Reston, VA

Friday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Needs Contact Tracers — “The Virginia Department of Health said Thursday it’s searching for bilingual candidates as it hires 1,300 contact tracers.  It says it will deploy tracking software and enforceable quarantine orders alongside these tracers to more aggressively counter the spread of the virus.”

Design Review Board Meeting Set for Next Week — Reston Association’s Design Review Board will meet on May 27 at 6 p.m. The board is responsible for reviewing additions and changes to different types of Reston properties. [RA]

Weekly Wages Rise in Fairfax County — “The average weekly wage for those working in Fairfax (wherever they may live) stood at $1,735 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data reported May 20 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase of 2.1 percent from the same period a year before, below the national growth rate of 3.5 percent (to $1,185).” [Inside NoVa]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Coronavirus Hampers Tegna Sale — Reston television operator Tegna, Inc. says the novel coronavirus has hampered its sale talks. Two potential acquirers ended deal discussions with the company following the “market dislocation” fueled by the global coronavirus outbreak. [Nasdaq]

Cornerstones Honored — State Sen. Janet Howell sponsored resolutions to honor the Reston-based nonprofit organization for “50 years of advocating for and promoting self-sufficiency among people in need of food, shelter, and human services.” [Inside NOVA]

Nearby: Inmate at Fairfax County Adult Detention Center Has COVID-19 — A man who had been incarcerated since Jan. 29 tested positive for the novel coronavirus. It is possible that additional cases will occur because individuals have already been exposed, the county says. [Fairfax County Government]

New Coronavirus Call Center Hours — The health department has changed the hours of its call center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends. [Fairfax County Government]

Online Reviews Scheduled by Design Review Board — Reston Association is offering online review by two members of the board for applications that were previously scheduled for panel meetings in April. Applicants can also defer the review of their application once the regular meeting schedule resumes. [Reston Association]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The Reston Association’s Design Review Board bid farewell to two longtime architects and board members this month.

Richard Newlon, who served on the board for 21 years, and Neal Roseberry, who served on the board for 18 years, ended their terms in mid-February, leaving two vacancies on that board.

Reston Now caught up with the retired board members to get their thoughts on how the board has changed since they joined the DRB, as well as their top concerns as Reston continues to grow over the coming years.

Richard Newlon

After a 21 year tenure on the DRB, quite a bit has changed in Reston. Probably the largest aesthetic and environmental impact I’ve seen in Reston is the intense development occurring in the Toll Road corridor. We’ve seen the Transit Corridor vacate all of their covenants in 2011 in their effort to allow residential development along the Toll Road. At the same time, the owners removed their own Architectural Review Board…leaving no entity to review any of the “Transit Area’s” designs. It’s pretty obvious Reston has lost a lot of its Planned Community identity by this intense development without any design review of the Transit Area.

When I first became a member of the Design Review Board (DRB) in 1999, Reston wasn’t completely built out…there were remaining residential lots still available. Many of our clusters were aging, and to this day, remain targets of developers seeking profits with dense residential proposals. Intense “internal” development is a continuing concern to the essence of Reston. The DRB has been instrumental in working with these developers to make their proposals more contextual and with a density more appropriate to the neighborhood. This continues to be a major challenge to our community. Growth and change are going to happen, but the strength of Reston’s initial Governing Documents that created the DRB, gives our members a chance and a voice to affect any future development. It is important for our members to remain aware of all development proposals and become a part of the process. 

Our Stream Restoration has been a major success and provided both safety and beauty to our forests and valleys. Snakeden Branch was the first and perhaps the most controversial. It launched a major environmental solution to the years of development and lack of stormwater management in the county. Now, 15 years later, the forest that surrounds Snakeden Branch has returned, and the stream monitoring has kept all in place for years to come. The restored areas have certainly assisted in solving some of the run-off issues that have plagues Reston sine its inception.

Serving on the DRB for these years has been a personal community involvement and educational experience for me. It has been a way to get to know our planned community with its many architectural styles and association members. At the same time, it has made me aware of the boundaries of our PRC and the areas of the DRB’s purview. The “shotgun” developing happening in the Corridor is certainly not Reston-like or internally coordinated. This was an enormous opportunity for the developers to continue the nature of a planned community, but they have consistently maximized their particular development to the exclusion of the potential of a beneficial design opportunity. 

