Amidst Community Concern, County Board Approves Campus Commons Project

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Campus Commons on Tuesday — the first major redevelopment project in a transit-oriented area in Reston near established neighborhoods.  Although community criticism pushed developer TF Cornerstone to amend its plan, citizens and resident groups remained concerned about the scale and impact of the 12-acre development.

TF Cornerstone plans to redevelop 1900-1902 Campus Commons Drive with two residential towers with 656 units, an office building, and seven public parks. Two office buildings will remain on the site.

The scale of the project — as well as a controversial proposed on-grade pedestrian crossing at Wiehle Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road — prompted the eruption of community consternation and the formation of Rescue Sunrise Valley, a community group that pushed the developer to scale back the site.

Last month, TF Cornerstone shifted roughly 86,550 square feet from an office building near Sunrise Valley Drive to a residential building and reduced its height from 12 to seven stories. The setback along the curb of Sunrise Valley Drive was also increased to a minimum of 50 feet.

The approval of the project highlights the challenge of transitioning the community to mass transit. Community planners rely on the hope that transit-oriented developments like Campus Commons will reduce the number of vehicles — a transition that will likely happen over time and raises questions about community impacts in the interim.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, residents said the project adds additional congestion in an area that already has high traffic volumes.

Although the developer’s plans show an on-grade crossing at the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and the toll road, TF Cornerstone will work with the county to explore three options for a pedestrian bridge. The study group, which will also represent local residents, will work for up to three years to explore the best way forward. TF Cornerstone committed to constructing the bridge of contributing $1.5 million to help finance any alternative.

Michelle Kimmel, a member of the Coalition for a Planned Reston, said that while she supports transit-oriented communities, Campus Commons does not hit benchmarks for well-planned development, especially because it is not harmonious with existing residential areas.

“We got people ending up on a pork chop in the middle of the toll road,” Kimmel said. “It’s just beyond me how this project can succeed.”

Reston Association President Cathy Baum said the project illustrates the association’s longstanding concern about high densities planned for transit station areas and the inadequacy of transportation to keep up with development.

Baum also encouraged the board to remove the on-grade crossing at Wiehle Avenue from plans “as an assurance to our members that it is truly not an option.”

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins thanked residents for their involvement in the project and said she hopes the county will work diligently to ensure the developments like Campus Commons reduce traffic in the long-term. Hudgins also noted that the county’s planning documents call for redevelopment projects like Campus Commons in the corridor of Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset. Hills Road.

Hudgins also said she hopes the developer will continue to work with residents as the project is built.

Photos via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Del. Ken Plum: Evolution of Women’s Rights

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Women first came to the English colony at Jamestown Island in 1619–400 years ago, and hence their arrival is part of the American Evolution 1619-2019 commemoration going on throughout the Commonwealth. As with the other events that marked the historic significance of this year and that I have written about in this column, the real meaning of the events comes about in examining the decades and centuries that followed from 1619. There is no surprise that the land developers who were making investments in the new colony would advertise free voyage to women to come to this new land of potential opportunity and freedom from poverty and oppression they may have felt at home. If the colony was to have success in developing economic opportunities and stability that families would bring, it needed women to come and find themselves adventure…and a husband.

English women who came were not slaves although they no doubt had to work hard to start a life and a home in the wilderness. If they came with an indenture to pay off their voyage fare, they could work off their obligation over a number of years. But just like in the society they left, even with the indenture paid off, women were not free or in the same category as men. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence nearly a century and a half later, he proclaimed that “all men are created equal.” We speculate that if he were writing a document today that he would say “all persons,” but his writing at the time reflected women’s lesser role in society. The story of women’s rights continues to evolve even until today.

The capital of Virginia moved to Richmond in 1780, but it was not until this week that a memorial noting the contribution of women to the Commonwealth’s history was finally dedicated on Capitol grounds. The twelve women chosen to be depicted as bronze statues in the Virginia Women’s Monument represent women from all corners of the Commonwealth, both widely-celebrated women, as well as those with previously unknown but equally important stories. Many more women will be memorialized on the Wall of Honor and in the accompanying virtual educational modules. To get to know these women, most of whom I dare to say few have heard of, visit Women’s Monument.

