This letter was submitted by Reston resident Alexandra Kenny South. 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.
As a working parent with young children enrolled in Reston Association’s Fit Kids After-School Program, I was deeply dismayed by the Reston Association Board of Directors’ recent decision to end the program mid-school year. I followed with interest the discussion at the Board meeting as well as the Reston Now reporting on the ruling and the comments posted online. I thought I would provide my perspective on the matter as one of the families directly affected.
I have two children who attend Reston Association’s Fit Kids After-School Program, ages 8 (3rd grade) and 5 (kindergarten). They ride the bus to the Lake House from Lake Anne Elementary School every afternoon, where they spend the next few hours engrossed in experiential learning activities, homework help, outdoor play and creative arts. Dan Merenick, Katherine Caffrey and the rest of the Fit Kids staff bring a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the RA Fit Kids Program, and perhaps most importantly, my husband and I know as working parents that we can trust them 1,000 percent to take excellent care of our children.
We were taken aback to hear the Board’s Hunters Woods/Dogwood District representative, Victoria White, state that, “Quite frankly, we’re a homeowners’ association. We’re not a child-care provider.” Reston Association has, in fact, long been a child-care provider, offering a wide range of summer and other school holiday educational programming which we and many other Reston families have benefitted from. The Fit Kids Program is an extension of the programming that the Reston Association has offered for years, and it is a lifeline for us as parents with two small children and two full-time demanding jobs that require a lengthy commute. It has been especially vital to us on the many days during the school year that are teacher workdays/student holidays, for which we would otherwise have to take leave. With the program now being discontinued midway through the school year (Dec. 15, we’ve since been told), we will be left high and dry, as public school-based after-care programs (SACC), which have similar costs, carry a very long waiting list, and spots at other private after-school care providers are few and far between, particularly in the middle of an existing school year. The decision obviously impacts the Fit Kids staff as well, many of whom gave up other afterschool positions to work at RA.
I understand, of course, the need to look at the bottom line when considering which programs to continue or not, particularly when the Lake House renovation costs were not budgeted appropriately from the start, leading to an overall loss in revenue over time. However, it’s not clear to me how RA envisions bringing in greater revenue by eliminating the Fit Kids Program at the Lake House. I would expect that any increase in revenue through special events, such as weddings, office parties, and the like, would be gained outside of the Program’s working hours (3:30-6:30 p.m. on weekdays). On the rare occasion that the Lake House was reserved during those hours, perhaps the Fit Kids Program could be moved to Brown’s Chapel or elsewhere to accommodate it.
On a more personal note, I grew up in Reston and I moved back here in 2011 in large part because I wanted my kids to experience the sense of community that RA contributes to. It saddens and disappoints me greatly that the RA Board cut such a valuable resource to our family because they don’t believe that other Restonians care to pay an additional $6-7 per household per year – paltry in comparison to the sums paid to the Reston Association for other goods and services, including use of recreational facilities. There must be another way to boost revenue that does not harm the many children that are gaining so much through their participation in RA’s Fit Kids Program.
Alexandra Kenny South
This letter was submitted by Reston resident John Pinkman, a member of the Rescue Reston board of directors. 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.
On Monday, Oct. 2, Rescue Reston will hold its third annual golf fundraiser on the course that Northwestern Mutual would like to turn into thousands of housing units. All fundraisers are directed toward the legal defense. Will NWM stay in town and make a commitment to our community, as did Mobil? I don’t think so; if there were a door, you would hear NWM slam on their way out! See ya!
Through my work with Rescue Reston, I have criticized myself for the inability to create a sense of loss throughout the community that we would experience if we lost the open space the golf course provides. I was hard on myself — until I learned how few Restonians voted in the Reston Association Board elections. Way less than 10 percent, I’m told.
