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Tuesday Morning Notes

Member listening sessions begin tomorrow — Reston Association’s Board of Directors invites RA members to take part in a few listening sessions that begin tomorrow. Other meetings are set for Oct. 3, Oct. 10, and Oct. 17. [Reston Today]

Missing Sterling teen found — Bryan Ortega-Henriquez, 15, went missing last week and was found yesterday, according to local law enforcement. He was believed to be in the Herndon area. [Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office]

Decision on RTC West expected today — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote on a major project to expand RTC West from an office park with some retail into a mixed-use project with up to 576 multifamily units. [Fairfax County Government]

Give blood today — INOVA’s bloodmobile will be in Reston Town Center today from 1-6 p.m. [Reston Town Center]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Reston Association Seeks Feedback on Design Guideline Changes

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on changes to the organization’s design guidelines on Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).

The proposed changes aim to improve how RA’s Design Review Board, an independent entity within RA, reviews applications. The DRB reviews applications to change the exteriors of properties within RA.

For example, applications concerning light fixtures governed by cluster standards will move from panel-level to consultation-level review. Other changes related to air conditioners, artwork, attic ventilators, awnings, and cables would move from consultation-level review to staff review only. Similar changes are proposed for single-family detached units. All proposed changes are available online.

The DRB held its last public hearing on the guideline changes on July 17. RA’s design covenants aim to promote qualities that bring value to the property and “foster the attractiveness and functional utility of the community as a place to live, including a harmonious relationship among structures, vegetation, and topography, ” according to RA’s website.

File photo

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Possible Assessment Increase Contemplated as Reston Association Takes First Dive Into 2019 Budget

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

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Following PRC Meetings, Reston Association Board of Directors Calls for More Planning Mechanisms

Following a series of meetings with county officials about a planned population density increase in Reston, Reston Association’s Board of Directors is urging the county to build more assertive, clearer statements into its planning and development mechanisms.

At a special work session Monday night, board members considered adding language to specify a population cap. After some discussion, the board concluded it was best to avoid locking in a specific number until other items were addressed. Acting CEO Larry Butler said it was better for RA to not take a position on the issue yet.

“This takes more of a position which I’m sure a lot of people in the community would like to see but I’m just saying that it has not been the tack of the board,” Butler said.

RA board president Andy Sigle said adding a specific population cap could be addressed in a subsequent letter. The letter itself raises the following points:

  • Provide a clear statement that Reston’s Village Centers, with the exception of Lake Anne and Tall Oaks, are planned to reflect land uses that currently exist
  • Like the Tysons plan, Reston’s plan should include periodic updates on how development and public infrastructure are being developed, binding commitments for additional infrastructure and a formal transportation operations analysis
  • A review of the assumptions and methodology that drives the Reston Transportation Network Analysis
  • Implementation of a collaborative mechanism between RA, the county, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, the Fairfax County Park Authority and Reston Town Center Association to create a plan to increase the capacity of Reston’s recreational facilities to serve new residents
  • The addition of clearer, more assertive statements that ensure development and infrastructure capacity are developed simultaneously and as demands arise
  • Establish a realistic plan to add increased school capacity to serve new student populations
  • Remove the grid of streets road connection between American Dream Way and Isaac Newton Square
  • Clarify that a land use category that applies to the Harrison Apartments and the Charter Oaks Apartments applies only to those two parcels

As one of the original members of the Coalition for a Planned Reston, the grassroots organization heavily involved in discussions with the county, board member John Mooney said RA must recognize that it has no legal power in these discussions. Mooney said the organization should exercise its political power to push for changes as necessary.

“There is a power to truth and we have insisted that we want reason to show what the truth is… we have made it not an act of the will but an act of reason,” Mooney said.

More information on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment is available online. The county has not yet released a schedule detailing when the amendment will be formally introduced at the county level.

File photo via Reston Association

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Monday Morning Notes

‘Muscle Up Mondays’ continue today — Crunch Fitness will continue to offer free group fitness classes on Mondays through October 29 at 6:30 p.m. in Reston Town Center. [Facebook]

Delays on Orange, Silver and Blue lines continue –Metro commuters are encouraged to seek other transportation options this week as major construction work continues through August 26. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Ramp and lane closures in effect this week — Several local lanes and ramps will be closed this week as work on phase two of the Silver Line continues. Impacted roads include the Dulles Toll Road, Sunset Hills Road, Sunrise Valley Drive and Herndon Parkway. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Let’s talk finances — Reston Association’s Board of Directors will meet with the organization’s fiscal committee to review the first draft of the operating and capital budgets, as well as the PRC zoning amendment. [Reston Association]

In summary: Downtown Herndon redevelopment — Comstock Partners has officially withdrawn its application for a Certificate of Appropriateness to the Town of Herndon’s Heritage Preservation Review Board for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon. But plans are in the works to resubmit the proposal, which calls for roughly 17,600 square feet of retail, 200+ apartments, and a 761-space parking garage. [Fairfax County Times]

Photo by Beth Allgaier

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors to Hold Listening Sessions with Members

Continuing a practice embraced by previous candidates for the Reston Association’s Board of Directors, the board will host four member listening sessions starting next month.

