Reston, VA

New Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn has plans to tackle a range of issues now that he’s joined the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Alcorn recently met with journalists and spokespeople to share his priorities for his first four-year term. 

Among his major talking points at the Friday (Jan. 17) morning meeting, Alcorn said he wants to rethink the Reston Comprehensive Plan, increase affordable housing, evaluate the use of private open space, improve pedestrian safety and boost efforts to become carbon-neutral.

Of that list, he said affordable housing is at the top of his agenda. “My predecessor, Cathy Hudgins, was a leader on the board for affordable housing,” Alcorn said, adding that he plans to continue her legacy. 

During his term, Alcorn said he will work together with other supervisors such as Dalia Palchik to increase the number of adorable hoising units. He said he hopes to raise the number of units from 10-12% to around 25-30.%

“I’m thinking thousands of units,” he said. 

For placement of new housing units, Alcorn suggested the transformation of old office parks and old commercial strip centers, which are no longer in use — a concept previously echoed by Palchik.

After the recent death of a person on Richmond Hwy, Alcorn said he will look into ways to assist with walkability and pedestrian safety in the region.

“The vast majority of our county was built around automobile mobility,” Alcorn said, adding that he thinks there are measures that can cut down on fatal traffic incidents — like evaluating historically problematic areas and installing safety measures such as suitable crosswalks.

He said a challenge will be working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and other officials.

“Road designs are pretty much the call of VDOT,” Alcorn said. “I think there is a lot more we can do when it comes to engaging and coordinating with the public on pedestrian safety.”

Alcorn also brought forth the topic of privately owned public spaces, such as Reston Town Center.

“That’s a double-edged sword,” he said, adding that he generally supports privately owned land for public enjoyment since maintenance isn’t a burden on the governmental budget. However, he said he is worried about the strings attached to the use.

He brought up concerns about use for voter registration and licensing to take photos for occasions like weddings and various events, that might be at the discretion of the private entity which owned the land. 

He said there is a lack of publically-owned space around Reston and the Hunter Mill District.

When it comes to the idea of carbon neutrality within the community, Alcorn said he wants to encourage homeowners’ use of solar panels and remove barriers for homeowners and private entities alike. Currently, he said there are some zoning ordinances that set homeowners back.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to see more ways that the county can help facilitate financing of residential renewable energy,” Alcorn said.

Around Reston, Alcorn said he already met with representatives from the Reston Association and hopes to form an alliance with the group.

“I would like to see Reston have an updated Comprehensive Plan to tie up some loose ends that have become apparent in the last few years,” Alcorn said.

Going forward, Alcorn said he wants to be an approachable representative for the Hunter Mill District and to help people get the most up-to-date information about their community.

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Thursday Morning Notes

Metro Ridership Increases — “Metrorail’s ridership growth trend can now be expressed in years, with the system posting a four-percent increase in passenger trips for the 2019 calendar year, ending a downward trend that lasted most of the prior decade. Total rail ridership was 182 million trips, compared to 175 million in 2018, a net increase of seven million trips, reflecting increasing customer confidence in Metro’s reliability and on-time performance.” [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Reston Indivisibles Join Protest at U.S. Senate — “Eleven members of Herndon-Reston Indivisible join other resisters in peaceful protest at the U.S. Senate to press for trial and removal of President Trump.” [The Connection]

Reston Association Pool and Tennis Passes For Sale — Passes for unlimited access to pools and tennis courts during the 2020 season are available for purchase online. [Reston Association]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Friday Morning Notes

Reston Association Seeks Design Review Board Members — RA is seeking members for two volunteer design professional positions. Applications are due by Jan. 31. [Reston Association]

County Seeks Election Officers   The county is seeking 2,100 election officers for the March 3 Democratic presidential primary election. Officers must be registered to vote in Virginia. The application is available online. [Fairfax County Government]

Registration for World Language Immersion Lottery to Open Later This Month — The Fairfax County Public Schools’ online registration for the county-wide lottery opens on Jan. 27. Parent information meetings kick off on Jan. 13. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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A major county effort to restore heavily degraded stream areas at the Snakeden Branch at Lake Audubon is underway and should be completed by October of this year.