I understand apathy; I expect it. However, Reston was not built on apathy. Thousands of people have worked hard to create the community we thrive in today. It costs more to live here because of the discipline of the way we choose to live. As a result, we have succeeded. The manner in which we built this town has yielded consistent national recognition. It’s a special place.
When I was young, I lived in Houston. They exuded pride in having no zoning regulations. The out-of-control pace of development stretched the city’s boundaries in Texas-size growth. That is, until the housing bust plummeted values and the recent rains came. You could build a million dollar home and see a 7-Eleven store spring up on one side and an oil rig on the other. I don’t remember even a neighborhood in Houston, let alone a sense of community.
When I first saw Reston in the late ’60s, I instantly felt a sense of community. When I returned in 1978, I walked into the Reston Festival at Lake Anne and instantly decided — this is home. There is not a day I walk through the plaza without recalling that celebration of Reston in ’78.
We have lived here for 40 years, 25 in a home on the golf course. We have worked so hard to buy our home and invest in Reston as we raised our three kids and now seven grandkids. As have thousands of others, we have contributed to our neighborhood and community. The beat goes on; our children and their spouses are all teachers making an impact.
Let me be clear; our family is far from unusual. Other families also have a long legacy and have done much to make Reston what it is. Why do 90 percent of people who live here care so little about its future as to ignore their right to choose the leaders who guide that future? Are they too busy? Got to get the kids to soccer? “All I care about is driving on these nice roads, seeing the trees and kicking back. I’ll let someone else take care of the future.” Apathy.
This letter was submitted by Reston resident Bruce Ramo, of Reclaim Reston. 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.
Last week, Reclaim Reston, a grassroots citizens group of concerned Reston residents, asked the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to issue a moratorium on proposed zoning amendments that increase density limits and the approval of new development applications not currently in process.
Our group, Reclaim Reston, and the many friends and neighbors with whom we have discussed the proposed zoning amendments to increase density in Reston, recognize the County’s priority is economic development. We welcome compatible re-development in Reston and the new and diverse neighbors that it will bring.
However, we think that the County’s push for greater density will overwhelm the current plans and funding for the schools, parks, roads and other infrastructure needed to support new and current residents. Fairfax County Superintendent Cathy Hudgins has been emphatic in asserting that Restonians should simply accept the fact that infrastructure will lag population. We should not allow that to happen to Reston.
The re-development process for Reston and the other portions of Fairfax County is a labyrinth frequently navigated by large developers in lockstep with their high-end legal counsel and County staff. One needs no more than a random peek at one of the news bulletins posted by the County to understand the symbiotic relationship of developers and the County.
For example, last fall the County announced approval by the Board of Supervisors of a relatively modest project called “Lofts at Reston Station” that will consist of 12 town homes and a 32-unit apartment building on a 1.58 acre-site near the Wiehle Metro stop. Here is a portion of the County’s statement (emphasis added):
As the second largest office market in the county, Reston features many low-density, suburban office parks are ripe for redevelopment. We reworked its land use plan two years ago to encourage more mixed use development and housing near the rail stations.
The Lofts join other approved and proposed development around Wiehle.
Under construction now, Reston Station will erect 1.3 million square feet in homes, offices and shops with direct access to the station.
The self-congratulatory tone of the announcement is a “tell” for Fairfax County’s insatiable appetite for greater density in Reston and corresponding higher tax revenue for the County. Reading through the Staff Recommendations and approvals for this and other projects you will see numerous zoning exceptions and modifications as well as developer-friendly calculations. For example, the County frequently approves modifications of open space requirements, reductions in required parking spaces and setbacks, or deviations from the tree preservation targets.
And as for those developer-friendly calculations, how realistic are the estimates of the number of students to be added by each development? According to those calculations a 500 unit multi-family high-rise will yield only 57 students, elementary school through high school. Such calculations are the basis of the developers’ proffers to “offset the impact of new student growth” at approximately $12,000 per student. Lower calculations of the number of new students reduce the developers’ costs and increase the likelihood that the citizens of Reston will be stuck with over-crowded schools and the tab for school expansions.
