Reston Association has no immediate plans to temporarily or permanently close Lake Thoreau Pool, contrary to community speculation that the pool is set to shutter due to low usage next year.
The future of the pool — which is in need of major renovations and has struggled with comparatively low utilization — has been the focus of discussion over the last several years. Last year, one RA board members said the pool was “falling into the lake.”
So far, staff and the Board of Director have had no formal conversations to discuss any and all operational and capital costs associated with pools for next year’s season, said RA’s spokesman Mike Leone.
An August 8 email from Julie Bitzer, the board’s vice president, about the fate of the pool has attracted recent community concern. Some RA members circulated a flyer indicating that the pool would be closed next year as RA examines whether it should pursue renovation or consider another use of the space.
Leone said that speculation was simply a “rumor.”
RA is in the early phases of its budget development process. As part of ongoing discussions, board and staff are gathering data on the utilization and of RA’s community pools and other recreational amenities.
The organization’s analysis of its recreational facilities will help RA determine if and how future amenities will be impacted by closures, renovations or other changes.
A budget workshop on the first draft of the 2020-2021 budget is set for August 21 at RA headquarters (12000 Sunrise Valley Drive). A series of meetings, including public hearings, will precede the adoption of the budget in November.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Reston Association’s Board of Directors and its fiscal committee will meet later this month to discuss the first draft of the 2020-2021 budget.
The meeting, which is open to the public, is set for August 21 at RA headquarters (12000 Sunrise Valley Drive) at 6:30 p.m.
The budget process kicked off on May 23 when the board adopted the budget development calendar.
Later this month, RA’s staff will incorporate changes made to the budget from the meeting to form the second draft of the budget.
A public hearing on the second draft is set for September 26. The budget will be formally approved on November 21.
Photo via Reston Association/YouTube
A new Reston Sports Council, which includes 13 representative organizations, is seeking to becoming a unified voice for the interests of the local sports community.
The council, which grew out of focus group discussions and meetings by Reston Association’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee in 2016 and 2017, held its first meeting in February. Members involved the initiative presented updates to RA’s Board of Directors last week.
At the meeting, Jeremy Lee, the newly appointed chairman of the council and a Reston resident of more than 20 years, said the council is an independent entity and intends to speak as a single voice to RA the Fairfax County Park Authority and the county.
Organizers hope the council will also help sports organization — including those that are not formally organized — coordinate the use of RA facilities, consider bulk purchasing, review industry standards, and collaborate to solve shared challenges, according to Laura Kowalski, RA’s director of recreation and environmental education.
Former RA Board Director Jeff Thomas and current RA Board Director Julie Bitzer, who is also the board’s PRAC liaison, pushed for the formation of the council.
Bitzer, who lauded the initiative, said the council will be a productive way to ensure “all sports have a voice” and prevent one sport from dominating conversations.
Larry Butler, RA’s director of land use and planning, cautioned that only Reston-based organizations are allowed to use RA facilities based on RA’s resolutions and by-laws.
The council is in the process of developing its bylaws, operational procedures and website. It plans to hold monthly meetings that are open to all.
So far, the council serves 6,000 constituents involving in local sports, including Reston, Herndon and Great Falls.
Photo via Reston Association/YouTube
After conversations with RA staff, Lynch pitched several ideas — varying from concession stands at pools and tennis courts to a three-season education program for sailing — to RA’s Board of Directors at a meeting Thursday night.
Lynch floated ideas that he said could serve members while generating money for RA’s coffers.
Specifically, Lynch said RA’s competitive advantage lies in its ownership of local lakes, which could be the site of a new waterfront festival and paddle boat tours.
Other ideas that were suggested include but are not limited to:
- Offering parking spots at RA’s Central Services Facility for rent during the Town of Herndon’s annual festival.
- Creating a mobile concession truck that would travel to RA events and facilities
- A floating dock for wedding, graduation and anniversary pictures at the Lake House
- Electric shuttles to serve outdoor concerts, as well as paid tours
RA’s fiscal committee plans to vet all ideas that would cost more than $5,000, along with RA’s board.
