Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fairfax Library Advocates letter to Library Board, Administrator re Memorandum of Understanding, July 10, 2017

From: Dennis Hays

To: Miriam Smolen ; Michael Donovan ; Charles Fegan ; "" ; Fran Millhouser ; Gary G. Russell ; Karrie Delaney ; Priscille Dando ; Sheila Janega ; Suzanne Levy ; "" ; ""

Cc: Linda Smyth ; Cathy Hudgins ; Jessica Hudson

Sent: Monday, July 10, 2017 11:05 AM
Subject: MOU between the Trustees and the Friends

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       July 10, 2017

Dear Ms. Smolen:  Thank you again for organizing the May 30th public meeting of your ad hoc committee on the MOU.  This resulted in a useful discussion.  I've read the two different versions of your minutes and as such minutes serve as the official record of the meeting I'm taking the liberty to add some additional detail to present a bit more perspective.  

In addition to yourself and Director Hudson, around fifteen representatives of various Friends groups spoke.  It is worth noting that none of them spoke in support of your presentation.  None of them.  Far from it.  Emotions were heated, although proper decorum was maintained.  A large number of issues were raised by the Friends, but none of them were answered to the satisfaction of the 50 or so individuals present.  

Speaking generally, there appears to be continuing confusion of the part of the County and maybe even one or two of the Trustees about what the Friends are and do.  This is not just unfortunate, it is dangerous - and inevitably will lead to serious miscalculates.  Presumably you are familiar with the fable of the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs.   If so, you may remember the story did not end well for either the goose or the farmer.   

Fortunately, there is a quick and easy path forward to deal with this confusion - you could START by talking to the Friends before huddling with County attorneys and embarking on a rewrite of a set of agreements that have served the County, the Libraries and the general public well for over a decade.  After all, the MOUs are between the Trustees and the various individual Friends groups.  Shouldn't the other equal party in an MOU be consulted?  

It appears from your remarks you envision a single MOU will apply to all Friends Groups.  Is this so?  Please remember that each Friends group is an independent organization with its own Board, history, mission, volunteer base, goals, financial resources and relationship with its respective Branch.  Some Friends groups are large and well funded, others are much smaller and more constrained as to what they can do.  An attempt to have a "one size fits all" approach seems inappropriate.  In any event, any new MOU will need to be negotiated with each Friends group individually.  

It also appears there is confusion about what an independent 501 (c) 3 organization is.  For starters, such organizations are not part of the County government.  The Friends work WITH the County, not FOR the County.  The whole point of an MOU is to define the relationship between two entities.  It does not, however, give either entity the right to interfere in the internal operations of the other.  As noted in my earlier message, each Friends group is in full compliance with all State and Federal laws and regulations and produces regular financial reports which are public documents.  Please let me know if you believe the Trustees or the County have a legal right to dictate the internal operations of an independent 501 (c) 3 organization.   

There was universal and vehement rejection of the proposal to place a cap on the Friends funds.  Speaker after speaker noted the County has no right or justification to take such a "Big Brother" approach.  One Friend stated the County was proposing to "punish success".  Several speakers noted one of the main reasons funds accumulate is the inability of the Library to use the funds offered.  For example, the County won't accept donations that have a "tail", that is, ongoing maintenance or service contracts or a need for updated software, etc.  Several different Friends jumped up at this and said they repeatedly have offered to cover all such costs.   There are restrictions on buying books, restrictions of buying machinery, restrictions on programs.   

The Friends exist to support the libraries.  Many of us have long urged the Library Administration to work with the County Administration to broaden the ways the Friends can help.  And finally, there may be a glimmer of hope here - the message Director Hudson sent out to the Friends Presidents last week, calling on the Friends to consider contributing in areas previously not allowed, is a solid step in the right direction.  The fact that the tone of that message is professional, problem solving and respectful is a bonus.  

The issues of liability and insurance are complicated and deserve further study.  

There was a brief discussion of a need to update the Friends Handbook which presumably prompted the following Q&A in the Attachment to the first set of minutes: 
  1.  The Library Handbook needs updatingShould the update of the Handbook come before the update of the MOU?

