Wednesday Morning Notes

Herndon Police Department Offers Safe Trade Zone — If residents are planning to buy or sell online or need a safe place to meet for the exchange of payment and goods, the police department offers a place to do so at 387 Herndon Parkway. [Herndon Police Department]

Design Review Board Training — Reston Association’s Design Review Board met yesterday (Tuesday) at the organization’s headquarters to receive training on responsibilities, objectives of design covenants, and design guidelines. [Reston Association]

Be Wary of Black Ice This Morning — State transportation officials remind residents to drive safely due to possible slushy areas and black ice after last night’s rain. [Virginia Department of Transportation]

Photo via Flickr/vantagehill


Op-Ed: Reston Association “Branding” or Conning?

This is an op-ed submitted by Terry Maynard, co-chair of the Reston 20/20 committee. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

As reported by RestonNow, the Reston Association (RA) Board of Directors held a public information meeting on December 4 to provide a briefing on its “branding” initiative.  I, for one, wondered why our assessment fee-driven homeowners association (HOA) needed to have a brand or branding strategy given that we are a captive audience.  

Reviewing the video of the nearly two-hour meeting shows why:  RA doesn’t even know what “branding” is or, worse, it is intent on misrepresenting branding to its members.  

Branding is “the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.”   Nothing presented to Restonians related to RA advertising or design.

Instead, what the Board and Restonians heard on December 4 was a list of expensive new program ideas.  In fact, the consultant laid out results for 24–yes, two dozen–new programs for the RA Board’s consideration using a flawed methodology.   Of course, the survey provided no context, financial estimates, or any other information. 

Among the proposals were:

  • All-year weather-proof indoor swimming pools.  We already have such a pool at the Reston Community Center (RCC) which we Restonians (RA and non-RA, residential and commercial) pay for through our special tax district.  There are also indoor pools at local health clubs, including the YMCA.
  • A performing arts center.   At the community level, we already have the theater at RCC, and the county should be taking on the responsibility of a major performing arts center to serve the region–a more than $100 million effort.  
  • Gym-fitness center and a wellness center.  There are nearly a dozen private facilities in Reston already, and the county plans to build a large Hunter Mill District recreation center in Town Center North at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.  Basically all of these facilities have fitness and wellness programs, and much more.
  • Airport and concert shuttle bus service.  These services are provided by vendors and there is no justification for RA competing with the private sector.
  • Concerts, festivals, community clubs, etc.  All of these kinds of activities are provided by RCC (and some by RA) and need not duplicated (and paid for twice) by RA members.  

Hank Lynch, RA’s CEO, pitched these ideas saying, “I’ve been instructed to keep assessments low and you look for ways to generate some revenue.”  Well, some of these half-baked ideas might generate revenue, but they will also generate costs–millions of dollars in many cases.   

As RA data indicates, costs are critical.   In a special presentation to the Board in 2015, RA’s Larry Butler showed that the budgeted net overall direct recreation facility and programming cost in five key programs recovered about half their costs, adding $1,589,059 to RA members’ fees in 2016.  

Along the same line, a Reston 20/20 analysis of RA’s recent budgets indicates that RA will lose $1.5 million (52% recovery rate) this year and its newly approved budgeted indicates losses of $1.7 million in 2020 and $1.8 million in 2021 (both a 50% recovery rate) over these same five program areas.   

And the above analyses only consider operating and maintenance costs, not capital costs.  Capital costs for indoor recreation facilities or a performing arts center could add millions–even tens of millions–to these costs.  (A 2013 RCC consultant study put the cost of a new Reston recreation center at $37-$49 million depending on amenities, for example.)   We simply cannot forget the reckless lesson of RA’s $2.65 million Tetra acquisition cost this quickly.

With RA recovering only about half of the operating cost of its various programs, it would be highly unlikely to generate a net positive revenue stream from any substantial new programs or facilities.  

The bottom line is RA did not provide a “branding” presentation last week.  It simply displayed its “wish list.” There was no effort to identify initiatives that would lower or contain RA assessments.  

Restonians are smart enough to tell the difference between a legitimate proposal and a con job.  This was a con job. Reject it–and let your RA Board know what you think.


Brand Strategy Company Pitches New ‘Brand Strategy’ for Reston Association

The Brand Consultancy, a DC-based brand strategy company, is encouraging the Reston Association to change its brand strategy to emphasize its amenities and “proven innovation.”

At a meeting on Wednesday, the company, which was contracted by RA to complete a stakeholder survey and shape its brand and strategy, presented the findings of its report.

Overall, an online survey found that 55 percent of respondents had an excellent opinion of RA. The survey was distributed online and used a non-random sample of 1,600 respondents.

Some members questioned the validity of the survey findings and the statistical significance of the survey, which was distributed online and is based on a non-random sample. More than 48 percent of the respondents have household incomes of more than $100,000.

Diane Beecher, The Brand Consultancy’s CEO and senior strategist, said the company is “very confident” that the results of the survey were “statistically reliable.”

