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by Katherine Berko — July 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm 11 Comments

Reclaim Reston is upset with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, who they say are ignoring their urging to slow down development.

The grassroots activist group wrote to the Board of Supervisors last month, asking for a moratorium on proposed zoning ordinance amendments from the county’s Department of Planning & Zoning and on approval of any development projects that haven’t yet been submitted.

After receiving no response in over three weeks, the group is not happy.

“By silently thumbing their noses at the legitimate concerns of the Reston community, the Board of Supervisors sent the unambiguous message that they hold all the cards and view the Reston residents as powerless to interfere with the Supervisors’ cozy relationship with developers,” group member Bruce Ramo wrote to Reston Now.

An online petition Reclaim Reston set up in support of the moratorium has nearly 700 signatures.

Reclaim Reston is urging the Board of Supervisors to control development and ensure that planning and funding for infrastructure such as schools, roads, bridges, parks and other recreational facilities, remains in sync with the influx of new residents.

When asked by Reston Now about Reclaim Reston’s request, Hudgins provided the following statement (presented as written):

I recognize that good economics time, particular the last two years, provides more economic opportunity for new development. This does not mean the support for that development will not occur. While it would be great if all the planned transportation projects were already built, however, infrastructure improvement depend on those developing the land and a blending of federal, state and county funding. Three new Reston north/south crossings and three new rail stations scheduled to open in Reston and Herndon area, will relieve much of the traffic that travel today to Reston and Wiehle stations on many primary Reston arteries. I am working to build these sooner than planned.

My pledge is the outcome of future growth will more than conform to Reston’s planned community. Bob Simon believed people should be concentrated around Villages. Today’s village comes in a more urban form with the support of transit, retail and parks, in addition to housing. Mr. Simon voted for the Comprehensive Plan. I hope the outcome will meet his and your desires when we see it completed.

Ramo, though, says that the board’s silence on Reclaim Reston’s call for a moratorium shows that the County will go forward with its plans no matter what, leaving potential infrastructure problems to be resolved at some future time.

“Fairfax County has every intention of moving forward to convert Reston to the County’s cash cow, regardless of what it means for the education of our children, or the quality of life, safety or environment of our community,” Ramo said.

by Dave Emke — July 12, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Need for More Athletic Fields Broken Down — In Reston Association’s latest “Reston Today” video dispatch, land-use attorney John McBride talks about the requirement for athletic fields in Reston’s Transit Station Areas. The video shows five potential sites where they could be considered. [Reston Association/YouTube]

Transportation Authority Info Session — The public is encouraged to attend an informational meeting tonight with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, to learn about its Draft TransAction Plan and provide comments. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive). [Northern Virginia Transportation Authority]

Another Potomac River Bridge? — The idea to ease traffic in the region has been debated since the 1950s, and the North Capital Region Transportation Planning Board will consider listing the bridge project at its July 19 meeting. [WTOP]

Cancellation of FBI Replacement Decried — Fairfax County was one of three finalists for a new FBI headquarters before plans were scrapped. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, among others, say the decision to abort the project was driven by President Trump’s conflicts of interest. [Washington Post]

by Dave Emke — July 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm 1 Comment

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at its meeting next week will vote on moving a $315 million Fairfax County Public Schools bond referendum closer to a public vote.

In Virginia, a referendum can be put on the ballot for consideration by the voters only if it is ordered by the Circuit Court. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors is being recommended to give its stamp of approval to the referendum. At that point, the county attorney would be directed to petition the court to order the referendum to be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The bond sales would be maintained in the annual amount of $155 million. Future debt service payments are referenced in the FY 2018-FY 2022 Adopted Capital Improvement Program.

One of the most expensive items on the list of projects to be funded is construction at Langston Hughes Middle School. More than $41 million is budgeted for the work.

Click here for the full list of projects included.

by Dave Emke — June 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm 15 Comments

Some Reston Association members have strong feelings about the community’s relationship with Fairfax County — and specifically, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

“In terms of what Reston looks like, what Reston feels like — she’s moving Reston away from it,” Stephen Canner said. “We don’t want that.”

Canner was speaking to RA Board directors and CEO Cate Fulkerson during an informal feedback-gathering meeting Thursday evening at RA Headquarters. Canner and others expressed their displeasure with how they feel Hudgins and other members of the County Board of Supervisors are allowing developers to take over Reston.

“They’re moving us in a different direction, trying to make us look like Arlington,” Canner said.

