Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Re-post: Library Friends Groups are fighting county eviction threat, Annandale Blog, June 15, 2017

Friday, June 15, 2018 

Library Friends groups are fighting county eviction threat

A library book sale organized by the Friends of George Mason Library.

Library Friends groups are engaged in a bitter dispute with the administrators of the Fairfax County Public Libraries (FCPL), who they say are trying to control their finances and are threatening to kick them out of the library if they don’t sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

The biggest point of contention in the MOU, adopted by the Library Board of Trustees in January, is a provision requiring Friends groups to turn over all their financial records to the FCPL.

Friends groups believe the MOU is one-sided and say they would sign if they have a chance to make some modifications – but they’ve told they either have to sign it as is or be evicted. “We’re being told it’s our way or the highway,” says Charles Keener of the Friends of the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library.

The Tysons Friends group, which has not signed the MOU, passed out flyers at its book sale earlier this month stating, “this may be our final book sale.”

The Friends of the George Mason, Reston, Centreville, Thomas Jefferson, and Kingstowne libraries also have not signed the MOU.
According to FCPL Director Jessica Hudson, the Kings Park, Dolly Madison, Martha Washington, Lorton, and City of Fairfax libraries have signed.

The Friends of Woodrow Wilson Library have also signed the MOU, reports Pat Jack of the Friends group. “We’re very small potatoes; this MOU really is aimed at the larger libraries that make a lot of money. We felt we could live with it. We thought about disbanding but felt we couldn’t do it to the staff.”

“It was not handled well by the trustees,” Jack says. “They tend to dictate and not collaborate.”

Keener believes some Friends are waiting to see if they are actually going to be evicted before signing.

Hudson says she hopes all of the Friends will eventually sign the MOU by July 31 but “we haven’t set a firm deadline.” If any Friends groups refuse to sign “we would work toward dissolution of our partnership,” she says, which means the Friends group would be “removed from the library space” and could no longer use the library name.

Lack of compromise

“If they treated us as equals, all of the issues could be resolved,” says Dennis Hays, chair of Fairfax Library Advocates. “We could probably hash it out in an hour or two. It is baffling why the county is antagonizing a group that has been so helpful to the library system.”

“If the friends were to go away, the ability of the library to serve the public would be severely impacted,” Hayes says.

Library Friends are volunteers, and many of them seniors. They put in countless hours supporting their local library branch and collectively raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year – mostly from book sales – for library programs, landscaping, furniture, and much more. George Mason Friends pays for the countywide summer reading program.

Keener accuses Hudson of “dictating, threatening, and bullying, instead of being willing to compromise.” There has been a “great deal of mistrust, anger and sense of disrespect throughout the process,” he wrote in an email to County Executive Bryan Hill. “How is it going to look when they send marshals to throw out little old ladies who sell books?”

Hudson brushes aside the criticism, insisting “many Friends groups had an opportunity to have their feedback taken into account.”

There have been many meetings on the MOU, representatives of Friends groups acknowledge, but they say they aren’t being listened to.

“Every effort by Friends to offer an alternative MOU was completely rebuffed,” Keener says, and Friends’ request to have FCPL adopt a model MOU from the American Library Association was ignored.

Friends have also pointed to the county’s plan to use separate MOUs for friends groups that support Fairfax County parks and suggested FCPL do the same for library Friends.

According to Hudson, the library Friends groups generally have the same missions and do the same activities, so “having the same overarching document makes a lot of sense,” while the park friends groups are more varied.

Money grab?

The single biggest point of contention is the provision in the MOU calling for Friends to turn over detailed financial records to Fairfax County, despite the lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.

“We are fine with providing the same basic financial summaries we file with the Feds and which are presented in our treasurer reports at our board meetings and given to the branch manager,” Keener says. “But the director has told groups that they must provide copies of every receipt and copies of their actual bank records.”

Keener finds it especially insulting that “they are asking us to turn in every Costco receipt.”

“The concern is that some of the friends have reserves, and it appears the county would like to make use of them,” Hays says. “We literally give millions of dollars to the county.”

A lawyer specializing in nonprofit law hired by several Friends groups told them “the county has no legal right to demand such detailed internal records from a legally recognized independent nonprofit entity,” Keener notes.

“Throughout this process, we have not been treated as an equal party to a mutual agreement,” he says. “And now we are being outright bullied and threatened if we dare to uphold our legal rights and follow our conscience.”

“As a county taxpayer I am beyond angry to see this disrespect and abuse directed toward citizens who have given selflessly of their time for decades,” Keener says. “This is truly Big Brother run amok.”

