Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A little Christmas traffic humbug from Dr. Gridlock, Washington Post, December 22, 2013

We guess that, because it's the end of the year, people feel compelled to give their forecasts for what's to come.  Dr. Gridlock even begins with Charles Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Future, but really, do we need to hear this now as we prepare for Christmas???

Apparently the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the MWCOG Transportation Planning Board felt compelled to share the following wonderful news about our driving future in 2040 under the Constrained Long Range Plan (a plan that includes current area governments' financial commitment to transportation investment):
According to the forecast for 2040:
●Lane miles of congestion, a standard measure of poor traffic flow, will increase by 71 percent.
●The total number of trips taken in the region will increase by 24 percent.
●Vehicle miles traveled, another standard measure of road use, will increase by 23 percent.
●The ways in which we travel will not change significantly. About two in every five trips will be done by solo drivers. About 7 percent of daily travel will be done by transit, same as today.
●The population of the outer suburbs will grow at the fastest rate, suggesting that many people will continue to have long trips to work.
●Job growth will be greatest in the outer suburbs of Virginia, but the highest concentration of jobs will be in Fairfax and Montgomery counties and the District. So today’s east-west commuting pattern, a stress factor on travel by highway and bridge, will remain.
OK, the news isn't all bad.  The article talks about plans for road widenings and the rest.

Still, on balance, it's a Christmas humbug!

Read the full article here for an overview of this forecast.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Some down sides to micro-residences

Most people have applauded planned changes underway in residential housing standards across the country's major urban areas, including Fairfax County, to allow very small apartments to be built.   How small depends on the location, but generally these "residential studio units" (RSUs) as they are called in draft Fairfax County legislation run from 300-500 square feet, and smaller in places like New York City (275-350 SF). 

Now some experts are pointing out these small dwellings may create significant health risks. Here is an excerpt from at Atlantic Cities article on the matter:
. . . as New York City’s “micro-apartment” project inches closer to reality, experts warn that micro-living may not be the urban panacea we’ve been waiting for. For some residents, the potential health risks and crowding challenges might outweigh the benefits of affordable housing. And while the Bloomberg administration hails the tiny spaces as a “milestone for new housing models,” critics question whether relaxing zoning rules and experimenting with micro-design on public land will effectively address New York’s apartment supply problem in the long run.
“Sure, these micro-apartments may be fantastic for young professionals in their 20's,” says Dak Kopec, director of design for human health at Boston Architectural College and author of Environmental Psychology for Design. “But they definitely can be unhealthy for older people , say in their 30’s and 40’s, who face different stress factors that can make tight living conditions a problem.”
Home is supposed to be a safe haven, and a resident with a demanding job may feel trapped in a claustrophobic apartment at night—forced to choose between the physical crowding of furniture and belongings in his unit, and social crowding, caused by other residents, in the building’s common spaces. Research, Kopec says, has shown that crowding-related stress can increase rates of domestic violence and substance abuse.
The article goes on to give a reasonably balanced view of the pros and cons of micro-apartments from a variety of perspectives.

Click here to read the full Atlantic Cities article.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Reston losing nursing home in 2014

In its monthly newsletter to subscribers, Reston for a Lifetime notes that Cameron Glen will be closing in 2014.  Here is what the newsletter has to say:

Discover a different type of "Nursing Home" 
Could We Help Bring This to Reston?

In 2014 Reston will lose its only Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Cameron Glen Nursing & Rehab. 
 
Loosing this option will mean that Reston will no longer be able to offer the full continuum of care to our elders and people with disabilities. 

 
What if our community could replace this with Nursing Home that you actually wanted to live in and visit?
This is news to us--and not consistent with Reston's goal of providing housing for people at all stages of life in the absence of any news that a new nursing center is opening.  We suspect, however, that it is part of the agreement the County has been working on with INOVA to redistribute the land they own in Town Center North as part of the new Reston Master Plan.

For further information, readers may want to contact Aging in Reston at  aginginreston@gmail.com or call 703-672-1116.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Further E-Mail Exchange between RCC and Reston 2020 concerning the proposed Reston recreation center at Baron Cameron Park

Below is the e-mail exchange between RCC and Reston 2020, including an e-mail from RCA President Colin Mills, that follows up on this earlier dialogue concerning the proposed RCC recreation center at Baron Cameron Park.  The e-mails are presented in chronological order. 
Message from RCC to Reston 2020 responding to Reston 2020's earlier e-mail:
Hello Terry,


Thank you for your message below. I will put together the response to your FOIA request and will let you know when that is complete. I anticipate being able to do that within the timeframe established by the Virginia FOIA provisions. The materials will include the email I sent to Sandy Stallman and her colleagues reflecting the Building Committee report and Board response. That email is copied per your suggestion under my signature below.