Overall, survey respondents reported high levels of satisfaction (Upwards of 89 percent) with paved hiking trails, pathways, garden plots, and community space maintenance. Covenants, standards, and summer camp programs received the lowest levels of satisfaction from respondents.

Reston Association should capitalize on its strengths of providing high-quality amenities and creating a better place to live, according to Beecher. The organization should consider mitigating its primary weakness of community care and the preservation of design and value, according to the consultants.

The company pitched the following brand story:

Proven innovation. We bring it home.

Always grounded in purposes so we can elevate every experience.

Both forward-looking and value adding, we believe that if anything proves the power of our tomorrow, it’s what we’re doing today.

Because today, we’re aligning every service and amenity with every need and want.

Today, we’re increasing the value of homes and properties — and of visitor and member satisfaction. And today, we’re keeping your best interests at heart so that tomorrow we’re even more state-of-the-art.

So here’s to being the association where what we could do becomes what we did. The association that continuously creates better amenities, services and ways of living. And the association that’s always at the forefront of our future, powering a potential that’s exponential.

The company also suggested pushing out key messages like “our services and amenities are well priced” and “we provide high-quality services and amenities.”

The brand pillars of preservation drivers, community inspired and value-focused were also pitched by the company based on values derived from an analysis of survey results and qualitative interviews.

Reston Association’s next steps include operationalizing the organization’s strategic roadmap, refining its customer experience, and launching a newly-defined brand to members and those who live, work and play in Reston.

A spokesperson for RA did not disclose the cost of the contract with The Brand Consultancy.

Photo via YouTube


Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Association to Hold Special Meeting Tomorrow — The Brand Consultancy, a brand strategy company, will present its final report to RA’s Board of Directors tomorrow (Wednesday) at a special board meeting at 7 p.m. [Reston Association]

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Accepts Toy Donations — The department is taking part in the annual Toys for Tots Campaign. Donations are accepted through Friday, Dec. 13. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Photo by Marjorie Copson


Thanksgiving: What’s Open, What’s Closed

Most Fairfax County offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving.

Fairfax County libraries will be closed both days. Courts close at noon tomorrow (Wednesday) and will remain closed on Thursday and Friday.

All Reston Association offices, including the Nature House and Central Services Facility, will be closed. Offices close at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday).

The Fairfax Connector operates on a Sunday schedule on Thursday. Routes without Sunday service will not operate. The next day, commuters can expect a modified holiday weekend schedule.

Reston Community Center Lake Anne is closed both days, while the location at Hunters Woods is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Black Friday.

Residents who receive trash and recycling collection from the county will have regular collection services both days. Residents with collection services from a private company should contact the service provider for the modified holiday schedule.

File photo


Reston Association to Discuss Report by Brand Strategy Company

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will meet next week to review findings by a brand strategy company hired by the organization.

The board is set to hold a special meeting on findings by The Brand Consultancy, a DC-based brand strategy company selected by RA to conduct a “multi-phase brand positioning and research project” for the association.

The company is expected to provide a final report of its findings and the meeting.

The meeting takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 7-8:30 p.m. at RA headquarters.

The company organized an online survey to assess members’ opinions of RA and its services over the summer.


Annual Turkey Trail Tour in Reston to Teach Turkey Facts

The annual “Turkey Trail” event in Reston invites community members to take a nature hike and learn about wild turkeys.

People can take a guided tour from a naturalist on Saturday (Nov. 30) from 11 a.m. until 12 p.m. at the Walker Nature Center (1140 Glade Drive). Participants will learn about turkey facts and the climate, according to the Facebook page

All ages are welcome and programming is designed to interest a variety of participants, the event page said.

Tickets are $5 for Reston Association members and $7 for non-RA members. Anyone wishing to participate needs to register by Wednesday (Nov. 27).

Photo via Walker Nature Center/Facebook


Sunrise Square Townhomes Finally Ready For Residency

The Sunrise Square townhome development in Reston is complete after two years of construction.

The development consists of 34 townhouses and 10 condos, many of which have already been sold.

Only eight townhomes remain on the market and are going for $800,000 and above, Jack Appleman, a spokesperson for the real estate group Sekas Homes, said.

During development, five of the homes were made in a way that would let buyers customize them and choose their own interior designs, Appleman said.

The remaining listings on the website include three bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, featuring 9-foot ceilings and access to nearby trails, Reston Association pools, tennis courts and other community facilities.


With Conceptual Proposal, Reston Town Center North Redevelopment Renamed Cameron Green

Reston Town Center North, a 47-acre site that serves as a transition from Reston Town Center to surrounding residential areas, now has a new name: Cameron Green.

With a rebranded mixed-use redevelopment proposal, a conceptual approval for a grid-of-streets plan was approved by Reston Association’s Design Review Board earlier this week.

The plan includes nine acres of open space, with a central green — which is intended to act as a “Reston park in a new forest” that rests in the center of the site. The project will also include an athletic field and a county recreation center.