Similar developer-friendly calculations by the County also understate the impact to existing infrastructure, such as roads and parks, as is well documented in the recent report by the Reston 20/20 Committee (The Proposed Reston PRC Zoning Amendment: The County’s Rush to Ruin Reston). Also, keep in mind that the developers do not pay their promised “proffers” until the issuance of the first “Residential Use Permit” when their projects are suitable for occupancy. Thus, the funds to help fund infrastructure are not available to the public until new residents are moving in, essentially guaranteeing that the supporting public infrastructure will lag far behind the impact of the higher density.
The sharp increase to the Reston density cap being pushed by the County planning and zoning staff would empower the County to keep approving developer-friendly re-development applications without reasonable attention to the infrastructure needed to support the new residents. Restonians can push back by signing the Reclaim Reston petition to insist that the County keep development and infrastructure more closely aligned.
Editor’s Note, May 4 at 12:55 p.m.: The date of this event has been corrected to Sunday, May 7 at 11 a.m.
This article was submitted to RestonNow by a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Christian Church. Similar submissions can be sent to [email protected]
All are welcome at Martin Luther King, Jr. Christian Church’s (11400 N. Shore Dr.) celebration service this Sunday, May 7 at 11 a.m.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Christian Church began in February, 1982 by a band of Christians who wanted to have a worship center like the worship homes they had come from as they settled in Reston.
The first service was held in the Southgate Community Room in South Reston. The name of the church was chosen because of the turbulent times its founders had lived through during the Civil Rights movement and the lasting results brought about by Dr. King. (more…)
In the Nov. 8 General Election, a meals tax ballot question will ask Fairfax Country voters to allow the Board of Supervisors to impose an additional tax on prepared foods. Below are six reasons why voters should vote (Vote No) against the imposition of this meals tax:
- The tax on prepared foods in the county will increase to 10 percent, a 4-percent meals tax plus the current 6-percent state sales tax. This tax will not only apply to what one purchases in restaurants, but to all prepared foods and beverages regardless of where purchased (grocery stores, restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias taverns, coffee shops, cafes, delis, food trucks, etc.).
- The ballot question leads one to believe the meals tax will reduce the dependency on real estate taxes. The facts are the Board recently approved a property tax increase of $1.13 per $100 which represents an increase of 6 percent to the average homeowner. This now represents an increase of 26 percent over 5 years. The average annual Real Estate tax bill will increase $304, this on top of the $185 increase from last year. Over the last two years, the Board also has voted to increase stormwater taxes, sewer service charges, and youth athletic fees all the while voting to raise their own pay by 27 percent. If anyone believes the meals tax will provide property tax relief, recall that the Board promised to eliminate the Car Tax (i.e., personal property tax) — we are still paying the Car Tax. Enough is enough on more taxes.
- While there are exceptions to the meals tax, the exceptions will only apply to very few living in the country. This is a regressive tax that will impact the hard working middle class and those that can least afford it, including minorities and senior citizens.
- The Board would have voters believe that a portion of the meals tax revenue will be used for capital improvements and property tax relief and that the majority of the revenue would lead to higher teacher pay and funding for school classrooms. The truth is this revenue can go to various fund, including what the county budget generically calls ‘county services’. The Board also has shown it cannot be trusted to apply any of this revenue to property tax relief (again remember the Car Tax relief).
- The Board would have voters believe the country budget still suffers the impacts of sequestration. Supervisor Pat Herrity (Springfield) has identified areas of the budget that could be cut such as developer proffers and the $1 million earmarked for the Supervisors’ offices ($100,000 each) but has been ignored by the Board. If this were a responsible Board they would be willing to set priorities and address its fiscal issues, including conducting a review of the County’s spending and a review of the budget for waste before raising taxes once again
- Once this tax is passed, there is no guarantee that this tax will not increase.
