Despite strong recommendations from federal, state and county officials to cancel large gatherings due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Reston Association allowed social gatherings with more than 20 people to take place at The Lake House.
The community building, which is located at 11450 Baron Cameron Avenue, is available for rent for weddings, birthday parties, and other events. Cars with license plates from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other nearby states were spotted in the facility’s parking lot on the evening of Sunday, March 22.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam officially banned all gatherings of 10 people or more starting on Tuesday (March 24). But prior to the ban, local, state and federal officials urged people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. In mid-March, Northam issued a public health emergency order banning more than 10 patrons in restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters. He also issued an order banning gatherings of more than 100 people on March 15.
On March 18, the Centers for Disease Control strongly urged that groups with 10 or more people not gather.
“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said. “Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.”
When asked how many guests were in attendance, RA spokesman Mike Leone said the organization did not have any events with more than 100 people “because The Lake House can’t host a tabled event for that many people.” He also noted that after March 15 order, the facility was no longer configured for theater-style seating, which can seat up to 145 people.
After this article was published, the RA clarified that two rentals occurred within the 8-day period between March 15 and March 22. On March 14, a wedding took place with 80 guests and on March 22 a baby shower with 70 guests.
The association’s staff reached out to individuals with rental agreements to see if they were interested in canceling their events prior to Tuesday.
“At that time, federal and state government strongly urged individuals to not have social gatherings over 10 people — but there was no formal order in place mandating that. Most of the events that continued to take place at The Lake House were weddings and lifetime celebrations — as was the case this past weekend. These types of events, especially weddings and wedding-related events were planned months, and in some cases a year or more in advance, making couples elect to move forward with their once in lifetime celebration,” Leone said.
Leone said that RA took proactive measures to “socially distance staff while events were taking place” and disinfected all tables before and after events. A professional cleaning crew also came into the venue after an event to “disinfect the entire facility.”
He also noted that many individuals would have trouble rebooking elsewhere and had “already sent out invitations to guests months in advance.”
“We left it to the individual/couple to make the decision if they wish to move forward and refunds were provided to those who canceled their reservations.”
However, the RA took a stricter approach with activities, events, and services directly under its purview after the statewide ban on gatherings of more than 100 people.
The Walker Nature Center’s Nature House was closed to the public on Monday, March 16. All recreational activities and events were canceled through March 29, according to a March 10 press release.
In a March 16 letter to members, RA CEO Hank Lynch discontinued all walk-in service at RA’s headquarters due to the “need to support social distancing.” Members were directed to pay their annual fees online, call or email staff, or drop-off payments in a box at the building. The payment process has been plagued by technical issues.
Since the ban went into effect, RA says it has taken immediate steps to cancel all reservations through mid-May at The Lake House, conference center, Brown’s Chapel, the Glade Room, and picnic pavilions.
“We know this will create a hardship for some who have planned their wedding or celebration during that time period but we must comply with the Governor’s order. We will continue to monitor the coronavirus and will not continue event rentals until it is safe to do so,” Leone said.
Photo via Reston Association
Reston Association says that its internal controls and processes have come a long way since the botched purchase of the Lake House at nearly double its assessed value five years ago.
At a Thursday meeting, RA’s Board of Directors reviewed progress on fifteen recommendations suggested by global advisory firm StoneTurn Group in a $45,000 independent review of the controversial purchase.
Eric Carr, the board’s treasurer and chair of a committee formed to review the purchase, said RA was “not equipped to handle an undertaking and purchase like this.”
“This is why I ran and it was my goal above all other goals to make sure this never happened in the association ever again,” Carr told the board at the meeting. “I think we’re in a good place for that and I think we’ve done largely what the StoneTurn report requested us to do.”
RA purchased the Lake House property from Tetra in 2015. Renovations to transform the property into a community building cost three times more than expected, resulting in requests for independent audits and reviews.
The report found that RA’s governing documents had no defined process to ensure that internal controls and processes were being followed. The group also suggested that RA adopt a policy to improve transparency on items that are discussed in closed sessions without compromising its interests. At the time, RA did not have controls in place to prevent the contracting of an amount in excess of the budget.
Carr said that all but two of the company’s recommendations are either completed or already exist.
One glaring gap — establishing an ethics code — remains. Discussions on establishing the code, which has been underway for nearly two years, are expected to formalize at the board’s meeting in March.