The primary purpose of these ideas is to generate revenue — with the added bonus of providing a service to the community, RA board member Ven Iyer said.
RA’s 2020-2021 budget development process began in late May. The budget will be up fora vote on November 21.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The Harry Potter-inspired Offices of Reston-based Macedon Technologies — The company, which accelerates digital transformation for clients by using technology and software consultants, has been repeatedly listed as one of the best places to work. Its new 25,000-square-foot office has a Harry Potter theme. [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]
Reston Association Board of Directors to Discuss Boats and Docks — The board meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. to discuss changes to its lake and boat resolutions and early thoughts on the budget. RA CEO Hank Lynch will also offer an update on RA’s strategic plan. [Reston Association]
Take a Break Concert is Tonight — Enjoy Tower House Band and dance music for all ages at Lake Anne Plaza from 7-9 p.m. today. [Reston Community Center]
Photo submitted by Christian Bolus
The state fined Reston Association $12,000 for violating child labor laws late last year.
The state’s Department of Labor and Industry issued fines in October 2018 after an investigation found “numerous violations” regarding minors employed as aquatics attendants or lifeguards, according to an August 2018 inspection report obtained by Reston Now.
Child labor law violations included minors working more than eight hours a day and more than 40 hours a week. The investigation also found that some minors were working without any indicated breaks, employment certificates or lifeguard certificates.
The most common violation cited in the investigation was allowing minors to work more than eight hours a day. Virginia’s child labor laws allow minors between ages 14 and 15 to work a maximum of eight hours per day on a non-school day. Work hours depend on school schedules and the type of occupation.
Mike Leone, RA’s spokesperson, declined to release any information about the citation, including whether or not it was disputed by RA or how RA is working to ensure issues flagged by the investigation do not occur again.
“As previously communicated, RA does not comment publicly on personnel-related matters,” Leone wrote in an email. Additionally, RA’s policy states that only RA’s board president, CEO and spokesperson are authorized to speak to media.
Sources told Reston Now that the investigation was discussed in closed session during a Board of Directors meeting at a date that was not identified.
Due to the lack of qualified candidates, some aquatics facilities were changing hours or closing facilities as they step up efforts to hire for seasonal positions.
Staff shortages when schools were in session prompted the closures of several pools operated by RA. Leone told Reston Now the shortages were resolved on June 23 when 14 of the 15 pools operated by RA were open. New applicants were on-boarded and completed training courses, and more employees were available due to the end of the school year, Leone said.
A source familiar with the state’s labor law investigation and on-boarding of lifeguards, however, said that part of the reason for delays in opening the pools was because lifeguards did not have required safety certifications to begin working — an issue that was spotted by administrative staff “far too late” once pools were already scheduled to open. Certifications were expired or still in the process of being received, the source said.
Others chose not to return due to alleged mismanagement of aquatics facilities.
“Some people felt they were overworked and thrown into the job without on-boarding,” a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal, said.
Leone said that some staff members were unable to begin working or register for courses due to personal schedules and commitments until the end of the school year. Once courses were completed, the shortage was alleviated.
“In light of our short window of operation (four months [from] May-Sept.) and onboarding process, we do conduct some interviews prior to applicants’ completion of lifeguard training classes for efficiency to avoid delays, an offer is contingent upon completion of the certification course and skill assessment,” Leone wrote.
As the number of lifeguard applicants has declined over the last five years, RA moved to change staffing structures by hiring desk attendants and pool operators to serve as stand-alone positions from lifeguards.
In the future, RA plans to address staff shortages at pools by exploring increases in hourly rates for lifeguards, changes to the pool schedules during peak hours and other recruitment and retention efforts.
Photo by vantagehill/Flickr
Reston Association’s Board of Directors will discuss the implications of changes to the organization’s policies regarding lakes, docks, and boats on Thursday, June 27.
The discussion follows a formal presentation last month by a working group tasked with reviewing RA’s guidelines. At a May 23 meeting, the board directed staff to review changes to RA’s resolutions and policies regarding enforcement and oversight issues.
