Reston, VA

Reston Association is seeking candidates to fill three open seats on its Board of Directors.

All RA members are encouraged to take part in the upcoming election, which takes place from March 1 through April 2 of 2021.

Two at-large district seats and the South Lakes district seat will open next year. A formal call for candidates is expected this month.

Members are encouraged to opt-in for an electronic ballot to reduce postal costs for RA. Ballot requests can be sent to [email protected]

Anyone with further questions, including how to become a candidate should contact the elections committee at [email protected]

Information on the elections’ process is expected soon, according to RA’s recent weekly newsletter.

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The Reston Association (RA) still has decisions to make on its 2021 budget, including any potential change to the current $708 member assessment rate.

During a public hearing on Wednesday, a proposed budget by RA CEO Hank Lynch remained consistent with his October proposal by not including an increase from the current $708 rate.

Lynch did stipulate that the assessment is one of the key points the Board of Directors must still decide on. He said that the fiscal committee for RA has recommended an increase to the assessment of up to $20 for the 2021 budget.

Lynch stated that the fiscal committee suggested there is the potential of an increase of up to $100 for the assessment in 2022. But he said he does not believe there will be that significant of an increase for the 2022 assessment rate.

Robert Petrine, treasurer for the board, clarified the discussion on the potential 2022 assessment rate increase of up to $100.

“There are two major components that are not in the current 2021 budget, which if we look forward is number one is if you implement the salary plan, that’s going to have a material impact,” he said.

“And number two; we’re going to be fully paying on the (headquarters) lease. When you put those in and you also factor in the amount of capital projects that are already in the budget and projected for 2022, in order to have everything balanced, you’re looking at a substantially higher assessment.”

Lynch also discussed the decision point for the board of an operational change with the Central Services Facility (CSF) that mows the Reston roadways and median strips.

CSF is paid $45,000 in an annual contract through the Virginia Department of Transportation to mow Reston’s roadways and median strips three times. However, CSF mows those areas 24 times during the year to maintain Reston’s appearance. The additional mowing costs RA an additional $140,000 above the contract.

Beyond the roadways, CSF also brings in a turf maintenance company to mow many of the ball fields, parks and open spaces. This additional maintenance costs the association over $200,000 annually.

Lynch’s proposal for the board’s consideration includes the following measures to reduce CSF’s 2021 operating costs by $200,000 to $210,000:

  • Reduce the number of VDOT highway mows from 24 down to eight.
  • Eliminate contracted mowing services used for RA’s ball fields, parks and open spaces.
  • Utilizing current full-time CSF staff and five seasonal staff to conduct all RA mowing.

During discussions with RA members following Lynch’s presentation and the boards’ comments, a primary focus fell on RA’s communications budget and, in part, the participation of members in RA’s planning.

While Petrine complimented the board’s participation and the members that joined the discussion, he admonished “the general membership for lack of concern and participation.”

Board member Selvaraj-D’Souza stated that this is where Lynch’s “team is failing” in its communication efforts.

The operating expenses for communications for the 2020 budget was $968,114. In Lynch’s proposal, those expenses increased to $979,373 for 2021.

“When we’re spending a million dollars on communications, we need to be proactive and figure out a way to get our membership to show up,” she said.

“And that’s where we need to look at out of the box ideas, how are we reaching out to them, is our messaging actually being effective. And there needs to be some absolute accountability with that.”

Board member Ven Iyer echoed the suggestions of Selvaraj-D’Souza. Iyer suggested efforts be turned toward “grassroots level participation in order to shape the direction where this organization is headed.”

Lynch defended the communications department’s efforts, stating that he believes “there’s a complete misunderstanding of what communications does.”

He added that with roughly 60,000 members, an “enormous amount of work” is required to serve all the needs and wants of the members.

Board member Mike Collins followed the discussion by stating that RA has had difficulty in member participation for at least the 10 years he’s been in Reston. He also did not recommend that members should assume something is wrong with the efforts of the communications department.

However, Collins did discuss his belief that board members take a look at digging more into those details of the budget next year.

