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Weekend Discussion Topics

Before we head off into the weekend (which finally feels like fall!), let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Some Members Decry Poor Upkeep of Hidden Creek Country Club
  2. Decision on ‘Midline’ Delayed to November Again
  3. Renovations Proposed for Sheraton Reston Hotel
  4. CVS Pharmacy to Open in Reston Station
  5. Final Vote on Residential Project at Reston Arboretum Expected Next Week

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. We’re also looking for photos of Reston submitted by readers.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

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Del. Ken Plum: A Warning Too Dire to Ignore

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.

For those who like to plan where will you will be and what you will be doing in twenty years a complicating factor that has for too long been ignored must be considered: climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change brought together by the United Nations issued a report earlier this month, written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries and based on a review of more than 6,000 scientific reports, predicting much more dire consequences of climate change much earlier than previously had been expected.

Conditions that have been visibly happening with much more regularity in recent years of intense rains and hurricanes, droughts, excessive heat, flooding, and wildfires will be getting worse. Forget retirement to that beach house you have been fixing up; there is a high probability it may be under water as the beach disappears. Rising costs of living may eat into our retirement savings yielding them inadequate.

What about life for our children and grandchildren? What will it be like? The evidence presented is too compelling to ignore. To sustain a future quality of life for our posterity we must take aggressive action now.

As reported in The New York Times, the authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2040 inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. The new report shows that many of the most serious changes will come much earlier than expected.

The report said that to prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40 percent today to less than 7 percent. Renewable energy such as wind and solar, which makes up about 20 percent of electricity generation, would have to increase to as much as 67 percent.

While the report talks about the science involved, the politics of the issue present the greatest challenge. With a federal administration filled with climate-change deniers and with a pledge to bring back coal for greater energy production, there seems to be a great likelihood that the United States will indeed withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. (Under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. wouldn’t actually be able to withdraw until November 2020.) The administration also may eliminate more regulations that were put in place to reduce climate change if those regulations stand in the way of greater business profits.

Until sanity returns at the national level, it is important that actions–as small as they may seem–be taken at state, local, community and family levels to preserve our climate and our planet. We have a responsibility to our children and others to live our lives in a way that recognizes the clear and present dangers our planet faces. The warning is too dire to ignore.

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Weekend Discussion Topics

Before we head off into the weekend (which finally feels like fall!), let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Fairfax Real Estate Developer Accused of Multimillion-Dollar Real Estate Fraud in Herndon
  2. Mile 20 Brings Beers On Tap to Downtown Herndon
  3. Crime Roundup: Stranger Found in Reston Home
  4. County Mulls Longterm Improvements to Fairfax County Parkway
  5. Tuesday Morning Notes

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. We’re also looking for photos of Reston submitted by readers.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

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Del. Ken Plum: Virginia’s Energy Future

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.

Governor Ralph Northam took two significant steps last week related to Virginia’s energy future. In a word, both could be summed up as “conserving.” One action of the Governor was to announce the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan. Later in the week, he announced his signing of an executive order establishing a conservation cabinet.

The Virginia Plan makes recommendations in five areas: solar, onshore and offshore wind, energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicles and advanced transportation. The goals within each of these areas are ambitious, but they are essential in shifting energy use in Virginia to a more environment-friendly direction. In a press release on October 2, the Governor is quoted as saying that “the clean energy sector has the power to create new business opportunities, expand customer access to renewable energy, and spark the high-demand jobs of the 21st century.”

Among the goals of the plan are achieving at least 3,000 megawatts of solar and wind energy by 2022, expanding net metering and community solar programs, and doubling the state’s renewable energy procurement target to 16 percent by 2022. The plan recommends that the state support Dominion Energy’s planned 12-megawatt offshore wind turbine demonstration project with a target of 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2028.

The plan also recommends that the state-sponsored efficiency programs and financing set a 16 percent renewable procurement target and a 20 percent energy efficiency target for state agencies, moving state agencies in the direction of greater efficiencies and the use of renewable energy in a lead-by-example approach. The plan seeks also to increase the annual dollars of investments by utilities in energy efficiency programs. Recommendations also call for action to promote alternative-fuel vehicles with the development of an Advanced Clean Cars program with targets for charging stations and the state’s vehicle fleet.