One of the most contentious topics — RA’s 50 percent rule — will be discussed in closed session at the direction of RA’s legal counsel. The rule states that moored boots may take up no more than half of the available lakefront property shoreline.
Some RA members have disputed a recent push to strictly enforce the rule, which they say has not been implemented in the past.
Changes involving use and maintenance standards as well as common area rules and regulations will be discussed at the board’s operations’ committee on July 8.
Similarly, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will discuss whether or not access points around Reston’s lakes should be added.
The board will also discuss a 2019 reserve study and last year’s audit, according to a draft agenda.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
(Updated at 2:57 p.m.) Reston Association’s covenants department is once again contemplating ways to streamline its services and address staffing issues.
At a special meeting yesterday (June 13) between its Board of Directors, the Design Review Board and other staff, Anna Donato, RA’s director of covenants administration, suggested temporary fixes, including starting design and review meetings at an earlier time and editing guidelines to allow more DRB projects to be completed without applications.
The suggestions are part of an effort to improve the covenants’ departments services and create more room for staff to complete property inspections, address home resale requests, and other issues not directly within the purview of the DRB.
The DRB is primarily focused on preserving the architectural integrity of Reston Association properties, while covenants typically involve issues related to use and maintenance, which refers to the physical condition of properties. Covenants staff also provide support to the DRB, which is an independent agency within RA that reviews exterior improvements of properties within RA.
Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, said that diluting the DRB’s role and process by limiting staff support or curtailing the DRB’s function is not sustainable fix for the “systemic problem” and “staffing crisis” that faces the covenants department.
New needs have changed the role of the covenants department over the last decade. The level of detail required for DRB applications has increased significantly and decision letters are much more details — departing from the days when applications were stamped with an “approved” label. Furthermore, redevelopment had generated more applications and RA recently started requiring its own properties to go through the DRB process.
Last year, the DRB processed 2,097 applications — up from 1,904 in 2016 and 1,835 in 2017.
Donato said workload increases justify the need for one full-time inspection, one full-time cluster specialist, and two vehicles to perform services, including property inspections.
Issues facing covenants staff have been a topic of discussion for at least a decade.
In October 2017, staff contemplated ways to address covenants requests. In 2006, a study commissioned by RA assessed the efficiency, processes and organizational structure of the covenants department.
That study by BDO Seidman LLP was brought to the attention of Donato several weeks ago. It laid out several problems with the department, including high turnover, no standardized training process for new hires, lack of retention, and significant manual and duplicated efforts.
The report suggested that the department clarify its goals and mission, revise its recruiting process and improve the department’s overall performance levels.
At-large Director Ven Iyer said he was concerned that RA’s covenants policies were driving away residents. In some cases, covenant inspectors flag longstanding issues that previous inspectors have not acknowledged — leaving some members to foot the bill of unanticipated issues.
Some RA members say the covenants process needs more teeth and consistency.
For example, when John Robinson bought his home, he says a covenants advisor listed necessary repairs required by the seller less than a week before closing.
“The structure is inherently broken if they can only create problems during the sale process and are not empowered to fix them,” Robinson said.
W. Neal Roseberry, a DRB member, disputed Iyer’s comments that RA’s design covenants were causing residents to move out. He said RA’s policies are designed to maintain property values and a desirable community.
RA’s CEO Hank Lynch said that he stands by covenants staff who work hard in stressful circumstances. He also stated that discussions about the report by BDO was “counter-productive.”
“If you don’t like the rules, go live somewhere else,” said Charlie Hoffman of the DRB said.
Discussions on solutions going forward will continue in the coming months.
In introductory remarks during the meeting, Cathy Baum, RA’s board president, also called out Reston Now for “irresponsible” reporting on issues facing the covenants department.
Baum, who is an elected by RA members, incorrectly stated that a Reston Now story left the impression staff had been interviewed for the story — even though the story explicitly stated staff remarks were referenced from a May 23 board meeting.
Reston Association also took issue with a recent poll about members’ experiences with the covenants department. Baum accused Reston Now of using the poll to “stir the pot of negative comments.”
“Irresponsible journalism or journalists have no place in this community,” she said.