Our clusters are aging, and every week at our DRB meetings we have Cluster Boards coming to us with concerns and desired revisions to update their Cluster Standards. It is imperative our clusters continue to work together and with the RA Covenants Staff toward this updating. The Cluster Boards must be more active and part of the process. There remains much to do to keep Reston as the flagship of a planned community. Our Village Centers will be coming under the developers gaze as more development opportunity for them. I’m sure the remaining (and new) members of the DRB will be up to the task, and hold on to all that makes Reston such a wonderful place to live.

Neal Roseberry

How has the DRB’s role evolved as Reston has evolved?  

In some ways, DRB’s role is the same as originally set forth in the Governing Documents: ensuring quality design that is harmonious with nature and neighboring architectural context. However, with intensifying redevelopment of older neighborhoods, the bar is raised, and the challenges to meeting the goals of design review are more significant than ever. Reston needs to evolve with the times, but we must respect existing context and neighborhoods in the process. Design Review helps ensure orderly redevelopment with continued emphasis on context and good design, understanding and mitigating the impact of redevelopment that in most cases is overly intensive upon first review. The role of the DRB today more than ever is a first defense against redevelopment that is inconsistent (sometimes entirely inconsistent) with the design goals of Reston.

 What would you say has been the most rewarding part of serving on the board? 

Working to keep our neighborhoods and clusters harmonious and compatible; ensuring that redevelopment understands how Reston is different from much of the rest of Northern Virginia; keeping a focus on the natural areas, lakes, trails and recreational facilities that truly make Reston a great place to live, work and play. Reston has been, and should continue to be, a special place to live in Northern Virginia. The DRB helps ensure that, and when we do our job well, it is exceedingly rewarding. The things we do well, very few people notice; when we miss an element of new development, we see those mistakes for years to come.  Our goal is consistent, careful, thoughtful review.  As a volunteer, my greatest satisfaction comes from believing I’ve used my skills and talents as an architect to keep Reston a special place to live.

What are the top three challenges the DRB faces as Reston grows as a community? 

  1. Newer members of the community don’t always understand or appreciate the things such as design review that help keep Reston a special design blend of nature and quality development.  We need to be careful that in the process of necessary updates and redevelopment, Reston doesn’t disappear into the rest of Northern Virginia sprawl. Design Review is one small tool that RA has to help do that on its covenanted land.
  2. The Metro Corridor, with its abandoned design covenants, is not the model of orderly design and development that one would hope for Reston.  Traffic, unsightly above-ground parking decks, lighting and signage that would not be approved by the DRB are occurring on non-RA properties, bisecting Reston into northern and southern halves with what often appears visual chaos. This dilutes the image of Reston as a special place to live. Much of the newer toll road development is not as community-oriented as our older RA neighborhoods and clusters tend to be. And yet to the average Washingtonian, this is now “Reston.”
  3. The dilemma of our two golf courses is hard to ignore. Huge swaths of north and south Reston are special places to live just because of the open space nature of the golf courses around which many communities are built. Redevelopment in those areas, apparently outside of DRB review, could ruin Reston as many of us have known it.  Community activism at the Fairfax County level is important for all of these areas where there is no RA design review.

Photo via Reston Association

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Sophomore Helps Elementary School Students — “South Lakes High sophomore Andrew built a simple sitting bench last summer for the fun of it. He then considered building an improved bench that he could donate to a worthy cause.  A few brainstorms later, he contacted Herndon Elementary garden lady Jill Vinson and floated the idea of creating a planters table.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

A Senior Caught in a Dating Scam — A 72-year-old senior from Reston shares a story about how she was caught in an online dating scam. She says the man convinced her to sell her condo and give him large amounts of cash. [WAMU]

Reston Association Seeks Volunteers for Design Review Board — Lisa Heath, the DRB’s meeting manager, discusses the need for architects, land planners and landscape architects on the board. [Reston Today]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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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