The Commonwealth and utilities in the state have started efforts in many of these areas as a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. The plan reflects an underlying goal that the strategy not unfairly impact low-income and minority communities. Review the plan at Virginia Energy Plan.

In a separate action, Governor Northam issued an Executive Order establishing the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet, a new initiative “to better protect Virginia’s vulnerable natural resources and improve environmental quality across the Commonwealth.” The Governor stated that “this effort will strengthen our inter-agency coordination and allow us to bring all of our resources to bear in addressing environmental threats and ensuring best practices across state-driven conservation initiatives.” The initiative will seek to work with state agencies, localities, nonprofit land trusts, and willing landowners as well as partners in both public and private sectors, according to the press release announcing the Governor’s action.

Members of the Conservation Cabinet include the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Commerce and Trade, Finance, Natural Resources and Transportation. The full text of the Governor’s announcement can be found at Governor’s Conservation Cabinet.

While some will criticize state government for moving too slowly and not being bold enough in the areas of energy and the environment, I am pleased that we are at least moving in the right direction as it relates to Virginia’s energy future.

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Weekend Discussion Topics

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Report: Metro Garage in Herndon is ‘Sinking’
  2. Reston Corner Redevelopment Plan Heads to Planning Commission
  3. Plan to Redevelop Hidden Creek Country Club Draws Opposition
  4. County Board Supports Proposed Soapstone Connector Route Amid Concerns about Historic Resources
  5. Memorial Walk to Remember Slain Reston Couple Set for November

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. We’re also looking for photos of Reston submitted by readers.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Del. Ken Plum: Who Are You?

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.

Beginning on October 1, Virginians will be able to obtain through the local offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles a REAL ID that complies with federal regulations to prove their identity. While having state-issued, federally-approved identification to prove who you are is offensive to many, the practical use of the REAL ID will result in most if not all complying with its requirements.

The REAL ID came about from recommendations of the 9/11 Commission studying ways to improve security to prevent other horrible terrorist acts from happening. Half of the September 11 hijackers had received driver’s licenses in Virginia. Congress passed an act to help prevent terrorist attacks and to reduce the number of licenses issued to undocumented residents. It established the requirements for states to follow in issuing driver’s licenses, and the program is implemented by the Department of Homeland Security. Under the congressionally passed law, states are required to issue licenses only to applicants who provide in-person proof of their identity and legal U.S. residency. The new cards must use the latest counterfeit-resistant security features.

Half the states are now in compliance with the new federal law, and others like Virginia have been working hard to put the new system into place. Beginning in the fall of 2020, persons who want to board a commercial flight must present a REAL ID or an alternative form of acceptable identification. Likewise, persons entering federal facilities must present a REAL ID. The DMV-issued credential will meet the requirement of REAL ID and will allow holders to access federal buildings, including military installations, and board commercial flights.

Obtaining a REAL ID when you renew your driver’s license is voluntary. That is what I intend to do. I do not want to have to remember to make a special trip to the DMV in the future to prove my identity for a REAL ID when I can do it as part of renewing my driver’s license.

To get a REAL ID you must apply in person and provide DMV with physical documentation of identity, such as an unexpired U.S. passport or a U.S. birth certificate and provide your legal presence through the same documentation. And yes, there is an additional one-time fee of $10 to help pay for the new cards. Hopefully you can visit a DMV office when they are not too busy. But you do need to go in person and take the time to meet the requirements.

Important news for those who do not drive and hence do not have a driver’s license: You can get a REAL ID through the same process just described to use for entering federal facilities, boarding commercial flights and voting.

Need more information? The DMV website is filled with full details. Check my interview with Commissioner Rick Holcomb of the DMV on YouTube after October 10 or watch it on Reston Comcast Channel 28 for public service programming or Verizon Channel 1981 at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 23 or at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 24.

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Weekend Discussion Topics

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Wheelock to Discuss Redevelopment Plans for Hidden Creek Country Club
  2. New Expansion for RTC West Approved by County Board
  3. Comstock Resubmits Site Plan for Downtown Herndon
  4. Updated: Police Find Missing Endangered Man Last Seen in Reston
  5. Op-Ed: Wheelock Contemplates Grand Park, Open Space for All

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. We’re also looking for photos of Reston submitted by readers.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

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Del. Ken Plum: Celebrating with Understanding

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. 