Highlights of steps undertaken in response to recommendations are below:
- General Counsel will continue to review policies as necessary and as directed by the board
- Although staff indicated recommendations to establish “owners of the internal processes” were vague, RA has a resolution governing internal financial controls
- Greater transparency in executive sessions will be pursued so long as it does not contradict POAA rules
- Establishing processes where capital expenditure maximums are calculated and included in the budget
- Clarification of policy to provide guidance if a project exceeds the budget or if the budget estimate is found to be impractical or incorrect
- Preparation of a long-term capital improvement plan that is updated on an annual basis
- Written policies and procedures to evaluate and management capita projects that emphasize key assumptions and estimates
- Ensuring purchase orders and contracts are not issued unless funds are available and allocated within the approved budget
A complete breakdown of StoneTurn’s recommendations and progress made is available online. Board vice president Julie Bitzer requested the progress update.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr; YouTube
Final Showings of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” — There are two showings left for the Reston Community Players’ performance on Nov. 8 and 9 at Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road). Tickets are available online. [Reston Community Players]
County Host Tactical Athlete Wellness Symposium — On November 7 and 8, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is hosting the 2019 Tactical Athlete Wellness Symposium – Mind, Body, and Soul. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]
Reston Association Markets The Lake House — The association is marketing the venue, which says it is ideal for events, parties and other special occasions. [Reston Today]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
As summer draws to a close, the annual Dog Daze event is tomorrow (Sept. 7).
Community members are invited to bring their dogs to the Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole (1400 Lake Fairfax Drive) and let their friendly four-legged friends take a dip in the community pool.
All ages are welcome to attend, though dog handlers must be 18 or older. This event runs from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.
A $10 d0nation is suggested for the Fairfax County Animal Shelter and the Fairfax County Park Foundation. There will be prizes and treats for both people and their pets.
Saturday (Sept. 7)
- 2019 Craft Market Season (8 a.m.) — Local vendors can show off their arts while community members check out the nearby farmers market. This event is free and will be located at Lake Ann Plaza
- Elephant and Piggy Day (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) — This free event will take place at the Reston Regional Library Branch and feature lifesize characters from Mo Willems’ “Elephant and Piggy” series. Families are welcome to stop by to meet the characters and take a selfie.
- Wine Tasting at Balducci’s (2-5 p.m.) — The restaurant is having a wine tasting event with its new private stock from California. Participants can get 25% off when buying 12 or more bottles.
- Author Peter Kageyama (8 p.m.) — Author Peter Kageyama will speak at the Reston Community Center about how Reston fits into his version of an ideal city. Tickets are $15, and his books are available for purchase before and after the presentation.
Sunday (Sept. 8)
- 18th Annual Herndon Rotary Car Show (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) — Sponsored by the Herndon Rotary International, this show will feature cars of various makes and models. The event is free for everyone, and there will be prizes offered for registered participants who bring their cars. Later in the day, there will be a panel discussion. It will be held at 777 Lynn Street.
- “Beehive: The 60’s Musical” (showings at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.) — This 60s’ themed performance highlights six women and groups who made an impact on music including the Shirelles, Supremes, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Janis Joplin.
- Healthy Kids Running Series (3:30 p.m.) — This fun-run event will feature 50- and 75-yard dashes, the quarter-mile, the half-mile and the one-mile run for kids ages 2-14. Top-performing kids in each category will receive a trophy. Registration is $10 on-site at YMCA Fairfax County Reston.
- Lake House Open House (3-5 p.m.) — Community members are invited to the lake house for a social gathering with their neighbors. Light refreshments will be served and people can learn about how the space can serve them.
- Country Dance (5:30-8:30 p.m.) — This event invites community members 18 years of age or older to join in a social dance session featuring line dancing, swing and two-step. Tickets are $5 for Reston residents. It will take place at the Reston Community Center.
Photo via Fairfax County
The four-day Frying Pan Farm Park 4-H Fair and Carnival continues into the weekend. Admission to the fair is free, but parking is $10 per car tomorrow and Sunday.
The opening ceremony kicks off at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday). The carnival is on from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday (August 4).
In addition to entertainment throughout the weekend, fair-goers can take part in a number of activities, including goat milking, a carousel, and blacksmithing.
More information is available online.
- Weekly Beer Run (9:45-11:15 a.m.) — Run, jog or walk beautiful paved paths around Lake Anne with “beer runers.”
- Lake House Open House (10 a.m. to noon) — The community building is open for community drop-in time and light refreshments.
- Artist-led Bookmaking Workshop (1-3 p.m.) — Join Homie House Press for a bookmaking workshop at Greater Reston Arts Center.
- ArtSplash for Adults (2-4 p.m.) — Create a masterpiece in this art workshop for adults led by artists from Abrakadoodle Northern Virginia at Reston Regional Library.
- Summerbration Fun Brunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) — Enjoy a performance titled “juggler, balloon twister and glitter tattoos” at Reston Station Plaza. Parking is free on weekends in the Metro Parking garage.