Also recognizing the struggle of women for their rights, the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association (TPSM) is building a national memorial to American suffragists–with a special focus on those imprisoned at Occoquan, VA, who endured harsh conditions and abuse to win voting rights for American women. For more information on the women who led the suffragist movement and the hardships they endured, visit suffragistmemorial.org. The nineteenth amendment ensuring women the right to vote was not ratified until 1920. Virginia rejected it in 1920 and did not vote for ratification until 1952.

A fitting tribute to Virginia women 400 years after their arrival would be passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by the General Assembly at its next legislative session.

File photo

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Thursday Morning Notes

Light the Night Set for Tomorrow — The Leukemia  & Lymphoma Society hosts the annual walk at Reston Town Center tomorrow (Friday) from 5-9 p.m. [Reston Town Center]

Supervisors Consider Reston Town Center in Parking Meters Decision in Loudoun — Loudoun County supervisors are thinking about allowing on-street parking meters — a move that some said is not comparable to RTC b because Boston Properties reversed longstanding free parking to paid parking. [Loudoun Now]

Lanes Reopen After Downed Power Pole Prompts Closure — Lanes reopened Wednesday night after a downed power pole at Herndon Parkway and Dulles Place changed the traffic pattern. [Herndon Police Department]

Photo via Dario Piparo/Flickr

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With Finalized Locations, County to Double Bikeshare Stations in Reston by 2020

Bikeshare in Reston is set to get a boost by early 2020.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation plans to install 21 new stations in Reston. The stations, which are currently in the design phase, will connect denser residential neighborhoods with transit and aim to improve access to retail, community resources, and recreational opportunities, according to the county.

The program is funded by a $1 million federal grant. All stations are expected to be installed by the end of next year.

  • Green Range Drive & Glade Drive
  • Charterhouse Circle & Glade Drive 
  • Olde Crafts Drive & Cartwright Place 
  • Ridge Heights Road & Seahawks Drive 
  • Baron Cameron Avenue & North Hampton Avenue 
  • Wainwright Drive & North Shore Drive  
  • Fairway Drive & Hook Road
  • South Gate Community Center 
  • Links Drive & Wedge Drive
  • North Village Drive & Park Garden Lane
  • Great Owl Drive & Great Owl Circle
  • Lake Newport Rd & Autumn Ridge Circle
  • Reston Parkway & Bennington Woods Road
  • Vantage Hill Road & Wainwright Drive
  • Inlet Court & Wiehle Drive
  • Ring Road & North Shore Drive
  • South Lakes Dr & Reston Parkway
  • Golf Course Square & Golf Course Drive
  • Soapstone Drive Convenience Center
  • Ridge Heights & Owls Cove Lane
  • Becontree Lane & Goldenrain Court

County transportation officials are also looking into the possibility of adding a bike share station at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods.

As of last year, the stations at Wiehe-Reston Metro East and the Reston Town Center Transit Station were the most popular. Although ridership saw a dip earlier this year, the opening of phase two of the Silver Line is expected to boost ridership.

File photo

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Parcher Avenue Closed Due to Gas Leak in Herdon

A natural gas leak has prompted the closure of Parcher Drive between both intersections with Springer Drive as local crews handle a gas leak in the area.

The leak was reported earlier this afternoon at the. 2200 block of Chamblee Place. Several townhouses have been evacuated.

The road closure is expected to last between six to eight hours.

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Now Open: Virginia Tire & Auto in Herndon

Virginia Tire & Auto is now open at 199 Elden Street in Herndon.

The company, which has 16 locations and first opened up shop in 1976, offers automotive maintenance, repair and tire services.

The 11-bay facility will be Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. It includes a kids’ play area, free WiFi, refreshments and a waiting area.

Mike and Julie Homles, CEOs of the company and also husband and wife, say they’re excited about expanding their footprint in Fairfax County.