Four hundred years ago next year will be the quadricentennial of important events happening in Virginia in 1619. Those events are not the rah-rah kind of happenings that are too often recognized with simple merriment. They are not examined for what we can learn from whence we came to understand how we got to where we are. The English established their first permanent colony in what became America in 1607; they did not “discover” America. There were an estimated 50,000 residents on the North American continent when the English bumped into the continent on their way to the riches of the Far East. The Spanish had visited the mid-Atlantic region decades before the English arrived but did not stick around since they found no gold or fountain of youth.

The indigenous people living in what the English named Virginia had a form of government in a confederation under the Great Chief Powhatan, an agricultural system, environmental protection, and a religion based on the natural spirits. They resented the people showing up in great ships and booming guns and taking land on which their forebears had lived for as many as 15,000 years. There should be no surprise that the indigenous people begrudged these illegal immigrants coming and taking their land and responded with what some people called savagery.

Joining the new settlers at the community they called Jamestowne in 1619 were an essential component of keeping a community thriving into the future — women. Just in time for the 2019 celebration, the Women’s Commission has construction underway for a monument celebrating the contributions of women in making Virginia thrive. Not a bit too soon!

Women were invited to join the men at Jamestowne to help start a new life in a new world. Not invited to join the white men and women were the enslaved Africans who were dropped off at Jamestowne without their consent and with an indentured servant agreement that could never be paid off. The enslaved Africans in 1619 were the first that would be brought to the colony to work in the tobacco fields and to do the hard labors without any of the benefits a new start in life was supposed to bring. The relationship between the white and black populations in Virginia was to dominate so much of the history of the state to the senseless killings of the Civil War and the complexities of race relations today.

In 1619 representatives of the plantations in the colony of Virginia met together in the mud-dab constructed church in Jamestowne to form a local government, much like a homeowner’s association, because the real power of governance continued to reside in London. That meeting is celebrated as the first meeting of representative government tracing its beginning in 1619 through the Revolutionary War, with a slight deviation of the Civil War, to today.

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Weekend Discussion Topics

Before we head off into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Planning Commission Approves RTC West Expansion
  2. Police: Herndon Man Arrested After Exposing Himself to 10-year-old
  3. Cleanup Underway After Trash Truck Fire on Dulles Toll Road
  4. What’s Going On This Weekend in Reston?
  5. Developing: Bullets Fired Inside Home On Kettering Drive

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. We’re also looking for photos of Reston submitted by readers.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

Photo via Handout/Fairfax County Government

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Del. Ken Plum: About Time for the ERA

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.

The proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex has had a long and tortuous history. With the almost daily unfolding stories of abuse of women from lower pay, discrimination in employment, physical and mental abuse and other degradation, it has become obvious that it is about time for the ERA.

Alice Paul of the women’s suffragist movement is credited with writing the first draft of the ERA that was introduced in Congress in 1921. An amendment for submission to the states for ratification as required by Article V of the Constitution did not pass both houses of Congress until 1972 with a deadline of March 22, 1979 for the states to act. That deadline has been extended twice as the required 38 state ratification has never been met.

Currently 37 states have ratified the ERA although several states have sought under questionable legality to rescind their ratification. Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have never ratified the ERA, but the State Senate has ratified it in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The Senate resolutions were never reported from the House Privileges and Elections Committee nor were resolutions introduced by House members ever reported from committee. I have been a supporter of the ERA during my entire tenure in the House of Delegates and co-patron of resolutions to ratify it; I have never had an opportunity to vote on it because the conservative House Privileges and Elections Committee has never had enough favorable votes to report it to the floor.

I am hopeful that the Virginia legislature will step up to be the state to finally ratify the ERA. Even with a favorable vote there are certain to be court challenges to the ratification because of the missed deadlines and because of efforts by some states to rescind their earlier ratifications. Even with these challenges the Virginia General Assembly should take action. The outcome of the 2016 state elections with the increased number of women in the House of Delegates should be enough to nudge Virginia forward. The phenomenal increase in activity by women in various political organizations in Virginia will send a signal to candidates for the House of Delegates in 2019 that they need to support the ERA.