The county is working with Reston Association and neighbors to restore 750 linear feet of stream channel. The stream area is so degraded that it exposed sewer pipes between South Lakes Drive, Wakerobin Lane, Cedar Cove Court and Lake Audubon.

“Exposed utilities, including sanitary sewer, are a potential human and environmental health hazard,” according to the county.

Construction began in October last year and is expected to take one year to complete.

The project disturbs a little over half an acre of forested land, requiring the removal of 111 trees. When the project is complete, 326 will be planted, according to data provided by the county. 

Once its complete, the project should improve water quality in the area, protect the local sanitary sewer system, remove invasive vegetation at the site, and reforest the area, resulting in improved wildlife habitat.

Here’s more on the project from RA:

Photos via Fairfax County Government

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Monday Morning Notes

Reston Telemedicine Has Big Plans — “Hammad Shah has two key goals for 2020: Serve more patients and reach more health systems. To do that, the CEO of Reston telemedicine provider SOC Telemed is shepherding the company further into post-acute care, to connect skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities with its team of doctors to remotely care for patients after they’re discharged from the hospital — and, consequently, prevent readmissions.” [Washington Business Journal]

Reston Association Replaces Reston Magazine with Activities Guide — Reston Association is expected to mail out a new activities guide this week, replacing the Reston magazine. The print version will be published four times a year. A digital version will be uploaded each quarter. [Reston Association]

Nearby: Loudoun County Seeks to Build Affordable Housing — “As the demographics of people moving to the suburbs shifts, Loudoun County is attempting to create more housing options to address would-be residents’ unmet needs. While Loudoun has grown at a fast pace over the past few years, like many jurisdictions in the region it has an affordable housing crunch, and many young adults can’t afford to live in the area.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Photo by Elizabeth Copson

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This op-ed was submitted by Doug Britt, who was honored as a 2019 Volunteers of the Year for his efforts to guide Reston into becoming a member of the Biophilic Cities Network. Mr. Britt is a Virginia Master Naturalist and currently serves as an At-Large Director of Reston Association  and is a member of RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee.

For years golf courses have been stereotyped as environmentally unfriendly amenities. But times are changing the way they are being managed. Overall Virginia has 37,000 acres of open space devoted to golf courses, and many of them are providing valuable wildlife habitats in otherwise urban settings. Reston’s two courses are prime examples. Deer, fox, groundhogs, chipmunks, and grey squirrels are often observed during daylight hours. More secretive or nocturnal mammals such as voles, mice, flying squirrels, coyotes, possums, raccoons, and skunks use the wooded margins of the roughs during the late evening hours. The golf course ponds harbor various species of turtles, frogs, toads, and salamanders. Birdwatching around the golf course margins can be very productive: more than 100 bird species have been observed from the two Reston courses. A pair of red-tailed hawks have fledged several young at Hidden Creek Golf Course each of the past several years, bald eagles occasionally stop over, and the peregrine falcons that nest at Town Center are occasionally seen hunting along the fairways. Bluebird populations around the courses have been increasing and Hidden Creek Country Club is the only community nesting site in Reston for purple martins. 

More and more courses in Virginia are applying best management principles to reduce chemical applications and to minimize irrigation needs. For example, the Virginia Golf Course Supervisors Association (VGCSA) established a Golf Course Nutrient Management Plan in 2017 designed to minimize fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide use. This year approximately 99% of Virginia golf courses have adopted this Plan. Most Virginia golf course supervisors are also using a comprehensive “Environmental Best Practices for Virginia Golf Courses Manual”. Audubon International has initiated a certified Cooperative Sanctuary Program for golf courses, and 29 Virginia courses have so far met the rigorous standards for program certification, including Reston National Golf Course, which just received its re-certification.