Baum did not contact Reston Now about her concerns, although RA’s spokesperson contacted Reston Now about the poll, which he stated was being used to “drive comment engagement.”
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
It’s no secret that Reston Association’s covenant process, which maintains design standards for Reston properties, is often arduous and unwieldy.
In order to better administer the process, RA’s Design Review Board and Board of Directors are calling a special meeting to explore ways to improve covenant administration, reduce staff workload, and sort through staffing issues. The two boards will meet on Thursday (June 13) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. to address lingering concerns.
At a May 23 board meeting, RA’s CEO Hank Lynch said the organization is “overworking” its covenants staff, who spend most of their time processing applications for the DRB. The panel has jurisdiction over issues related to architectural integrity of properties.
That leaves less than a full working day to conduct property inspections, respond to requests for home resales, and ensure the physical condition of properties, including vegetation, is up to standard.
“I do feel strongly that we are not out there enough,” said Anna Donato, RA’s director of covenants administration.
Staff must inspect thousands of properties spread out over 11 square miles, according to RA. Walkthroughs by a team of RA staff can take up to a year for each of the 134 clusters RA oversees.
Donato said the department has also struggled to retain staff, who are working hard to maintain “100 percent customer satisfaction.”
The issue is only expected to get more complex as more properties in the community age and the need for maintenance increases with time.
She suggested the following measures to decrease workload and reprioritize projects:
- Reduce the number of DRB applications submitted
- Improve process of submitting DRB applications to provide more flexibility
- Spend less time on DRB panel meetings and reallocate it toward more inspections and working with clusters
- Perform inspections for use and maintenance only — which covers the physical condition and use of properties
- Grant staff the authority to perform more and recheck neighborhood inspections
RA plans to distribute a marketing video to illustrate the challenges it faces. In the video, an RA staff member warns that failing to catch up on inspections and decrease workloads could result in permanent consequences.
“Otherwise the job of keeping Reston looking like Reston will become a distant reality,” the video states.
Photo via Jill Silton
Reston Association’s Board of Directors is seeking suggestions from members on the upcoming 2020-2021 budget.
The development of the budget process kicked off on May 23 with the adoption of the budget calendar.
For the rest of the year, RA’s board, staff and members will draft the upcoming budget, which heads to the board for approval in November.
The budget approval schedule is available online. Tentatively, public hearings are set for Sept. 26 and Oct. 24.
RA runs on a biennial budget divided into two parts: the operating budget and the capital budget. Assessments rates are calculated based on the total spending allocation for both budgets.
A working group tasked by Reston Association’s Board of Directors to review policies concerning lakes, boats and docks is calling for stricter enforcement of rules and precise language to manage the use of Reston’s lakes.
RA’s lack of consistent enforcement of rules and residents’ lack of knowledge about the association’s governing policies have led to some confusion about the permissibility of uses over the last two years. Reston residents raised several issues about enforcement, outdated policies and environmental impacts two years ago.
After months of discussions and two focus group meetings, the workgroup presented its recommendations to the board on Thursday (May 24). Staff will now analyze the group’s recommendations and return to the board with its assessment of the recommendations in June.
An attempt to increase the maximum percentage of cluster waterfront that can be taken up by moored boats did not gain traction with the workgroup. The contentious issue — which some residents said unreasonably applies rules that RA has not strictly enforced in the past — was left largely undecided. No vote was taken on whether or not to lower or eliminate the boat storage limit, which is currently 50 percent.
The Harbor Point Unit Owner’s Association challenged the 50 percent rule on the grounds that it was unnecessary and contradicts, “Reston’s core values of live, work and play.”
“It is unfair for Reston Association to have adopted the 50 percent rule quite some time ago, not enforce it, and now all of a sudden begin to enforce it,” the association wrote in a statement.
Others said RA needs to step up its efforts to educate Restonians about policies related to boats, docks and lakes. One Harbor Point resident said she did not see any mention of the 50 percent rule in home resale documents when she purchased her condominium unit.
