Op-Ed: On Reston National Golfcourse

This op-ed was submitted by Walter Alcorn, a former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner who recently won the Democratic Primary for Hunter Mill District Supervisor. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. We publish article and opinion contributions of specific interest to the Reston community. Contributions may be edited for length or content. 

Recent reports that the Reston National Golf Course has been acquired by two Baltimore area real estate developers, Weller Development and War Horse Cities, have placed many Restonians on alert.  The fate of the golf course has been a hot button issue for the community since 2012 when the previous owner attempted to assert its right to develop the course without an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.

Weller Development and War Horse have stated that they “are focused on building relationships and working with the communities we serve, and we look forward to being part of the Reston community for years to come.” I’ll take them at their word, but these new owners, and the Reston community, should understand that if elected to the Board of Supervisors whether I would consider even initiating any possible change to the Comprehensive Plan will be guided by two simple principles.

First, any proposed amendment must, as a threshold matter, have the support of the Reston community, and particularly the support of the homeowners and communities adjacent to the golf course. These residents would be most directly affected by any proposed development. They bought their property with the expectation that it would remain a golf course, as called for in the Comprehensive Plan, and those expectations deserve to be respected. In addition, there also must be support from the broader community (e.g., golfers and users of trails through the course).

Second, I don’t believe that the quality of any business decisions made by the property owners are relevant to land use decisions of the Board of Supervisors. If the new owners paid a speculative premium for the property hoping to find a path to development, and if they are unable to secure community support for such development, in my view that is simply the risk of being an entrepreneur in our free market system.

The Reston National Golf Course has been a part of the fabric of Reston since the community was founded in 1964. I understand the concerns of residents in protecting Reston’s open space for recreational, environmental and livability reasons. And with the current Comprehensive Plan designation arrived at unanimously by the task force formed to draft the Plan only a few years ago, I do not support changing the Plan’s designation that this property be a golf course. At some point in the future if the new owners of the golf course can devise a plan which garners clear and broad community backing (including neighboring communities) I would support initiating a process to consider changing the Comprehensive Plan. If not, they should accept the fact that they bought a golf course and look at how to involve more of the community in the lifelong sport of golf.

Photo via Walter Alcorn

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During Special Meeting, Reston Association Mulls Fixes to Covenants and Design Review Process

(Updated at 2:57 p.m.) Reston Association’s covenants department is once again contemplating ways to streamline its services and address staffing issues.

At a special meeting yesterday (June 13) between its Board of Directors, the Design Review Board and other staff, Anna Donato, RA’s director of covenants administration, suggested temporary fixes, including starting design and review meetings at an earlier time and editing guidelines to allow more DRB projects to be completed without applications.

The suggestions are part of an effort to improve the covenants’ departments services and create more room for staff to complete property inspections, address home resale requests, and other issues not directly within the purview of the DRB.

The DRB is primarily focused on preserving the architectural integrity of Reston Association properties, while covenants typically involve issues related to  use and maintenance, which refers to the physical condition of properties. Covenants staff also provide support to the DRB, which is an independent agency within RA that reviews exterior improvements of properties within RA.

Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, said that diluting the DRB’s role and process by limiting staff support or curtailing the DRB’s function is not sustainable fix for the “systemic problem” and “staffing crisis” that faces the covenants department.

New needs have changed the role of the covenants department over the last decade. The level of detail required for DRB applications has increased significantly and decision letters are much more details — departing from the days when applications were stamped with an “approved” label. Furthermore, redevelopment had generated more applications and RA recently started requiring its own properties to go through the DRB process.

Last year, the DRB processed 2,097 applications — up from 1,904 in 2016 and 1,835 in 2017.

Donato said workload increases justify the need for one full-time inspection, one full-time cluster specialist, and two vehicles to perform services, including property inspections.

Issues facing covenants staff have been a topic of discussion for at least a decade. 

In October 2017, staff contemplated ways to address covenants requests. In 2006, a study commissioned by RA assessed the efficiency, processes and organizational structure of the covenants department. 

That study by BDO Seidman LLP was brought to the attention of Donato several weeks ago. It laid out several problems with the department, including high turnover, no standardized training process for new hires, lack of retention, and significant manual and duplicated efforts.

The report suggested that the department clarify its goals and mission, revise its recruiting process and improve the department’s overall performance levels.

At-large Director Ven Iyer said he was concerned that RA’s covenants policies were driving away residents. In some cases, covenant inspectors flag longstanding issues that previous inspectors have not acknowledged — leaving some members to foot the bill of unanticipated issues.

Some RA members say the covenants process needs more teeth and consistency.

For example, when John Robinson bought his home, he says a covenants advisor listed necessary repairs required by the seller less than a week before closing.

“The structure is inherently broken if they can only create problems during the sale process and are not empowered to fix them,” Robinson said.

W. Neal Roseberry, a DRB member, disputed Iyer’s comments that RA’s design covenants were causing residents to move out. He said RA’s policies are designed to maintain property values and a desirable community.

RA’s CEO Hank Lynch said that he stands by covenants staff who work hard in stressful circumstances. He also stated that discussions about the report by BDO was “counter-productive.”