    Yes, the Handbook needs updating to reflect procedural changes as well as Library Board of Trustee policy changes. The current Handbook can be found at and it is anticipated that it will be updated in the coming fiscal year. 
I assume that by "the coming fiscal year" you mean 2018?  This is encouraging news.   By dropping further discussion of the MOU until the Handbook is updated we all have an opportunity to avoid the mistakes and false starts noted above and begin anew - perhaps this time engaging with the Friends first and advising where you believe revisions are needed.  And, of course, the Friends will likely have areas where they believe revisions would advance our common objectives.   Please confirm you are suspending further action on the MOU until the Handbook is reconsidered.  Or is the statement in the Attachment incorrect?  

The Friends have a long and proud history of supporting the Fairfax County Library system.  As the previous Director noted:

The "Friends have played a pivotal role in the support, expansion and enhancement of this library system. Friends have raised community awareness of the library; campaigned for new buildings; paid for children's programs; lobbied for increased funding and purchased important branch supplies and equipment.

Friends are critical to the library's mission. As you know, the economy is ever-changing, and unpredictable events impact the public funding allocated to county agencies. Through boom times and lean years, we count on our Friends to help us provide consistently excellent service to one of the most literate communities in the world."

Why would anyone want to risk all of this?   

Very best regards, Dennis 
Ambassador Dennis K. Hays (ret.)
Chairman, Fairfax Library Advocates

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Migration to D.C. remains stable, but plummets for rest of region, Mike Maciag, DC Policy Center, June 20, 2017

In a report analyzing the region's migration pattern by county last year, Mike Maciag of the DC Policy Center highlights the huge losses in population in the region's suburbs versus the small gains in Washington, DC.  Unfortunately, Fairfax County led the region in migration losses with a net negative migration of 17,800. 

Here is some of what Maciag says about the overall migration shifts:
For each of the past three years, more people have left the D.C. metro area for other parts of the country than moved in. In 2016, the reported net domestic migration loss topped 31,000 — the steepest decline in years. That represents a stark reversal from the immediate post-recession period when the region enjoyed especially strong population gains. Much of the shift is explained by the economy: The Greater Washington region weathered the recession better than other parts of the country, but jobs have since returned in places that previously sustained severe job losses.
DC net domestic migration remains positive, unlike the rest of the metro region

More worrisome for Fairfax County is the fact that its migration loss accounted for more than half of the total negative net migration and, at -17,800 people, was more than double the second worst loser, Prince Georges County. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Reston Today--Development Density Cap Changes--Planned Residential Community (PRC), RA

This brief video gives a good introduction to the proposed change in Reston's PRC zoning ordinance that would increase allowable residential density in high-density neighborhoods.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Reston Citizens Association (RCA) Call for Board of Directors Candidates

Reston Citizens Association (RCA) announces elections will be held from June 7 to June 22 for four district seats and two at-large seats for its Board of Directors. Restonians interested in joining the RCA Board are invited to file completed candidate forms by May 30, 2017. 
The Reston Citizens Association (RCA) is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c) 3 corporation serving over 60,000 people who live in Reston. Founded in 1967, RCA is the only community-wide, non-partisan, and action-oriented organization in which everyone that lives, works and plays in Reston has a voice.  RCA comprises a 13-member Board of Directors elected by Reston residents with the directors serving three-year terms.
“This upcoming year is going to be another exciting one for RCA, as we continue to focus on educating and engaging the community and reflecting their voice,” said Sridhar Ganesan, President, RCA. “New development, re-development, transportation and other Reston infrastructure, open spaces and other issues like Reston Town Center pay parking have been at the forefront for Reston and RCA during the last two months and will continue to be important for the people that live here.”
If you want to take an active role in the future of Reston, please consider running for a seat on the RCA board!
As a member on the Board of RCA, you interact with the community on the issues that impact them, meet with County and other local officials including Reston Association and attend public meetings.  You will collect information, provide analysis and, based upon feedback received from the public, inform the various local organizations such as Fairfax County or Reston Association about public expectations for outcomes on various issues that affect Reston. 
There are six seats up in the 2017 elections – for Hunters Woods District, Town Center/Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District, South Lakes District, North Point District and one At-Large seats, all for three (3) year terms each, and a second At-Large seat is open for a one-year term to replace a director who resigned during 2016.
To run for a director seat, you must live in Small Tax District 5, be a Reston resident, be 18 years or older, and vote in designated precincts/polling places within Reston districts. 
If you want to actively promote Reston’s vision and planning principles, sustain and enhance its quality of life, please download an application from our website and fill it out.