Here’s more from Virginia Tire & Auto:

One of Virginia Tire & Auto’s hyper-local community initiatives is an automotive internship program for students at Fairfax County Public Schools. They also run Wheels for Work, a program offering free automotive repair service to low-income families through Shelter House, a Fairfax County-based non-profit organization that offers services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence.

Virginia Tire & Auto is also committed to keeping its youngest customers safe through hosting monthly Car Seat Clinics. During the clinics, certified Child Passenger Safety technicians inspect car seats and teach parents how to properly install and use child restraints.

Virginia Tire & Auto plans to host its next Car Seat Clinic at Virginia Tire & Auto of Herndon on November 12, 2019. The clinic is by appointment only. For more information about the Car Seat Clinic or to make an appointment, email [email protected]

To celebrate the opening of the Herndon location, the company is offering $20 off oil changes through Nov. 30 using the code HD20LOF.

Photo via Virginia Tire & Auto

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County Board Appoints New Members to Reston Community Center Board

Two incumbents and a newcomer will join the Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors for a three-year term that begins in early November.

Incumbents Beverly Cosham and Paul Thomas, as well as newcomer Laurie Dodd, will begin their terms on Nov. 4. The candidates earned the most votes in RCC’s annual preference poll, which is used to guide board appointments.

At the request of Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors appointed the three Reston residents to the board.

Michelle Moyer will leave the board after serving two three-year terms.

RCC wrote the following about the winning candidates:

Beverly Cosham is the current Chair of the RCC Board of Governors. She has served on RCC’s Board for six terms. She has been a resident of Reston since the 1960s and is active in many other civic and arts organizations, including the Reston Community Orchestra, the Reston Chorale and the Reston Community Players. She has served three terms on the Advisory Board of ARTSFAIRFAX. 

Laurie Dodd has lived in Reston for more than 20 years. She is an attorney in private practice. She has served on the boards of Reston Swim Team Association, Reston Children’s Center and her church. Dodd has been an active volunteer with Coalition for a Planned Reston, Rescue Reston, Reston Runners and the Embry Rucker Shelter, among others. 

Paul Thomas will serve his second term on the RCC Board of Governors. He grew up in Reston and has served many community organizations, including Reston Association, the Reston Swim Team Association and the Reston Historic Trust. He also served on the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force, and is currently president of the South Lakes High School PTSA.

Thomas received the most votes (1,637), while Dodd came in second with 1,384 votes. Cosham earned 1,337 votes while Moyer received 1,219 votes and Robert Petrine received 1,143 votes.

Photo via RCC

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Wednesday Morning Notes

A Guide on How to Handle Peer Pressure — “Everyone has peers. Peers can be your friends who are about your age and have similar interests and experiences. Peers can also be other kids who are about your age and are involved in the same activities with you or are part of a community or group you belong to. You may not consider all of your peers to be friends, but they can all influence you.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

A Legacy to Live on in Reston — “Commissioned by Public Art Reston, Volta took calculated measures during the production phase of the community-inspired project finalized in 2019 to protect the mural panels against sun and element damage as well as vandalism. A few days before the Oct. 17 unveiling of the Public Artwork at Colts Neck Road Underpass, Volta shared, in a one-on-one interview, key processes and materials essential in the successful creation of the paneled mural, and safeguards he took to protect the investment.” [The Connection]

Volunteers Sought for Halloween House and Trick-or-Treat Trail — Reston Association is looking for volunteers over 15 years of age for its annual event. An orientation Is set for today (Wednesday) from 6-7 p.m. at the Walker Nature Center. [Reston Association]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Capital Bikeshare Ridership Dips in Reston This Year

Capital Bikeshare ridership has dipped in Reston this year.

Between January and August, bicyclists took 11,476 — 4,705 fewer trips than last year’s total. Ridership dipped ever so slightly between 2017 and 2018 — decreasing by 222 total trips.

The data are presented in the Fairfax County Department of Transportation’s latest status report. The status update will be discussed on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s meeting today (Tuesday).

Currently, there are 16 stations in Reston. Staff are currently finalizing the locations of the second phase of stations in Reston, which would add more than 20 stations to the area. Most of the stations will be located outside Reston’s transit areas, according to the county.