Residents in each voting district will be able to provide feedback and learn more about updates on district-related topics, as well as community members. Each listening session is hosted by the board member representing the district.

RA Board President Andy Sigle said he hopes to see strong attendance at the listening sessions.

“The district listening sessions are designed to make sharing thoughts and ideas about our association easy,” Sigle wrote in a prepared statement “Drop in, chat with neighbors, staff and board members. Listen to a short talk from a board member on current association issues and priorities and then share your views.”

Details for the sessions are below:

  • September 26: North Point District with John Mooney (The Lake House, 11450 Baron Cameron Avenue)
  • October 3: South Lakes District with Julie Bitzer (Walker Nature Center, 11450 Glade Drive)
  • October 10: Hunters Woods/Dogwood District with Caren Anton (Southgate Community Center, 12125 Pinecrest Road)
  • October 17: Lake Anne District with Sherri Hebert (Reston Community Center Lake Anne, 1609 Washington Plaza)

Photo via Reston Association

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Longterm Planning in Reston Comes Under Focus in Last PRC Workgroup Meeting

At the last workgroup meeting on a controversial zoning amendment, county officials stressed that population density increases proposed in Reston’s comprehensive plan are broad targets that will be gradually implemented over the next 30 years.

The meeting, held Tuesday night, was the last in a series of discussions on the county’s proposal to increase Reston’s population density from 13 to 16 people per acre in the community’s Planned Residential Community district.

Representatives from the Coalition for a Planned Reston and Reston Association said that while they were not opposed to development, the cumulative impact of increased development without the infrastructure to manage it was a major concern.

Tammi Petrine, co-chair of Reston 2020, said increasing the density cap only invites more developers to push harder for development — a trend that she said is already clearly evident in the streak of major mixed-use projects approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Fred Selden, director of the Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning, said the community has multiple opportunities between when a development plan is proposed and passed to voice their concerns, suggest alternatives and raise critical issues.

“The community, quite frankly, has to give its judgment,” Selden said.

But others felt that concerns raised by community members have little sway in the overall planning process.

Selden said his office would be open to discussing possible changes to Reston’s comprehensive plan if pressing needs arose. In Tysons, the plan was updated seven years after its passage when the planned grid of streets did not align with what was actually being built.

But Selden also noted that major changes to planned land use intensities are rarely incorporated within five years of a plan’s passage. Late last year, CPR and RA suggested altering Reston’s master plan to make specific changes. He repeatedly stressed that Reston’s plan envisions possible future growth, which may or may not be realized given economic and market constraints.

Redevelopment of Reston’s village centers was also a hot topic during Tuesday’s discussion. Selden stressed that the plan already leaves the door open for high-density redevelopment potential — an element of the plan that was supported by some residents during earlier planning discussions.

“We could have said that there’s no redevelopment potential in the village centers,” Selden said. “But that’s not what we heard from the community.”

Others like John Mooney, a member on RA’s Board of Directors,  said planning processes focus on the impacts of development in Transit Station Areas without considering the impact on development in all of Reston.

He said traffic studies have not considered the impact of traffic in Transit Station Areas on the rest of Reston.

“I see no evidence, although I’m awaiting further information,” Mooney said.

Photo via YouTube

(This story was updated on Wednesday at 6:27 a.m. to clarify a quote by John Mooney.)

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Early Discussions on the Future of Hidden Creek Country Club Begin

Redevelopment options for Hidden Creek Country Club (Handout via Reston Association)

In early discussions about the future of Hidden Creek Country Club, members of the Reston Association’s Board of Directors and community advocates stood firm against the redevelopment of the golf course as its new owner, Wheelock Communities, contemplates future redevelopment options.

Since purchasing the golf course in October last year, Wheelock has held three work group sessions with community groups and nearby residents to discuss plans for the site. At its last meeting, the real estate developer of master planned communities pitched four options, including a no-build alternative. Discussions are preliminary.

Concerns about future redevelopment intensified when Wheelock Street Capital, an affiliated company, purchased Charter Oak Apartments in partnership with local investment firm Canandaigua & Pratt Holdings in February. The apartment is next to the golf course.

