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Reston Association Set to Oppose PRC Zoning Amendment Tomorrow

Reston Association is set this week to take up contentious proposed zoning changes that would increase the population density in Reston.

This upcoming meeting will focus a motion to oppose the zoning proposal and also consider approving $22,500 from its cash reserves to increase next year’s staff training budget at the public meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. at RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).

The proposal would increase the maximum allowed population per acre in the Planned Residential Community (PRC) district — Reston’s primary zoning district — from 13 persons up to 15. The current density is roughly 12.46 people per acre.

County planning officials have argued that the change is needed to put into action Reston’s Master Plan, which allows for future growth over the next 40 years.

Several community groups, including the Coalition for a Planned Reston and Reston 2020, are fighting the move. They argue that the proposed amendment is rushed through and under-explained.

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors clashed over community input on the proposed zoning changes at their Dec. 4 meeting, before authorizing public hearings on the proposal for 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 and 4:30 p.m. on March 5.

On the heels of adopting the 2019 operating and capital budgets for next year, RA’s Board of Directors will also consider whether or not to use $22,500 from the operating reserve funds for 2018 to expand the 2019 fiscal year budget for staff training and development.

The homeowners’ association also will consider revisions to the third draft of the election schedule and receive the treasurer’s report. RA is also set to approve Sharon Canner as the chair of the 55+ Advisory Committee and Nancy Malesic as a member of the Environmental Advisory Committee.

The draft agenda for the meeting is available online.

Photo via Reston Association/Reston Today

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Reston Association Hires CEO After Nine-Month Vacancy

(Updated at 3:47 p.m.) The Reston Association has found a permanent chief executive officer, filling one of its several vacant positions, including chief financial officer and planner.

RA announced today (Dec. 11) that its Board of Directors unanimously voted in favor of hiring Harry P. “Hank” Lynch to fill the vacant position after a nine-month-long search after former CEO Cate Fulkerson resigned at the end of February after serving in the role since 2013.

In February, Reston Association’s CFO Robert Wood filled in as acting CEO until his resignation in April to take a new job at a national nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. His departure vacated the two top leadership positions at the homeowners’ association. 

Larry Butler, RA’s senior director of land use and planning, then took over as acting CEO in mid-April after Wood left.

The long-vacant position loomed over the board’s budget deliberations at its Nov. 15 meeting, with some board members concerned about setting an example of keeping costs low for the assessment fee for whoever fills the position. RA President Andy Sigle said at that meeting that RA needs a CEO’s “fresh eyes to keep pushing for more efficiencies.”

Less than a month later, Sigle described Lynch as “a proven leader” in the press release for the announcement.

“We are thrilled to have found what we believe is a great match for Reston Association,” Sigle said. “Hank is passionate about the concepts that make up our Reston Essential Elements: environmental stewardship, recreational amenities, design excellence, appreciation of the arts, diverse housing opportunities and accessibility.”

Lynch recently was the CEO for Farm Sanctuary, an animal welfare, education and advocacy non-profit organization, according to a press release. He started his career as a horticulturist and ISA certified arborist.

Lynch holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in horticulture, including design, public administration and museum management, from the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware. He has also completed additional advanced executive leadership and management training at both Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Lynch, a resident of Norfolk, will move to Reston and begin work at RA in January, the press release says.

The CFO position has been vacant for eight months. Other full-time jobs vacant at that the homeowners’ association include planner, executive assistant to the CEO, environmental resource worker and a property advisor I.

Photo via Reston Association

This story has been updated

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New Reston Association Budget Includes $11 Assessment Increase

Reston Association’s Board of Directors approved next year’s budget, which increases the assessment fee by $11, at last night’s meeting. The Thursday meeting focused on finalizing the $17.9 million budget for next year and setting the assessment fee to the new rate of $693 — a bump from last year’s $682 fee.

Larry Butler, RA’s Acting CEO, presented his recommendations for the budget before the board took a deep dive into the budget.

The long-vacant CEO spot — one of several unfilled positions, including CFO and Planner — loomed over the board’s budget deliberations.