File photo

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Family-owned Weird Brothers Coffee Opens Second Location in Herndon

A local coffee shop has something exciting brewing. Weird Brothers Coffee has opened a second location in Herndon (12825 Worldgate Drive). The first day of business is today (Tuesday).

The community-based and family-run coffee roaster and coffee shop is the first coffee roaster in Herndon (321 Sunset Park Drive). 

Brothers Paul and Kenny Olsen, who describe themselves as “weird brothers,” first began serving fresh-roasted coffee from a mobile coffee truck along major commuter routes.

When the coffee hit off, the family opened a location at Sunset Park. Although Kenny passed away soon after the coffee bar opened at the roasting factory, the family continued the business.

Paul, an army veteran, drew his inspiration for quality coffee after traveling to Ethiopia and its ancient city of Harar.

Photo via Weird Brothers Coffee

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Public Art Reston to Unveil Colts Neck Road Underpass Project

Public Art Reston is hosting an unveiling of public art on the Colts Neck Road Underpass project — a project that is the amalgamation of hundreds of drawings by community members.

The public unveiling is set for Wednesday (October 16) from 6-7 p.m. The free event will also includes ice cream.

The underpass is accessible from Hunters Woods Village Center and from Hunters Woods at Trails Edge. Parking is available at Hunters Woods Village Center.

The piece is titled “Thoreau’s Ensemble.” Ben Volta, the Philadelphia-based artist behind the work, was inspired by poet Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reference.”

Volta asked community members and residents to draw a path and add components that make Reston stimulating and worthwhile. 

The final design was by approved by Reston Association’s Design Review Board earlier this year. The project is made possible through a partnership with Public Art Reston, Atlantic Realty Companies, and RA.

Photo via Public Art Reston

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Hudgins Reflects on 20 Years as Supervisor — Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, who has been a supervisor for 20 years, fears Reston has lost its welcoming spirit for newcomers. [Washington Business Journal]

CoreSite Announces Opening of New Data Center — “With over 100MW of expected capacity for the Reston Campus Expansion, and the multi-cloud capabilities of the CoreSite platform, we are in a position to deliver the maximum degree of scale, operational flexibility and performance throughout the entire lifecycle of customers’ digital transformation journey,” writes Juan Font, CoreSite’s senior vice president of general management. [Data Economy]

County Offers Held to Prevent Opioid Overdoses — “According to the latest statistics from the Virginia Department of Health, there were 324 fatal overdoses caused by opioids in January-March of 2019 in the commonwealth. Unfortunately, those are the highest first-quarter numbers ever recorded. Twenty-two occurred in Fairfax County.” [Fairfax County Government]

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Monday Morning Notes

New School Board Policy on Cannabis-Derived Oil in Schools — “The Fairfax County School Board has approved a policy on the storage, dispensing, and administration of cannabidiol oil and THC-A that aligns with Virginia law that became effective on July 1. The policy states that no school nurse or employee of a local health department who is assigned to a public school can be prosecuted for possessing, storing, or distributing cannabidiol (CBD) oil or tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THC-A) oil that has been prescribed via a valid, written certification by a medical professional.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Self-driving Shuttles in Suburbs Like Reston — “A Boston-based startup called Optimus Ride has launched a new self-driving vehicle service in the Washington, DC suburb of Reston, Virginia. On Monday, I traveled to the site, a 45-minute drive from my home in the nation’s capital, to see it first-hand. Since August, the company has been ferrying passengers between a Fannie Mae office building at the site and an overflow parking lot a few minutes’ walk away. But Optimus Ride has much larger ambitions for the site.” [Ars Technica]

Development Surges Along the Silver Line — “While acknowledging the need for housing and concerns about the area’s already high cost of living, Northern Virginia business leaders see the impending arrival of the Silver Line and its surrounding development as critical for the economic future of not just Fairfax and Loudoun, but the region as a whole.” [Fairfax County Times]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Campus Commons Proposal Gets OK From Fairfax County Planning Commission

A major mixed-use development near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station is barrelling its way towards the county’s approval.