The arguments of the past that women would be drafted into the armed services if the amendment was ratified no longer seem legitimate with women already providing outstanding service in the military. The high-profile stories of women being harassed and abused in work and social situations provide support for the ERA being part of the Constitution.

Virginia’s declaration of rights drafted by George Mason became the model for the Bill of Rights of our federal Constitution. Just as Virginia led in the fight to enumerate our rights, the Virginia General Assembly can lead again albeit a little tardy by being the final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s about time!

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Op-Ed: Wheelock Contemplates Grand Park, Open Space for All

This is an op/ed submitted by Wheelock’s Dan Green and Steve Coniglio, the company’s local partner. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. No development plans for Hidden Creek Country Club have been formally proposed to the county. If you wish to submit an opinion piece, email [email protected]

When Wheelock Communities purchased Hidden Creek Country Club in October 2017, we immediately recognized the special character of Reston and the need to include the community in exploring all the possibilities for the future of the private golf club.

From the day we purchased Hidden Creek, we have been open and honest about our intentions to work in partnership with the Reston community and club members to explore potential changes to the property that could provide the Reston community with additional public amenities, civic spaces, enhanced environmental benefits and new housing choices.

With that idea and Bob Simon’s Founding Principles of Reston in mind, Wheelock engaged the community by establishing a Focus Group to gain the perspective from a broad-based group of approximately 20 Reston residents that included representation from Rescue Reston, Reston Association, Reston Community Center, Hidden Creek Country Club members, nearby residents and other stakeholders in Reston.

We hired the best local firm, LandDesign, and a national land planning expert, John Sather of Swaback Partners, to work with the Focus Group. We gave both LandDesign and John Sather “free rein” to work with the group to ensure there were not any preconceived notions about the future of the property.

During the four interactive sessions, discussions centered on how the property could benefit the Reston community by creating significant public open space versus its current private use, providing public amenities to fulfill unmet community needs, rejuvenating the environmental condition of the stream areas and providing a mix of diverse housing, including the potential for senior housing and affordable/workforce housing.

We did a lot of listening during these sessions. We understand there is a group of residents that prefers Hidden Creek remain a private golf club available to its members. We also heard from the Focus Group the importance of public open space and the desire for this open space to be accessible to all Reston residents, not just the Hidden Creek Country Club members and those utilizing the portion of the Blue Trail that traverses the property. Improving the environmental condition of the land, removing the “road from nowhere” from the Comprehensive Plan and creating additional housing choices all were mentioned during this process.

Taking all this information, we challenged our team to think “big” on a special public element. In effect, we began by doing what few others do… we began by looking at public open space as the predominant part of the property.

At the final meeting of the Focus Group, the team presented a vision for a world-class, 100-acre Grand Park that the entire Reston community would be able to enjoy and shape. In creating this vision, our team examined other signature parks such as Merriweather Park in Columbia, Md., and Prospect Park in New York City. The vision presented included both passive and active recreational amenities, an indoor tennis facility, the Blue Trail and other trails providing community connectivity as well as cultural elements that adhere to Bob Simon’s Principals for Reston.

The Grand Park preserves more than 60 percent of the site as public open space. With additional trails and open spaces included within the development areas, as much as 75 percent could be open space. The remaining land would be planned for a variety of housing, some of which will help meet Reston’s needs for senior, workforce and affordable housing to continue Reston’s heritage of being an inclusive community. The exact number of homes has not been discussed as we are in a conceptual stage. However, we can say the housing, if approved, would be a mix of townhouses, single family and multi-family homes.

Reston is a place like no other. The Grand Park idea further reinforces that, making Reston one of the finest communities of our time.

We firmly believe in an open, public process and working in a partnership with the community to envision the future of the golf course. We look forward to continuing the discussion.

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Op-Ed: Why All of the Hidden Creek Golf Course Needs to be Protected as Open Space

This is an op/ed submitted by Rescue Reston’s North Course Committee. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. No development plans for Hidden Creek Country Club have been formally proposed to the county. If you wish to submit an opinion piece, email [email protected]

Wheelock Communities, the Connecticut-based company that bought the Hidden Creek Country Club in north Reston, says it wants to build housing on 40 percent of the golf course land on almost half of the golf course that comprises the biggest part of north Reston’s open space. The land design firm that Wheelock is working with told a community focus group last month that Wheelock foresees building between 500 and 2,000 housing units in the open space.    

