Reston, VA

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn will kick off his first town hall next week in Reston.

Alcorn, who pledged to host several community engagement meetings in this term, plans to discuss his priorities for the district at the Feb. 3 meeting. It is set to take place from 7-9 p.m. at Reston Community Center Lake Anne’s Jo Ann Rose Galley (1609-A Washington Plaza-N).

His presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session with attendees. Residents are encouraged to RSVP by emailing [email protected] with the subject “Feb. 3 town hall.”

The next town hall is planned for Feb. 24. A time and location has not been announced yet.

In his first board matter earlier this month, Alcorn moved to kickstart a 12-to-18 month period to review Reston’s Comprehensive Plan.

Staff photo by Ashley Hopko

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The Hunter Mill District’s Winter Coat Closet is open for another season through Jan. 16.

The closet, which is a partnership between the Hunter Mill District Supervisors Office and Cornerstones, offers winter coats for those in need since the program started in 2001.

Donations of new or gently-used winter coats, as well as hats, gloves, mittens and scarves are accepted. Items are needed for all ages.

The closet accepts donations at the Coat Closet, which is located at 1801 Cameron Glen Drive on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Individuals in need can get a coat from the closet at the North County Governmental Center through March 14.

For questions, email Cornerstones at [email protected] or call 571-323-1410.

Photo via Unsplash

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The NOVA Relief Center is hosting a blanket and coat drive for Syrian refugees. The Hunter Mill District Office is once again collecting blankets and coats for the drive beginning Nov. 23 through Dec. 9.

All items will be shipped free of charge to three refugee camps in Jordan this winter.

Locally, donations can be dropped off at the Hunter Mill District Office (1801 Cameron Glen Drive), as well as at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(1515 Poplar Grove Drive in Reston and 2727 Centreville Road in Herndon).

Other drop-off locations are also available online.

The center accepted clean items that are new or in gently-used condition. Sweaters and sweatshirts are also welcome. Gloves, hats and scarves must be in new condition only.

More information about the drive is available online.

Photo via NOVA Relief Center

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Fairfax County voters are headed to the polls today.

In the Hunter Mill and Drainsville districts, there are several seats up for election including the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Fairfax County School Board positions and Board of Supervisors seats.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and voters can swing by anytime throughout the day.

There are several options for anyone wishing to monitor turnout and results. Fairfax County’s Twitter account will be posting updates at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.

There are around 20 various polling locations, which will be open throughout the area. Voters can find their designated polling location using the My Neighborhood Map or through the Virginia Department of Elections website.

Below is a map of all the voting locations throughout Reston and Herndon.

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Editor’s Note: Two candidates are running for the seat of Pat Hynes, who currently holds the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County School Board. Earlier this year, Hynes said she would not seek reelection after serving on the 12-member board for the last seven years. This week, Reston Now will publish statements by the candidates.

Statements are published in the order in which they are received. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form.

Melanie Meren, MPP, is a parent, small business owner, and school board appointee who has lived in Fairfax County for over 15 years. Originally from New York, where she attended public school her entire life, Melanie moved to Virginia after accepting a Presidential Management Fellowship in 2004 at the U.S. Department of Education.

While at the Dept. of Ed, Melanie oversaw a multi-million-dollar budget for services for students at underperforming schools. Her responsibility encompassed both evaluation and problem-solving situations, with oversight of federal grant recipients. She recovered over $1 million in funds when program services were not provided to the target population of students most-in-need of support.

Advocacy and community are central in her life. Joined by her husband, Drew Meren, the two are active in local government. Melanie’s current community service commitments are:

  • Appointed member of Fairfax County School Board’s Human Resources Advisory Committee
  • Elementary school PTA Green Team Chair and representative to the Fairfax County Council of PTAs
  • Girl Scout troop co-leader
  • Member of the Virginia Association for Environmental Education
  • Until 2019, she was a Leadership Team member for eight years of NoVA Outside, the alliance for outdoor educators in Northern Virginia

Melanie views academic success as a community effort: there must be a connection among those impacted by student achievement: parents, teachers, community members, and of course, students. Motivating students to succeed is essential, and the environments around them must be built and supported by dedicated public servants who steward resources along a responsible path.