At an RA board meeting Thursday night, members reiterated that Reston is a two-golf course community. Reston’s Master Plan emphasizes the importance of preserving Reston’s golf courses for private recreational use and an RA resolution commits to ensuring Reston is a golf course community and opposes any attempts to create a roadway between American Dream Way and Isaac Newtown Square through the property.

Sherri Hebert, an RA board member, said Wheelock has pitched ways redevelopment could improve public accessibility through additional walking paths and make it more environmentally friendly. Hebert said the club is already “a community diamond” and that the future of golf is strong.

“They’ve even used Bob Simon and his vision to take about this is to be envisioned as something different, which I personally find insulting,” Hebert said.

The discussion harkens back to Rescue Reston’s defense of Reston National Golf Course, which was threatened by development plans several years. Connie Hartke, president of Rescue Reston, a grassroots group formed in 2012 in response to threats against the golf course, said the group is prepared to step up opposition against future development plans.

“This is not the time to concede an inch of open space,” Hartke said, noting that more planned development is on the horizon.

RA’s board plans to discuss the issue with representatives from Wheelock at a board operations committee meeting in September and a later board meeting that month as well. RA board president Andy Sigle described Thursday’s discussion as preliminary.

Sridhar Ganesan, an RA board member, said Wheelock has stated the cost of making improvements to the golf course raises questions about the future viability of the site. Ganesan said he hopes to see an analysis by Wheelock to determine how that conclusion was reached.

Wheelock issued the following statement late Friday afternoon:

When Wheelock Communities purchased Hidden Creek Country Club in October
2017, we immediately recognized the special character of Reston and the need to
include the community in exploring all the possibilities for the future of the golf
course. With that idea and Bob Simon’s Founding Principles of Reston in mind, Wheelock
engaged the community by establishing a Focus Group to gain the perspective
from a broad-based group of approximately 20 Reston residents. The Focus
Group, which has not yet concluded its work, began without preconceived
notions about the future of the property.

This story was updated on Monday (July 30) to include Wheelock’s response.

Handout via Reston Association

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Effort to Streamline Reston Association’s Review of Design Changes Moves Forward

Residents seeking to approvals of design modifications and improvements may experience a more manageable process following the adoption of new workflows to streamline the design and review approval process.

Reston Association’s Board of Directors voted to pass a number of operational changes that could delegate some responsibilities from RA’s Design Review Board to staff. The DRB is an independent agency of RA charged with reviewing exterior improvements of properties within RA.

The move comes as the DRB seeks feedback from the public on changes to the content of its guidelines amid some concerns that the policies are outdated and inconsistent. The board will hold a public hearing on July 17 at 7 p.m. to discuss changes to the guidelines.

At their Thursday night meeting, the board approved a measure that could delegate the review of select design changes to be considered at a late date to staff instead of a consultation-level review by the DRB. Changes to cluster design standards could also move from panel-level review to consultation-level review.  The board’s votes simply clarified the definition of consultation-level reviews and other terms and created the ability to move reviews from panel to consultation-level. Specific changes to the standards linked above will be discussed in mid-July. 

Additionally, staff would have the authority to disapprove applications that do not comply with design guidelines or cluster standards when the application has no registered affected party. Residents will be able to appeal staff’s decisions to the DRB. The application for requesting design review was also tweaked to clarify requirements and collapse separate forms into one for all applications. Votes were unanimous, with one abstention.

The board also increased the fee for non-residential applications from $1,350 to $2,250 in order to cover staff time spent processing applications and resources allocated for additional meetings. 

For more information on proposed changes to guidelines, visit RA’s website.

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Reston Association Board of Directors Elects New President

Reston Association’s Board of Directors elected Andy Sigle to the position of board president Thursday night.

Over the next year, Sigle said he hopes to ensure a new CEO and CFO are hired promptly, fine-tune RA’s biannual budget, facilitate the passage of policies regarding ethics and conflicts of interest, and work with the community to ensure land use changes, particularly in the Planned Residential Community district, are implemented in a thoughtful and strategic manner.

Sigle was elected to the board earlier this year and previously served on the board between 2011 and 2014. David Bobzien, the former board president, resigned last month due to a leukemia diagnosis.

In opening remarks, Sigle also said he is committed to enhancing communication between RA staff and the board. He also hopes to ensure information is readily available so the board can make informed decisions.

Sridhar Ganesan, the board’s interim president, failed to gain enough votes to maintain the position. Board members cast private ballots and the number of votes garnered by each candidate was not made public at the meeting.