RA At-Large Director Ven Iyer, who unsuccessfully attempted to keep next year’s assessment fee the same as last year’s, argued that keeping costs low sets a good example for whoever fills the CEO spot. “What happens if the CEO comes in and says, ‘Actually, the costs need to go up’? What would you do if that happens?” Iyer said. “I think we need to set the tone.”

RA President Andy Sigle said that RA needs a CEO’s “fresh eyes to keep pushing for more efficiencies.”

Quite a bit of confusion around the operating reserves dominated the discussion as well. Ultimately, the association trimmed roughly $280,000 from initial expense estimates from the first draft of the budget, which allowed the association to limit the assessment increase to 1.6 percent.

“Our job is not, not to spend money,” said John Mooney, secretary of the RA, said at the meeting. “We can’t do everything everyone wants… The question is not expense, it’s value.”

In an effort to pass expenses shouldered by RA, the board also green-lighted a measure to start passing on credit card fees for purchases made through WebTrac to members beginning Jan. 1. Members who purchase pool and tennis passes or activity registrations through the website will be charged the credit card service fees.

Assessment-related credit card transaction fees will also be passed on to members starting in 2020. RA also directed the association’s staff to increase employee health insurance contributions.

The RA will mail assessment packets by the end of the first week of December to residents with information about the fees and funding. The payment will be due Jan.1, and a six-month installment plan will be available. Late fees for assessment payments kick in after March 1.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Thursday Morning Notes

Schools closed, Fairfax Connector continues normal service — Although Fairfax County Public Schools are closed today due to a wintry mix slowly descending onto the region, the Fairfax County connector will continue normal service today. [Fairfax Connector]

Vote on Reston Association budget expected tonight — The Board of Directors will vote on the final budget for the next year, as well as a planned $11 assessment increase. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Other items on the budget include an update on the state of the environment in Reston and an executive session to discuss personnel and contractual matters. [Reston Association]

Another vote of note tonight — The Fairfax County Planning Commission is expected to vote on a plan by Woodfield Investments to replace a vacant office building at 1941 Roland Clarke Place with an apartment building. [Fairfax County Government]

A chance for gift giving — The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is seeking donations for its annual Toys for Tots campaign beginning Nov. 19. All county fire stations will accept donations through Dec. 12. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Reston Association Set to Consider Assessment Fee, Budget Tomorrow

Reston Association is set this week to hold a vote and the second public hearing on next year’s budget.

This upcoming meeting will focus on approving the second year of the 2018-2019 budget at the public meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. at RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) after the first year of the budget was approved last year.

Larry Butler, RA’s acting CEO, presented his recommendations for the budget at a public hearing last Thursday (Nov. 8). RA board and staff created three drafts of the budget, using 2018 as a baseline.

During the budget process, the RA board directed the association’s staff to increase employee health insurance contributions and to reduce expenses by passing credit card convenience fees along to the cardholder. The association trimmed roughly $300,000 from the initial budget estimates from an earlier draft, according to a Nov. 1 press release.

“This year’s budget was shaped primarily through a wide range of cuts in operating expenses,” the press release said.

If approved, the proposed budget would increase members’ assessment fee by $11, setting the rate at $693. The first draft would have set the annual fee, which helps the association maintain pathways, facilities and recreational areas, at just over $700. Last year’s totaled $682.

The board is also requesting $40,000 from cash reserves to reinstate staff training and $17,545 for staff recruitment and “market rate adjustments for difficult to fill positions,” according to meeting materials to be presented to the board.

After the new assessment is set by the board, RA will mail assessment packets to residents with information about the fees and funding. The payment will be due Jan. 1.

The draft agenda for the meeting is available online.

Photo via Reston Association/Reston Today

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Five Seats Open in 2019 Reston Association Board Election

Reston Association has issued a call for candidates for the 2019 Board of Directors’ election. Five seats are open.