Board president Julie Bitzer concluded the discussion by agreeing with the notion that the board needs more information on the communications to reach a more appropriate “comfort level.” She suggested reviewing more details on the communications budget during the board’s next meeting.

The board will next meet virtually on Nov. 19 via Zoom.

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Reston Association CEO Hank Lynch is aiming to keep next year’s member assessment rate unchanged at $708.

But at a Board of Directors’ meeting on Thursday night, some members suggested increasing the rate — as done in previous years — in order to keep up with major expenses and other operational needs. Lynch hopes to keep fees stable in order to account for the impact of COVID-19 on its membership.

No staff merit pay increases are proposed in Lynch’s budget, resulting in savings of roughly $208,500.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do right now,” Lynch said, adding that he discussed the proposal with senior staff, who concurred with his plan.

Board member John Mooney said the “artificially” holding down the rate simply delays more substantial long-term fee increases necessary to keep up with real-time costs.

“It’s artificial. We’re paying with resources from elsewhere,” Mooney said.

Board members Mike Collins also noted that RA’s membership must grow accustomed to fee increases as serious infrastructure challenges come forward due to aging facilities in need of replacement.

To fund the replacement of Lake Thoreau Pool, the board is considering a plan to defer roughly $1.3 million in scheduled 2021 capital expenditures.

“I just don’t see any another way,” Collins said, adding that he “hates” the idea of increasing fees.

The board juggled the possibility of a $20 increase in the coming year, although no number was settled upon.

Mooney suggested that Lynch and his staff consider how a $membership assessment of up to $728 for next year would help meet RA’s costs.

Other budget highlights include:

  • Delaying the hire of three vacant positions
  • Reducing annual IT expenses by $45,000-$50,000
  • Lake maintenance treatments at $31,745

A budget hearing is set for November 4 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. The board plans to indicate that a range of assessments is being considered between $708 and $728.

Photo via Reston Association

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors plans to defer $1.3 million in capital work for the upcoming 2021 capital budget.

Although budget deliberations continue, RA staff have identified six projects that will likely be deferred to future years. Plans for deferrals come as nearly $600,000 in capital work has been adjusted or added, including the renovation of Lake Thoreau Pool and general increases in costs for construction and materials.

Plans for Lake Anne Dam, which currently does not meet state safety codes for overtopping Wiehle Avenue during a design flood, could be deferred. Currently, a state committee has been forced to evaluate dam regulations for all structures in Virginia, according to draft meeting materials. The outcome of those discussions could take up to two years to formalize.

“We will maintain our provisional approved status with the state with no penalties enforced,” according to RA meeting materials.

A more comprehensive renovation of the Glade Tennis Court may also require the deferral of that project. Staff found that more work beyond planned that grading and lighting retrofitting is necessary.

Other deferred project include:

  • The addition of seven vehicles and mowers
  • Lake Newport pool siding
  • Glade Pool floor coating, cabinets and counters
  • Newbridge cabinets and counters

So far, the $3.45 million draft budget includes the renovation of Lake Thoreau Pool, with project costs being split between 2021 and 2022.

The meeting is set for Thursday, Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom.

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Despite full support for a major replacement of Lake Thoreau Pool, Reston Association’s Board of Directors grappled with how to fund the project, which could cost up to $3.5 million.

At a meeting on Thursday night, board members said it was unclear how RA would fund the project as it develops the budget for the coming fiscal year. RA staff and CEO Hank Lynch suggested splitting the cost of the project between fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

The board’s latest meeting highlighted pressing and longstanding budgetary management concerns as RA determines next steps for moving forward with the project.

RA’s COO Larry Butler stressed the need for more structured longterm planning, including the developing of a five-and ten-year capital project plan for projects that exceed $250,000. Those plans would allow the board and the community to have a “true understanding or real costs,” he said.

“There’s a lot to be done in that realm,” Butler said.

Board Director Ven Iyer said the question of how to fund Lake Thoreau highlights RA’s habits of “fiscal irresponsibility.”