“If you don’t like the rules, go live somewhere else,” said Charlie Hoffman of the DRB said.

Discussions on solutions going forward will continue in the coming months.

In introductory remarks during the meeting, Cathy Baum, RA’s board president, also called out Reston Now for “irresponsible” reporting on issues facing the covenants department.

Baum, who is an elected by RA members, incorrectly stated that a Reston Now story left the impression staff had been interviewed for the story — even though the story explicitly stated staff remarks were referenced from a May 23 board meeting.

Reston Association also took issue with a recent poll about members’ experiences with the covenants department. Baum accused Reston Now of using the poll to “stir the pot of negative comments.”

“Irresponsible journalism or journalists have no place in this community,” she said.

Baum did not contact Reston Now about her concerns, although RA’s spokesperson contacted Reston Now about the poll, which he stated was being used to “drive comment engagement.”

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Planning Commission Approves Scaled Back Version of Reston Heights

After several deferrals, the Fairfax County Planning Commission finally approved plans to scale back JBG Smith’s Reston Heights development.

The developer is seeking to remove 215,000 square feet of office space and 3,600 square feet of retail from the mixed-use project, which is located at 11830 Sunrise Valley Drive.

But plans were delayed after commissioners expressed concerns about limited stormwater management on the site. The owners of 7-Eleven, which owns the Exxon gas station adjacent to the site, also raised concerns about sharing an access road between the two sites.

At a meeting on Wednesday, June 12, Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter said JBG Smith resolved all outstanding issues.

The road between the 7-Eleven parcel and JBG Smith’s property will remain open to vehicles and pedestrians.

The commission also added a condition to augment the proposal’s stormwater manager in order to make up for the loss of trees along Sunrise Valley Drive.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote on the project on June 25.

Photos via Fairfax County Government

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UCP Fifth Annual Fall Art and Craft Fair

The United Christian Parish, at 11508 North Shore Drive in Reston, Virginia, will hold its Fifth Annual Fall Art and Craft Fair on October 26, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

This juried fair will showcase a wide variety of unique and quality handcrafted items from local artists and craftspeople just in time for your holiday and gift giving needs. Glass art, wood products, hand weaving, fabric art, paintings, jewelry, pottery, gourds, books and more will be available.

A portion of the proceeds will help Herndon-Reston FISH, a local non-profit. A Fall Festival will be held in conjunction with the fair.

Lunch and a bake sale will be available for purchase. Free admission and parking.

unitedchristianparishartandcraftfair.com

South Lakes High School Boys State Champion Soccer Team Embodies ‘International Spirit’

Over the weekend, South Lakes High School won its first state championship in boys’ soccer. School officials attribute the team’s success to partnership and cooperation between a team that is mostly composed of first and second generation immigrants.

Many of the players are English Language Learners who are assimilating into the general student body. 

“Not unlike its broader student body, the soccer team has drawn its strength from its diversity to bear the odds to make history,” Emily Burrell, an SLHS news liaison, wrote.

Last Friday, the halls of South Lakes high school were resonating with sounds of cheer and support as the community gave the team a royal send off to their semi-final and final games. This victory will resonate in the hearts and minds of the students as they build on their experience as part of the South Lakes soccer family and move ahead in pursuit of their version of the American dream. One can but wonder if this is not what Robert Simon envisioned when he spoke of creating an equitable community where “the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning, and take precedence for large-scale concepts.”

Students are from more than a dozen countries, including Taiwan, Nigeria, Sudan, Japan, Guatemala, Turkey and Afghanistan — a testament to the international nature of the sport itself.

The program was built by Coach Marty Pfister over the past 12 years. Because many students have jobs to help with family expenses, the team’s coaches were flexible throughout the year to help economically disadvantaged students balance school, work, and sports.

Assistant Coach Aanand Vasudevan says the struggle to juggle jobs and schools has helped make the students stronger on and off the field.

Photos via SLHS

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Friday Morning Notes

Silver Line Construction Snag Could Delay Opening — The contractor responding for building the new rail yard near Dulles Airport revealed their latest schedule slipped 67 days in just one month. The estimated completion date is now set for late July 2020. [WTOP]

Project to Widen Route 7 from Tysons to Reston Breaks Ground — The project held its groundbreaking ceremony yesterday (Thursday). It would add a third lane from Leesburg Pike in each direction from Reston to Tysons. [Tysons Reporter]

Triple Left Lane Closure Overnight on the Dulles Toll Road Next Week — Drivers should expect 20-minute stoppages nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Wednesday, June 19 through the morning of Monday, June 24. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Town of Herndon Drafts First Bicycle Master Plan

The Town of Herndon is in the process of drafting its first bicycle master plan, which lays out a longterm plan for bicycle route locations and a vision for the town’s bicycle network.

The plan, which was discussed by the town’s Planning Commission at a meeting earlier this week, intends to promote cycling as an alternative mode of travel and improve connectivity for cyclists.

The plan notes that Herndon’s population density is high in comparison to other suburban communities. As expected redevelopment around Metrorail stations and downtown Herndon continues, town officials say they will need to better incorporate bicycle facilities in the town.

