Reston, VA

Amid a year where national policing reforms were brought into the spotlight, Fairfax County is reviewing a suite of changes at a local level to improve police accountability.

At a Public Safety Committee Meeting, Chairman Rodney Lusk presented an overview of proposed changes in what was described as possible changes rather than new policies set into stone.

Near term considerations included improved data collection to improve accuracy, with ethnicity and a breakdown of arrest data included in documentation. Data would be released quarterly.

One of the other practices that’s come under fire nationally is the firing and immediate re-hiring of police officers across jurisdictions. One proposed change would crack down on that as part of a statewide push to make decertification easier.

“Consider and discuss implementation of state legislation related to the decertification of law enforcement officers who have been terminated or resigned for misconduct and the request and disclosure of information for prospective law-enforcement hires,” the input matrix said.

While many of the items items being considered focused on more transparency and restrictions on police, another item being considered was a review of how to boost morale in the police department, which Lusk said was at an all time low.

The committee also considered some mid-term options, like reviewing regulations around school resource officers and a review of Fairfax County Police Department use of force policies. with more data about the racial distribution of arrests, another mid-term goal was reviewing racial disparities in use of force and arrests.

“These are public suggestions… not approved by the board,” said Fairfax County Board chair Jeff McKay. “This is a parking lot of ideas that have come through your office and now must be adjudicated by this board based on data and conversations… Some of these will go off to other committees.”

Image via Fairfax County

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A consultant hired by Fairfax County has rounded up some thoughts from regional government, business and non-profit leaders on what was hit most by the pandemic and where the most help is needed.

The feedback is one of the first steps on HR&A’s task of building an Economic Recovery Framework, a recovery strategy commissioned by Fairfax County and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

“This strategy will guide the County through stabilization and outline recommendations for fostering an equitable, inclusive recovery,” HR&A said in a report on the preliminary findings of their study.

In the initial findings, county and civic leaders highlighted the disproportionate impact of the virus on Latino and immigrant populations in Fairfax. The pandemic has also affected access to housing, with lost jobs leaving families without the ability to pay rent.

“Continue to invest in programs that support economic mobility and enrich residents’ lives (job training, continuing education, disability support resources) despite budget shortfalls,” said one unnamed County leader sourced in the findings.

Meanwhile, non-profit and health service providers said their capacity has been under-strain and expect further fundraising challenges in the upcoming year. Suggested solutions mainly involved streamlining services and trying to find efficiencies.

Major employers in the region, meanwhile, said decisions about real estate investments are being deferred until more certainty can be established, balanced only by hopes for a more efficient permitting process and a doubling down on tourism and leisure investments.

Smaller employers said they are still struggling with a lack of consumer confidence in returning to businesses and negative impacts have rippled along the supply chain. Many small businesses in the area are still focused on survival. Proposed solutions included more clear safety guidelines, streamlined online permitting, and rent deferment for small businesses.

More analysis of potential recovery scenarios is currently in the works, with a final report being drafted after that.

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Fairfax County is seeing record numbers of locals turning out to vote early, in some cases leading to long lines at polls.

The County is planning to open more locations starting Wednesday, Oct. 14, as millions of Americans nationwide vote early in the election.

Upcoming voting facilities in the Reston area include:

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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If you’ve been to absentee in-person voting and the lines have seemed particularly long, you’re not alone.

Fairfax voters have been lining up at 12000 Government Center Parkway to cast their ballots early and avoid election day crowds, only to find themselves in long lines with other early voters turning up in record numbers.

Some said the numbers seemed to swell yesterday after the debate, but Public Information Officer Brian Worthy said the numbers have been pretty consistent.

“At least to me, it doesn’t seem like the lines are any longer, and I’ve been here at the Government Center for every day of early voting since it began,” Worthy said.

Worthy said COVID-19 precautions have made wait times longer than usual.

“Since the start of early voting on Friday, Sept. 18, we have had two polling places open in the Government Center, and… we’re limiting the number of people in at any one time for the safety of both voters and poll workers,” Worthy said.

“Similarly, we’re keep the line outside because it’s safer for voters to wait there rather than inside the building. As result of COVID, voting is taking longer.”

A county employee at the location said despite the long lines, it was a fraction of what the line was like on previous days.

Two voters, Karen and James Shaver, said they watched the debate the previous night. They described it as “loud” but said it didn’t sway their vote.

In addition to the long lines, voters have endured harassment and attempts to keep people out of the building from supporters of President Donald Trump.

Worthy said the lines should be alleviated by plans to open up satellite facilities for voting later this month.