Sunday (August 4)
- Bird Walk at Buttermilk Creek Nature Trail (7:30-10:30 a.m.) — Beginning and expert birders can search for birds in Reston. Participants should park at Uplands Pool.
- Summerbration Fun Brunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) — Enjoy Flow Circus at Reston Station Plaza. Parking is free on weekends in the Metro Parking garage.
- Sunday Art in the Park (7-8 p.m.) — The MLO Fusion Project performs contemporary jazz standards with a modern twist at Reston Town Square Park. Performances are free and open to all.
Deep dive into Reston sports — Bill Bouie gave a presentation on the history of sports, pioneers, players and playing fields in Reston’s sports. A complete recording of the event, which was organized by the Reston Historic Trust & Museum on Nov. 8, is available online. [YouTube/Reston Historic Trust & Museum]
The Lake House open house today — Reston Association continues its marathon of open houses today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Residents can enjoy light refreshments and chat with staff to learn more about multipurpose uses of the space. [Reston Association]
From Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins — In a note to Reston Now, Hudgins offered a few words about the coming of Amazon’s HQ2 to Crystal City: “As often partners in many regional endeavors, I am glad to acknowledge Arlington’s success and note that the entire Commonwealth is advantaged by the HQ2 announcement. Look forward to Fairfax County continuing to work together for the betterment of the region and the Commonwealth.”
Photo by Twitter user @MrErrett
The Hindu Festival of Lights, known as Diwali, lights up Reston Regional Library with a cultural fair on Saturday.
The event will include games, music, food, arts and crafts and other activities. Attendees of all ages are invited to the fair, which runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Below is a limited list of other events taking place in the Reston area this weekend. If you have an event you would like to ensure is listed on the website, be sure to submit it to our Events Calendar.
- In the mood for a little theater? Performances of Hairspray continue today and this weekend on CenterStage at RCC Hunters Woods. Tickets are $28 for adults, $24 for seniors 65 and older, and $24 for students and youth under 18.
- Junior merchants will sell a variety of gently-used toys, books, and other child-friendly items on Saturday at the Children’s Fall Flea Market at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
- You can also kickstart your morning with a beer run near Lake Anne Brewhouse from 9:45-10:30 a.m. All ages and paces are welcome.
- On Saturday, Reston Community Orchestra will kick off the season with their opening concert at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods at 4 p.m. The concert is open to attendees of all ages.
- Sing books with Miss Emily on Saturday at Reston Regional Library from 10:30 to 11 a.m. The event is co-sponsored by Friends of Reston Regional Library.
- Blue Sky Puppets present folktales with puppets Chester, Buster, and Suzy Pig on Saturday from 2-3 p.m. at Reston Regional Library. The event is also cosponsored by Friends of Reston Regional Library.
- Reston Association needs volunteers to help monitor stream conditions from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. No prior experience is required and all ages are welcome.
- The Lake House will be open for community drop-in time and light refreshments from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday as part of a series of open houses.
- Maria Gianferrari reads her book “Operation Rescue Dog” at Scrawl Books on Saturday at 11 a.m. The story is about a girl who goes on a quest to find a rescue dog she plans to adopt.
- International games week kicks off on Sunday with the chance to play a few classic board games at Reston Regional Library from 1-5 p.m.
- Professor Harry Butowsky also continues his six-part lecture series on the history of World War II on Sunday at the Reston Regional Library from 2-4 p.m.
- On Sunday, Gina Clowes will perform as part of Frying Pan Farm Park’s Bluegrass Barn Series. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door.
Hairspray lives up to the hype — A theater critic writes that Reston Community Players’ latest production, Hairspray, lives up to the volunteer-based community theater’s reputation of presenting professional-quality theater. [DC Metro Theater Arts]
Halloween 101 — With the spooks just around the corner, the county offers several safety tips for trick-or-treating on Wednesday, Oct. 31. Kids are advised to generally visit houses with their porch lights on or with active Halloween decorations, for example. [Fairfax County Government]
Lake House open house — As efforts to increase revenue from The Lake House continue, Reston Association is continuing its tradition of holding an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. [Reston Association]
Meet me at the movies — Seniors can enjoy a free screening of Ocean’s 8 today from 9:15 a.m. to noon. Light refreshments will be provided. [Reston Association]
A tale of prison and privilege — This free screening set for tonight highlights the economic and social inequities that divide the country and offers solutions on how separated communities can learn from each other. The screening will be followed by a discussion by Signe Taylor and several formerly incarcerated women who appear in the film. [Reston Community Center]
Flickr pool photo of stream cleanup recyclables by vantagehill
In a preliminary dive into next year’s budget on Monday, Reston Association’s Board of Directors and members of its fiscal committee explored ways to navigate a possible increase in assessments next year.