 

In response to other issues you raise, please note the following:

1. We have not yet undertaken a separate analysis of potential impact to the Small District 5 tax rate of this project. We have determined that we should wait to do so until the issues of site, final program, and potential for proffer funding are fully explored. Only after these issues are more defined can we begin to obtain useful data on how to finance and what if any impact there would be to the tax rate. There are no studies or draft studies we can share that we haven’t already shared. We have obtained outside expertise to learn what the tax base potential for growth might be and how that correlates to our existing rate and to the rate for SD 5 at its height of six cents. That is the RCLCO report that was discussed with the Board and the public; the study and related minutes of those discussions are posted on our website. When we begin any work on financing, the work will be done so the public can participate as has been the case to date with regard to considerations of feasibility and site.

 

2. In the Building Committee report context it remains the case that both these locations are potential locations for a new indoor recreation facility. The Baron Cameron Park location represents fewer obstacles to a new facility which makes it a strong location option—that is all that language reflects; the Reston Town Center North site represents a viable option with more complex considerations involved. RCC is going to pursue our goal to achieve the best outcome for our community. That remains a work in progress. We wanted to include for the record that the existing Hunters Woods site might still be a consideration if need be, but it too represents significant challenges.

 

3. Regarding locations, we researched existing public records, took a site tour of the locations suggested by the community, and presented the findings in the Building Committee report. The fact that we have been working on a staff level to explore the Baron Cameron Park site potential has been announced and discussed publicly; the records you request will reflect that and the processes involved in engaging the public. The RCC Board of Governors letter to request consideration of an indoor recreation facility in Reston Town Center North and the acknowledgement of that request have also been discussed publicly; we haven’t pursued them beyond our public discussions.

 

Regarding transparency, RCC has been transparent in all matters regarding this issue. We have published our studies and reports, had many back and forth conversations in RCC meetings with the public, and tried to respond as fully as possible to any questions we have received.

 

4. Whether or not it strains your credulity, I assure you that there is no relationship between Lake Anne redevelopment and RCC’s discussion of an indoor recreation facility; I can’t provide you with evidence of a negative in that regard. Given how much and how often this amenity has been discussed in the context of Reston planning over the past many years, including the ongoing discussion of indoor tennis at Reston Association, it makes sense to me that the Lake Anne comp plan language would reference it. Discussions surrounding the issue have suggested a number of locations “in the vicinity” of Lake Anne, including Tall Oaks Village Center, Baron Cameron Park, Reston Town Center North, Isaac Newton Square, and Lake Anne itself. RCC’s existing presence at Lake Anne Village Center might prompt the language you reference. I am pleased to see it because it suggests that this redevelopment process could offer contributions to realizing a recreation center – at this point, I think that’s what everyone agrees would be a good thing.

 

5. I am confident Supervisor Hudgins is aware of the Reston 2020 position on where and how a new indoor recreation facility in Reston should be realized.

 

Your items 6-9: Regarding interpretation of B & D’s data, how a new facility will be used, by whom, and to what degree of cost recovery, I am confident this will be a continuing and evolving dialog. These are the premises of RCC’s investigation of these areas:

  • If Small District 5 finances a facility – in any manner – that financing will obtain Reston patron privileges and considerations.
  • If a new facility is financed by RCC – and if is operated on the same basis as our existing facilities operate – Reston use will be subsidized. We wanted to understand how that would translate into a financial pro forma because that is the information upon which we would have to make decisions about whether this is a feasible approach or not and what we ought to consider with regard to how we are currently operating.
  • The B & D pro forma extends out 30 years, but its projections are escalated by revenue and expense inflationary factors; it doesn’t consider the RCC/employee issue (as yet); and is not tied to the projections for population growth associated with the Reston Master Plan Comprehensive Plan draft.

 

10. The agenda and Board package for their January planning session will be posted as is our requirement – three days in advance of the meeting – and it will generally focus on our current Strategic Plan, where we are in realizing its goals, and how we ought to be thinking about the future in light of that information. This session is an opportunity for the Board and staff to engage on those issues. The public will be afforded the opportunity to provide comments before the Board/staff discussion each day and we will take comments until those who want to offer them have been heard. These January meetings will not conclude this issue in any way, nor will they be entirely focused on this issue.

 

The process you describe in concluding your email regarding the Park Authority calendar for Baron Cameron Park Master Planning is inaccurate. They will release proposed plans for Baron Cameron Park to the public first. The public will be notified of that presentation (both RCC and the Park Authority will use our contact/input lists to assure there is awareness) and the public will have a thirty day comment period to respond to the proposed plan documents prior to any Board consideration. This is the Park Authority standard process.

 

Following that thirty day comment period, depending on the input received, the Park Authority may decide to revise the proposed plans or proceed with a presentation to their Board. If they decide to redo the concept plans, they will return to the public for another thirty day comment period. The consideration of a park master plan is only undertaken at the Park Authority Board level after the public comment period has been completed. That is the process they follow, it’s the process they announced last May, and it will be followed with respect to the Baron Cameron Park Master Plan.