“We’re opening additional early voting sites on Oct. 14,” Worthy said. “We’ll have 14 additional locations open that day (including the Government Center) with a total of 15 starting on Saturday, Oct. 17.”

Voting facilities in the Reston area include Herndon Fortnightly Library and Great Falls Library.

Jay Westcott contributed to this story

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With the weather turning and more locals looking to take their workouts indoors, the Park Authority has announced a series of changes to the reservation system as the RECenter continues to reopen.

“As we move forward with our phased approach to RECenter operations, we need your help to assure that we can continue to operate safely in an ongoing pandemic,” the Park Authority said. “Beginning this fall, our RECenters will begin to offer a modified class program schedule and swim team pool rentals. Balancing these additional member needs with the requirements to assure appropriate COVID-19 safety measures will be more important than ever. Please help us ensure that we can make the most of our limited space so that all members have the greatest access possible to our facilities.”

The Park Authority asked that people only place reservations for times they will be in the facility, and call ahead to cancel if they can’t make it.

“We ask that you cancel at least 24 hours in advance so we can remove your reservation and make it available to other members,” the Park Authority said.

Starting on Monday, Oct. 5, the online reservation page is going through some changes to reflect an increase in capacity.

New reservation titles will be available for:

  • Fitness Center Tickets
  • Lap Swim/Water Walking Tickets
  • Recreation Swim Ticket
  • Aqua Flex Ticket

Under the new system, the reservation will be held for 30 minutes, after which it will be made available to others on a walk-in basis. Two no-shows result in a call from the Park Authority.

“Our primary goal remains the safe accommodation of as many current members, class participants and contracted swim organizations as possible under current COVID-19 standards,” the Park Authority said.

Reservations can be made online.

Image via Google Maps

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

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

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

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

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A controversy at the library level led to a heated exchanged at Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday) as the Board’s lone Republican pushed back against a motion to ensure the various boards and commissions consider the county’s standards of diversity.

Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay started the meeting with a motion for staff to circulate the One Fairfax policy and training to all boards and commissions and that members sign acknowledgement to confirm they have received and reviewed the policy. The One Fairfax policy adopted in 2017 creates a standard of social and racial equity that the Board of Supervisors committed to considering when making decisions or developing programs and services.

The fight centered around what Supervisor Pat Herrity lambasted as an attack on Phillip Rosenthal, a Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees member who faces calls for resignation from Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and others.

At a July 29 meeting, Rosenthal decried highlighting material about Black Lives Matter and by Muslim authors, Patch first reported.

Backlash to Rosenthal’s comments was swift, but Herrity has vocally defended Rosenthal, who he appointed to the Library Board of Trustees in 2018. At the Board of Supervisors meeting, Herrity defended Rosenthal again and said the motion was a move towards silencing dissent.

“When we try to silence the other side we enter a slippery slope,” Herrity said. “To take someone out because they don’t agree with our political agenda… I think that’s a slippery slope.”

While McKay protested that the board matter wasn’t about an individual person, the text of the item did say “comments made at a recent Library Board of Trustees meeting highlight that we still have a long was to go before we truly become One Fairfax.”

“Things appointee said were hurtful,” McKay said. “I called for his resignation for a lot of reasons.”

Herrity found little support from the other members of the Board of Supervisors, receiving particular rebuke from Dranesville Supervisor John Foust.

“[Herrity] totally misstakes and mischaracterizes the statements Mr. Rosenthal has made,” Foust said. “Everything I hear about Rosenthal is that he’s a decent man who makes many contributions to our community, but his comments at the library board need to be read to understand why so many people were so hurt and why we’re being so misled by Supervisor’s Herrity comments about this.”

Foust ran through a list of Rosenthal’s controversial statements at the library board, which included calling Black Lives Matter activists Marxists and expressing frustration about a reading program aimed at supporting LGBTQ youth.

“To characterize them as Herrity does about the statement for the need for more diverse views in the catalog of books is ridiculous, outrageous, and totally misleading,” Foust said.

Supervisor Dalia Palchik, representing the Providence district, argued that while Herrity had appointed Rosenthal, what Rosenthal said and did reflects on the Board of Supervisors as a whole.

McKay’s motion was passed, with only Herrity voting against it.

Image via Fairfax County

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For the final Reston Then and Now — a series where we’ve used Fairfax County’s aerial photography to track changes in the area — we’re looking at the area overall and at how far it’s come since its founding.

Reston was founded in 1964, but some of the paths that are roads today — like Baron Cameron Avenue — are still visible in photography from 1937. Reston’s iconic man-made lakes are also absent, leaving most of the area that’s Reston today just open fields.