The following seats will be open next year: an at-large seat for a three-year term, apartment owners representative for a one-year term, Hunters Woods/Dogwood district representative for a one-year term, North Point district representative for a three-year term and Lake Anne/Tall Oaks district representative for a three-year term.

Interested candidates must complete a candidacy statement form. RA’s elections committee will validate candidates in late January and the election will begin on March 4.

The nine-member board is responsible for setting the mission and goals of RA, policies and procedures, monitoring finances, approving budgets and setting the assessment rate.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Reston Association to Hold Public Hearing on Assessment Increase, Budget

As deliberations on next year’s budget continue, Reston Association is holding a public hearing to get feedback from members next week.

The hearing is set for Nov. 8 (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m. at RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). The draft budget is available online and includes a possible $28 increase in assessments.

RA’s Board of Directors is also contemplating a number of policy directives, including passing on credit card fees for processing members’ and nonmembers’ payments from the organization to individuals. Other issues before the board include expanded health benefits for employees, overall compensation packages and merit-based salary increases.

The first year of the 2018-2019 budget was approved last year. The second year will be approved by the board in mid-November.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Reston Association Board Mulls Assessment Increase, Employee Benefits

Reston Association members could see their assessments go up by around $28 next year as the Board of Directors continues budget deliberations next month.

The decision to increase assessments is not final and will be determined by a number of factors as the board mulls several policy decisions, including health care benefits for staff, ahead of the Nov. 15 adoption. The increase is driven primarily by a new $60,000 reserve study required by law, $43,000 in new professional administrative software, $20,000 to dechlorinate pools and $250,000 in unanticipated lease payments for RA’s headquarters. 

Healthcare costs are also expected to increase by $65,000 and an average 2.3 percent merit-based increase for full-time and yearly part-time employees for the year is also anticipated. RA’s Acting CEO Larry Butler said the staff is working hard to maintain cost-savings cross all departments and limit the need for assessment increases.

In an effort to reduce expenses shouldered by RA, the board is also considering passing on the cost of credit card convenience fees to members and nonmembers, a roughly $180,000 yearly expense that is currently paid for by RA.

The motion to include the decision in the next draft of the budget passed with a 6-3 vote, pending staff assurances that the system to implement it could go into effect by Jan. 1. Board members Sridhar Ganesan, Sherri Hebert, and Ven Iyer voted against the measure, which they characterized as an equity issue.

“It’s just not fair, without any notice, to put members on this… not everybody has $700 in their bank account to pay for this,” Iyer said, referring to payments of RA assessments.

Others said RA should look into allowing online bank deposits. Currently, physical checks are accepted in lieu of credit card payment.

After some spirited debate, five members of the board voted to begin charging for financial updates requested by lenders, allowing RA to dip into roughly $60,000 in anticipated fees paid to RA for the service. Finance staff would have to provide documents within three days of the request date, per state law.

The board also struggled to grapple with how to handle healthcare premiums contributions, cost sharing for health services, and merit-based bonuses for staff across the board. Overall, the board concurred that RA’s healthcare package was too generous compared to the marketplace and competitors.

Hebert challenged the need for merit-based increases and generous benefits packages, noting that top-level vacancies and other openings in RA are not triggered by a lackluster benefits package.

“We are responsible to the membership first,” Hebert said, adding that attrition of RA’s staff may allow “new blood” and new ideas to enter the organization.

Others pointed to a larger issue about RA’s budget: staff expenses and compensation. Based on Ganesan’s research, salaries for RA’s staff increase by 36 percent between 2010 and 2018, more than half of the increases given to Fairfax County government staff. In that time period, assessments went up by 34 percent.

Ganesan and John Bowman noted that RA’s staff costs stand at a staggered 67 percent of the total budget, channeling the board’s overall consensus that RA’s new CEO will need to spearhead a complete review of staffing, compensation, and benefits.

The first year of the 2018 budget was approved on Nov. 16 last year. RA operates on a biennial budget, which is divided into the operating and capital budget. Assessment rates are calculated based on the bottom line of the two budgets.