The increase may be necessary to offset additional expenses and new capital projects, according to RA officials. A major driver of expenses is a $50,000 increase in health insurance premiums for staff and $215,000 to pay for unanticipated lease payments for the lease of RA’s headquarters. Although staff hiring savings of $90,000 are expected to offset some expenses, the association has also seen an increase in lawsuits, amounting to roughly $30,000. Revenues from the Lake House and tennis courts are also down, said Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO.
Other expenses include a $60,000 state-mandated reserve study, $40,000 in software updates, $44,000 to add dechlorination systems for pools, $30,000 for a new billing and collections software and $20,000 for targeted marketing. The dredged of Lake Audubon, which was pushed from this year to next year, is expected to cost $850,000. Projected cost estimates for improvements to Hook Road are also expected to be a major expense next year.
Butler pitched several budgeting strategies for next year’s budget. On the top of the list is a proposed 2.5 percent in membership dues or annual RA assessments. Other alternatives include cutting expenses by 2.5 percent, dipping into investment earnings for $35,000, and the use of RA’s operating reserves.
RA Board President Andy Sigle suggested that staff continue to explore ways to balance the budget with RA’s operating reserve, which was also used to pay the Lake House loan. A stronger understanding of the projected year-end balance for the operating fund was necessary to determine whether or not to increase assessments, Sigle said.
Board member Julie Bitzer also stressed the need to ensure budgeted amounts are conservative and realistic, citing that RA budgeting for a decrease in lease payments for its headquarters location, only to later discover a decrease was not expected.
RA staff and the board will take a second dive into the budget by presenting draft two of the budget in late September. Following a series of listening sessions with members, the fiscal committee will receive the budget in late October. The budget is approved at a November meeting by the board following additional member input opportunities and amendments.
Photo via Reston Association
The Reston Association is hosting a bus tour showing off the area’s hidden treasures.
“Even if you have lived here for a long time, have you ever seen the trolls under the bridge near Reston police station, the significant monarch trees, the Lake House or the Nature House?” said the RA’s event description.
The bus tour will take place on Monday (April 9) from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will meet riders at the Lake House.
The tour will cost $12 for RA members and $18 for all others.
Under a new policy established by Reston Association’s Board of Directors, whistleblowers will be able to anonymously report violations of the law, RA’s deed, bylaws and policies or improper conduct to the board.
On March 22, RA’s board voted to expand the policy, which currently allows violations to be reported up to the level of the CEO. Now, the board will directly hear violations. The association is also working with a third-party service provider to establish an anonymous reporting mechanism.
The board’s treasurer Sridhar Ganesan, who worked with RA’s fiscal committee to push for the expansion, said RA still has to “conclude some procedural steps” like securing arrangements with the third party vendor before formally releasing the policy in its entirety.
“I think this is very beneficial especially in light of all the processes and internal controls that we are implementing as an organization, including the purchasing resolution,” Ganesan said at RA’s meeting last week.
Board Director John Mooney’s attempt to discuss the proposed policy during a special meeting at a later time failed. Mooney said he had hoped the board would take “a deliberative moment” to analyze the policy and ensure it independently assesses decisions made like the association’s controversial $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property.
“This policy is meant to prevent mistakes like many believe Tetra was,” Mooney said.
After months of discussion, Reston Association’s Board of Directors will consider a move Thursday to strengthen its procurement controls and policies in response to a third-party review of RA’s controversial $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property.
The rewrite of RA’s purchasing and procurement policies — which were last updated nearly six years ago — was recommended by StoneTurn Group, the forensic accounting firm contracted by RA to review the controversial purchase and cost overruns linked to the buildin’s renovation. A recent presentation by two RA members also flagged multiple concerns.
“As a result of the Tetra Property Purchase Review by the StoneTurn Group several recommendations were made that the Association should strengthen, and the better document the Association’s policies and practices related to procurement and purchasing,” wrote board president Sherri Hebert in the draft proposal. Hebert was not available for comment.
The move expands RA’s current policies by building in more internal controls, stricter financial checks to avoid sole source contracting and seek competitive bidding, and improved documentation. Major purchases above $25,000 require board approval, among other levels of scrutiny.
If approved, the policies would address four broad areas: procurement rules, competitive procurement and purchasing, re-competing for services and rules governing sole service providers.
After reviewing a blistering report about Reston Association’s $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property, the Board of Directors is mulling next steps.