Building housing on Hidden Creek golf course would violate the Reston Master Plan that is part of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, as well as require a change in the County zoning ordinance.  The County has designated Hidden Creek as private recreational open space, specifically a golf course.    

All of the Hidden Creek golf course needs to remain as private recreational open space, and here’s why:  In this area, buying a house is almost always the biggest investment decision that any of us will make. 

Because it is such a consequential decision, we homeowners count on the land-use plan to give us some confidence about what we can expect to see in our community over time.  In fact, the Fairfax County website says, “The purpose of planning is to ensure that Fairfax County’s excellent quality of life will continue.”  The Reston Master Plan Task Force’s goal was to guide the community’s growth and development for the next 30 to 40 years.

Why should one real estate development company that has had no connection to our community be able to make an investment decision that would undermine the individual investment decisions of many thousands of Reston households? 

Allowing that would be counter to one of Robert Simon’s primary goals for Reston:  “that the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning, and take precedence for large-scale concepts.”

Building new housing where it’s not supposed to be–and losing 40 percent of north Reston’s planned open space at Hidden Creek in the process–would hurt Reston households.  And it would hurt not just those who live in the Lake Anne/Tall Oaks district of Reston, but all Restonians who rely on the two major north-south roads through north Reston: Wiehle Avenue and Reston Parkway. 

Putting housing on Hidden Creek would add to the Wiehle Avenue traffic that is currently bumper-to-bumper during rush hours.  Wiehle Avenue traffic is already expected to worsen because another development company has put in an application to build 2,100 units in the Isaac Newton area (behind the Wiehle Avenue firehouse).  That area is within the Wiehle-Reston East Transit Station Area, so new housing development is conceivable there under the approved Reston Master Plan. Add to that the 156 units in new development that has already been approved for Tall Oaks Village Center.

The Hidden Creek golf course is outside the Wiehle transit station development area and should remain ineligible for new housing, lest we both lose our precious green open space plus overburden our roads and other infrastructure–such as our public schools–even more. 

Restonians already know what it’s like to crawl along Reston Parkway in the morning or late afternoon.  But more traffic will be coming there, too, from the 20-story condominium that has been approved for the corner of Temporary Road and Reston Parkway.  That area was zoned for high density living in the Reston Master Plan because it is within the Reston Town Center Transit Station Area

Wheelock Communities bought a golf course that is supposed to remain as open space.  They knew it when they bought it, and we as a community need to work to keep the zoning ordinance and the Reston Master Plan as they are in order to protect all of it as open space.  Based on the information on their website, Wheelock’s strategy as a developer is to buy, build, sell, and leave.  They have no long-term interest in Reston.

if Hidden Creek Country Club becomes yet another housing development, Reston National Golf Course may suffer the same fate.  Chipping away at one big parcel of green space will set a precedent for destruction of other open space within Reston and Fairfax County.     

Speculative developers will not stop trying to pave over green spaces when they can make millions by building more housing.  Let’s not give them an opening to take away our green space in Reston. If Wheelock does not have the vision for how to make Hidden Creek the gem of a golf and tennis club that it should be, then they should sell to those who do have the vision.

We have enough planned development coming to Reston.  Let’s not allow additional unplanned development. Learn what you can do.

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Weekend Discussion Topics

Before we head off into the rainy weekend, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Updated: Mother, Two Children Found Dead in Apparent Double Murder, Suicide
  2. Another New Mixed-Used Project Proposed Near Wiehle-Reston East
  3. Sprouts Farmers Market, LA Fitness to Open in Herndon Centre
  4. Farmers Market to Begin in Reston Town Center Tomorrow
  5. Coming Soon: Thai Restaurant to North Point Village Center

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. We’re also looking for photos of Reston submitted by readers. And if you’re looking for things to do in Reston this weekend, check out our weekly roundup of events.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your weekend plans or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Del. Ken Plum: Shedding Light on Solar Energy in Virginia

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.