Melanie is focused on three core areas in her candidacy. First, she wants to cultivate holistic student environments – classrooms, playgrounds, activities, school gardens, and outdoor spaces are all part of the learning ecosystem. For example, Melanie champions scientific learning in outdoor classrooms. Students who interact in these spaces achieve learning goals essential to a 21st century economy, benefit from being in a healthy space, and discover lessons that anchor their sense of community. No matter where in Hunter Mill students live, their greatest challenge should be in understanding what array of choices lay before them, not if they’ll have those opportunities.

Second, Melanie is concerned with facilities and the future of FCPS infrastructure. No student should experience public schooling inside a trailer, and existing buildings need to be reviewed, refitted, or replaced. Joyful learning and a positive classroom experience is critical, and it is incumbent upon those responsible to identify every way to accomplish that. Facilities and trailers are a clear place to start.

Third, Melanie is focusing on equity and opportunity. That means honoring teacher and staff professionalism with opportunities for competitive pay and benefits, realistic expectations on their time, and access to vital instructional resources. For students, the promise of a Fairfax County Public Schools education must align with their strengths and cultivate their path into adulthood. Melanie believes that parents and families are what bring the whole learning experience together. Melanie has advocated with and for fellow parents since her first year as an FCPS parent. She will bring her steadfast commitment to listening to and working with parents to her role on the school board.

Melanie welcomes your questions and input about her candidacy – and for your vote on November 5th. Learn more at melaniemeren.com.

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Frying Pan Farm Park will come to life with music from around the world this summer.

The series, “Hunter Mill Melodies,” kicks off tomorrow (Thursday) and runs through Aug. 22. It aims to celebrate the county’s commitment to diversity and community spirit.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic, blanket and chairs. So far, the schedule, which is subject to change, is below:

  • June 27: Scythian (Irish Rock)
  • July 11: The Reunion Jazz Orchestra (Big Band)
  • July 18: Whiskey Wildfire (New Country)
  • July 25: Bumper Jacksons (Americana, Country, Bluegrass)
  • August 1: Incendio (Latin)
  • August 8: Chopteeth (Afrofunk)
  • August 15: Veronneau (World Jazz)
  • August 22: The United States Navy ‘Cruisers’ (Pop Rock)

For last minute performance cancellations due to inclement weather, call 703-324-7469 one hour prior to the program start time.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority‎/Facebook

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Melanie Meren won the endorsement of the Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee for school board with 80 percent of the vote on Wednesday.

The self-described Fairfax County parent leader, whose platform centers around “strong education,” is one of three candidates that were seeking the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County School Board.

“We are excited to support Melanie’s campaign for School Board and thank outgoing School Board member Pat Hynes for her many years of service to Hunter Mill, to our students and teachers,” wrote Gordon Simonett and Denver Supinger, co-chairs of the HMDDC.

Andy Sigle, former president of Reston Association’s Board of Directors, and Laura Ramirez Drain, whose campaign focuses on Family Life Education and the budget, were also running for the board seat. The seat was vacated by longtime Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes in January. Meren’s endorsement bumps other candidates out of the race.

Paul Berry, Meren’s campaign manager, wrote the following about the endorsement:

Meren and her husband Drew are 14 year residents of Hunter Mill District, where their two children attend public school. After graduating with a Master’s degree in Public Policy she worked in early childhood education at the US Department of Education’s Title 1 office managing a $15 million grant program for the nation’s most underfunded schools. After leaving the Dept. of Ed she founded her own education policy firm that advocates in particular for environmental education in public schools. Her professional and personal lives overlapped in 2016 when budget cuts threatened a multi-million dollar reduction in school funding. She responded by successfully advocating for and recovering $60 million through community activism and organizing parents in Hunter Mill. 