RA may need to turn to volunteer “Lake keepers” to help address monitoring and enforcement issues like permit inspections, boat maintenance and the safe operation of boats. The group suggested RA work with volunteers to patrol lakes, monitor conditions and work with residents to report violations and address problems.
Much of the discussion centered around updating outdated definitions.
The report encourages RA to adopt U.S. Coast Guard definitions for the maximum size of deck boats, as well as restrictions on boat motors that have a forward thrust of 130 pounds or a maximum rating greater than five horse power.
The group also directed RA to clarify the definitions of docks and boats. Residents can take advantage of current definitions, which can be used interchangeably, the group noted.
In the report, the group also asked RA to differentiate between hand-carried boats and permanently moored boats. RA currently does not distinguish between the two categories. The board also recommended a maximum of two boats per lakefront property for mooring seasonally.
In an effort to step up enforcement of violations, the group also recommended that staff board boats if permits are not clearly visible. However, the group removed language that stated RA staff could request proof of residency.
Commercial uses of the last must be approved by RA’s board, including boats rented by RA members to non-members, the group recommended.
The complete report is available online.
Britt, an environmentalist who led the team by the organization’s first RA’s State of the Environment Report (RASER), was appointed as an at-large director late last week during the board’s meeting.
The term will run through April 2020 because Britt was appointed by the board. The final year of the seat will be up for election next year.
He says engaging with focus groups can help stave off perceptions that decisions are pushed arbitrarily by a select group of people.
“You have to do the work upfront,” Britt told the board on Thursday.
Edward Abbott, a Reston resident of 39 years and chairman of RA’s elections committee, also applied to be considered for the position.
Britt, a Reston resident of 44 years, has a background in life sciences and resource management.
In addition to leading the RASER project, Britt has served as a volunteer stream monitor, worked at Walker Nature Center events, and helped draft Reston’s application to become a biophilic city.
He currently serves on RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee.
Photo courtesy Reston Association
Six Metro Stations to Close from Memorial Day through September 8 — Fairfax County commuters should plan to travel ahead and avoid gridlock as six Metrorail Blue and Yellow line stations close for major reconstruction and station improvements. County officials are urging commuters to use online tools to travel via transit, ride sharing, and alternate connections. [Fairfax County Government]
Reston Association Board of Directors Meets to Discuss Boats, Docks, and Other Issues — At the board’s meeting last night, a new at-large director was appointed. Board members also heard findings from the lakes, docks and boats working group, among other issues. [Reston Association]
Ravel Dance Studio Presents “Sleeping Beauty and the Street Scene” — Young dancers will perform a variety of dance genres at Reston Community Center’s CenterStage today at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. [Reston Community Center]
Flickr pool photo by vantagehill
Reston Association’s newly-elected Board of Directors will fill a vacancy on its board after Sridhar Ganesan resigned earlier this year due to personal and business reasons.
Two applicants have applied for the open at-large director seat, which will have a special term through the next election in April 2020.
The board will vote on the appointment on Thursday (May 23) at its regularly scheduled board meeting.
Edward Abbott, a Reston resident of 39 years and chairman of RA’s elections committee, said he wants to work with the board to ensure Hank Lynch, RA’s new CEO, implements the goals and plans he has outlined.
Abbott, who cited his experience as a lay member of RA’s Design Review Board, said he wants to ensure the board’s actions are also “in the best interests of its members.” He also hopes to make progress on finalizing RA’s code of ethics.
Doug Britt, the second candidate and a Reston resident of 44 years, says he wants to ensure “growth does not outpace infrastructure” and maintain Reston’s connection to nature.
Britt, who notably led the first Reston Annual State of the Environment Report project and served on RA’s lakes, boats and docks working group and its environmental advisory committee, also stressed the need for “substantive communications between the board, staff, and public.”