While many of us express concern that we do not see as many solar collectors on Virginia roof-tops as we would like, the Commonwealth is showing significant progress on turning sunlight into electrical energy. As with any major change there are some hazy areas that need to be considered as well.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) as reported in the August 2018 issue of Virginia Business magazine, Virginia currently ranks 17th nationally with 631.3 megawatts of installed solar capacity. The ranking is a significant jump from 2016 when the state ranked 29th nationally. Even with the advanced standing, only 0.59 percent of the state’s electricity comes from solar. By way of contrast, North Carolina is second in the nation in installed solar capacity with 4,412 megawatts brought about by generous tax incentives. For North Carolina that is nearly five percent of their electricity supply.

Virginia’s future with solar appears bright with 59 notices of intent with the Department of Environmental Quality to install 2,646 megawatts of solar according to the Virginia Business article. Driving the expansion of solar energy is a sharp drop in price from $96 in 1970 to 40 cents per kilowatt this year and an insistence on the part of technology giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, all of whom have a presence in Virginia, that their electric power come from solar systems. The Grid Transformation and Security Act passed by the General Assembly this year requires 5,000 new megawatts of solar and wind energy to be developed. Included in that total is 500 megawatts of small, roof-top panels.

Middlesex County Public Schools opened this year with two of its three schools powered by solar energy. Although a small, rural school system, Middlesex has the largest ground-mounted solar system of any school division in the state and is expected to save over two million dollars per year. Excess electricity generated is sent to the grid for credit for any electricity the schools takes from the grid at night through a net-metering arrangement.

Some shadows along the way can be expected with such a massive shift in the way electricity is produced. It takes about eight acres of land for each megawatt produced. Solar farms take up large amounts of land. Just last week the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors voted to deny a conditional-use permit for a 178-acre utility scale solar facility in the County. The supervisors indicated that they had questions about the project for which they did not receive adequate answers. One factor is likely to have been the results of a study by the American Battlefield Trust that indicated the project would be visible from some of the half-dozen signal stations around Culpeper County that were used during the Civil War to detect troop movement. The County depends on a high level of tourism based on its Civil War battlefields and apparently does not want to jeopardize its attraction to Civil War buffs.

The clouds will pass, and Virginia is on its way to a bright future with solar energy.

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Op-Ed: A Look at the Numbers

This is an op/ed submitted by Terry Maynard, co-chair of the Reston 20/20 committee. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

Reston’s future lies largely in the numbers that define the county’s plan for Reston’s transit station areas (TSAs)–the areas roughly within a half-mile of each Metro station.  The results of looking at those numbers are shocking, but not really surprising.

The Board of Supervisors-approved Reston Master Plan calls for 44,000 dwelling units (DUs) in Reston’s TSAs, virtually all of which will be high-rise (“elevator”), high-density DUs–condos and apartments.  

County planning assumes 2.1 people will live in each high-rise, high-density DU.

Put together, that means a potential population of 92,400 people in Reston’s station areas.   That’s without any affordable housing “bonuses” or development waiver approvals or other uncounted DUs or people, a frequent fact of life in Fairfax County.  

When the Reston Master Plan Task Force was working on a new plan for the station areas, the county provided several different numbers for the actual acreage of the study area.  These ranged from 1,232 acres (1.925 square miles) to 1,683 acres (2.630 square miles) of land in Reston’s TSAs.  The county provided no explanation for the range of values.

Dividing the number of people by the acreage, the resulting number is somewhere between 55 and 75 per acre.  On a square mile basis, that Reston TSA density is between 35,200 and 48,000 persons per square mile (pers/SM). 

According to Wikipedia, Manhattan has a density of 26,403 pers/SM.  That makes the planned population of Reston’s TSAs at least one-third denser than and potentially nearly twice as dense as Manhattan is today.  

Wikipedia adds that Manhattan’s residential density “makes it the densest of any American municipality with a population above 100,000.”  And Reston’s TSA population may well exceed that 100,000 number if the county continues its bonus and waiver giveaways to developers.

I don’t think anyone who lives in Reston thinks that two square miles of super-density in Reston’s TSAs cutting through the middle of our community is consistent with any definition of preserving, much less improving, Reston’s quality of life. And the county has no meaningful plans or means to meet the infrastructure requirements of this population or the needs of the surrounding Reston community.

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