Meren won with an overwhelming 109 votes, while Sigle had 27 votes.

An official endorsement by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee is expected on May 21. Meren’s name will be on the November ballot without party identification.

Photo via Melanie Meren website

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Residents in Reston and Herndon will soon get the chance to attend a free forum featuring the candidates running for Cathy Hudgins’ Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat.

The Reston Citizens Association plans to hold the forum on Tuesday, April 23, at the Jo Ann Rose Gallery (1609-A Washington Plaza N.) from 7-9 p.m.

The association is hosting the forum to allow Restonians to learn more first-hand from their potential supervisor’s positions and plans first-hand, according to a press release.

“RCA is very excited to resume our long tradition of connecting the citizens of Reston and the Hunter Mill district with their local leaders and with the information they need to make informed decisions,” Dennis Hays, the president of the Reston Citizens Association, said in the press release. “We expect this to be the first of many such forums.”

Hudgins announced her decision in January to retire after her current term ends.

Four Democrats have entered the race for her seat on the county’s Board of Supervisors, including:

Fairfax Democrats will hold their candidate forum on Monday, April 29, from 7-9 p.m. at the Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road).

Photo via Fairfax County Republican Committee 

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Former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Walter Alcorn is the latest Democrat to join a crowded race to replace Cathy Hudgins as the Hunter Mill District Supervisor.

Hudgins revealed late in January that she won’t seek re-election to theFairfax County Board of Supervisors, joining a growing list of board members retiring, including current Chairman Sharon Bulova.

Alcorn, a self-described environmental professional, announced his campaign last Monday (Feb. 11). He is running on a broad platform that ranges from supporting revisions to Reston’s comprehensive plan in 2020 to reviewing school funding.

His top issues on his campaign website are the following:

  • growth
  • schools
  • community
  • environment
  • public safety
  • affordable housing
  • transportation

Alcorn has a mix of experience in the private sector and county government.

He is currently the vice president for environmental affairs and industry sustainability at the Consumer Electronics Association, according to his LinkedIn profile. Prior to that, he worked at Alcorn Consulting and at SAIC for about 10 years.

In 2015 Alcorn was appointed by Bulova to the county’s Park Authority Board. His term expired at the end of 2017. Prior to that, he had served on the county’s Planning Commission and worked as a policy aide in the Providence District supervisor’s office, Reston Now previously reported.

On the community level, he was a former president of the Herndon High School PTSA.

Alcorn has received endorsements from Bulova; Democratic State Sen. Jennifer Boysko, who used to represent Herndon in the Virginia House of Delegates; and U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who was the county board chairman before Bulova.

Alcorn plans to hold a campaign kickoff event on Saturday (Feb. 23) at 2 p.m. in the new community room at the YMCA Fairfax County Reston (12196 Sunset Hills Road).

Alcorn will face the three other Democrats — Parker Messick, Laurie Dodd and Shyamali Hauth — vying for the seat at the June 11 Democratic primary.

Photo via Walter Alcorn/Facebook

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This op-ed was submitted by John Farrell, who is a Reston resident. 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.

With the announcement that Cathy Hudgins will not seek re-election and the entry of at least four (and maybe more) people in the June 11 primary to succeed her, it seems appropriate to propose an agenda for the candidates to address over the coming weeks as they knock on our doors and ask for our support.

The Hunter Mill District hasn’t had a primary for supervisor in many decades. And given Hunter Mill’s voting history, it’s reasonable to expect that whoever wins the June Democratic primary will be the next Hunter Mill Supervisor.

What follows is offered as a start of that conversation. Happy to see others add their questions.

1.  Should the Hunter Mill Supervisor lift the PRC ordinance’s 80,000 person population cap on Reston to 100,000 or higher?