“In spite of bringing in 18 million a year, we are unable to find $3.5 million dollars to fix a pool,” he said.

For the pool, the most favored design includes a zero-depth wading pool in what used to be the facility’s deep end, expand the parking lot and bathhouse to meet Fairfax County and Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements, and incorporate an elevated observation and lounge deck.

Staff recommends splitting project costs between $1.6 million in 2021 and 1.5 million in 2022. Under this scenario, the board could defer upgrades to Lake Anne’s dam and renovations to Glade Tennis Court.

RA is expected to grapple with other major renovation projects, included the full-scale renovation of Shadowood Pool. Despite cosmetic changes in the last few years, parts of the facility are obsolete and ongoing sewage issues continue on the site.

Lynch also stressed that RA needs to allows its recreational facilities and working group to evaluate the association’s recreational needs, missed opportunities for amenities, and a review of the need or lack thereof of current amenities.

RA Board Director John Mooney suggested that the board consider financing certain project instead of pay-as-you-go funding.

“It’s not fair that current rate payers foot the bill for a facility that will serve multiple future generations of rate payers,” he said.

A motion to direct staff to explore an across-the-board seven-percent cut to all operational expenses failed to gain traction. Some board members said they were confident staff had already pared down operational expenses to the extend possible.

Discussions on the budget are expected to continue in coming meetings.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors is working through various funding options for the planned renovation of Lake Thoreau Pool.

Although most residents appear to agree on a plan presented by design consultant Kimley-Horn, RA must now determine the best way to finance the multi-million project.

At previous community meetings, members have expressed support for a lean design concept that would largely work within the existing footprint of the aging site.  A zero-depth wading pool would be installed on the facility’s deep end, the parking lot would be expanded, and the bathhouse would meet county and federal code requirements for individuals with disabilities. A lounge observation deck is also planned in the new design.

The first concept is expected to cost between $2.9 and $3.5 million while a more extensive rehaul. Would cost between $3.8 million and $4.6 million, according to meeting materials.

RA staff recommends that the board adopt the first concept and split project costs between fiscal years 2021 and 2022. Other major projects above $250,000 would be pushed forward by two years.

At a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8, RA’s board will discuss whether or not the project should be fully funded within the next two fiscal years. Other planned topics. Of discussion include eliminating or repurposing facilities that do not offer value to members and are costly to operate.

The discussion comes as RA tackles current and anticipated projects. In a 2019 reserve study, consultant DMA Reserves identified more than 1,300 capital assets and offered a suggested replacement plan.

Between 2021 and 2031, RA hopes to tackle ten major pool and tennis projects that would cost more than $250,000. Some projects have been deferred.

For example, renovations to the Lake Newport Tennis Court have been deferred until 2022 until a “more intensive renovation” will be conducted, according to meeting materials.

The board will also discuss other issues, including a review of the role of the Recreation Facilities Working Group and an analysis of the 2019 reserve study. The meeting takes place via Zoom.

Photo via handout/RA

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Reston Association will need to get creative in order to fund its planned renovation of the Lake Thoreau Pool.

The majority of residents who spoke at the association’s board of directors meeting on Thursday expressed support for funding the project in 2021 so that it can reopen in 2022 as planned. Members urging board members to consider a variety of funding and design options if necessary to make it more feasible.

Suggestions included opening the pool up to non-RA members, turning the pool into a shallow-end-only facility to make maintenance easier, and opening up the pool deck year-round so that it could be utilized for other activities.

“Now that we are all living through this pandemic, we know the huge importance of outdoor spaces,” Giselle Agosto Hincapie, whose family lives in walking distance of the pool, said. “The idea of completely eliminating the pool or delaying the construction project is truly disheartening. I think a pool can be incorporated with year-round amenities in this space.”

Kimley-Horn, the consultant hired to develop design concepts for the pool project, estimates that its first proposal, a more straightforward renovation that stays within the site’s existing footprint, would cost somewhere between $2.9 million and $3.5 million.