Hudson defends the need for more financial information. “The library board feels strongly that it’s part of their fiduciary responsibility to provide transparency around monetary issues,” she says. “Friends want more transparency, too. We will provide them more information on how libraries use their money.”

Hays and Keener would like to see the Board of Supervisors step in and resolve the issue. “The optics of having the friends goose-stepped out of the library is something the supervisors don’t want to visualize,” Hayes says.

Community center

Kathy Kaplan, a longtime advocate of the libraries, believes the current conflict with the Friends is an extension of previous attacks on the library system. That includes attempts to slash the FCPL budget, the “beta plan” in 2013 to restructure how the branches operate, and the systematic effort to throw out thousands of books to make more space.

The number of library books has been cut to 2.15 million, down from 3 million in 2004, Kaplan says, and FCPL is purchasing very few nonfiction books for adults, and almost no science, history, or philosophy books. Kaplan suspects the FCPL’s ultimate goal is to turn libraries into human services centers or community centers.

Hays notes the libraries already do a lot of community projects, such as bringing in guest speakers, hosting community groups in meeting rooms, and organizing children’ programs. But “turning the buildings into community centers with books along one wall is not what a library is.”

When asked about her vision for the library system, Hudson said libraries are not going to become community centers. “We are more of a community hub, with computer access and programming for children and adults,” she says. “We are continuing to meet baseline services – checking out books and reading programs for children, for example – and will build on that.”

Library advocates aren’t buying it. “This is part of a radical rightwing effort to destroy educational institutions in our state,” Kaplan says. “We need to have a functioning library that provides information for the public.”

Ellie Ashford at 12:35 PM

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Re-post from the Coalition for a Planned Reston website: You Spoke. We're Listening.

This is re-posted from the CPR website:

Thanks to the many CPR volunteers who responded to our survey of how we can best help you learn more about density and development issues in Reston and become even more engaged in the overall development process. Here are key highlights of what you told us:

In terms of what CPR volunteers would like to do,
  • 45% were interested in direct engagement by attending public meetings of Reston and Fairfax boards;
  • 38% want to help with communications to ensure neighbors are informed;
  • 31% are willing to help boost our message on social media;
  • 25% want to assist in researching specific development proposals or how other communities handle development; and
  • 10% have offered to help shape strategic communications and expand media contacts.
In terms of the specific information our volunteers most want to know more about (either through in-person workshops or video meetings), getting a deeper understanding of the development process, key decision makers, and key decision points topped the list.
  • A significant number also want to dive more deeply into the Reston Master Plan and specific development proposals, with several wanting to learn more about how to increase the community’s influence over development issues and more history about how Reston is handled by the county in terms of development decisions.
When asked what material would be most helpful for CPR to provide online, our volunteers asked for:
  • information about zoning in Reston;
  • the development process and how it works;
  • key development meetings at the local or county level;
  • a list of development projects that have already been approved;
  • the legal issues that may be at play:
  • how to preserve Hidden Creek Golf Course from development, and
  • how to get the county and developers to listen more closely to the community.
We asked what volunteers value most about Reston (multiple responses were allowed).
  • Topping the list was Reston’s commitment to sustainable ecology and preserving green spaces and natural resources (84%).
  • Tied for second (all at 75%) were its variety of neighborhood types; its unique balance of commercial, residential, and open spaces as a planned residential community (high density limited to Town Center and the Toll Road corridor); and its recreational amenities (trails, sports fields, pools, tennis courts, and park system).
  • Reston’s inclusive social structure for all economic, racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds was flagged by 61%, with easy access to Metro and the Silver Line coming in at 43%.
So, what comes next?

We’ll start posting materials online as soon as we can pull them together. First up will be a list of key zoning terms (PRC, TSA, PRM, etc.) and a flow chart of the development process, both of which are already in train. While some information is available online through various Fairfax and Reston websites, it can be dense and hard to parse, so many of you asked for shorter and simpler explanations of processes and core issues.

In addition, we’re planning to start holding video meetings in June to begin direct conversations with you all on how to become more engaged, to answer questions you may have and dive more deeply into the specific issues you’ve raised in this survey. More details on how to sign up for these will be posted on this website, on Facebook, and on The CPR Update (our newsletter).

Again, thank you all for the time you invested in completing this survey. All of us, as Reston residents, are committed to ensuring that Reston remains a great place to live, work, and play. Together we will achieve that goal.

