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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Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Association Offers Update on Capital Projects — Chris Schumaker, RA’s director of capital projects, offers an update on recent capital projects, including the roof replacement at Uplands Pool and concrete repairs at Lake Newport Pool. [Reston Today]

County Offers Recommendations on Celebrating Winter Holidays — “Recommendations shared for Thanksgiving apply to December holidays as well. Remember: the safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is with people in your household. Therefore, we recommend making the holidays more leisurely this year. Stay home, stay cozy, and keep it small and simple.” [Fairfax County Government]

Local Volunteer Wins Elly Doyle Award — Leslie painter, who frequently volunteers at Frying Pan Farm Park and also serves on the board of directors, has been selected for an Elly Doyle Award. [YouTube]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Monday Morning Notes

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Safely in Reston — “While it may be tempting to enjoy traditions as usual, the safest thing you can do, the CDC says, is celebrate at home with people who are part of your immediate household.  [Reston Patch]

Registration Opens for Winter Break Camp — The camp will begin on Dec. 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for children between ages five and 12. Enrollment is available on a daily basis. [RA]

FCPS Wins Three Communications Awards — “Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has won three awards in the 2020 CHESPRA (Chesapeake Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association) communications contest.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Reston Association’s Board of Directors narrowly approved a $10 increase in next year’s assessment Thursday night. Four members of the nine-member board — Ven Iyer, Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, Bob Petrine, and Mike Collins — voted against the proposal due to financial concerns.

The funding gap between current revenues and future expenses was especially apparent in this year’s budget negotiations as RA debated how to fund the renovation of Lake Thoreau.

RA CEO Hank Lynch originally pitched a budget with no assessment increase in order to account for the impact of COVID-19 on members. But RA’s Board directed Lynch to explore other assessment options up to $728 in order to account for future expenses and reduce the likelihood of a major fee increase in 2022.

Additional revenue from member fees will be used for ADA-additions to Temporary Road and accounts for the lease of RA’s headquarters, which will be reflected as an average booked rate for ten years instead of actual costs for 2021. Other funds above $80,000 would be placed in RA’s operating reserve for future use.

Assessment invoices will be mailed to members next month and are due Jan. 1. RA plans to launch a new system for members to pay fees online and “will be the most convenient way for members to pay their assessment during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a news release.

The budget also does away with processing fees for online payments and accounts for an. 86 percnet increase in funding for lake treatment at Lake Thoreau and other Reston lakes.

RA’s Central Services Facility will also reduce the number of times it mows Virginia Department of Transportation roads in Reston. Currently, VDOT’s contract with RA pays for three mowing cycles on an annual basis.

Other features of the budget include:

  • No staff merit pay increases
  • Full-time headcount reduced by one position
  • Three current and vacant positions will remain vacant until the end of March
  • Next year’s communications, marketing and public relations budget is reduced by 9.5 percent
  • IT reduces the budget by $195,000 by moving to Cloud and not filling 2020 approved staff positions
  • Election budget increases by 14.6 percent to increase voter turnout

In addition to Lake Thoreau, the pools at Shadowood and Tall Oaks will be closed next year for capital improvements.

Image via Reston Assoication/YouTube

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Next month, Reston Association will be conducting its annual lake inspections on Reston lakes.

The association announced the inspection in a press release Tuesday (Nov. 17). Starting the second week of December, if weather permits, Lakes Anne, Audubon, Newport and Thoreau will all have inspections inside and outside the bodies of water, according to the press release.

“We contract with an engineering firm specialized in this service whose team inspects the inside and outside of the structure and uses divers to look at areas underwater,” the press release said. “To accommodate this inspection, each lake is lowered slightly to prevent water from spilling over the concrete lip that is at the regular lake pool surface level. This lowering typically does not impact activities or boats on the lake.”

Reston Association Watershed Manager William Peterson says these inspections are performed to look for several possible areas of concern.

“Regardless of whether a part of the riser structure is under water or out of the water, we are looking for similar things,” Peterson said. “Essentially, anything that might create a concern. This could include cracks in the concrete, leaks in the control gates, corroded metal for any of the gears, pipes or grates, proper operation of the gates and valves, and more. We want to make sure that our dams are well maintained to ensure the safety of our community and those downstream of each of our lakes.”

Restionians living near any of the four lakes – Anne, Audubon, Newport and Thoreau – should not expect to be affected by the inspections, according to Peterson.

“Typically, the inspections do not affect the residents living near the four lakes,” Peterson said. “Although each riser structure has gates to control the water level, they are always closed except for maintenance purposes. The level of the water for the lakes is typically right at the concrete threshold that allows the lakes to have continuous flow downstream. For the inspections, we lower the levels slightly, typically about a foot, so that water is not flowing inside of the riser structure during the inspection. This helps the inspectors identify possible leaks.”