Please join the Fairfax Families Against the Food Tax by voting NO to the meals tax question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Frank W. Sullivan
Something on your mind? Send opinion letters to [email protected]. Reston Now reserves the right to edit letters for clarity.
This is an op-ed by Reston resident Pravajan Uprety. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.
I have been living in the Reston area for almost 10 years and in the Northern Virginia region for the past 17 years. I love my community and I have always enjoyed being a part of this family. There are so many tragedies here and around the world that defines our lives and so many things that we do are so unimportant, yet we rise when we have to, when we need to. We should always remember: What makes us laugh can also make us cry.
The earthquake in Nepal and surrounding region on April 25 was monstrous and claimed more than 6,000 lives, and is counting towards a mammoth total. Above all, it would be worthwhile to mention that the support from all around the world has been enormous. There are nations, organizations and individuals that are overwhelmingly helping the nation any which way possible.
‘Reston Now’ has spearheaded in bringing awareness to people in the region with better news, alerts, real-estates, community events and so on. We all understand that everybody has their own bigger fish to fry but even the smallest of help, from many and plenty can make a world of difference. “One of us equals many of us/Respect one of us/you’ll see plenty of us.”
A single dollar can buy two modest meals per day for two people. So, the asking is not much, but any help big or small will be greatest. (more…)
I’m a “safety first” kind of gal. I don’t eat expired food, I wait for the “walky-guy” signal at crosswalks, and I always come to a full stop when I turn right on red.
Not that I don’t like adventure. I do take many risks, but I want to know that if I fall or fail, or if someone around me is hurt, it’s not because I’ve been careless or negligent.
The new Silver Line has been a game-changer for me. I hate to drive and I love to hike, so the mile to-and-from the Wiehle station has provided not only respite from 80 minutes of daily behind-the-wheel torture, but also taken 10 pounds off my curvy frame. Win-win, right? Wrong. Because every day, twice a day, I still have to deal with jerks in cars.
You know who you are. You are the driver who does not slow — much less stop — for pedestrians in the crosswalk on either side of the Wiehle/Sunrise Valley intersection. Some of you are turning right on to Wiehle Avenue from Sunrise Valley. Some of you are turning right on Sunrise Valley from Wiehle Avenue. No matter — you’re all jerks.
Here’s how it plays out: I’m walking to the intersection and I have the right-of-way. It’s cold –and lately, raining — and you, in your warm, dry car with your music blaring and the heat blasting, decide that your time and livelihood are more important than mine, so you just keep going. You see me. I know you see me. But you don’t care.
So I stand there on the corner, watching the lights change and the walky-guy disappear, and I begin to count the cars ignoring me. Yesterday morning, 12 of you sped by before one gentle soul stopped to let me cross to the intersection.
Look, I know you’re in a hurry. It’s Washington — we’re all in a hurry. And I know you may have forgotten about me because the boss is calling, or the kids are crying, or you’ve just spilled your coffee in your lap. But I’m here, I have the right-of-way, and it’s cold and wet, and I really just want to safely and legally cross the street.
Jerks, I challenge you to make a point today to stop and let someone cross. Just one person. That’s all I’m asking for. Count the number of seconds it takes them to walk in front of your car. I guarantee it’s less than 10. And in those 10 seconds you’ll find your redemption.
Photo: Reston Station Boulevard
What do you want to add to your community?
With the addition of the Silver Line and future development in Reston, our community is going to change. How it changes is something most of us are considering. In addition to the negatives, there will be positives. What do you think makes Reston stand out from other neighborhoods?
I would like to see us continue our commitment to developing walkable places.
According to a recent study conducted by Active Living Research, walkable shopping areas promote active living and have a beneficial impact on nearby housing values. The report, Walkable Shopping Areas are Good for Business, based on analysis of 70 studies and articles plus an exploratory study of 15 walkable shopping areas, also notes that the availability of mass transit is an important adjunct to the success of such commercial areas. Additional transportation and livability studies are available at Active Living Research.
