Reston, VA

Wednesday Morning Notes

Applicants Sought for Design and Review Board — Reston Association is seeking two volunteer positions for the board: an architect and a landscape planner or landscape architect. Applications are due by Jan. 31. The term is in effect in March. [Reston Association]

Regional Groups Band Together at Chestnut Grove Cemetery — “Wright and other members of the Woman’s Club, the Herndon Fortnightly Club, South Lakes High School Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Color Guard of Reston, the Reston Chorale Bobby Pins and more were there to support the ceremony and the staff at the town-owned cemetery.” [The Connection]

Comscore Strikes Agreement with Draper Media — The Reston-baed company announced an agreement to provide Draper Media with measurement services for its CBS, NBC and FOX television station in Salisbury, Maryland. [PR Newswire]

Reston Hospital Center Welcomes New Chief Medical Officer — “Dr. Thomas Taghon is the new Chief Medical Officer at Reston Hospital Center, HCA Healthcare, as of Dec. 2. Dr. Taghon comes to Reston from his previous role as Associate Chief Medical Officer at Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio and as a Board Certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist. Ending his second week at Reston Hospital Center, Dr. Taghon shares his views on a variety of topics, including things that might surprise people about him.” [The Connection]

Photo by vantagehill/Flickr

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Herndon Police Department Offers Safe Trade Zone — If residents are planning to buy or sell online or need a safe place to meet for the exchange of payment and goods, the police department offers a place to do so at 387 Herndon Parkway. [Herndon Police Department]

Design Review Board Training — Reston Association’s Design Review Board met yesterday (Tuesday) at the organization’s headquarters to receive training on responsibilities, objectives of design covenants, and design guidelines. [Reston Association]

Be Wary of Black Ice This Morning — State transportation officials remind residents to drive safely due to possible slushy areas and black ice after last night’s rain. [Virginia Department of Transportation]

Photo via Flickr/vantagehill

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Reston Town Center North, a 47-acre site that serves as a transition from Reston Town Center to surrounding residential areas, now has a new name: Cameron Green.

With a rebranded mixed-use redevelopment proposal, a conceptual approval for a grid-of-streets plan was approved by Reston Association’s Design Review Board earlier this week.

The plan includes nine acres of open space, with a central green — which is intended to act as a “Reston park in a new forest” that rests in the center of the site. The project will also include an athletic field and a county recreation center.

The central green is intended to be more neighborhood-focused and have “a Reston community feel,” according to application materials submitted to the DRB.

At a Tuesday meeting, the DRB unanimously gave conceptual approval for the plan. Members noted that the panel would have an opportunity to follow up on the inclusion of trees and the placemaking nature of planned open space once the development team submits a zoning application.

Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, said plans approved for conceptual approval often differ significantly from the final and completed product — a change that he said raises some concerns.

In some cases, the final product is merely “in the spirit” of the conceptual approval, Newlon added, noting that dots denoting trees may look “cute” on paper.

Future concerns about trees and buffering could be addressed in future discussions, Newlon said.

Photos via handout/Reston Association

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Once the Lake Anne Fellowship House is redeveloped, bronze canvas-like art will wrap around the garage that rests below the 240-unit building.

Reston Association’s Design Review Board approved the final design at on Tuesday (Nov. 12).

At the meeting, Suzane. Welch, vice president of the Community Preservation and Development Corp. said the company was considering relocation trees planned in front of the screen.

The concept was approved by Public Art Reston‘s public art committee, which suggested relocating the trees to showcase the artwork more effectively.

Overall, DRB members said they were pleased with the design.

Richard Newlon, chairman of the panel, said the company should consider retaining the trees in order to create a buffer between the sidewalk and the building. He added that he liked the aesthetic of the screen, which consists of a perforated metal panel.

“It’s supposed to be background. It’s not supposed to be canvas art,” Newlon said.

Other members noted that the art would require maintenance due to its design.

The county approved the redevelopment of the fellowship house, which offers affordable housing for seniors, in October 2018.

Once the building is redeveloped, the development team will build 36 market-rate townhouses to the west side of property. 

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A dozen Reston residents voiced criticism for a new two-story addition to a home on Round Pebble Lane Tuesday night (July 16).

Neighbors said the two-story structure, which was approved by Reston Association’s Design Review Board in January, was incompatible with the neighborhood and set precedent for applicants seeking approvals for home additions.

Criticism of the DRB’s decision during the board’s meeting this week comes months after the approval and the appeals period granted by Reston Association.

The project is located at 1148 Round Pebble Lane and includes a two story addition. The application was approved with several conditions, including a requirement that all colors, materials, windows, doors, light fixtures, and other exterior elements match the existing home.