Some Virginia courses have established “pollinator gardens” around their tee boxes to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. More than 50 individual butterflies comprising a dozen different species were observed feeding on flowers around a single tee box at River Bend Country Club this summer. Other Fairfax County courses are participating in the “Monarchs in the Rough” Program, where the host plants for monarch larvae are planted to attract these iconic butterflies. Other County courses are cooperating with the Virginia Bluebird Society to create blue bird trails (Kingsmill Golf Course reported that it had fledged more than 200 bluebird chicks on its three courses this year).  Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria has 6 on-site beehives to help pollination; moreover, they sell the honey produced in their pro-shop.

Heavily treed golf courses such as Hidden Creek also provide substantial environmental and human health benefits. The trees contribute significantly to carbon capture and storage, air pollution removal, oxygen production, stormwater retention and erosion control. They also are effective in lowering energy costs by cooling surrounding buildings in the summer and reducing wind chill in the winter. Research on the human physiological, psychological, and spiritual benefits of contact with nature (and urban forests in particular) are showing diverse positive effects, including reduced blood pressure and stress hormone levels, lowered obesity, and increased cognitive performance. 

Proper turf management on golf courses also builds healthy soil microbial communities and encourages large earthworm populations that create biopores that oxygenate the soil and facilitate stormwater retention and groundwater recharge.

In 2018 Reston was designated a member of the prestigious Biophilic Cities Network – a network of progressive cities around the world that purposefully connect their residents with nature in significant and extraordinary ways. Reston was clearly designed to do just that by its founder’s (Robert E. Simon’s) guiding principles, its 55 miles of walking, hiking, and biking paths, and its 1300 acres of open space and natural areas. Reston’s golf courses have the potential, if managed wisely, to be very valuable environmental assets.  They should be another extension of the way Reston connects its people with nature where they live, work, and play.   

Photo by Reston Association

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Thursday Morning Notes

Reston Association Board Seeks Candidates — The organization is seeking candidates for board positions. Applications are due by Jan. 24. [Reston Association]

Herndon Man Arrested in Connection with Assault — Gabriel Ignacio Garcia, 56, was arrested for the aggravated assault of an individual known to him, according to the Herndon Police Department. The incident happened on Dec. 14 near the 1200 block of Springtide Place. [Town of Herndon]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Association Moves to New Billing System — “Reston Association has transitioned to a new assessment billing system that is now available for members who want to pay their 2020 annual fee online. The previous online billing system is no longer available.” [Reston Association]

Christmas Eve Extravaganza at Scout & Molly’s — The boutique is offering discounts today from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Reston Town Center. [Reston Town Center]

Christmas Week Shopping Hours Extended — “The clock is ticking toward Christmas Day and for those procrastinators, time is of the essence. Many Reston area shopping outlets have extended hours heading into the home stretch before the Christmas holiday.” [Patch]

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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Reston Association’s new information technology director says that the association needs to upgrade its technology to prevent issues.

Clara William, who started her new job in September, presented to RA’s Board of Directors on Thursday the issues she’s identified along with RA staff.

“It has challenges and it needs improvement,” William said, listing a variety of issues, older products no longer under warranties, outdated software and slow or no wireless speeds.

“We lack security from the end users point of view,” she said. “There is not a substantial amount of security that is there.”

Crashes can cause problems — which has happened already — because the association is using old software, like financial software from 2013, she said.

“I want to move away from customized programs completely,” she said, adding that the more customized a website is, the harder it is to maintain and update. “We want to move to a more cloud-based solution.”

During the presentation, William laid out the plan for how staff plan to fix the IT issues. “To do all of this work, were going to hire IT consultants,” she said.

William said goals for 2020 include:

  • stabilizing the infrastructure
  • modernizing the technology and security
  • augmenting IT skills gap with professional tech services
  • moving apps to the cloud software as a service
  • building centralized data and business intelligence reporting

People can also expect a new RA website next year, according to William’s presentation.