Victoria White, Hunters Woods/Dogwood District director, said Board president Sherri Hebert and vice president David Bobzien have been having weekly meetings with Hudgins to try to facilitate more communication. Eric Carr, At-Large director who moderated the meeting, said it’s the start of a conversation to try to improve Reston’s standing with the County.

“One of the underutilized resources we have is our ‘soft power,'” Carr said. “We don’t have any legislative power, we’re not a municipality, but boy, can we be annoying — in a good way.”

Carr said it is important for Reston Association members and the Board to stay vigilant in letting the County know the problems Reston citizens have with new developments and other legislation. Some members also expressed displeasure with what seem to be futile attempts to get their opinions heard during county meetings, citing particularly the recent public meetings on the Planned Residential Community zoning ordinance amendment.

John Mooney, At-Large director, harkened the St. John’s Wood public meetings — which resulted in the project being deferred indefinitely — as he reminded residents that their well-formed and -organized thoughts on specific plans do matter.

“You have to have the community involved on policy level issues and zoning ordinance issues, but you also have to have communities get really informed, bust their butts understanding what’s going on in particular projects,” he said. “You have to have those two levels of citizen interactions … for political change to happen. It can’t happen with just one line of attack or one line of engagement.”

Mooney said that in addition to the meetings taking place between RA Board leadership and Hudgins, there are staff-to-staff meetings and other interaction going on with the County. Members in attendance said they’d like to know more about how those conversations are progressing.

Members continued on to say it is difficult to learn any information about what is happening within Reston Association, because of a lack of communication and what they view as a confusing website. Most agreed they get more information from local media and from Nextdoor than they do from RA itself. Carr agreed that work needs to be done to better reach members.

“We have an extensive site, but we’re not reaching you the same way other avenues of information are reaching you,” Carr said.

Mike Leone, RA’s communications director, said he is working to increase Reston Association’s presence on Nextdoor to push more news out to the community more efficiently. Attendees were also encouraged to sign up for RA’s email bulletins and other local newsletters.

by Kalina Newman — June 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm 17 Comments

Following President Donald Trump’s recent announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, Fairfax County is joining the Mayors Climate Action Agenda.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors endorsed joining more than 200 other municipalities nationwide in an effort to combat climate change. The three main takeaway points from the Mayors Climate Action Agenda are the development of a community greenhouse gas emissions inventory, the setting of near- and long-term emissions reduction targets, and the development of a climate action plan.

Ten years ago, Fairfax County was part of a similar agreement called Cool Counties. Cool Counties committed Fairfax County to cut the D.C. region’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Through Cool Counties, the county has since reached its initial goal of cutting its per capita emissions by 10 percent. Helene Shore of local environmental activism group 350 Fairfax argues that this hasn’t been enough, but she’d glad the county has recommitted itself.

“We’d like to see 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. We wish that other mayors would hop aboard — it’s important that we address this at a local level and that local governments keep working towards renewable energy, since our central government won’t be doing much work it seems. We don’t have much time left and it’s important that we keep working forward.”

Fairfax County is encouraging residents to get involved, especially in reducing their electricity emissions. Residents can sign up for discounted solar panels, get expert advice on energy savings, checkout a thermal camera from the library and apply for a matching grant to fund any possible projects that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

by Dave Emke — June 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm 35 Comments

At its meeting Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave its seal of approval to plans to widen Leesburg Pike (Route 7) from Reston to Tysons.

The Virginia Department of Transportation project will involve nearly seven miles of Route 7, between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive, which is just before the Dulles Toll Road interchange. Supervisors approved the plan, with two minor amendments, as it was presented at a public hearing in November. (View information shared and discussed at that meeting here.)

“[This has been] a long-awaited case,” Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said at the meeting prior to the vote.

This is the latest stage of VDOT’s work to add two lanes to the heavily traveled highway, bringing it to six overall. They also plan to add facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, and make “substantial intersection and other improvements” along the corridor. Those improvements, according to VDOT, will include constructing a partial interchange at Baron Cameron Avenue to reduce congestion.

A rendering provided by VDOT shows the Baron Cameron interchange will have the eastbound lanes of Route 7 traveling under the road, connected via ramps. Westbound lanes will continue to face a stoplight at the intersection.

According to 2011 traffic counts provided by VDOT, the stretch of Route 7 carries between 46,000 and 54,000 vehicles per day. That number is expected to increase to 73,000 to 86,000 by 2040, VDOT says.

Anticipated cost of the project is $234 million. VDOT is expected to put out its request for proposals on the project later this year. Work is planned to start in late 2020 and last until 2025.