By 1976 though —  10 years after Reston was founded — the region was starting to take shape in the neighborhoods around Lake Anne and Lake Thoreau. The village design envisioned by founder Robert E. Simon is still apparent in those early aerial photographs showing retail and residential areas clumped together.

But over the years, those isolated communities start to become increasingly interconnected to the point of being almost indistinguishable from above. By the mid-1990s, the only major patch of green space around Reston is Colvin Run near Lake Fairfax and southeast of Lake Anne.

After the Reston Town Center starts showing up in aerial photography in 1990 (construction began in 1988) the development starts to shift west of the original area and more toward major transit routes.

In the photography from 1990, construction also starts to bunch around the Dulles Toll Road in the Reston Station neighborhood. The Toll Road was built in 1982, and by the early 2000s, the urban centers of Reston shift away from the villages to the north and south and more towards the developments along the major highway. This density starts to ramp up in 2011 as the area builds up for the Silver Line’s opening in 2014.

The density continuing to focus around the Silver Line is poised to continue as developers plan new mixed-use buildings near Woodland Park by the planned Herndon Silver Line Metro station.

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The Reston Then and Now series is going back to where we started for our penultimate episode: Lake Anne Plaza.

Anyone flicking through the photos overhead — taken from Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer — might have noticed that very little has changed at the plaza itself over the years.

But as the Lakeside Pharmacy icons show, there’s been plenty of changes in tenants and aesthetics over the years. While he’s somewhat dismissive of them as historic relics, Wayne Schiffelbein, a local artist and architect who once repainted and fixed up the icons at the owner’s request, said the icons and the damages to them tell the story of earlier unease between Reston and Herndon.

“We had people that lived in and around Herndon who did not take kindly to Reston being there, especially ‘northern folk’, like Jews and Blacks being there,” said Schiffelbein. “The people [in Reston] had college degrees. Not only were the houses more expensive, but they were driving better cars, and people knew that.”

Back in the 1960s, as Reston was first getting started, Schiffelbein said there was a lot of tension between Restonians and Herndon residents who would come into areas like Lake Anne Plaza and cause trouble.

Schiffelbein remembered summers where kids from Herndon would come over to his house by Lake Anne, climb onto the roof and jump out into the lake. Not exactly a campaign of terror, but Schiffelbein said the Reston residents were annoyed by the constant footfalls on the roof.

It was during these early years of class-tension that Schiffelbein said the drug store icons obtained the damages some of them still show.

“They discovered they could carry a sheath knife around,” Schiffelbein said. “The drug store had… soft wood. So the knifes would stick. There were tables in front of the drug store where you could have sat and had coffee while playing chess. They would throw their knives at the walls. It took a couple years, but it took chunks out of pieces of wood from the backing and pieces that were there. Toothbrush took a bunch of hits. Comb didn’t do much better. They dinged the bandaid.”

But it was Vietnam that partially put an end to the local turmoil, with many of the young men from Herndon swept up by the draft.

“Tensions with Reston and Herndon went down over time,” Schiffelbein. “Some of the Herndonites were drafted and some of them just grew up, and we’ll leave it at that. It’s something you do as a 15- and 16-year-old is not as appealing when you’re 22.”

In the 1990s, Schiffelbein said he was contracted to repaint and fix the icons after years of neglect.

“If I squint, it’s a flashback to the drugstore,” Schiffelbein said. “It was a real drugstore. It had a counter, some seats at the counter. It was old fashioned drug store. It was very nice. It was small, everybody knew everybody. But as the community grew that ebbed away.”

In the early days of the pharmacy, Schiffelbein said it catered mainly to the older residents at the Lake Anne Fellowship House.

“The older people used a lot of prescription drugs and that was before insurance companies required you to go to their pharmacy,” Schiffelbein said. “In the early years, they would amble across the road and fill 50 or 60 scripts a day. There was a stream of people going into the drug store. A lot of New Yorkers and New Jerseyites moved to Reston in the early years. There was an old man there who played the races. The owner got racing forms every year. I remember that as clear as a bell, I can still see the man’s face.”

The Reston Historic Trust and Museum currently has a GoFundMe set up to preserve the icons, but it’s not going particularly well.

For more Reston Then and Now, check out these earlier stories and come back next week for final Then and Now:

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The regional wood-fired pizza franchise Matchbox just announced plans to move into Reston early next year.

The franchise just signed a lease for 1900 Reston Metro Plaza Drive in Suite 100, according to a statement from a public relations agency representing Matchbox.

“The space is 5,500 square feet and offers expansive patio dining,” the agency said in an email. “The veteran D.C. restaurant group is currently focused on regional expansion within the DMV, targeting smaller, neighborhood-focused properties.”

The email says the restaurant is planning on opening in Reston Station in early 2020.