The work means that the IT budget for next year will increase $413,000 due to infrastructure upgrades, licensing and contract costs and consultants — totaling just over $1 million.

“It is required to take RA IT to the next level otherwise things are going to crash and fall apart,” William said about the high budget amount.

“I had no idea that our IT situation was this bad,” Vice President Julie Bitzer said, asking if the budget increase would be a one-time or continued increase.

William said that some of the costs may “go down or go away” next year, like the professional tech services.

“This budget will not be high next year,” William said.

William said that she will work with RA CEO Hank Lynch to come up with metrics for the project and how often the Board of Directors will receive updates.

“I will make sure there is a progress report,” William said.

Images via Reston Association/YouTube

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Restonians will be able to see the North Hills Tennis Courts’ new renovation in the spring.

The Reston Association decided to remodel the courts as part of the Capital Project and will feature new LED lighting, a clay surface, an irrigation system and an after-hour bathroom entrance, according to the RA.

Reston Now received conflicting reports from RA staff whether the courts were already open for use, but Rob Tucker, RA’s tennis program manager, said that they are mostly complete and will be unveiled for use in April 2020 with a ribbon-cutting.

North Hills Tennis Courts received a ground-up renovation, according to Tucker, who said that the new facilities are state of the art and require a special water irrigation system.

The clay courts are maintained using what Tucker described as a “sponge that sits under the courts.” When the courts become dry, water is pumped into the underlayer so the courts don’t crack.

“It’s a premium system and about the best you can get,” he said.

Overall, Tucker said the project cost roughly $400,000.

The typical hard courts run by the Reston Association will be open year-round, according to Tucker, but the new clay courts will be open seasonally during warm weather months.

North Hills Tennis Courts are the first in Reston to receive upgraded LED lighting, Tucker said.

Photo via Reston Association

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Applicants Sought for Design and Review Board — Reston Association is seeking two volunteer positions for the board: an architect and a landscape planner or landscape architect. Applications are due by Jan. 31. The term is in effect in March. [Reston Association]

Regional Groups Band Together at Chestnut Grove Cemetery — “Wright and other members of the Woman’s Club, the Herndon Fortnightly Club, South Lakes High School Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Color Guard of Reston, the Reston Chorale Bobby Pins and more were there to support the ceremony and the staff at the town-owned cemetery.” [The Connection]

Comscore Strikes Agreement with Draper Media — The Reston-baed company announced an agreement to provide Draper Media with measurement services for its CBS, NBC and FOX television station in Salisbury, Maryland. [PR Newswire]

Reston Hospital Center Welcomes New Chief Medical Officer — “Dr. Thomas Taghon is the new Chief Medical Officer at Reston Hospital Center, HCA Healthcare, as of Dec. 2. Dr. Taghon comes to Reston from his previous role as Associate Chief Medical Officer at Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio and as a Board Certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist. Ending his second week at Reston Hospital Center, Dr. Taghon shares his views on a variety of topics, including things that might surprise people about him.” [The Connection]

Photo by vantagehill/Flickr

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The Reston Association has decided to rename its camp program and add more options for people hoping to get involved next summer.

Now called Reston Camps, after rebranding from RA Camps, the program decided to institute several new camp opportunities after receiving feedback from kids and parents.

In 2020, the camp will offer new programming including a boating camp, aquatics camp, a young naturalist program and several others along with their traditional programs, according to Laura Kowalski, the director of recreation and environmental education for Reston Camps.

The organization also plans on revamping its lifeguard program.

Kowalski said that camp organizers will look at camp offerings and make changes to programming based on parent feedback, national trends and registration statistics from past years.

Regarding the name change, Kowalski said the organization decided it better suited their mission. “With any company, sometimes you just need to refresh.”

Reston Camps was originally founded in 1974, according to Kowalski and is the oldest camp in the area.

Katherine Caffrey, the camp director, said the program is constantly trying to evolve and suit the wishes and needs of campers.