Rendering and map courtesy Virginia Department of Transportation

by Dave Emke — June 7, 2017 at 9:30 am 7 Comments

Backpacks Checked Out at Festival — Herndon Police say abandoned backpacks Friday and Saturday at the Herndon Festival brought out the department’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit. No threat was found in either case. [Herndon Police Department]

SLHS Student-Athletes Honored — Spring sports players at South Lakes High School were honored Monday night for their performances on and off the field. [South Lakes Athletics]

Official Name Change for RTC Street — The private street at Reston Town Center that is home to The Avant, CVS, Barcelona and Bartaco is officially known as Town Square. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, as an administrative item, approved a name change to Town Square Street. [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors]

Area Player to Go High in MLB Draft — Ashburn’s J.B. Bukauskas, a Stone Bridge High School grad and a star pitcher at the University of North Carolina, is projected to be picked in the Top 7 of next week’s Major League Baseball Draft. [EIN Presswire]

by RestonNow.com — May 2, 2017 at 2:45 pm 8 Comments

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) officially adopted its budget for FY2018 on Tuesday, with a 2.79-percent increase in funding for schools and nearly $2 million in additional funding for assistance to those suffering from mental illnesses.

County supervisors also voted to keep real estate taxes at the same rate of $1.13 per $100 assessed value of a property.

In a statement released around 11 a.m. Tuesday, following the BOS meeting, Chairman Sharon Bulova said “few changes” were made to the proposed budget that was previously advertised.

Though it falls roughly $47 million short of what education advocates told the County they needed, the superviors approved a 2.79-percent increase in funding for schools, bringing Fairfax County Public Schools’ annual budget to $2.17 billion for the upcoming 2017-18 school year. The increase is equivalent to an additional $53.4 million over FY2017. (more…)

by Dave Emke — April 25, 2017 at 1:30 pm 6 Comments

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at their meeting Tuesday morning marked up the proposed FY2018 budget, and the current real estate tax rate remains.

Upon approval of the budget, the real estate tax rate will remain at the FY 2017 level of $1.13 per $100 of the assessed value of the home, as proposed by the county executive. (The average Reston real estate assessment has gone down by 0.33 percent in 2017.) Board chairman Sharon Bulova said the stable rate “ensure[s] Fairfax County continues to be an affordable place to live for seniors and families.”

At the board’s Feb. 28 meeting, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (Hunter Mill District) supported an amendment that would have raised the advertised real estate tax rate to $1.15 per $100. The amendment, introduced by Supervisor Kathy Smith (Sully District), failed by a vote of 7-3, with Supervisor Daniel Storck (Mount Vernon District) casting the third vote in favor.

Changes in the marked-up $4.1 billion budget include:

  • an additional $1.7 million in funding for Fairfax County Public Schools above the amount in the county executive’s proposed budget, for a total transfer of $2.17 billion (52.8 percent of the budget)
  • just under $2 million and 18 new positions to support the second year of the county’s Diversion First initiative, which helps divert individuals with mental illness from jail into mental health treatment
  • more than $13 million in reductions and nine position eliminations, resulting from agency reductions and continued savings in fuel and retiree health expenses

The marked-up budget was approved by an 8-2 vote of the Board, with Smith and Storck dissenting.

The board is expected to officially approve the budget May 2, and it will go into effect July 1.

by RestonNow.com — April 24, 2017 at 10:15 am 32 Comments

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.

Our County Board of Supervisors, led by Chairman Sharon Bulova, is in the process of overbuilding and underserving residents in Reston and across the county. The result will be the eroding livability of Reston and other county areas facing urbanization.  

And this is being accomplished by a simple arithmetical trick: Overstating the amount of space new housing and office space require to accommodate residents and workers. Very simply, county planners continue to overstate the space needed for office workers as 300 gross square feet (GSF) per worker when studies globally over nearly a decade show it is now under 200 GSF/worker and could be headed to 150 GSF/worker.  