This design would install a zero-depth wading pool in what used to be the facility’s deep end, expand the parking lot and bathhouse to meet Fairfax County and Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements, and incorporate an elevated observation and lounge deck.

A second proposal that would involve a more extensive overhaul of the site would cost between $3.8 million and $4.6 million, though Kimle-Horn landscape architect Ron Kagawa says there has been a “great preference” for the simpler concept.

Kagawa says a significant part of the project’s cost is tied to the need to level out the site so that it is more accessible and to construct an approximately 450-foot-long retaining wall along the lakefront and around the parking lot.

Chris Schumaker, Reston Association’s senior capital projects operations manager, estimates that if RA picks the first project concept, it would need to commit an additional $3.1 million on top of the $350,000 allocated to the Lake Thoreau project in 2020, possibly splitting the $3.45 million total cost between $1.6 million in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2022.

However, Reston Association also has five other pools and three tennis courts that are expected to need renovations between 2022 and 2031.

Adding these other projects on top of the Lake Thoreau pool funding, the association’s repair and replacement reserve fund could drop into a negative balance by 2023 and not recover until 2027, according to Schumaker’s projections.

“A lot of our facilities are nearing that 40, 50-year age mark,” Schumaker said. “We can safely assume there are going to be some major projects coming down the pike that we’re going to need to be aware of and planning for.”

RA’s Board of Directors will discuss options for financing the Lake Thoreau pool renovation in more detail during a special working session on Oct. 8.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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An update on Fairfax County’s Reston Comprehensive Plan Task Force is planned for tonight’s Reston Association Board of Directors meeting.

Established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 14, the Reston Comprehensive Plan task force has been tasked with reviewing the county’s Reston Master Plan, which guides land use, development, infrastructure, and the general vision and environment for the Reston community.

As a homeowners’ association that represents 21,346 residential units in the Reston community, Reston Association is represented on the task force by Secretary and North Point District director John Mooney with Chief Operating Officer Larry Butler serving as an alternate.

“There have been no decision points yet with the Reston Comprehensive Plan Task Force so the RA Board has not weighed in,” Mike Leone, Reston Association’s spokesperson said. “RA’s primary interest in participating on the task force is to ensure our members’ interests are heard during the task force process.”

Fairfax County originally amended Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan with a section specific to Reston in February 2014 to establish a vision for transit station areas created in anticipation of the arrival of Metro’s Silver Line.

The Board of Supervisors adopted a second phase of the Reston plan amendment in June 2015 to address the area’s village centers and residential areas, aligning the Comprehensive Plan’s recommendations with existing development.

While the Reston Comprehensive Plan was amended in 2018, the need to reexamine the plan more extensively emerged last year after county officials and residents clashed over a proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would have increased the density limits for Reston’s planned residential community district.

The proposed zoning amendment was intended to ensure Reston will be able to accommodate anticipated future growth, but many residential groups, including Reston Association, Reston 20/20, and the Reston Citizens Association, argued that it would be more effective to modify the comprehensive plan before considering changes to the PRC district density limits.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission ultimately agreed with opponents of the proposal, voting unanimously in February 2019 to recommend that the county supervisors do not amend the zoning ordinance until an amendment to the Reston Comprehensive Plan is in place.

The Board of Supervisors voted that March to indefinitely defer the proposed zoning ordinance change.

After taking office in January, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn moved to establish the Reston Comprehensive Plan task force, which consists of 24 members with seven alternates and held its first meeting on May 11.

At its last meeting on Sept. 14, the task force tentatively approved topic areas, reviewed the comprehensive plan’s planning principles, and got an overview of transportation issues in Reston from Fairfax County staff, according to meeting materials.

Alcorn, who is facilitating the task force, says the group has also discussed Reston’s projected population and planned transportation improvements.

“After five meetings and 10 hours of engaged discussion, I am very excited about the work being done by the task force,” Alcorn said. “The task force is really just getting started and participation from interested members of the community is encouraged. The output of this work will guide Reston’s built and natural environment for decades to come.”