Holly Weatherwax, a local realtor, said that neighbors did not have enough information about the project when they signed off on the proposal.

“It looks like it belongs in Colonial Williamsburg, not in our street,” Weatherwax told the DRB.

Other residents said the structure — which is roughly 2,700 square feet — is incompatible with the community and is not sufficiently screened from Reston Parkway and neighboring properties. Some unsuccessfully pushed members of the DRB to respond to their comments at the meeting. Per the DRB’s rules and procedures, the board reviews members comments and does not respond directly to member comments when there is no application to consider at the meeting.

Weatherwax suggested that the DRB should ask residents to initial all pages of application in order to ensure residents are well-aware of proposed projects. She said the DRB’s approval on Round Pebble Lane should be an exception — not a precedent-setting new normal for future structures with similar design elements.

Residents said they were unaware of the nature of the application and did not know the appeals period had passed.

The project is currently under construction.

Photos by Holly Weatherwax

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Reston Association’s Design Review Board deferred a decision on the proposed renovation of Sheraton Reston Hotel last night (Tuesday).

Board members said that some proposed renovations to the 298-room hotel (11810 Sunrise Valley Drive) were tacky and departed significantly from conceptual plans that the DRB approved in mid-October.

As the direction of the project changed, hotel representatives said they dropped several natural wood tone elements and wood-printed screens on the facade of the building in favor of green paint on the fins. Darker gray tones to the building were also proposed.

The green paint is intended to bring in tones from the landscape into the building, according to project representatives. In October, the design had more wood-based elements and lacked a vertical strip of repeated chevron patterns where the sign of the hotel is currently situated.

W. Neal Roseberry, the DRB’s vice chair, said he had a “visceral reaction” to the proposed green color, which he said does a disservice to one of Reston’s most iconic buildings and departs significantly from the previously proposed wood elements that were “a wow.”

“I think its not what Reston needs to be doing to its older iconic buildings,” Roseberry said.

He also noted that the blue colors of the EXO apartment building — which is not within the DRB’s purview — often produces criticism from the community. If approved, the green paint would likely do the same.

Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, also noted that the broader issue was very different from the original conceptual plan and could stand-alone as an entirely new project.

Wurzak Hotel Group, a Philadelphia-based company and DoveHill Capital Management acquired the property in March 2018. The DRB preliminary approved a conceptual renovation plan in October 2018

Photos via handout/Reston Association

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Plans are in the works to install a project inspired by pathways and connection at the Colts Neck Underpass.

The project, which was approved by Reston Association’s Design Review Board this week, is composed of hundreds of sharpie-based drawings created by workshop participants and local students.

On Saturday, June 29, artist Ben Volta will hold his last workshop for the project at Hunters Woods at Trail Edge.

Participants will have a chance to help create the artwork. So far, seniors and students from Dogwood Elementary School, Hunters Woods Elementary School, Southgate Community Center and Hunters Woods Fellowship House have participated in the effort.

Volta will use drawings created by participants to form the overall artwork, which could have more than 30 colors. The concept is inspired by the connections created through pathways.

The workshop runs from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Ice cream will be served and the event is free and open to all.

Public Art Reston hopes to install the project by September.

Photo via Public Art Reston

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Reston Association’s Design Review Board approved Philadelphia-based artist Ben Volta’s vision to transform the Colts Neck Road underpass into public art.

At a Tuesday meeting, the DRB approved a conceptual design of the project. The final version will use between 600 and 1,000 designs created by seniors from Hunters Woods Fellowship House and more than 800 students from Southgate Community Center and Hunters Woods and Dogwood elementary schools.

Inspired by Reston’s 55 miles of pathways, Volta asked participants to use sharpies to draw a path that invokes joy, love and reference. In a proposal to the DRB, he describes the project as a “colorful connector that reverberates collective energy and rhythm.”

The DRB reviewed a conceptual rendering of the project with just 10 drawings replicated over and over again to give the panel a feel for the direction of the design.

During the meeting, Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, said the project was “stunning.”

“You take something as mundane as a tunnel and its almost too bad that tunnels weren’t designed with more fun in mind,” Newlon said.

Panel members briefly considered asking Volta to return to the DRB for final approval once the design was near finalization. Instead, Volta will submit a final rendering of the project as a courtesy to the DRB.

However, W. Neal Roseberry, a DRB member, questioned the need to transform underpasses into public art.

“I’ve never fully enjoyed that we use our infrastructure for our artwork,” Roseberry said.

Public Art Reston hopes to install the project by September. Anne Delaney, Public Art Reston’s executive director noted that the master plan for public art in Reston envisions transforming the community’s underpasses into art.

Volta says will use colors selected by workshop participants, but anticipates tweaks to the color to ensure the piece is balanced. A strip of LED lighting will line both ends of the tunnel.