At the same time, as it started to plan for Tysons’ redevelopment nearly a decade ago, the County raised its planning assumption for the size of station area dwelling units (DUs) from 1,000 GSF/DU to 1,200 GSF/DU. Nonetheless, a County planning study for Tysons showed then (2007) that the average size of Tysons residents was 1,100 GSF, mostly in garden apartments before the recent advent of massive high-rise residential development there. Now, the average high-rise DU size is shrinking well below 1,000 GSF/DU, more than offsetting the few mid-rise and single-family attached DUs in station areas, as some recent Reston development proposals show:

  • JBG/Wiehle and partners plan for 1,300-1,500 residential units in 1.2 million GSF of development in two 5-story buildings, or 800-925 GSF/DU;
  • Golf Course Plaza proposes 413 DUs in a 392,600 GSF multi-family building or 950 GSF/DU, also in 5-story structures;
  • Faraday’s proposes redeveloping the area just south of Wiehle Station with up to 500 apartments in two buildings with about 487,000 GSF of residential space that will reach about 975 GSF/DU according to its plan submission.
  • Lerner Enterprises is planning a 457-“luxury apartment” complex called Excelsior Park with average unit size at about 1,050 GSF in 423,587 rentable square feet (RBA), which equates to 481,350 GSF.

That’s nearly 3,000 DUs, including luxury apartments, whose average GSF is about 925 GSF/DU — nowhere near the County’s assumed size of 1,200 GSF/DU — and suggesting the number of future residents and DUs in Reston’s station areas will be nearly one-third greater than planned under existing allowable densities. This is consistent with national data: A study of apartment sizes over the last decade shows that their average size has shrunk — not expanded — from 1,015 square feet to 934 square feet.  

The impact is straightforward: The resulting planned densities (total GSF of development divided by the square footage of the lot on which it sits) will allow half-again as many office workers and 28 percent more residential units than the County plan officially intends. Yet developers and the County are only planning to provide services — improved roads, schools and parks, and more — based on the lower count envisioned in the plan. The result will be reduced services and higher taxes.

So what does that mean for “real people?” Based on GSF information provided by FCDOT to the Supervisors serving as the Board Transportation Committee, the current Reston station area plan offers the potential for 76,280 added residents (at 2.0 residents/DU) and 29,059 added office worker jobs (at 300GSF/worker) in the next four decades.  

If instead of using the County’s faulty planning assumptions, we use real world experience, we can anticipate that the allowable development could result in an addition of 101,492 total residents in 50,746 DUs and 78,559 office workers, including retrofitted office buildings, market conditions permitting.  More specifically, it suggests an order of magnitude explosion in residents (11,720 in 2010 vs. 113,212 then) and more than twice as many office employees (69,941 in 2010 vs. 148,500 then) in Reston’s station areas. Overall, Reston can expect twice as many people living and working in the station areas as is anticipated by the Reston plan.

(more…)

by Dave Emke — April 7, 2017 at 11:30 am 3 Comments

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved the installation of a speed hump on Colts Brook Drive in the westernmost part of Reston.

According to information provided within the board’s April 4 meeting package, the hump will be located adjacent to 2320 Colts Brook Drive. A Reston Association pathway between the Colts Brook Recreation Area and the Tournament Recreation Area crosses Colts Brook Drive just south of where the hump will be installed.

Colts Brook Drive runs between Fox Mill Road and Sunrise Valley Drive, with the hump to be installed south of the intersection with Thunder Chase Drive. The posted speed limit on the road is 25 mph.

Information provided to the Board of Supervisors indicates that there is community support for the traffic-calming measure. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has been instructed to do the work “as soon as possible,” with a budget of $7,000.

The project is part of the county’s Residential Traffic Administration Program. Also through the program, the board in 2015 approved additional speeding fines on Thunder Chase Drive in the same neighborhood. On the other side of Fairfax County Parkway, they did the same on Rosedown Drive in 2016.

Map via Reston Association

by Dave Emke — April 5, 2017 at 9:00 am 1 Comment

Document-Shredding Program Set for Saturday — The Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program will sponsor a secure-document shredding event at the North County Human Services building (1850 Cameron Glen Drive) on Saturday morning. Residents can have up to four boxes of materials of a sensitive nature, such as tax documents and financial records, shredded. [Fairfax County]

Board of Supervisors Adopts Resolution on Diversity, Inclusion — At their meeting Tuesday, Supervisors voted to reaffirm that the county is “a welcoming and accepting community where residents of all backgrounds deserve to feel respected and safe.” [Sharon Bulova/Facebook]

Checkers to Expand in D.C. Region — The fast-food chain plans to open 20 locations in the Metro area and is currently in the process of seeking franchisees. [Washington Business Journal]

Longtime Coach Goes Into Local Hall of Fame — Al McCullock, who won 235 games and two regional championships in 15 years as Herndon High School’s baseball coach, was recently inducted into NOVA Baseball Magazine’s “Home Plate Club” Hall of Fame. [NOVA Baseball Magazine]