The Planning Commission held a five hour hearing on raising the cap last Wednesday (Jan. 23). Few of the 30 some odd speakers spoke in favor of raising the cap.

2.  Should the Hunter Mill Supervisor use the county’s zoning power to end or reduce paid parking at Reston Town Center?

3.  Should Reston National Golf Course or Hidden Creek Golf Course be redeveloped for housing or preserved as a central part of Reston’s open space plan?

It’s been quiet on the RNGC front lately, but the owners of Hidden Creek have been holding focus groups trying to find any community support for redevelopment of that property and adjacent projects that it has recently acquired.

4. Should high-rise housing be allowed to replace North Point or Hunters Woods shopping centers?

The Reston Master Plan allows 50 units per acre as a redevelopment option for those shopping centers. The pending PRC amendment would raise that number to 70. Should this high-rise option be preserved or eliminated?

5. Which recreational facilities are maintained better: County Park Authority facilities or Reston Association’s facilities?

There are only four Fairfax Park Authority facilities in Reston, but they are badly in need of maintenance or improvement.  Neither South Lakes Drive Park nor North Point Park has water to keep the grass ball fields alive in the summer or provide in-door sanitation facilities.  Yet over the last decade, millions of proffer dollars have been promised to the Park Authority. What should that money be used for in Reston?

6. The Tysons Master Plan calls for office developers to make proffer donations for recreational facilities. Should the same be expected of commercial developers in Reston?

The tenants and guests of the commercial developers will use Reston Association’s trails and other amenities. Should they contribute to their renovation?

7. Should proffer donations by developers for recreation facilities go exclusively to the Park Authority to be used anywhere in the county or go to Reston Association for use in Reston?

Developers’ attorneys report to me that even when they write proffers to give recreational proffer money to RA, the current supervisor’s staff directs them to rewrite the proffer for the money to go to the Park Authority with no strings requiring the money to be used in Reston.

8. Should Reston Association have a prominent voice in land use decisions in Hunter Mill?

The turn-out for RA elections will approach the turn-out in the June Democratic primary in Reston. Isn’t RA as legitimate a voice of our community as the McLean Citizen Association is in McLean? MCA is entirely voluntary and yet has virtual veto power over McLean land use application with the Dranesville Supervisor.

What would RA’s Design Review Board have had to say about the Blue Monster next to Plaza America or the Azkaban Apartments at the corner of New Dominion and Reston Parkways? They were never asked.

9. Should four-lane roads be reduced to two-lane roads, and the closed lane devoted to the exclusive use of bicyclists?

South Lakes Drive is getting horrible reviews from locals and the suicide lanes on Lawyers, Soapstone and Colts Neck are inviting head-on collisions and traffic jams when folks try to make overlapping left turns.

No doubt there are other questions that these candidates should answer. So let’s hear them but keep it to issues they can do something about.

— John Farrell

Photo via Len Spoden Photography

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Laurie Tyler Dodd, a lawyer in Reston, is the third Democratic candidate to enter the race for the Hunter Mill District seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Dodd is running on a campaign to maintain low density outside the Reston transit corridor, according to a Facebook post she wrote on Jan. 17. Reston’s density has recently been the focus of a contentious zoning proposal that would increase the maximum allowed population per acre in the Planned Residential Community district from 13 persons to any number up to 15.

Other major issues she wants to address include:

  • preserving Vienna’s “small town feeling”
  • protecting the environment
  • ensuring the district is “welcoming to all and supportive of its families and business”

The Washington Post reported that Dodd joined the race as a Democrat before Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins announced on Jan. 22 that she won’t seek re-election this year.

Dodd currently is an attorney primarily practicing in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, according to her LinkedIn. She represents the best interests of children, addressing issues such as custody, visitation and foster care planning.

She has lived in Reston for 23 years.

Two Democratic candidates have already joined the race for her seat, Reston Now previously reported.