The current plan builds on the 2012 Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan, which was endorsed by the Town Council and the town’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC).

Once approved by the Town Council, PBAC will evaluate the implemented of the plan on a yearly basis.

Currently, the town has nine active bicycling-related projects, including:

  • Bicycle lanes and a cycle track between Fairfax County Parkway: The project is nearing design completion. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.
  • A mixed-use trail on Chandon Park to connect Worldgate Trail to Van Buren Street: Construction is expected to begin this year as the project goes to construction biding.
  • A cycle track from Spring Street to Van Buren Street: The project is partially under construction and will be built in phases depending on the pace of private development.
  • Bicycle lanes on Van Buren Street from Spring Street to Herndon Parkway: Construction is expected to begin in late 2019.
  • Bicycle lanes on Sterling Road from Elden Street to Herndon Parkway: Funds were allocated in the town’s capital improvement plan and the project is in the early planning phase.
  • A mixed-use trail from Worldgate Drive to Herndon Metrorail Station: The project is fully planned and designed. Construction will likely begin in late 2019.
  • Folly Lick Regional Trail from Herndon Parkway to Center Street: Construction is expected to begin in late 2019 since the project is fully designed and planned.
  • Sharrows from Park Avenue to Van Buren Street — Construction is expected to begin this year.

The plan also suggests exploring guidelines and policies to ensure residents safely use personal transporters like electric scooters, Segways and pedal-assisted bikes.

Much of the plan’s success will depend on whether or not bicycling is seamlessly incorporated into the county’s existing and future infrastructure, as well as a balanced approach to transportation infrastructure improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. The plan suggests adopting a “complete streets” policy in order to guide decisions on the planning and design of infrastructure projects in the town.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Taste of Reston Kicks Off Tomorrow in Reston Town Center

Northern Virginia’s largest outdoor food festival, Taste of Reston, returns to Reston Town Center this weekend.

The family-friendly event, which is organized by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, will include nearly 30 restaurants, a craft beer lounge, cooking demonstrations, beer on tap, live entertainment and a family fun zone tomorrow (June 14) and Saturday, June 15.

Festivities kick off tomorrow from 4-11 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Entrance to the festival is free, but food tickets are $1 per ticket or $20 for 24 tickets. Tickets can be purchased online.

Restaurants participating for a taste include Cooper’s Hawk, Not Your Average Jow’s and the Wine ‘n Dine Market Place. Live entertainment will be provided by Cherry Crush Band, New Blue Soul, Delta Spur and Vinyl Rhino.

The local YMCA will offer games and prizes in a family fun zone.

Parking is free for the duration of the event.

More information about the festival, which is expected to draw thousands to the town center, is available online.

Photo via Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce

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Report: Amazon Moves to Acquire Herndon Property

VAData Inc., an Amazon.com subsidiary, is moving to acquire a Herndon property from an affiliate of Perspecta Inc., the Washington Business Journal reports.

Although the transaction has not closed yet, the 57-acre site located at 13600 EDS Drive went under contract several months ago, according to the report.

The property has an assessed value of $80.7 million.

Future plans for the site are unclear, but sources told WBJ that demolition and data centers are anticipated.

Here’s more from the story:

The site has changed hands a couple of times over the years, but the family tree leads back to H. Ross Perot and his Electronic Data Systems Corp. EDS was acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2008. HP then spun off and merged its enterprise services business, including EDS, with Computer Sciences Corp. to form DXC Technology. DXC’s public sector business was then merged in 2018 with Vencore Holding Corp. and KeyPoint Government Solutions to form Perspecta.

When it was launched, Perspecta listed 13600 EDS as its primary corporate office, but it has since relocated its headquarters to Conference Center Drive in Chantilly. Perspecta continues to maintain a presence in the building, according to public filings. The property’s owner is listed in Fairfax County records as Enterprise Services LLC.

VAData is Amazon’s datacenter unit, which has been rapidly expanding in Northern Virginia.

Map via Google Maps

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Pride Flag Stolen for Third Time in Three Months from Reston Church

A rainbow flag outside the Unitarian Universalist Church is missing for the third time in three months.

Rev. Debra Haffner says that the 11-foot flag was stolen on Tuesday, June 11.

The church has been very vocal in advocacy for LGBTQ rights. It organized the first ever Reston Pride Festival last year. This year, the festival was held at a new and larger location at Lake Anne Plaza.

“We are deeply saddened that some person or persons have chosen to steal our flag and hope that it will be returned to us. More, we hope for an opportunity to create an opportunity for restorative justice with that person or persons so that they will come to understand and accept all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” said Haffner.

The missing flag was reported to the Fairfax County Police Department, which is investigating who tore down the flag.

Haffner says she fears the incident qualifies as a hate crime. She says her church is open to purchasing a flag for any faith community that requests it.

We will continue to fly a rainbow flag on our property even if it means buying a new one every month. We hope that other churches, synagogues and mosques will put a rainbow flag on their property, so that all will know that people of every faith in Reston support and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.”

Until this spring, a rainbow flag has flown on UUCR’s property since 2017 without incident.

File photo

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