Friday, April 27, 2018

CPR thanks Supervisor Hudgins for delaying zoning amendment, continuing dialogue with Reston

Coalition for a Planned Reston
A voluntary group of residents from the Reston Citizens Association,
Reclaim Reston, and Reston 20/20


April 27, 2018

CPR Thanks Supervisor Hudgins for Keeping Proposed Zoning Amendment off County Calendars as Dialogue With Reston Residents Continues
Following an energetic meeting of over 150 Reston residents on Monday evening, April 23, Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) sent a letter to Supervisor Hudgins expressing appreciation for supporting small group discussions and a continued hold on any action by County staff to move their proposed amendments forward. CPR held the meeting to review the results of a community-wide survey on the County’s proposed zoning density increase. CPR’s letter stated:

As you are aware, we believe strongly the County's proposals will make Reston less livable, less vibrant, less welcoming, less diverse and less united.  In short, the County’s proposed density amendments would seriously undermine everything that makes Reston, Reston.  

Nevertheless, we are committed to work together to find common ground and a path forward.  We believe that mutual trust is a key component for this to work and thus we are encouraged by your suspension of any further action on lifting the cap while we work together, including efforts by County Staff or others to schedule the proposed zoning amendment for consideration by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.     

In addition to planning to attend working sessions with the Supervisor and County staff, in May CPR will be conducting community action meetings for 300 volunteers among the nearly 500 Restonians who completed CPR’s survey.

Media Contact-
Lynne Mulston, Coalition for a Planned Reston


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The County Needs “Practice” in Telling the Truth

As a result of the County’s unwillingness to consider Reston plan amendments proposed by the community, Restonians are facing the end of their planned community, a community that has balanced people and nature to maximize quality of life for more than a half century. 

County staff stated in a letter dated March 28, 2018:  “(I)t has long been the county's practice not to amend these new plans within the first five years of their adoption. . . Staff continues to support this practice and cannot support changes to land use, density or intensity recommendations in the Reston Master Plan for the Transit Station Areas until after 2019 and for Reston's neighborhoods and village centers until after 2020.”  These are precisely the areas of the plan that most need change now to preserve Reston as a planned and livable community.  

Despite its alleged “practice,” the County has amended Reston’s plan at much shorter intervals when it suits the County’s tax revenue purposes.  Specifically, the County increased Reston’s transit station area (TSA) development plan potential density in less than a two-year window.  Here’s what we mean:

  • In the version of the Reston plan approved February 11, 2014, “The target development level established for the three TSAs is approximately 28,000 new and existing residential units and approximately 30 million square feet of new and existing office uses.”  This is generally in line with the “Scenario G” recommendation of the Reston Master Plan Task Force that Supervisor Hudgins likes to point to as representing community involvement.  
Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, Amendment 2013-05, Adopted February 11, 2014, p. 7.

  • In the version of the Reston plan approved June 2, 2015, ostensibly approving Phase 2 of the Reston plan concerning Reston’s non-TSA suburban areas, the following change was made:  “The target development level established for the three TSAs is approximately 44,000 new and existing residential units and approximately 30 million square feet of new and existing office uses.”  County staff’s argument was that it maintains the jobs to households balance at about 2.5 to 1.   It does not explain why this is meaningful, much less desirable.   It’s equally unclear why, if a change were required, the jobs potential couldn’t be decreased—instead of increased— to meet the County’s desired ratio.  
Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, ST09-III-UP1(B), Adopted June 2, 2015, p. 22.

 And, NO, the county did not work with the community in changing these critical density elements of the Reston plan.  There was no transparency in this process and it is not the only change made on Phase 1 transit station areas when the County was nominally looking only at changes in the suburban (PRC) areas of Reston.   In fact, the County is so opaque on this matter that you cannot find these two earlier editions of Reston’s Master Plan on the County’s website.  Some of us have retained hardcopies, however.

The County made this major density change within sixteen months of the earlier change.  So much for the “practice” of a five year wait!  Does this fact make the change invalid???

So the notion that it is County “practice” not to change the Comprehensive Plan at less than five year intervals is a falsehood.  It is only a self-serving “practice” used by the County when it does not want to consider Restonians’ concerns about land use, density, or intensity that has been foisted upon it by the Board of Supervisors and County staff without community participation.   

As a result, we face a hurtling County scheme to increase Reston’s allowable density in the PRC zoning ordinance from 13 to 16 persons per acre and continuing support for generally unconstrained redevelopment in key areas of the Reston Master Plan.  This unconstrained redevelopment potential includes the station areas, the village centers, and other “hot spots” (such as Saint Johns Wood) the County has identified without community consultation for high-density, high-rise multi-family redevelopment.

As a next step toward trying to stop this onslaught, please attend CPR’s community meeting on April 23, 2018, 7PM, at RA’s conference center, 12001 Sunrise Valley Dr., Reston, VA 20191.  CPR will update the community on recent developments in the County’s zoning initiative, lay out its ideas for community action, and seek your assistance in stepping up community protest.  Your involvement is vital to the survival of the Reston we know and want as a planned community.