Shyamali Hauth, a United States Air Force veteran and community advocate, has her campaign focused on transportation, affordable housing, construction practices, budgets, security and education systems. Parker Messick, a recent graduate of Roanoke College, is running on a platform to “stop big development.”

The election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5.

Photo via Laurie Tyler Dodd/Facebook

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Shyamali Hauth is joining the race to unseat Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Hauth, a United States Air Force veteran and community advocate, announced her candidacy last night (Jan. 9) at the Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee meeting.

Hauth is focused on construction practices, budgets, security and education systems, according to her website. She wants to tackle transportation issues and affordable housing with SMART housing solutions.

“Our local government is where the rubber meets the road,” Hauth said in the press release. “This is where we make change that affects each of us on a daily basis. I want Fairfax County, and specifically the Hunter Mill District, to be the leading edge of a progressive vision of community.”

Other major issues she wants to address include:

  • public education
  • environmental issues
  • securing funding for social services
  • developing public-private partnerships that help businesses
  • keeping a low unemployment rate

She lives in Reston with her husband, who is also an Air Force veteran. Two of their four children attended Fairfax County public schools, according to her bio.

She has worked with Rescue Reston to preserve the Reston National Golf Course from development. She founded her own group called Hear Our Voice-Reston (HOV-R) where she led 70 people who worked to elect progressive candidates in Virginia in 2017. The group then joined up with Herndon Reston Indivisible, her bio says.

She also works with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. The Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee awarded her the Ed Herlihy Activist Award for 2018.

Currently, she chairs the Fairfax County Democratic Committee’s Veterans and Military Families Committee, according to her LinkedIn profile. She is also an independent business owner of Mahari Yoga, a veteran-owned business that offers yoga therapy in Northern Virginia, and self-employed as a Celtic harp instructor, professional speaker, according to LinkedIn.

She studied psychology and management at Saint Leo University in Florida. After receiving her Masters of Science in human resource management from Troy State University in Alabama, she joined the Air Force.

Hauth plans to host a listening session for Reston residents next Thursday (Jan. 17) night.

Another Democrat, Parker Messick, announced his campaign for the seat in December. Messick is running on a platform to “stop big development.”

Hudgins, who is nearing the end of her fifth term, was first elected to the board in 1999. The election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5.

Photo via Shyamali Hauth for Board of Supervisors/Facebook

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Hunter Mill District Representative Pat Hynes announced today (Jan. 9) that she won’t seek reelection to the Fairfax County School Board.

Hynes has been a member of the 12-member board for the last seven years. Previously, she was an elementary school teacher in the county’s public schools from 2002 to 2011 and has worked as a lawyer with Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett in New York City and community organizer, according to her bio.

The announcement arrived in her newsletter. In one section, she wrote:

As you may know, my current term as your school board member expires at the end of 2019. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to represent the welcoming, resilient, creative people of Hunter Mill for the last seven years. But I’ve decided not to seek reelection after this term. My first calling is the classroom and I’ve been teaching full time in Arlington these last two years. (The law does not allow me to serve on the board and teach in FCPS at the same time.) I was hopeful that I might be able to balance the time commitments of both jobs, but it really is not reasonable and I find myself stretched too thin too often. I look forward to the next year of work and progress on your behalf, but I also think it’s time for someone else to step up. I’m sure we will all be engaged in the November election and I have no doubt Hunter Mill will choose an excellent new school board member.

Her term expires at the end of 2019.

Until then, she outlined in her newsletter several school board issues on her radar, including climate change and equity.

With Virginia’s General Assembly starting today, Hynes said “we are fortunate here in Hunter Mill to have state representatives who fight for public education and other critical needs of families and communities.”

File photo

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Parker Messick is running on a platform to “stop big development” to unseat Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Messick, a Democrat, announced his campaign on Sunday (Dec. 16).

Messick told Reston Now that he wants to stop big development in Reston and Vienna, which “is on track to make Reston look more like Tysons or Arlington.”