Their candidate statements are in their entirety and in unedited form below:
I have lived in Reston for 39 years. While our sons were growing up, I volunteered on their swim, baseball and soccers teams. More recently I was a lay member on Reston’s Design Review Board and am currently Chairman of the Elections Committee. Since coming to Reston, I have worked at the highest level for a large federal regulatory agency, a congressional technology office, testified before Congress and founded a successful engineering and management consulting business. I have served on numerous corporate boards, evaluated personnel and organizations for large corporations and state agencies. I have performed detailed analysis of complex systems and conducted comprehensive multi-billon dollar cost estimates for large industrial projects. Finally, prior to coming to Reston, I served on a school board in a rural district in upstate New York.
The Board recently hired a new CEO. He has outlined his plans and goals for the association. They appear sound and should improve the Association’s operation and member experience. As a Director, I would work with the Board to oversee the progress in implementing those plans and goals and providing guidance as needed. Also, I would work with the Board to assure that the Board’s actions are in the best interests of its members, in conformance with the governing documents and conducted in accordance with good business practices. Finally, I will work with the Board to finalize the Code of Ethics.
I’ve lived in Reston for 44 years. I started a company here in 1984 and served as a contractor to Reston Home Owners Association providing lake monitoring services. My professional background is in the fields of life sciences, natural resources management, and sustainable development. I served as President and COO of four professional services firms where I was responsible for day-to-day operations, strategic planning, policy development, and profit and loss. Since retiring in 2015, I have been supporting numerous RA initiatives. I am a volunteer stream monitor, work WNC events, and drafted Reston’s successful Biophilic Cities Network application. I serve on the Lakes, Boats & Docks Working Group, and the Environmental Advisory Committee where I designed and led the RASER project, which was selected for RA’s 2017 Volunteer Group of the Year Award. I also was very honored to be selected as RA’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year.
I want to use my special skills and experience to give back to this community which means so much to me and my family. This is a critical transition for Reston as it undergoes redevelopment while the entire metropolitan area girds for more population growth. I understand we must accommodate growth, but not at the expense of our quality of life, nor to the detriment of our recently acquired “Biophilic Cities” designation (i.e., the unique way Reston connects its people to nature where they live, work and play). I believe Reston is special in how it was conceived and designed; its best features still reflect Bob Simon’s original vision and founding principles. Consequently I will strive to see that growth does not outpace needed infrastructure and that our connection to nature is preserved and remains an iconic part of the Reston experience. I will also stress substantive communications between the Board, staff, and public.
(Update at 2:31 p.m. to include information about the timing of Ganesan’s resignation)
Sridhar Ganesan has resigned from his position as vice president of Reston Association’s Board of Directors roughly one week after the results of this year’s board election were released.
Ganesan was appointed to a one-year, at-large seat in 2017 and served as treasurer. The next year, he was elected to an at-large seat. His term expires in 2021.
After missing several board meetings earlier this year, Ganesan said he realized that it would be difficult to balance his commitment to the board with his business obligations. The Reston resident recently took on two major projects in Frederick, Md. and another abroad, making it challenging to balance both obligations.
Ganesan told Reston Now he did not want to officially announce his resignation during the board’s election process in order to prevent confusion. He had hoped to leave in the beginning of the year so that the new board-appointment member could serve a more complete term.
Mike Leone, Reston Association’s director of communications and community relations, told Reston Now that Ganesan notified the organization of his resignation on Sunday (April 14). In order to make it in time for the latest election, Ganesan would have had to make an official announcement about his intention to resign by the end of November or early December. His new business obligations surfaced earlier this year, he said.
Reston Association released the following statement from Ganesan:
“I very much appreciate the confidence placed in me by the RA membership and the support I received from them, the RA staff and my board colleagues, especially during 2017-2018, when I helped implement new operational policies and procedures, as well as internal controls at RA. I am also happy that during my two years on the RA board, I helped forge and maintain a strong partnership between RA and Coalition for Planned Reston (CPR), which resulted in holding off the Fairfax County from raising the density cap for Reston PRC district.”
The board has issued a call for candidates to fill the seat vacated by Ganesan. Candidates can apply by submitting a statement of candidacy to the assistant secretary by May 16 at 5 p.m. The board will review candidate applications that are certified by staff at a May 23 board meeting.
The term will run through April 2020 and be up for election in 2020. The elected candidate will serve the final year of the term.
Photo by Reston Association