The central green is intended to be more neighborhood-focused and have “a Reston community feel,” according to application materials submitted to the DRB.

At a Tuesday meeting, the DRB unanimously gave conceptual approval for the plan. Members noted that the panel would have an opportunity to follow up on the inclusion of trees and the placemaking nature of planned open space once the development team submits a zoning application.

Richard Newlon, the DRB’s chairman, said plans approved for conceptual approval often differ significantly from the final and completed product — a change that he said raises some concerns.

In some cases, the final product is merely “in the spirit” of the conceptual approval, Newlon added, noting that dots denoting trees may look “cute” on paper.

Future concerns about trees and buffering could be addressed in future discussions, Newlon said.

Photos via handout/Reston Association


Public Art at New Lake Anne Fellowship House Approved

Once the Lake Anne Fellowship House is redeveloped, bronze canvas-like art will wrap around the garage that rests below the 240-unit building.

Reston Association’s Design Review Board approved the final design at on Tuesday (Nov. 12).

At the meeting, Suzane. Welch, vice president of the Community Preservation and Development Corp. said the company was considering relocation trees planned in front of the screen.

The concept was approved by Public Art Reston‘s public art committee, which suggested relocating the trees to showcase the artwork more effectively.

Overall, DRB members said they were pleased with the design.

Richard Newlon, chairman of the panel, said the company should consider retaining the trees in order to create a buffer between the sidewalk and the building. He added that he liked the aesthetic of the screen, which consists of a perforated metal panel.

“It’s supposed to be background. It’s not supposed to be canvas art,” Newlon said.

Other members noted that the art would require maintenance due to its design.

The county approved the redevelopment of the fellowship house, which offers affordable housing for seniors, in October 2018.

Once the building is redeveloped, the development team will build 36 market-rate townhouses to the west side of property. 


Reston Association to Host Final Public Hearing on 2020 Budget

The Reston Association is set to hold a final public hearing for the Reston 2020-2021 budget next week.

The meeting will take place at RA Head Quarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) beginning at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday (Nov. 21) and will be a chance for community members to share their concerns and grievances with the RA Board of Directors before they vote on the budget.

In 2020, Reston is expected to roughly raise $19 million in revenue with the operating budget, and operating costs are only expected to add up to $16 million, leaving a $3 million surplus, according to RA documents.

“Through these meetings, the board identifies revenues and expenses that should be added or eliminated based on the association’s strategic goals,” according to the RA website.

Photo via Reston Association


Reston Association Invites Members to Apply for Board of Directors Candidacy

The Reston Association is seeking several candidates for seats on its Board of Directors for the upcoming election in March.

There are currently four open positions on the board for 2020 and include two at-large positions, an apartment owners’ seat and the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District seat.

One of the at-large positions is for a one-year term while the other is for a three-year term.

Candidates must be a Reston Association member to qualify for a position and announce their candidacy by Jan. 24. People can email RA if they have questions.

There will be a meeting on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Reston Association Headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive)  for anyone interested in candidacy.

Photo via YouTube/Reston Association


Tuesday Morning Notes

Final Showings of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” — There are two showings left for the Reston Community Players’ performance on Nov. 8 and 9 at Reston Community Center (2310 Colts Neck Road). Tickets are available online. [Reston Community Players]

County Host Tactical Athlete Wellness SymposiumOn November 7 and 8, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is hosting the 2019 Tactical Athlete Wellness Symposium – Mind, Body, and Soul. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Reston Association Markets The Lake House — The association is marketing the venue, which says it is ideal for events, parties and other special occasions. [Reston Today]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr


Monday Morning Notes

Community Meeting on Lake Thoreau Project Today — Reston Association staff will meet with members to discuss future plans for the pool, which will be closed for the 2020 season. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. tonight (Monday) at RA headquarters. [Reston Association]

Metro’s Budget Proposal to Increase Fares, Restore Night Service —  “Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year would increase peak fares, offer a flat weekend fare and expand late-night service for the first time since a 2016 moratorium.” [The Washington Post]

Season Extended for Local Farmers Markets — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will extend the season at three farmers market locations; Burke, Reston, and McCutcheon/Mount Vernon Farmers Markets.” [Fairfax County Government]

Photo by Ray Copson


Reston Association to Hold Community Meeting on Future of Lake Thoreau

Residents can learn more about the future of Lake Thoreau pool at a special community meeting on Monday, Nov. 4 at Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).

RA staff will update the community on safety concerns highlighted by a recent engineering report, as well as how the association plans to address structural problems of the nearly 40-year-old facility.

The 2019 report found a number of structural cracks in the facility’s retaining wall. A representative from Kimley Horn, an engineering firm that conducted a 2017 study on the pool, will also attend the meeting.

Members will also have an opportunity to ask questions after the presentation by RA staff.

At a recent meeting, RA’s Board of Directors and staff indicated the pool will likely be closed for the 2020 season. The association expects to engage with the community to determine future plans for the facility.

Photo via Flickr/vantagehill


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