Beware of Bears as Weather Warms — The Fairfax County Police Department is sharing precautions for how to keep bears away and what to do should you encounter one. They say while bears tend to avoid humans, they sometimes wander into suburban areas in search of food. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Image via @NickDowsett on Twitter

by Dave Emke — March 31, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Rain, Rain Go Away — Rain that is expected to inundate the area through Friday is forecast to vacate later tonight. Saturday looks to be dry but cloudy, with sun coming back Sunday. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s will make for a nice weekend. [Capital Weather Gang]

RA Election Ends Monday — There are only a few days left to get your ballot in for the Reston Association Board of Directors election. Voting can be done online through RA’s website. Winners will be announced at the annual members’ meeting April 11. [Reston Association]

Submit a Video to Fairfax County Board — In what it says is an attempt to increase the amount of public participation in hearings, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is encouraging residents to submit pre-recorded comments via YouTube. The video-submission program will first be used for the county’s public budget hearings April 5-6. [Fairfax County]

Local Student Presents at Alabama Conference — Christine Roesch, of Reston, was one of 500 University of Alabama undergraduate students who were selected to showcase their research and creative projects during the school’s annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Conference earlier this week. Her project was titled “The Layout of Grass and a Trip to Starbucks Can Influence Which Way You Walk to Class.” According to her Facebook page, Roesch is a psychology major with a criminal justice minor. [University of Alabama]

by Dave Emke — March 2, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

Rhonda VanLoweA Reston woman is one of nine citizens who have been appointed to Fairfax County’s new Citizens Police Review Panel.

Rhonda VanLowe was appointed Tuesday to a one-year term on the panel. She is a member of the Governor’s Taskforce for Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response and served on the Public Safety workgroup.

According to a news release from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:

“[VanLowe] has devoted much of her community service work to serving those with unique physical, mental, emotional, intellectual or cognitive backgrounds. Ms. VanLowe practiced law in law firm and corporate settings, served as Board Chair of The Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program, Inc., and received the National Women of Color Special Recognition Award at the 2008 STEM Conference. Ms. VanLowe is a 36-year resident of Fairfax County and looks forward to working together with members of the Panel to develop procedures that will set the foundational tone and tenor for the work of the Panel.”

According to her LinkedIn page, VanLowe has served as legal counsel for Rolls-Royce North America Inc. since 1999. She is also a member of the Board of Visitors at the University of Mary Washington.

The Citizens Police Review Panel was created in December by the county Board of Supervisors. Its goal will be to look over police complaints and internal probes as part of a new effort to increase transparency in the area’s law enforcement.

The county’s Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission called for the panel in an October 2015 report to the Board of Supervisors. While the commission was established in the aftermath of a fatal police-involved shooting in 2013, the new panel won’t handle matters concerning potentially criminal uses of force.

Members of the panel can serve up to two three-year terms. The inaugural members of the board were randomly assigned one-, two- and three-year initial terms so that term expirations would be staggered, supervisors said Tuesday.

The full makeup of the panel is listed below:

  • ONE-YEAR TERMS: Hansel Aguilar (Fairfax), Hollye Doane (Oakton) and VanLowe
  • TWO-YEAR TERMS: Randy Sayles (Oak Hill), Jean Senseman (Lorton) and Adrian L. Steel Jr. (McLean)
  • THREE-YEAR TERMS: Kathleen Davis-Siudut (Springfield), Steve Descano (Springfield) and Douglas Kay (Fairfax)

Steel will serve as the panel’s first chairman.

Image via University of Mary Washington

by Dave Emke — March 2, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Morning Notes

No Increase to Property Tax Rate — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to advertise a property tax rate for FY2018 that is equal to the FY2017 rate. [Washington Post]

‘Epiphany’ Returning to NextStop — Herndon native and South Lakes High School graduate Derek Jasper is a magician, mentalist and deception expert. His show, “Epiphany,” returns to NextStop Theatre in Herndon (269 Sunset Park Drive) next weekend. [Connection Newspapers]

Herndon Police Led on High-Speed Chase — A traffic stop Sunday near the intersection of Crestview Drive and Herndon Parkway turned into chase when the driver fled. Herndon Police later found the vehicle, but not the driver. [Herndon Patch]

FCPD Gang Unit Involved in Search for Remains — Acting on recently received information, Fairfax County Police Department homicide, gang unit and crime scene detectives have been looking for human remains in Holmes Run Park and Lemon Road Park, near Falls Church. This follows an earlier investigation in which 10 people (including a Reston woman) were charged with gang activity in connection with the killing of a 15-year-old whose body was found near Lake Accotink Park in Springfield. [Fairfax County Police Department/WTOP]

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