“I’m kind of along for the ride as well,” Volta said, adding that he’s open to collaborating more with the community for piece of art created through collaboration.

The artwork begins six inches above the ground in order to prevent splattering from dirt and mud. Because of its location, the underpass has drainage issues.

The project is made possible with a proffer commitment by Atlantic Realty Companies to improve the exterior of the underpass as part of its development at Hunters Woods at Trails Edge. The developer is pitching in $60,000 for the art.

Other community partners include ARTSFairfax, Reston Community Center, JBG SMITH, Virginia Commission for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Pat & Steve Macintyre, and Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association.

Renderings via handout/Reston Association

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Flash Flood Watch Today — In a flashback to yesterday’s weather alert, the National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch in effect from 2 p.m. through the evening today (June 18). Thunderstorms and heavy rainfall are expected throughout the region. [Fairfax Alerts]

Local Wealth Advisory Firm Acquired — Reston-based financial and investment advisory firm MTX Wealth Management LLC has been acquired by Cleveland-based MAI Capital Management LLC. MTX’s nine employees will transition to work for MAI out of its offices at 11710 Plaza America Drive. [Washington Business Journal]

Design Review Board Reviews Colts Neck Underpass — Reston Association’s independent agency will review a proposal by Ben Volta to transform the underpass into public art. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at RA headquarters. [Reston Association]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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(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.

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It’s no secret that Reston Association’s covenant process, which maintains design standards for Reston properties, is often arduous and unwieldy.

In order to better administer the process, RA’s Design Review Board and Board of Directors are calling a special meeting to explore ways to improve covenant administration, reduce staff workload, and sort through staffing issues. The two boards will meet on Thursday (June 13) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. to address lingering concerns.

At a May 23 board meeting, RA’s CEO Hank Lynch said the organization is “overworking” its covenants staff, who spend most of their time processing applications for the DRB. The panel has jurisdiction over issues related to architectural integrity of properties.

That leaves less than a full working day to conduct property inspections, respond to requests for home resales, and ensure the physical condition of properties, including vegetation, is up to standard.

“I do feel strongly that we are not out there enough,” said Anna Donato, RA’s director of covenants administration.

Staff must inspect thousands of properties spread out over 11 square miles, according to RA. Walkthroughs by a team of RA staff can take up to a year for each of the 134 clusters RA oversees.

Donato said the department has also struggled to retain staff, who are working hard to maintain “100 percent customer satisfaction.”

The issue is only expected to get more complex as more properties in the community age and the need for maintenance increases with time.

She suggested the following measures to decrease workload and reprioritize projects:

  • Reduce the number of DRB applications submitted
  • Improve process of submitting DRB applications to provide more flexibility
  • Spend less time on DRB panel meetings and reallocate it toward more inspections and working with clusters
  • Perform inspections for use and maintenance only — which covers the physical condition and use of properties
  • Grant staff the authority to perform more and recheck neighborhood inspections

RA plans to distribute a marketing video to illustrate the challenges it faces. In the video, an RA staff member warns that failing to catch up on inspections and decrease workloads could result in permanent consequences.

“Otherwise the job of keeping Reston looking like Reston will become a distant reality,” the video states.

Photo via Jill Silton

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Construction on new upgrades to make South Lakes Village Center more of a local destination are planned for this summer.

Thomas Regnell, president and CEO of Chevy Chase Land Company, told Reston Now that construction is expected to start over the next several weeks. Planned upgrades, which include an amphitheater, a bike rack and repair station, and a fire pit, are intended to help turn the aging commercial center into an attractive destination that brings local residents together.

Regnell said it was too early to indicate when upgrades will be completed, but the construction process will take eight weeks.

Some features of the plan — which originally included ping pong tables — were removed at the request of Reston Association’s Design Review Board, which approved the project in June. Citizen groups and nearby residents sounded off against the plans, which they said would attract noise, vandalism, and too much activity.

The project is expected to cost between $300,000 and $400,000, Regnell said.

Photos via Chevy Chase Land Company

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For seven years, the pool behind Vantage Hill Condominiums (11619 Vantage Hill Road), boxy housing built in the late 1960s, has been closed. Now, discussions are underway to build townhouses on the pool site to save a condominium building that its community association leadership says is on a slow and steady decline.

The assocaition hopes to use revenues generated from the project to help finance around $4.5 million in needed infrastructure upgrades. Rob Schuman, the community association’s president, told the Reston Association’s Design Review Board last night (April 16) that the association has been grappling with major infrastructure needs for years.

The 152-unit development, which has 24 garden-style buildings, was one of Reston’s first projects and offers market-based workforce housing. Prices for a one-bedroom unit start at $140,000 and up to $250,000 for a three-bedroom unit.