 

I’d like to also reiterate that the Park Authority process is one layer of the ongoing work on this issue. Even after the Park Authority Board consideration of how Baron Cameron Park might be planned, there would be many follow-on steps. If RCC considers a capital facility at Baron Cameron Park, there will have to be further discussions of how that can be achieved – financially and operationally— and in what relationship to the Park Authority.

 

I appreciate you posting this and look forward to providing the materials you requested. This exchange and materials related to it will be included in our records of input to this issue; hence the copy to our Public Information Officer, Cristin Bratt.  Please include her in any further email correspondence.

 

Thank you, Terry.

 

Leila

(copied below is the RCC request to the Park Authority to continue considering collaborating with RCC; private email addresses have been deleted; official correspondence to RCC Board members is to be delivered to RCCContact@fairfaxcounty.gov which is the official email address for the RCC Board.)
 
From: Stallman, Sandra
Sent: Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:05 AM
To: Gordon, Leila
Subject: Re: RCC's Continued Interest in Working with the Park Authority on Indoor Recreation for Reston
 
Thanks!
Sandy

 
From: Gordon, Leila
Sent: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 06:55 PM
To: Stallman, Sandra; Messinger, Cindy; Bowden, David R.; Rauschenbach, Jay R.
Cc: 'beverlycosham; 'bbouie [email addresses deleted by Leila Gordon]
Subject: RCC's Continued Interest in Working with the Park Authority on Indoor Recreation for Reston
 
Dear Sandy, Cindy, Dave and Jay—
 
Per Sandy’s request, I am formally reiterating the interest of Reston Community Center in pursuing planning that would realize a comprehensive indoor recreation facility in Reston. As you know, we expressed our formal desire to have this considered within the context of the Baron Cameron Park Master Planning process currently underway and have proceeded working in parallel with you in that regard. In addition, we have requested that Fairfax County government consider this type of public facility as it master plans the areas in Reston Town Center North. As the Park Authority is also involved in that effort, I am requesting that we continue to work collaboratively to explore both options.
 
At its November 4 meeting, the Board of Governors accepted and endorsed their Building Committee Report and its recommendation to pursue both potential locations. We believe that continuing to work with our colleagues at the Fairfax County Park Authority is the optimum path to realizing this facility for the community of Reston.
 
Please let me know if you require any additional information at this time.
 
Warmest regards as always,
 
Leila
Leila Gordon
Executive Director
Reston Community Center
2310 Colts Neck Rd.
Reston, Virginia 20191
www.restoncommunitycenter.com
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

E-mail message from RCA President Colin Mills to RCC and Reston 2020:


All,


I would just like to clarify something on this thread. Reston 2020 (R2020), although it is an RCA Committee has, since its inception, carried out its activities independently from those of RCA. Any reports and statements that it may issue do not imply approval by the RCA Board. Only when requested to do so by R2020 will the RCA Board vote on a particular position advocated by R2020.
The R2020 post on the Rec Center was not vetted or approved by the RCA Board
. With regard to the RCC's Rec Center proposal, RCA's position today remains that of the Board's May 2013 resolution, calling for more public input and recommending the creation of a joint community panel to evaluate all aspects of the issue. RCA looks forward to continuing constructive and productive discussions on the Rec Center with RCC and the Reston community.


On a personal note, I appreciate the free and open exchange of thoughts and ideas that has taken place in this thread, and I’m glad that it is being posted on the R2020 blog so that the public can see the discussion as well.


I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season.


Regards,

Colin Mills

President, RCA


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Message from Reston 2020 to RCC and RCA President:
Thank you Colin and Leila. 


As Colin also points out in his e-mail, the RCA Board passed a resolution at its May 2013 meeting endorsing a major paper (The Reston Recreation Center Initiative:  Unanswered Questions on Need, Facilities, Location, Financing, and Decision Making,  An RCA White Paper, May 20, 2013) drafted by the Reston 2020 Committee, that challenged most of the key assumptions used to justify a Reston tax-funded recreation center located by Baron Cameron Park.  As Colin also notes, the resolution also called for a joint effort to proceed more systematically in addressing the issue.  RCC, however, rejected a joint approach in a letter to the RCA Board in August for legalistic reasons, although it did not have to.  It could have at least sought the advice of RCA, RA, and ARCH and other civic groups in its efforts, but it has so far not done so.   RCC is not constrained from seeking outside advice from the community.


I would urge that all addresses re-read the RCA white paper to assess for themselves whether the vital issues raised in it have been adequately addressed.