What features do you want to set us apart from other Northern Virginia communities as we grow?
The draft master plan for Reston’s share of the Dulles Corridor and the Town Center area will be the subject of a public hearing by the Board of Supervisors next Tuesday, Jan. 28, 4:30 p.m., in the Government Center auditorium. It will be the last chance for Restonians to present its concerns, views, and suggestions on the draft plan before the Board considers amendments and approves the draft plan.
As it stands now, the draft plan overwhelmingly represents the views of developers and land use attorneys who numerically dominated the task force. Reston’s leading civic groups—RA, RCA, and ARCH—and a few other independent Restonian members of the task force have been active voices over the last four years, but their voices and votes have been drowned by the special interests of the majority developers, landowners, and attorneys. Their view is that the plan should stay out of the way as exemplified by the dozens of references to “flexibility” throughout the draft plan, attempts to limit commitments to open space, sustainable development, architectural review, controlling traffic congestion growth, and commercial vs. housing balance commitments throughout the process.
They are also dominating the preparation of the task force’s report to the Board of Supervisors. The draft task force report attempts to weaken further the language of the draft plan as it has been presented to the Board. RCA has taken the time to thoroughly review and comment on the draft task force report’s shortcomings including many more than described above. Ultimately, RCA voted “nay” on the draft task force report.
Even the Planning Commission has amended the draft Plan on its way to the Board by cutting out a proposed requirement that new construction be reviewed by RA’s Design Review Board. The likely result: A developer-dominated design review board (if any) that won’t care about architectural excellence—a key Reston planning principle. For example, see the results around Wiehle and Sunset Hills from the previous RCIG Architectural Review Board (ARB). Would you like to see a high-rise version of that asphalt and concrete mess?
The situation has not been helped by the fact that County property tax revenue coffers have been stagnant for years, and the Board has been criticized by national bond rating agencies (“outlook negative”) for its overspending in a tighter economic environment as Federal tax dollars for employees and contractors has declined with the recession, sequestration, and irresponsible government shutdowns. All of this has led the Board to focus on generating more taxable property growth in its urbanizing areas—Tysons, Reston, Springfield, and others—no matter what the community costs. That is a far easier course of action for the Board than cutting budgets or increasing tax rates.
RCA’s Reston 2020 Committee has written extensively about the issues and opportunities a new Reston master plan needs to address. It has produced more than a dozen major papers, many approved by the RCA Board of Directors, available from links on its website detailing these issues and opportunities. As the task force process began steamrolling toward its conclusion last autumn, RCA’s representative called up on the task force to produce a draft plan that befit this planned community. It has not.
It is now up to you, Reston residents, to make your voice heard unless you want to see a Dulles Corridor that:
- Reminds you of Crystal City in its property line to property line, concrete and glass, cubist architecture;
- Makes it virtually impossible to drive from one side of Reston to the other—or even to/from the toll road—during rush hours with 5-6 minute delays at each key intersection the norm;
- Guarantees next-to-no new open and recreational space, including only three athletic fields for the area’s expected 40,000 new residents; and
- Fails absolutely in describing how any of its plans might be implemented;
- And other shortcomings as detailed in RCA’s Reston Master Plan Report Card.
I would ask that you each consider whether it is worth your time to attend the hearing next Tuesday to hear what your community representatives (and developers) have to say and, if you are willing, to present a short statement (three minutes is the limit) to the Board about your concerns and ideas for building a better urban Reston area. To sign up to speak at the hearing, please go to this webpage on the County website.
It is our community’s last chance to make a difference in a plan that will guide the urbanization of Reston’s core for two or more decades. We need your help. Please attend next week’s hearing and testify if you are willing.
RCA Board of Directors
RCA Representative to the Reston Task Force
Co-Chair, RCA Reston 2020 Committee