This year, according to Peterson, Lake Audubon will be lowered a lot more to accommodate the water-overflow.

“Lake Audubon’s water level will be lowered six to eight feet to conduct an inspection on the Thoreau dam outfall, which is on the Lake Audubon side of the dam, Peterson said.” “This is on the opposite side of South Lakes Drive from Thoreau. Although Lake Thoreau will be lowered to prevent water from flowing over the threshold mentioned above, it will not be lowered substantially like Lake Audubon is and should not impact boats on Lake Thoreau.”

For more information about the upcoming lake inspections, visit Reston Association’s website.

Photo via Restion Association/Facebook

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Friday Morning Notes

Covenants Staff Aim to Improve Service — Reston Association’s covenants team is working to improve its covenants process. Staff is currently handling a spike in requests for exterior modifications and other applications due to stay-at-home orders. The team is working on improving communications. [RA]

Nearby: Police Investigate Shootings —Major crime detectives continue to investigate three sheetings that happened over the last 36 hours in Fairfax County, including a shooting at a Motel 6 in Springfield, a shooting involving a juvenile victim, and another shooting in Lorton that left two men with serious injuries. [FCPD]

County Offers Tips on Celebrating Diwali Safely — The county is encouraging residents to celebrate the five-day festival of lights safely due to COVID-19. This year’s festival starts tomorrow (Saturday). [Fairfax County Government]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Association Encourages Residents to Take Pledge —  Reston became a member of the Biophilic Cities Network in 2018 and continues its efforts to advocate for the natural environment that is the centerpiece of our community. Part of those efforts to raise awareness of our environment includes asking Reston Association members take the Biophilic Pledge.” [RA]

DMV Black Restaurant Week Includes NoVa Participants — “DMV Black Restaurant Week kicked off Sunday and will be held through Nov. 15, showcasing specials at Black-owned food and beverage establishments in the DMV, Emily Leahman of Patch writes. Reston’s Makers Union is taking part in the week. [Reston Patch]

Applications Accepted for Energy Assistance — The county is offering eligible households with low-income help to cover expenses associated with heating or cooling their homes. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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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The Reston Community Center is working with the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, Reston Association, and Cornerstones to expand its Annual Thanksgiving Food Drive this year.

The drive is introducing two “Stuff the RA Camp Van” events this month, according to a press release from the RCC, encouraging people to bring non-perishable food and other items to the RA Camp Van. The van will be open at these places and times:

  • Saturday, Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the SunTrust Bank parking lot at South Lakes Village Center.
  • Saturday, Nov. 14 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. next to the BB&T Bank at North Point Village Center.

The Annual Thanksgiving Drive as a whole will run through Nov. 23. There are collection boxes at RCC facilities, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce and other drop-off points, according to the release. People are encouraged to donate non-perishable food and gift cards, amongst other things. 

“The impact of COVID-19 has been profound, and the challenges faced by families struggling to meet their commitments during the pandemic are enormous,” said Leila Gordon, the RCC Executive Director. “We know that keeping our community strong and safe depends on the generosity of those who have the ability to give. We are very grateful for all the support people can offer.” 

Those looking to volunteer can sign up to be a Volunteer Loader on Nov. 24 or 25, or a Volunteer Food Sorter on Nov. 26 or 27. The events will be held with social distancing, mask-wearing, and smaller group sizes.

Photo via the RCC website

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If Reston Association maintains an assessment of $708 for 2021, members could see a fee increase of up to $100 in 2022, according to CEO Hank Lynch’s meeting materials.

RA’s Board of Directors will hold a public hearing tonight to discuss the proposed assessment of $708, which was pitched by Lynch. At the board’s request, RA is considering a possible increase of up to $728. Some board members hope a slight increase this year will prevent higher increases in the coming years.

Much of the budget’s assumptions rest on unclear factors. For example, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is unknown.

An assessment of major capital needs is due from RA’s Recreational Facilities Working Group. The assessment will be used to determine RA’s future capital needs and projects’. Impact on the 2022 assessment rate.

Lynch has proposed deferring many expenses to 2022 and beyond. Roughly $1.3 million in capital work has been deferred to future years. No staff merit pay increases as planned as part of the 2021 budget. 

The budget hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. today.