With the comprehensive plan review and community engagement process expected to take between 12 and 18 months, the task force has scheduled meetings through December, with the next one set for Sept. 30.

Other notable items on tonight’s agenda for the RA Board of Directors include:

  • Approval of the proposed work plan for the multimodal transportation committee, which gives advice and policy recommendations on transportation infrastructure related to Reston
  • A third-quarter information technology update, including information about the association’s new website
  • A status update on completed, ongoing, and upcoming RA capital projects, including an overview of funding for its Lake Thoreau project
  • A progress update on the recreation facilities working group, which is evaluating the condition, usage, and costs of the association’s recreational facilities

According to a summary in tonight’s agenda, the cancelation of camps, programs, and events, along with a shortened pool season, have had the most significant financial impact on Reston Association, lowering operating expenses by $2 million to offset a $1.5 million drop in revenue as of August.

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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Reston Association is surveying its members to determine preferences on receiving electronic ballots, which would require members to provide email addresses to RA and candidates running for the Board of Directors.

The two-question survey, which was released yesterday, asks members if they wish to receive electronic elections ballots and if they want to receive campaign emails directly from candidates without opting in.

In the past, RA has required members to opt-in for electronic ballots. Paper ballots are mailed to members who do not opt-in.

An increasing number of members have found online voting to be more convenient than mailing their ballots. Voting electronically helps increase participation in the annual board election, which is held throughout the month of March,” RA wrote in a statement.

The survey is intended to be an informal gauge to determine members’ preferences.

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Reston Association is hosting a series of listening sessions for its members beginning next month.

All five sessions will take place virtually on Zoom. The first four sessions will be targeted to subjects related to each of Reston’s districts, according to RA. The last session, which takes place in October, will touch on general topics.

Each meeting begins at 7 p.m.

A breakdown of the schedule, along with links on how to join, is available below:

Representatives of RA and its Board of Directors will be available to answer and field questions.

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Lab results indicate that a major algae bloom at Lake Thoreau is not toxic. But Reston Association is still encouraging residents to still avoid contact with the water, which has been consumed by the bloom and a dying clumps of the Hydrilla plant.

In a statement, RA said the results “do not at this time detect potentially toxic levels of microcystins in the sample provided.” The algal species does have the ability to produce the toxins if concentrations are high enough.  Residents should stay clear of the water until conditions return to normal. Some algae can cause skin rashes and gastrointestinal illnesses.

RA tried to control the growth of the Hydrilla plant through chemical treatment in late July, which may have created conditions for the algae bloom to thrive. The association noted that the treatment, which some criticized was done so too late into the summer season, did not cause the algae bloom. Other contributing factors include rain, runoff, water temperature, and the amount of nitrogen in the lake.

Local residents have launched an online petition calling on RA to clean up the lake and create a long-term plan to support its health. The petition has 86 signatures thus far.

Algae blooms, Hydrilla infestations, and other issues have bogged down the lake for several years. Some members say RA has failed to create a long-term plan to preserve the lake’s health.

The petition urges RA’s Board of Directors to fund the cleanup of the decaying Hydrilla, set up a community meeting to address concerns, establish a working group regarding the lake, and “hold people accountable for the mismanagement of this important community resource.”

RA has no immediate plans to clean up the dying Hydrilla, which it says will sink to the bottom of the lake over the next several weeks. The association also noted that treating the bloom as the Hydrilla plant dies could compromise oxygen levels at the lake and endanger aquatic life at the lake.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

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The Reston Association Board of Directors approved a committee’s updated report on the status of pedestrian and bicyclist facilities in the Reston.

The report, titled “Reston On Foot and Bicycle,” was formulated by the Multimodal Transportation Committee and is intended to serve as a resource for residents, developers, the county and state officials.

This is the fifth update of the report since it was first published in the early 1990s, according to Reston Association.

Most of the report’s recommendations continue to stress the need for an integrated network of bicycle facilities using existing streets.

“Reston has been supported by VDOT and FCDOT in making this a reality, yet many gaps remain,” according to the 33-page report.