Photo via YouTube/Reston Association

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Thursday Morning Notes

Megaplier ticket sold in Reston — The winning Mega Millions jackpot ticket wasn’t bought in Virginia, but one $30,000 Megaplier winning ticket was purchased at the 7-Eleven on 11854 Sunrise Valley Drive. Two $1 million tickets were sold at a Chilli Stop in Aylett and a Giant Food in Dale City. [ABC8 News]

Invisible listeners — A reception to launch a new exhibit at Signature is set for tonight at 6 p.m. It features the work of Rahshia Sawyer, who “displays an array of emotion” through her artwork, according to organizers. [Greater Reston Arts Center]

Budget, recreation programs and more — Reston Association’s Board of Directors will take another stab at budget development, the conceptual plan for the Hook Road recreation area, and recreation program proposals at their meeting tonight. [Reston Association]

Piano pieces at Reston Community Center — Dr. Anna Balakerskaia and gifted students from George Mason University will perform pieces from the classical piano repertoire. [Reston Community Center]

Photo by Jami Ojala

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New Plan for Hook Road Recreation Area Revitalization Proposed

After a year-long review and public engagement period, members of a working group charged with developing the master plan for Hook Road Recreation Area will pitch their recommendations on how the area should be upgraded this week.

The area, which has remained largely unchanged since tennis and baseball amenities were added in 1973, was identified for major revitalization in 2016 after a review of facility enhancements approved by Reston Association’s Board of Directors.

Members of the 16-person working group, which was created by the board, will present their conceptual plan at RA’s board meeting at 6:30 p.m. at RA headquarters. The board will consider a motion to allocate $50,000 in next year’s budget for architecture and engineering of the conceptual master plan. Full cost estimates and phasing of future improvements would be determined following the analysis.

Design consultant Dewberry held three public roundtable discussions on the project — a process that flagged areas of concern, areas of use and areas to improve. Based on a public online survey and a survey mailed to households nearby the facility, Dewberry found that the areas were primarily used for “passive recreation,” with most respondents leaning toward using the park as is with minimal changes. After considering four concepts, the working group selected a final plan, which prioritizes traffic calming, baseball upgrades, internal paths, a ring path, and a natural playscape.

Road upgrades, which are subject to state approval, include roadway bump-outs at the west intersection of the property and a crosswalk. Upgrades to the baseball field and the construction of a permanent pavilion and bathroom is also recommended. Currently, one portable bathroom serves the entire park. Paths would be added near the baseball field. Other components of the plan include a natural enhancement for seating along Fairway Drive, tree preservation, a natural playscape for children with the “fewest manmade elements as possible,” and pathways as narrow as possible while remaining compliant with ADA and RA guidelines, according to the plan.

A live stream of the meeting will be available on YouTube.

Photo via handout/Reston Association

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Months-long CEO Vacancy at Reston Association Remains

Reston Association’s top leadership position of CEO remains unfilled following the previous CEO’s departure from the organization in late February.

Since former CEO Cate Fulkerson left her position in late February and transitioned into a special advisor role, RA’s Board of Directors has not yet found a permanent replacement. In a note to RA’s members, board president Andy Sigle said the board is working with human resources to expand the search for CEO and voted last month to hire an executive search firm to assist with the hiring process.

Larry Butler, RA’s senior direct of land use and planning, took over as acting CEO in mid-April after Robert Wood, the acting CEO at the time, stepped down to take another position at a non-profit organization in the District.

Since beginning the process of selecting a new CEO “in earnest” in May, Sigle indicated that no candidates advanced during a second round of interviews with the board in August. The board voted on candidates for the first round of interviews, which were held in June and July. Candidates were interviewed by an internal board search committee with RA’s senior leadership team and selected board members.

Here’s more from Sigle’s note to members:

Members can rest assured that the board is seeking a CEO who can work cooperatively and collaboratively in establishing short and long-term goals and priorities for the association. The CEO leads the effort to develop biennial budgets, so it is vitally important to the future of Reston that resources allotted in those budgets are used wisely. The board plays a fiduciary role in making sure your assessment dollars are spent in a way that aligns with the association’s Strategic Plan and focuses on the quality of life issues that make Reston a special place to live, work and play.