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Monday Morning Notes

Northland Controls Expands into Reston — The company, which designs, installs and manages security systems around the world, has new offices in Reston on 12100 Sunset Hills Road. The new space allows the company to “hire additional talent and better accommodate our growing team,” according to CEO Pierre Trapanese. [Northland Controls]

Reston Bike Club Hands Out Bike Lights — The Reston Bike Club and the Dulles Area Transportation Association are making sure local essential workers have front and bike lights to get them through the winter safely. [Local DVM]

Winners Named in Carving Test — Reston Association has named three winners in its Great Pumpkin Carving Contest. Winners were named in the categories of classic, most creative and funniest looking. [RA]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Reston Association is seeking feedback from members as it continues exploring a website redesign.

The association’s website was abruptly taken down in July and reverted to a simpler platform. RA officials noted then that the website was very outdated and unsupported.

RA’s recent survey will be used to determine what features membership finds most important. The results of the informal survey will be used to help determine the website vendor and website platform, according to an RA news release.

The current website uses Squarespace — a commonly used website building and hosting platform —  and is a pared-down version of “essential information,” but it does not offer much functionality or two-way communications with RA members. For example, most meeting materials and related documents are directly uploaded to a publicly-accessible Dropbox.

Here’s more from RA on the survey:

It is the goal or the association to provide a user-friendly website that will make it easier for members to conduct business, quickly find specific information and receive timely alerts online or on mobile devices. There are specific questions in the online survey that will assist us in creating a new site that meets industry design and web security standards, and includes enhanced contact features that will allow residents to interact with RA staff in an efficient manner. Members can take the survey through Nov. 6.

At a recent board meeting earlier this month, RA staff indicated that the new website could include chat options and a better interface for members to contact staff and ask questions.

Image via Reston Association/website

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Friday Morning Notes

Frost Advisory In Effect — A frost advisory is in effect until 9 a.m. today (Friday). Frost can kill sensitive outdoor vegetation, if left uncovered. [National Weather Service]

Sterling Man Arrested in Connection with Rape — Saul Recinos Deunas, 43, was arrested in connection with the rape of a victim that he knew, according to the Herndon Police Department. The incident happened on Oct.3 at the 1200 block of Springtide Place. He was taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center where he was held without bond. [HPD]

Recreation Workgroup to Meet Next Week — Reston Association’s Recreation Facilities Working Group will meet on Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. [RA]

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Thursday Morning Notes

Informal Survey on Reston Association Website Underway  Reston Association is conducting an informal survey to determine what features its membership would find most important in a new RA website. As part of the preliminary research in choosing a vendor and a website platform that meets the current and future needs of the association, please click the link below to take the online survey.” [RA]

Native American Campfire Cookout Returns to Riverbend Park  Residents can learn how early Native Americans lived off the land by learning special recipes and cooking techniques. The event takes place on Nov. 14 and Nov. 21. [Fairfax County Government]

Flood Watch In Effect   A Flood Watch is in effect until 10 p.m. this evening. Remnants of former Hurricane Zeta may result in two to three inches of rain. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Photo by Elizabeth Copson

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In mid-August, a major and possibly toxic algae bloom blanketed Lake Thoreau following Reston Association’s treatment of an invasive plant in the lake.

The treatment, which RA said was one of several factors that caused the bloom, was conducted much later into the season, making the bloom worse.

Following this issue and subsequent community meetings about lake management, RA CEO Hank Lynch wants to more than double its lake maintenance treatment budget for 2021 budget, which is currently under development. This year’s lake maintenance budget is $31,745, up from $17,103 in 2020’s. budget.

The proposed budget would include up to five algae treatments of Lake Thoreau, up to five algae treatments at Lake Anne, and $18,920 to treat lake Thoreau with sonar pelters in the spring or early summer.

The association also plans to shift from treating the lake with contact herbicides to systemic herbicides earlier in the season to control the hydrilla plant.

“This solution will control the hydrilla before it gets to grow and become a problem in the lake,” according to meeting materials.

The systemic herbicide treatment is much more costly than previously used treatment but will produce more long-lasting results, Lynch said at a Board of Directors’ meeting last week.

RA also hopes to remove water lillies at Lake Newport every few years. Its consultant, Aquatic Environment Consultants, will “continue to monitor to determine the right timing of this treatment,” according to meeting materials.

The removal of primrose and alligator weed at Lake Thoreau on the shoreline and along the dams has also been identified as a pending project. The issue will be addressed based on growing conditions this summer.

The lake will also be stocked with 130 carp — which consume aquatics plants — to help manage the overgrowth of certain aquatic plants like hydrilla. The lake was last stocked in 2017 with 80 carp.

RA will hold another community engagement meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6:30 p.m. to discuss Lake Thoreau and lake environmental health. The meeting will take place online.

Photo by Jeannine Santoro

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