Your completed application must be sent to by May 30th.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Reston Citizens Association Election Committee at

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reston 20/20 Statement to RP&Z on County Reston PRC Proposal, May 15, 2017

Statement to the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee
By Terry Maynard, Co-Chair, Reston 20/20 Committee
Re the Proposed Reston PRC Zoning Ordinance Amendment
May 15, 2017

Good evening.  I am Terry Maynard, 2217 Wakerobin Lane, speaking on behalf of the Reston 20/20 Committee.  

First, thank you for taking your time to listen to the many voices of Reston on the County’s proposed PRC zoning ordinance amendment. 

Most importantly, the PRC zoning amendment proposal removes all concrete zoning constraints on high-density residential construction in Town Center, a situation that can lead to serious unforeseeable circumstances.   We must rely on Board discretion.  Just look at the Board approval given to a FAR 4, 26-story office building to replace the Town Center Office Building that is dramatically inconsistent with the Reston plan and its own TOD policy. 

As we read it, the PRC amendment would allow the addition of more than 28,000 residents to our community, virtually all in high-density housing in the half of Reston Town Center north of the toll road.   In 2010, about 8,000 people lived in the Town Center PRC after nearly a quarter century of development.  In the last 7 years, residences for another 8,000 people have been built or approved in there.  Longer term, Board approval of the zoning ordinance would allow about 45,000 people to live in Town Center.  This would be in addition to the 45,000 people or so who could be added to the non-PRC portions of Reston’s station areas under the Reston plan and other zoning codes.  

I would like to speak to you briefly about how this development will affect infrastructure and commercial development issues in Reston. 

Transportation may present the most pressing infrastructure challenge as this unfolds in the PRC.  County data shows that, of the two-dozen Board-approved Reston station area transportation projects, only one sidewalk improvement at Wiehle Station has been completed.  Of the dozen projects in the RTC PRC area, none except the Town Center Parkway tunnel has begun and one has been put on hold.  The Soapstone Connector won’t be put out for contract until 2025.  None of this includes the still concept-level intersection improvements postulated by RNAG and the absence of any planned bus transit expansion for the PRC. 

Yet station area development, including development in the RTC PRC and its approval continues unabated.

All of the additional residential development also has implications for planned commercial development in the Town Center PRC.  Approval of the zoning ordinance amendment could unhinge the planned balance between residential and commercial development there and the desirable effect it has on reducing driving.    

Worse yet, developers—never ones to miss an opportunity—could use the high, if not unconstrained, residential construction limits to leverage even higher or unlimited commercial development in the PRC.  This alone suggests the urgency of a concrete upper limit on station area PRC density, not just Board discretion. 

One particular concern in this process is the availability of essential retail facilities, not to mention amenities such as theaters, restaurants, etc., for a population approaching 90,000 in Reston’s station areas, including the 45,000 in the Town Center PRC.  Two supermarkets and one pharmacy are not adequate, and to the extent that there is a shortage of these and other essential and desirable shopping in the PRC will mean more residents driving.

All this suggests that the County and the community need to understand the implications for Reston of the zoning ordinance amendment and quite possibly amend it so that it is consistent with Reston’s vision and planning principles.  This will take time, not the head-long rush the County and Board seem to be in to get this amendment passed with three public meetings in three weeks this month. 

What’s the rush?

Based on future analysis of the implications of the allowable development for infrastructure and other community needs, some amendments to the proposal that might be considered are:

  • Raising the overall residential density per acre incrementally to, say, 14 people per acre and seeing how infrastructure, commercial development, and the Reston community adjusts to that density before moving another step higher.
  • Creating a fourth residential density category called “urban” for the station area that has a concrete cap on it of, say, 60-70 DUs per acre.
  • Not raising the zoning cap at all until at least the current approved transportation and other infrastructure projects, such as schools, open space and parks, etc., are completed.

While these are just ideas, they and other ideas need to be considered in a thorough, systematic, and unbiased way based on a consideration of the facts in a manner that meets the needs of the community as well as the County.