MTC is also encouraging a number of curb cut improvements in Reston. The overall effort requires more cooperation between the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, VDOT, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the report states.

File photo

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors is improving gaps around financial decision-making due to its acceptance of a $1.3 million Paycheck Protection Program loan that it did not qualify for several months ago.

Some RA members criticized CEO Hank Lynch for pursuing the PPP loan in late March without consulting the Board of Directors in a formal meeting. RA President Julie Bitzer, board members, general counsel, and RA’s Principal Financial Officer were consulted prior to making the decision. The funds were returned on May 14 with no legal penalties or financial costs.

In a July 23 statement, Bitzer said the process indicated there is a “substantial gap in our governing instruments.”

“Specifically, formal controls on the manner in which RA may obtain unsecured loans do not exist,” she wrote in the board-authorized statement.

She also noted that staff and board officers made “assumptions and errors” in the rush to protect RA’s financial stability in response to COVID-19, adding that the majority of the board does not believe Lynch acted with ill intent or exceeded his authority.

In May, Reston Association declined to release information about the amount of the loan to Reston Now. The issue was first publicly raised during a May board meeting when Lynch briefed the board on why the loan was returned.

Nonetheless, RA passed several motions to close gaps in decision-making and improve overall coordination this month:

Move to direct the CEO to present to the FiscalCommittee all current unsecured loans previously entered into for their review and to direct the FiscalCommitteeto provide its review and recommendations on those loans to the Board at the September 2020 regular full Board meeting.

Move to direct that the BOD and CEO establish a periodic review of our business processes and controls to continue to refine our operations.

Move to instruct the Fiscal Committee and Board Governance Committee toreview and provide draft amendments to Staff’s draft revisions of Assessmentand Finance Resolution 10:Budget Amendments to clarify what constitutes amaterial change to the biennial budget that will require action by the Board ofDirectors. The BOD asks that it be presented Resolution 10 draft amendments on or before its November2020full BOD meeting for their consideration and action

In late June, the board also directed the CEO and staff to take no action on obtaining more loans — whether secured or unsecured — without board approval.

Bitzer also noted that Lynch’s decision to cancel summer programs qualified as a public health decision, not a budgetary decision. The decision was critiqued by some members who asserted that the change was a budget amendment, which only the board is authorized to complete.

Few, if any, organizations were fully prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic, and RestonAssociation was no exception. Organizations had to respond to the crisis, initially at least, with the resources they had on hand and then quickly assemble additional resources to deal with both obvious and also not-so-obvious potential challenges to the organization’s functioning and, for some, their very existence,” Bitzer wrote. 

Photo via YouTube

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Monday Morning Notes

Northam Considers Rolling Back Reopening — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has a warning for Virginians. He tweeted Saturday that he will be watching public health data as COVID-19 cases increase in the Commonwealth.” [FOX 5]

Quiet Opening for Apple Store in Reston Town Center — “The new, larger store has quietly opened for business, welcoming customers earlier this month. Usually, new Apple stores are accompanied by much hoopla and celebration. But not this time. In order to keep crowds down, the store just opened. Temperature taking, hand sanitizing, limited customers inside, and lines out front are all part of the new Apple store experience.” [The Burn]

Design Review Board Candidates Sought — Reston Association is seeking volunteers to serve on the board for two volunteer positions. The application is available online. [Reston Association]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Weather-related Road Closures — Although no roads are closed in Reston, a number of areas throughout the county remain impacted by yesterday’s storm. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Reston Association Board Meets Tonight — The Board of Directors will meet virtually today at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will take place via Zoom. [Reston Association]

Founding Farmers, Comstock to Deliver Food to Shelter — “Comstock Companies and Founding Farmers are partnering to provide breakfast and boxed lunches to the the Embry Rucker Shelter over the next month. Embry Rucker, which is located at 11975 Bowman Towne Drive, is a 70-bed residential shelter that provides housing for individuals and families in Reston.” [Reston Patch]

Photo via Marjorie Copson

 

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