A while back, Reston Camps instituted a ride service that picks kids up and drops them off at their home or parents’ work. Caffrey said that many parents aren’t aware of the program and encourages people to use it.

One thing that makes Reston Camps unique is its partnership with local scientific organizations, according to the organization’s staff.

“We have a pretty unique relationship with the United States Geological Survey,” Caffrey said.

Reston Camps works with USGS to schedule tours for kids and encourage an appreciation for science.

The new program announcements and registration can be found online. A lot of parents sign up their kids early, around January or February in anticipation for summer programs, Kowalski said.

Photo via Reston Association

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Local Fairfax County transportations officials are considering changes to Fairfax Connector routes in the Reston and Herndon area to meet demands created by the expansion of the Silver Line next year.

Of three options presented for changes, the county is recommending the “transformation” option — Other options included increment changes to the development plan or streamlining existing routes.

The recommended model would offer new service options, all day local service, and more frequent service to Metrorail Station through feeder routes at peak times. New planned connections include Sterling Plaza, Centreville and George Mason University in Fairfax.

County officials say the transformation model covers a greater area and includes the future Innovation Station. The model was also endorsed by the Multimodal Transportation Advisory Committee for recommendation to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT).

A recent marketing survey found the following areas had the lowest rankings:

  • Available when you need it
  • Fast way to travel
  • Goes places you need to go
  • Offers real-time information
  • Fits into your lifestyle

Users sought more frequent service, operation earlier or later in the day, and express bus service. Others said they were concerned about connections to Wiehle-Reston Metro East Station and Reston Town Center.

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will vote on a preferred service alternative on Thursday (Dec. 19).

Photo via FCDOT

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The Reston Association recently made several key edits to the draft of the 2020-2022 strategic plan, which is up for final approval on Thursday (Dec. 19).

Potential changes in the plan, drafted in November, include:

  • working with Fairfax County officials to ensure developments align with the Reston Master Plan
  • hosting more public forums to discuss land use and strategize with the community
  • increasing community leadership and RA’s public reputation
  • adjusting the association’s budget plans

RA CEO Hank Lynch will present the latest draft of the strategic plan, which is currently available online, before the final vote by the RA this week.

The draft addresses concerns about efficient and productive land use around Reston.

A section of the strategic plan said that the “RA will be actively engaged in the continuous land-use development process in Reston.”

By 2022, operation costs for the Reston Association are expected to rise to $17.9 million, but revenues are expected to increase proportionally by 2.5% as well, according to RA documents.

In 2019, the RA made $300,o00 more than expected, according to the documents.

“When revenues exceed plan and expenses are below budget, it is an indicator of a well-managed organization,” according to the documents. “Reston Association is such an organization.”

When polled by the RA, 73% of community members said they either considered the organization to be good or excellent, while 13% ranked the condition as poor.

A list of proposed goals included several ways that the association could improve public opinion — including the integration of more public forums.

The RA Board will vote to finalize the matter at its meeting on Thursday (Dec. 19) at 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Data in graph via Reston Association

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The Lake Thoreau Pool is set to receive a facelift now that the Reston Association and Fairfax County have decided it’s time for an update.

The pool at 2040 Upper Lake Drive was originally built in the 80s’ and hasn’t been remodeled since, according to the Reston Association.

Safety concerns brought forth by Dewberry Consultants in 2017 revealed that there are several safety issues with the pool, including wooden retaining walls and cracks in the facility, according to RA’s website.

The pool does not currently meet Fairfax County’s safety guidelines, and RA announced on its website the pool will be closed for the upcoming 2020 season.

The restoration process will begin in 2020 with a planning and ideation stage, according to RA.

A timeline given at a recent meeting suggested that construction will begin in 2021, and the new facility will be completed by 2022 if all goes according to plan.

It is unclear how much the restoration project will cost, a Reston Association spokesperson said, adding that the board was already given $350,000 to begin the project.

Now, the RA board members are preparing to hear community feedback regarding the project.

Image via Reston Association/YouTube

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