“Reston was always meant to be a planned mixed-use community per the vision of Robert E. Simon, Reston’s founder,” Messick wrote in an email. “Despite this vision, developers have desired to build endless new high rises, with even more on the way, if they are allowed to continue.”

He added that while Reston was meant to have some big development, it “was always meant to be relegated to the Reston Town Center.”

Controversial paid parking is another top priority for him. Messick said he would negotiate with Boston Properties, the owners of Reston Town Center, to end the paid parking there.

“I agree with Boston Properties that people should not be able to use their parking for free simply as a way to avoid metro parking, but the approach that has been taken has caused many people to avoid RTC altogether and has harshly hurt the businesses located there,” he said.

Other major issues he wants to address include:

  • alleviating traffic congestion
  • increasing affordable housing
  • allocating available funds to improve the county’s public school system
  • preventing pollution and protecting the environment

He is a recent graduate of Roanoke College, where he studied political science. His website says he has a “background in the facilitation of political campaigns” and “experience engaging with the local community through volunteering and being receptive to the community’s voices.”

Hudgins, who is nearing the end of her fifth term, was first elected to the board in 1999.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will include a few new faces in 2020, with the recent announcement of Chairman Sharon Bulova’s upcoming retirement adding to the list of the supervisors leaving.

The election for the county’s Board of Supervisors will take place on Nov. 5, 2019.

Photo via Parker Messick for Supervisor

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Chinchillas, hedgehogs and hermit crabs are one step closer to legalized pet status in Fairfax County.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission last night (Dec. 6) approved changing the definition of commonly accepted pets to include all three.

“All those hedgehogs in Fairfax County are extremely happy tonight,” Chairman Peter Murphy, who represents the Springfield District, said after the vote.

Hunter Mill District Commissioner John Carter voted against the proposal, along with Vice Chairman James Hart and Mason District Commissioner Julie Strandlie.

Strandlie said that while she supports chinchillas and hermit crabs as pets, more input from professionals is necessary regarding hedgehogs.

The increasing popularity of chinchillas, hedgehogs and hermit crabs as pets in recent years spurred the proposed amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance, according to the proposal.

Arlington and Loudoun counties allow hedgehogs and chinchillas as pets, with Loudoun County also permitting hermit crabs. Fairfax City and Falls Church either do not allow or remain unclear about the legality of the three animals as pets.

The commission tackled health and safety concerns mainly around hedgehogs as pets at a public hearing last Thursday (Nov. 29), deferring a decision to last night at the request of Mary Cortina, an at-large member of the commission.

Some of the concerns that came up involved hedgehogs’ ability to spread salmonella and how well owners can care for hedgehogs, given their high levels of maintenance.

Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals that require space, exercise and room temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they do not start hibernating, according to the Hedgehog Welfare Society.

Hart said he concludes that hedgehogs still fall under the “exotic pet” definition based on the temperature requirements raised during the testimonies last week.

Dranesville District Commissioner John Ulfelder said he took four areas into consideration when deciding how to vote — public safety, public health, environmental impact and animal welfare.

Addressing the salmonella concerns, Ulfelder said that other animals, such turtles, can spread the bacteria.

For him, the prickliest issue concerned animal welfare. “It is true these animals are a little bit difficult to take care of,” he said. “I think for people who are up for that, they can be very nice pets.”

Strandlie praised a student from Longfellow Middle School in Falls Church, who argued at the public hearing in favor of legalizing pet hedgehogs.

The student, who said he has cared for his turtle for eight years and his monitor lizard for two years, said he believes hedgehogs are easier to care for than reptiles, based on his research. If the county approves the amendment, he said he would get a hedgehog.

Even though Strandlie voted “no,” she said the student probably persuaded some of the commissioners to support the proposal.

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors authorized a public hearing at 4 p.m. on Jan. 22 to consider the controversial proposal.

“I think we should be allowing people if we can — if they have the ability — to have hedgehogs as pets,” Ulfelder said.

Photo via Planning Commission

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