While there are an array of traits and qualifications we are seeking in the next CEO, the ability to lead and manage ranks near or at the top. Integrity, ethical conduct and the proven know-how to foster a climate that attracts, retains and motivates a diverse staff are important skills in leading any community organization, especially one as large and intricate as Reston Association.

Making the tough calls isn’t always fun, but it is a necessary requirement in overseeing a staff with over 100 employees working in a broad range of jobs that all focus on RA’s mission statement. The CEO position is a member-facing, rollup-your-sleeves job that requires the ability to smartly navigate through internal issues and also external policy matters involving Fairfax County and private businesses. Financial stewardship and extensive knowledge of customer service are at the forefront of what the board and RA members expect from a CEO.

While we wind through the process of hiring a new CEO, the board wants to express its thanks to the RA staff for stepping up to make sure that “the trains continue to run on time” in the interim. The importance of selecting the right person to lead RA can’t be overemphasized enough, so we continue to appreciate the patience shown by staff and members as we do our due diligence.

While board members come and go with each annual election, the CEO should bring a sense of stability and vision to the organization that will hopefully last for years. We will keep you posted on our progress and promptly introduce you to our new CEO when they are onboard.

Photo via Reston Association

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Potential receiver to handle Kiddar Capital assets — “The Securities and Exchange Commission has asked the judge in the civil case against real estate developer Todd Hitt to appoint Richmond attorney Bruce Matson as receiver for Hitt’s development and investment operations, according to a new motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.” [Washington Business Journal]

Are you listening — The third listening session with Reston Association’s Board of Directors is on for tonight. Caren Anton, the director of the Dogwood and Hunters Woods district, will listen to your questions and concerns. [Reston Association]

And Metro is too — bus passengers are encouraged to take part in a survey that will help determine funding allocations for different jurisdictions. [Washington Metropolitan Area Authority]

Photo by Caroline Rapking

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Reston Association Board Dives Deep into 2019 Budget

Reston Association’s Board of Directors took a deep dive into drafting next year’s budget, which could include a roughly $11 increase in member assessments.

The proposed increase, which is currently under consideration, is driven by nearly $229,000 in new expenses, such as a $60,000 reserve study required by state law every five years and nearly $56,000 in health care cost increases for staff.

At a meeting in late September, the board took particular interest in $20,000 allocated for targeted marketing in an effort to reach individuals outside of RA’s membership and boost rentals of facilities. Mike Leone, RA’s director communications and community engagement, said would allow staff to expand their reach and market RA’s rental facilities, including the Lake House.

In previous years, staff used free marketing tools to reach members and non-members. Board members said they wanted to see more information on how targeted marketing was linked to revenue increases and return on investment.

“This board will need to see more granularized targets,” said RA board president Andy Sigle.

RA’s Acting CEO Larry Butler said he directed department heads to examine how to cut costs across different entities within RA.

“They’re very, very small compromises,” Butler said.

New proposed items in this year’s budget include the following:

  • Reserve study: $60,000 of a study required by law every five years
  • Healthcare cost increase: $55,500 for a projected 6.5 percent increase in current healthcare funds
  • POAA software: $43,000 to eliminate proprietary software
  • Dechlorination systems for pools: $20,000 to fulfill a new Fairfax County requirement to address stormwater concerns
  • Billings and collections software: $30,000 to replace an antiquated proprietary system; will utilize a $75,000 in carry-forward funds from this year

Photo via YouTube/Reston Association

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New Reston Association Design Review Guidelines In Effect

Reston Association’s Board of Directors approved process changes to its design review guidelines  Thursday night. The changes, under discussion for just under two years, are aimed to expedite application processing and boost efficiency.

Overall, review of cluster standard applications would jump from review by the Design Review Board’s panel to consultation-level review with two DRB members. Additionally, other applications would move from consultation-level review to staff-level review only.