Other upcoming Matchbox locations include one in Silver Spring opening tomorrow (Friday) and ones in Penn Quarter and Bethesda opening this summer.

If you can’t wait that long, your best bet is the Matchbox locations in Ashburn (44720 Thorndike Street) or the Mosaic District (2911 District Ave).

Photo via Facebook

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Renovations for Armstrong Elementary School are in the works, but it’s going to be a few years.

A 10-year forecast shows the renovation process spread out from fiscal years 2022-2026 in the Fairfax County Public School CIP.

Planning for the project is expected to start in FY 2022 with funding from a 2021 bond, with permitting beginning the next year.

The school first opened in 1986 and since then, according to county documents, there’s been no substantial renovations except for capacity enhancements in 1990.

The Hunter Mill District’s School Board Representative, Pat Hynes, noted in a newsletter that Armstrong, Crossfield and Louise Archer elementary schools are all planned for additions and renovations over the next 5-10 years.

Photo via Facebook

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Lake Anne Hair Design at Lake Anne Plaza (11404 Washington Plaza W) is being sold following the death of longtime owner Randy Burr in January.

The hair studio has been in business in Reston for 30 years as a no-appointment-needed barber shop.

According to an obituary, Burr went to barber school at 17 and started the design studio in the late 1970s.

“[Burr] became a neighborhood fixture waiting to strike up a conversation or watch any tennis-match on TV,” according to the obituary. “He, a true optimist, was always genuinely willing to help others in any way he could.”

In a Facebook post after Burr’s death, Lake Anne Plaza wrote a short tribute:

Randy has been on Lake Anne Plaza almost from the beginning- cutting hair, making jokes, telling stories and waving at the passersby from his comfortable chair outside his shop. He will be missed by many.

Photo via Robyn Burdett Real Estate Group

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This week on Then and Now, we’re going back to South Lakes to take a look at Lake Audubon.

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 look at how the lake has evolved from overhead and under the surface.

Audubon is the largest of Reston’s lakes in both it’s acreage — 43.5 acres — and it’s extensive watershed covering 1,558.5 acres.

While Lake Thoreau holds 26.5 million gallons of water, it’s southern twin holds 133.6 million gallons.

Lake Audubon and Lake Thoreau were conceived to be one lake, then named Lake Elsa. The lake was impounded in 1971 and was named for Reston founder Robert Simon’s mother.

But in 1979 the South Lakes dam bisected the property and split the lake, creating Lake Thoreau in the North and Lake Audubon in the south.

For years, the southern area closed off by the dam, but for years afterwards remained a dry pit. During the 1980s, the lake was filled in with water.

But while the lake shows very little change from above between 1997 and 2017, there were plenty of changes taking place beneath the water’s surface. In those years, several new species of aquatic wildlife was introduced to the lake, including:

  • Redear Sunfish
  • Black Crappie
  • Brown Bullhead
  • American Eel

In more recent years, the levels of contamination in the water continue to be a problem, caused in large part by the lake’s large surface area. According to a 2017 report on Reston’s lakes, Lake Audubon’s has faced increasing amounts of toxic algae that pose an ecological threat to the lake.

Increasing levels of toxic algae culminated with a warning to local residents to avoid contact with the lake, leading to a dredging project earlier this year.

For more Reston Then and Now, check out:

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The Reston Community Center (RCC) is planning a concert and meet-and-greet with acclaimed pianist George Fu.

The event is set for Thursday, April 4, from 2:15-3:30 p.m at the CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Rd). The concert will be free and appropriate for all ages.

A Facebook post for the event says Fu will be joined by Chelsea Wang, a classmate from the Curtis Institute of Music, for a four-hand piano recital.

The concert is part of the RCC’s ongoing Meet the Artists series. Fu was previously featured in the RCC’s Meet the Artists series in 2016.

Fu has worked with a variety of orchestras, including performing as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, and is returning to Reston following a stint at the London Conservatory of Music.

Photo via Facebook

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(Updated at 14:25) Almost two years after its ceremonial groundbreaking, the Hunters Woods Retirement Community at 2222 Colts Neck Road in Reston is planning on opening in two months.

According to an employee at Hunters Woods, the first residents will be moving in end of May.

The $72 million project will add 210 housing units. Of those, 91 will be for independent living, 80 will be for assisted living and the remaining units will be a mix of memory care and continuing care.

The new complex will also bring 200 new jobs to Reston, mostly in hospitality and resident wellness fields.

In addition to housing, the Hunters Woods Retirement Community will include multiple dining venues, resident gardens, several fitness centers, an art gallery and a movie theater.

Photo via Facebook

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