Schuman said the association does not have enough money to take on infrastructure improvements on its own. Members pay yearly HOA fees between $420 and $680. Pipes leak every week, the electrical system is 60 years old and doors and windows provide little to no insulation, Schuman said.

The association is considering pooling the one-acre pool site and another acre used for parking to create enough developable space for 38 townhouse units. Parking lost to the development project would be redistributed. Schuman said 70 percent of the association’s members approved of the development proposal. The association’s bylaws require a two-thirds majority from the ownership to proceed with the project.

If approved — a process that could be years away — the townhouse community could become its own cluster with its own community association. So far, association members stressed a formal proposal is forthcoming and discussions are preliminary.

Charlie Hoffman, a DRB member, said he worried that the infill development could hike up the prices of the condo units.

“I would hate to see them get so nice that people can’t afford to live in them anymore,” Hoffman said. Overall, he said the project could bring new energy to the aging building.

Revenue from the project would help fund metered electrical service for each unit, new windows and doors, new entrances, upgraded heating, new plumbing, security upgrades and an expanded playground. Electric vehicle charging stations are also under consideration.

Photos via Reston Association/handout

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After a year-long hiatus, the Reston Association’s Pedestrian Lighting Working Group made a comeback at the Design Review Board’s meeting last night (March 19).

Working group members Larry Butler, Rick Landers and Bill Burton presented a progress report as a first step toward developing specific lighting guidelines for RA properties and pathways.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins’ recent call for more streetlights around Reston and some criticism of the lighting at the Sekas development along Sunrise Valley Drive renewed the focus on the lighting, Butler said.

“Lighting is going to be at the forefront for some time to come,” Butler said.

The report highlighted two main goals:

  • development of “contextual application guidelines” for lighting
  • prioritization of pedestrian lighting in the community — common areas including pathways and recreational amenities, transit station areas and clusters

Butler said that the working group is also adopting some guidelines from the Reston Annual State of the Environment Report (RASER).

Burton showed the Design Review Board the Reston lighting map that was created by overlaying existing pathway lights on a new land use map. Burton said that the working group members walked or biked Reston pathways and corridors to note areas of no, low, medium or high lighting.

The map has four main zones:

  • zone 0: areas with no existing lighting for areas where RA wants to preserve darkness
  • zone 1: traditional residential areas — most of the Planned Residential Community — that may want additional lighting
  • zone 2: village centers, brightly lit schools and athletic fields that will need future lighting replacements
  • zone 3: transportation corridor and Reston Town Center

In addition to marking the traditional RA pathways, the map also notes travel corridors along certain roads that bicyclists and pedestrians might frequently use.

The map is meant to serve as a template for the Design Review Board’s review of lighting requests, he said.

Identifying areas that need more lighting is just one step.

“We want to do it right,” Butler said, mentioning LED lights on timers.

Landers added that the technological advances in LED lights provide more options for dimmer or brighter lighting, along with being more energy-efficient.

Vice Chair and Architect Member W. Neal Roseberry praised the three working group members for their effort, which has broad appeal to Restonians. “I think this is really pretty common sense,” he said.

While the Design Review Board supported the map and expressed a desire in making a future action item around lighting, Richard Newlon, the board’s chairman, questioned how much detail should get decided around lighting while still creating an enforceable guideline.

In addition to the progress report, Butler also gave the board a preview on other actions the working group is taking.

A pathway lighting project in Hunters Woods that the Design Review Board approved three years ago now has renewed interest because of a proffer commitment from Atlantic Realty — the developer behind the Hunters Woods at Trail Edge senior living facility — to add new pathway lighting

“We’re working with Fairfax County to get an interpretation on that proffer as to whether or not that money can be joined with our project, our current funding so that we can do lighting down there, because we don’t have enough money to do the whole project,” Butler said.

Butler said that he expects the working group to come back to the Design Review Board in April or May with information on the $81,300 promised in the proffer.

“The face of Reston is changing,” Butler said. “We want to make sure the lighting keeps up.”

Images via Reston Association/YouTube

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Celebrate International Women’s Day — Head to Lake Anne Plaza tonight for a kick off of weekend events honoring the women who helped shape the plaza. A free event tonight at Reston Community Center’s Jo Ann Rose Gallery includes a gallery reception and panel discussion starting at 7:30 p.m. [Reston Now]

Call for candidates — The Reston Association’s Design Review Board is looking for a member to fill a design professional volunteer position. Architects, land planners and landscape architects are encouraged to apply. [Application]

Done deal — Herndon-based Tyto Athene recently bought Island Information Technology Consultants in a move meant to continue the Herndon company’s strategy of building mid-market tech solutions and managed services. [Washington Business Journal]

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