A complete list of the approved changes is available online. No content changes to the design guidelines are in effect as a result of Thursday’s approval.

Anna Varone, RA’s director of covenants administration, said the changes will help “streamline the process to allow quicker processing.” The DRB held a public hearing on the changes in July.

Members can still request appeals of applications, including those now delegated to staff-level review.

Photo via YouTube/Reston Association

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Plan to Redevelop Hidden Creek Country Club Draws Opposition

A developer’s plan to rezone and redevelop Hidden Creek Country Club from a private golf course into a 100-acre public park with between 600 to 1,000 residential units drew passionate opposition from residents Thursday night.

Wheelock Communities, which purchased the golf course in October last year, presented its conceptual plan for the 160-acre property to Reston Association’s Board of Directors. A formal development plan has not been submitted to the county and would require the county to rezone the property. Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan restricts Hidden Creek Country Club as a private recreational use, specifically a golf course. RA also passed a resolution in 2016 that states Reston’s two golf courses are reserved for golfing only, although the approval of the project and required rezoning is determined by the county.

Steve Coniglio, a regional partner with Wheelock, pitched the concept to RA’s board as an environmentally-friendly move that would serve unmet public space needs in Reston and provide for-sale housing stock at a variety of undisclosed affordability levels. Wheelock, which led several work group sessions with area stakeholders about its plans, would also restore several degraded streams on the site and end Lake Anne water rights exclusive to the golf course, creating a community gathering space with input from residents.

In a flashback to its defense of Reston National Golf Course, which was threatened by development several years ago, Rescue Reston, the grassroots organization that seeks to preserve the golf course and push back against unplanned development, challenged Wheelock to sell the site to another owner who can preserve the golf course and help it rebound.

“They throw in their version of a ‘park’ to misdirect and divide us,” said Lynne Mulston of Rescue Reston, adding that Wheelock’s plan makes “insulting assumptions” about Reston. A survey of area residents conducted by Rescue Reston this year found that nearly 97 percent of the 454 respondents want to preserve the golf course for private recreational use.

“It’s a bad swing that takes Reston out of bounds,” Mulston added.

Rescue Reston members, clad in yellow shirts, also said Wheelock’s plan leaves many unanswered questions, including who will maintain and pay for the park and pedestrian access. The group also said Wheelock’s plan is not driven by environmental stewardship because residential development would require tree removal and contribute to stormwater runoff.

“Open space today, tomorrow, forever,” said Rescue Reston’s president Connie Hartke. 

But Coniglio said the golf course is struggling to court members for dues-only membership, forecasting an uncertain future for the golf course. “Everyone says make it better, but it’s a business and its about cash flow,” Coniglio said.

The company spent around $500,000 for capital improvements to the golf course this year and future expenses to maintain the golf course are only expected to rise, he said.

“Yes, it’s a golf course today. That’s absolutely true. But is the golf course the best use of the land as it relates to the rest of the community? I don’t think it necessarily is,” Coniglio said.

RA board members pushed Wheelock for more information, including market analyses, on how the developer determined the golf course’s current use was unsustainable.

“Why would I join a club if the press tells me you’re going to close it?” said RA board member Julie Bitzer, adding that Wheelock’s vision for the property fails to acknowledge Reston’s golf course heritage.

Wheelock’s vision for the property includes between 600 and 1,000 residential units with a mix of townhouses, villas, and multi-family units. Coniglio said the developer designed the project “backwards” by focusing on open, public space. The residential component of the project would generate between $300,000 and $500,000 in yearly revenue for RA.

“We started with the open space, we started with the stream and the environment and that’s why we don’t have a plan with streets and boxes here for you,” Coniglio said, noting that the development would be designed so that it transitions smoothly to surrounding areas.

RA board member Ven Iyer said it was unfair to neighboring residents who could see their backyards jump from a private to public use.

Wheelock’s presentation is below:

Hidden Creek Country Club Presentation by Wheelock Communities by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

Rescue Reston’s presentation can also be found below:

Rescue Reston North Course Presentation by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

Photo via YouTube

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