Controversy surrounding the 2015 purchase, which cost RA nearly double the most recent tax assessment, continues to shadow the board.
In an effort to court closure, At-large Director John Bowman is seeking to involve legal counsel from the state to offer what could be the third review of the purchase. The draft motion will go before the board at their regular meeting at 6:30 p.m.
The proposal comes as two RA members, Moira Callaghan and Jill Gallagher, presented a scathing critique of the purchase in late January. The report flagged concerns about conflicts of interest, inadequate internal controls and limited transparency.
Last year, RA contracted StoneTurn Group to complete a $45,000 review of the purchase. The 30-page independent review included 15 recommendations to avoid a similar situation from happening in the future. In their review, Callaghan and Gallagher contend StoneTurn’s analysis was incomplete and insufficient.
Bowman said taking no further action after the members’ report would be “an avoidance of responsibility.” He also indicated forming a special board committee to review the members’ findings would require considerable board resources. The board may also lack qualifications to complete a review.
Engaging help from the state’s attorney would address “any potential concerns regarding forensic expertise,” Bowman noted.
The motion before the board tomorrow reads:
“Even though we would probably not be advised by the Commonwealth’s Attorney of any action deemed appropriate – we would have referred the matter to a qualified third party; the cost to the Reston Association would be minimal if any; and this Board could close the matter and focus on completing the internal controls.”
How do you hope RA’s board will respond to the report? Respond below.
From a performance on multiculturalism to a seminar on brain health, there’s a lot to do in Reston this weekend.
- Children can let their imaginations go wild at Box-A-Rama on Saturday. At the event from 9 a.m. through noon at Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive), children can play with boxes of all sizes. All children must be accompanied by parents and caregivers. Tickets are $10 for RA members and $15 for all others.
- An open house is set for The Lake House (11450 Baron Cameron Avenue) on Saturday from 2 – 4 p.m. Enjoy light refreshments and talk to staff about the multipurpose uses of the space.
- At Reston Regional Library on Saturday, enjoy the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” from 2 – 4 p.m. as part of the library’s series on movies that began as books. The event is open to teenagers and adults.
- The American Association of Retired Persons is hosting a brain health seminar at Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road) on Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon. To register call 703-390-6157 or email karen.brutsche@fairfaxcoun
- Join the Greater Reston Arts Center and Reston Community Center on Saturday at 5 p.m. for an exploratory weaving workshop. Students will leave with a completed wall hanging. Tickets are $45 for Reston residents and $55 for all others. Register online.
- In a concert about friendship and multiculturalism, Mohammed Bilal and Josh “Boac” Goldstein use their friendship to actively challenge the American notions of black and white, Jew and Muslim, and urban and suburban. The performance, “The Color Orange,” will take place at CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road) on Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for Reston residents and $20 for all others.
- On Sunday, watch 20 local figure skaters perform at the Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion (1818 Discovery Street). The National Skating Month Exhibition will take place from 7:15-8:45 p.m.
- The Capitol Steps, a popular Washington-based music and satire troupe, will perform at the Hyatt Regency Reston (1800 Presidents Street) on Sunday at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Proceeds will go to Cornerstone. Purchase tickets online.
- Reston artist Rudy Guernica’s exhibit, “Lost in the Woods,” will be in the Jo Ann Rose Gallery at Reston Community Center Lake Anne from Jan. 9 through Feb. 4.
- In this exhibit, Paulina Peavy’s work will be on display through Feb. 17 at Greater Reston Arts Center. Peavy gave up control of her brush to an alien entity named Lacamo after attending a seance in 1932. Her work includes paintings, films and texts that she used to better channel Lacamo’s energy. A talk by GRACE’s executive director Lily Siegel is set for Saturday at 3 p.m. at the center.
(Editor’s Note: This is just a limited list of all the events taking place in the Reston area this weekend. If you have an event you would like to ensure is listed on the website, be sure to submit it to our Events Calendar.)
Photo via Reston Community Center
Registration for Reston Youth Triathlon Begins Today — Individuals interested in participating in the race on May 13 can register online at 7:30 p.m. today. Last year’s event included swimming in the heated Ridge Heights pool, biking near South Lakes High School and running on Reston Association paths. [Reston Youth Triathlon]
Clique Expands to Australia — A Dulles-based entrepreneur is expanding his technology company, Clique, to Australia. The company, which has offices in Reston, offers high-definition voice quality where consumers and businesses want it. [Loudoun Times-Mirror]
Open House at The Lake House Today — Operating under extended hours, the facility (11450 Baron Cameron Avenue) will be open for community drop-in time from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today. Light refreshment will also be available. [Reston Association]
Photo by Fatimah Waseem