In a unanimous vote last night (Thursday), the Fairfax County Planning Commission approved TF Cornerstone’s Campus Commons project, which would redevelop 12 acres of land into two residential towers with 656 units, an office buildings, and several parks. The plan preserves two office buildings currently on the site.

The proposal — which is the last major block of developable land near the Metro station that is in the books — has attracted community concerns for its scale, impacts on traffic, compatibility with adjacent neighborhoods, and pedestrian connectivity.

In response to feedback from the commission at a previous meeting and community criticism, TF Cornerstone removed roughly 86,550 square feet from an office building fronting Sunrise Valley Drive, reducing the massing of the building from 12 to seven stories. The developer shuffled most of the removed square footage to the residential towers, which sit deeper within the site. The setback along the curb of Sunrise Valley Drive was also increased to a minimum of 50 feet.

Preliminarily, TF Cornerstones is proposing to add an at-grade crosswalk at Wiehle Avenue near the off-ramps to the Dulles Toll Road — a component of the plan that residents warned poses safety concerns for pedestrians.

The developer also agreed to embark on an up-to-three-year study to explore options with the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation for a tunnel or a pedestrian bridge.

“This is the first applicant to take this on,” said Hunter Mill District Planning Commission John Carter.

Carter said the developer did a good job of amending its plans in response to feedback from the county and residents.

The plan heads to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a vote on Tuesday (Oct. 15).

Image via Fairfax County Government/handout

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Reston Association Looks to Increase All Staff Salaries Amid Staffing and Retention Issues

Reston Association’s 2020-2021 budget, which would increase member assessments by five percent, will likely include across-the-board salaries increases for all staff. The move, which allocates $1 million over the next two years for salary and benefit increases, comes in response to unprecedented turnover last year and ongoing concerns related to staff recruitment and retention.

Last night (Thursday), RA’s Board of Directors also voted to approve reclassifying the positions of four staff members — whose names and salaries were not disclosed — because their positions were misclassified by RA. Board member Ven Iyer — who frequently challenged matters discussed by the board throughout the meeting — was the lone dissenting vote.

The board’s decisions were guided by a compensation study authorized by RA CEO Hank Lynch and conducted by Archer Company, a South-Carolina based firm that offers human resource management.

The study provided the basis for a one-time salary increase of 2.6 percent for all employees to “offset [the] recent below market merit pool,” as well as an increase in retirement match contributions and ensuring salaries are at or above the market rate within five years of service.

In 2020, the draft budget calls for nearly $227,594 in merit increases, $166,547 for a one-time salary increase, $132,277 to elevate salaries to the market midpoint, and $74,832 to match benchmarks by adjusting 401k matches. In 2021, roughly $445,960 in salary and benefits-related increases are also planned.

The board also expressed support for a documented compensation philosophy that aims to attract talent and offer salaries and benefits that are similar to comparable entities.

Board member John Mooney said the proposed compensation philosophy was “very balanced” and ensures RA is competitive with other similar employers, including the staff in municipal or county-level government positions in Fairfax and Arlington counties.

Iyer questioned if the comparison of RA to public entities with significantly larger budgets and resources was appropriate.

He also challenged the labeling of several documents received by the board with disclaimers like “RA board’s eyes only” and “extremely confidential” — a move that he said violates members’ trust because the materials were unrelated to contractual or business matters. RA declined to release the materials referenced by Iyer to Reston Now.

RA’s general counsel, Anthony Champ, said the documents were provided as background information to the board and their confidentiality could be assessed if an RA member requested the materials.

The organization’s fiscal committee was not consulted about the salary and benefits increases, Iyer, who is the board’s committee liaison, also stated.

The majority of the board, however, concurred with the need to increase salaries in accordance with the Archer study’s recommendations.

Board President Cathy Baum said the proposed salary and benefits increases were “logical” — challenging Iyer’s assertion that the board was acting based on emotion, not fact.

Iyer, however, said the Archer study was not prescriptive and instead pitched broad recommendations that were subject to the scrutiny of the board.

As the budget heads for adoption in November, Lynch said he hopes RA’s new outlook on compensation and benefits will provide market-based incentives to recruit and retain top talent.

Photo via YouTube/RA

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