeds from the race will benefit the Lake Fairfax Sustainable Natural Trail System program, which aims to build new sustainable trails and restore existing trails in Lake Fairfax Park.
David Baldacci Author Talk and Book Signing (2-4 p.m.) — New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci will host a free author talk and book signing at the Reston Regional Library. Baldacci is scheduled to read from his new book, Long Road to Mercy, and free copies of the book will be given to the first 100 registrants.
Photo via Facebook
(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Crafthouse, a growing beer-centric restaurant chain with a prominent Reston location, recently signed a $250 million deal to start franchising across the country.
As first reported by the Washington Business Journal, Crafthouse owner Evan Matz signed a deal with development firm American Development Partners to provide site selection, acquisition, and construction services for more than 100 new Crafthouse locations over the next five years.
Crafthouse currently has locations in Reston, Fairfax City, and Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood.
It’s a turnaround for Matz, who started his restaurants as franchisees of Florida-based World of Beer before going independent and rebranding the locations as “Crafthouse.” The move prompted a lawsuit from World of Beer, which has since been settled, according to the Business Journal.
Matz told Reston Now that the core idea of Crafthouse is not just locally sourced beer, but entire menus built around local specialties.
“Eat local, drink local,” said Matz. “I want to try to showcase local craft beer or local spirits. As we go forward, if we open one in North Carolina or Tennessee, I want to focus on the local beers there, like their whiskey or wine, but they’re also known for their ribs. If we open in Maryland it might be crab cakes or conch in Key West.”
As they begin looking at locations throughout the country, Matz said he’s excited by the variety of different locales and what they have to bring to the table.
“People love the concept, so I wanted to bring it to other possible franchisees to expand it throughout the country,” said Matz. “There’s a lot of exciting markets out there. Each one is unique in its own right.”
Crafthouse has arranged with American Development Partners to provide 100 percent funding for franchisees planning on placing a Crafthouse inside newly built, freestanding buildings.
While Matz said he plans to go to every location as they open and make sure they are being properly run, he said the emphasis is going to be on local owners independently owning and operating the restaurants.
Matz said Crafthouse is already beginning to get inquiries from across the country about potential new locations, and that he aims to have a franchised location open by late 2019 or early 2020. Matz said interested parties should reach out to Crafthouse through email at [email protected] or through the website.
Among the requirements for a new franchise location is at least $300,000 in liquid assets, a net worth over $1 million, and a credit score of 700 or above. But just as importantly, Matz said he’s looking for franchise owners who understand their community and are committed to it.
“Being directly involved as a local owner is key,” said Matz. “You have to be in touch with the community. Be involved and listen to what the customer wants. Forming your Crafthouse around the local area is key to success.”