The vote follows a spirited debate during last month’s board meeting when board members failed to make a decision on the next board president. In his opening remarks, Ganesan also noted that transformational change was required to bring about a more “harmonious” tone to board meetings whilst preserving opportunities for vigorous debate.

Photo by Reston Association

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Reston Association Board to Consider Improving Design Review Process

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will consider recommendations to make the process of the Design Review Board more efficient at a meeting tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in RA headquarters.

The board will also elect a board president and welcome Catherine Baum, the new apartment owners’ board representative, to the governing body.

According to RA, the volume of applications received by the DRB and staff cannot be processed with current staff resources unless the process is streamlined. The DRB is an independent unit responsible for reviewing exterior improvements of properties within RA.

Under the recommendations, approvals for more “ordinary” applications, which could include signs, storm windows, utility boxes and roofing, would be reviewed by staff.

Some cluster standards applications would be reviewed by a panel of consultations instead of selected members of the DRB. This change would open up the panel’s agenda by 30 percent, according to RA. The DRB would meet monthly to review standard cluster applications with two members of the DRB.

The changes would also increase the DRB application fee for development and redevelopment of sites from $1,350 to $2,250.

The meeting will be live streamed tomorrow. The complete agenda is available online.

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Vacant Apartment Owners’ Seat on Reston Association Board Filled

Apartment owners have selected Catherine Baum to fill the vacant Apartment Owners’ Representative seat on Reston Association’s Board of Directors.

The position was vacated in April when David Bobzien, also board president, resigned after being diagnosed with leukemia.

Baum, who has lived in Reston since 1975, will serve as a director until April 2019. The following description of Baum was issued in an RA press release today:

She has held several senior level positions with the country’s top homebuilders throughout her professional career. She is also a graduate of Leadership Fairfax, Inc., and is a past president of the Reston Chamber of Commerce.

Baum will officially join the board at its meeting on June 28.

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Reston Association Working Group Kicks of Meetings on Lakes, Docks and Boats

A Reston Association working group created to analyze rules governing lakes, docks and boats kicked off it meetings on June 13 (Wednesday).

RA’s board of directors formed the group on March 22 in response to residents’ concerns about outdated boating policies, enforcement issues and overall usage of local lakes. The group will provide recommendations to the board in November.

During the first meeting, members received information on Reston’s lakes, as well as the type and number of boats and docks currently allowed.

The group’s objectives include identification of the environmental impact of docks and boats, a review of current rules and policies and whether or not rules infringe on lakeside property owners’ use of their properties.

The presentation given to the working group is linked here.

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Reston Association Board to Consider Changes to Staff and Board Relationships

As it grapples with recent leadership and board vacancies, Reston Association’s Board of Directors will explore the possibility of changing the relationship between RA’s governing body, the CEO, CFO and general counsel.

At June 5 work session (agenda), the board will consider changing the reporting structure between the CFO and the general counsel.

Director John Mooney suggested holding a work session at a May 24 board meeting. RA’s Board Governance Committee has been discussing how to amend the resolution that covers Board and Association operations and the relationship between board and staff.

“This revision is necessitated by the fact that we now have an in-house counsel so we need to deal at least with that,” Mooney said.

Rather than redraft or revise the current resolution, the committee has created a matrix that outlines possible relationships between the CEO, in-house counsel, and the board.

That matrix will guide the board’s discussions about changing reporting structures and relationships, including the role of the board in hiring, firing, disciplinary actions and salary.

File photo

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Reston Association to Continue Discussions on Recreational Facilities’ Cost and Usage

As the mid-year point before next year’s budget cycle approaches, Reston Association’s Board of Directors and staff will discuss how to approach a comprehensive analysis of RA’s recreational facilities.

The analysis, requested by Director Julie Bitzer in March, would be the first comprehensive examination of RA’s recreational facilities in 13 years.

Larry Butler, acting CEO and senior director of land use and planning, said the last study was done in 2005 and examined issues like cost utilization trends, usage, maintenance, repairs and suggested upgrades.

Staff recommended hiring a consultant to complete the study due to limited staff resources over the next two-to-three months and ongoing summer projects like the Hook Road working group and the lakes, docks and boats working group.

The board will hold a work session on June 5 to discuss the scope of the analysis, whether a consultant is needed to complete it and better define the goals and scope of the work.

Other recreation-related decisions may be more pressing.

Board members suggested a timely decision on the future of Lake Thoreau pool, which Director Sherri Hebert said was “falling into the lake,” was necessary. Hebert said an expenditure of $1 million is estimated to bring the aging pool up to go code. No decision on the future of that pool has been reached.

The longterm examination will guide the board’s budget decisions on replacement, repairs and upgrades to facilities.

Photo by Mike Collins

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