In fact, the issues raised in that paper, especially the questions about financial sustainability and location, and the need for openness that a joint effort would have generated are precisely what this RCC-Reston 2020 dialogue have been about.  We submit that RCC and its Board of Governors and FCPA and the Park Authority:

  • Have not, most importantly, demonstrated the financial sustainability—recovering operating costs—of a new Reston recreation center;
  • Have not demonstrated the greater desirability of locating a new recreation center in Baron Cameron Park (BCP) over locating it in Town Center North (TCN) or any other site;
  • Have not considered critically the many contributions of the community has made, including Reston 2020, on these and other facets of a decision to build a Reston recreation center and its siting. 
With that background in mind, some further comments on your latest e-mail tied to several of your numeric points:


1.  Impact on STD#5 tax rate.   “We have determined that we should wait to do so (assess the impact on STD#5 tax rates) until the issue of site, final program, and potential for proffer funding are fully explored.” 

Our thoughts:

  • We believe it is important that the community have a basic understanding of the prospective impacts—and the ability to comment on them—before the RCC Board of Governors or FCPA makes any recommendation about whether to proceed with a bond referendum. 
  • Regarding the specific issues you raise:
  • Site—We suspect that a TCN may be modestly more expensive than BCP for construction purposes, but that its nine-fold larger walk-in market (per our earlier e-mail) offers a vastly greater opportunity to recover operating costs (if not more) than the BCP site.  In addition to the 18,000 people potential of TCN, approved Spectrum Center redevelopment will generate about 2,800 additional potential customers and the 4,000 even now people living in Reston Town Center will have a short walk to a TCN recreation center locations.  That’s a walkable market potential of 25,000 people vs. well less than 10,000 people within a half-mile of BCP. 
  • Final program—There really is no such thing as a “final program.”  The program opportunities will change over time with market demand.   We think Brailsford & Dunlavey (B&D) have offered a sufficient starting point for that costing to determined, including alternative rate structures.
  • Proffer opportunities—Like the hugely larger market opportunities in TCN, the proffer opportunities for nearby public amenities from developers will be similarly larger for TCN than for BCP.  If anything, the importance of proffers in making a siting decision argues for TCN over BCP, much less a reconstruction of RCC/HW.
  • The RCLCo tax revenue forecast.  As RCL acknowledges in its report, it relied on the July 26, 2010, GMU CRA forecast for growth in the Dulles Corridor presented to the Reston Task Force (RTF).  GMU CRA downgraded this exorbitant growth forecast (which is actually based on pre-recession 2008 data used in its Tysons forecast) because of the Great Recession and sequestration/general reduction in federal spending.  As presented to the RTF and shown in theattached graphics, GMU CRA’s revised forecast cuts forecast average employment growth by 27% across the three scenario and household growth by 14% through 2050 in the Dulles Corridor.  As the graphics show, the slowest growth period is over the next decade.  Obviously, to the extent these forecasts are more accurate than their predecessors, they will have a substantial adverse effect on prospective tax revenues and, therefore, require increased local Reston tax rates to pay off the recreation center debt.  
As an alternative, we would suggest that RCC review the growth forecast produced by the Department of Planning& Zoning (DPZ) in the context of fleshing out the implications of ScenarioG through 2030 as presented to the RTF.  I have attached a copy of that EXCEL workbook (spreadsheets on jobs, housing, population by Transportation Analysis Zone (TAZ), an overview of the TSAs vs the rest of Reston, and a cumulative summary).   It is the most recent forecast of Reston growth we know of and we believe it is the most accurate.  It is certainly more accurate than RCLCo’s report, although RCLCo may be able to use the attached to revise its tax revenue forecast.  To rely on RCLCo’s current report for future tax rate calculations would be a major dis-service to Reston.

2, 3, & 5.  The best option for the Reston community is TCN as proposed by the more than two dozen diverse Reston community stakeholders comprising the RTF in its draft Reston Master Plan, not just Reston 2020 nor the RCC BOG nor FCPA.


Re a few bullets under #5:

  • What does “Reston patron privileges and considerations” mean—lower rates and priority access?
  • Re “Reston use will be subsidized”:  That means some Restonians will be paying taxes via the STD#5 local Reston tax to subsidize other Restonians’ use of the recreation center.  We continue to believe the rec center is a County responsibility that ought to be paid for by all the county's property owners as we have previously stated and, therefore, don't see a need for subsidized Restonian use beyond the subsidies available in other County rec centers.
Moreover, even if RCC and FCPA insist that STD#5 pay for a county facility, we do not believe a subsidy policy for Restonians ought to be adopted a priori when the median HHI in Reston exceeds $100,000 and B&D’s latest update reports 77% of Reston households have incomes exceeding $75,000.  We anticipate that the usage of the rec center would reasonably to be in line with the distribution of household incomes, if not skewed toward those with higher incomes.
We appreciate that RCC has provided—and ought to continue to provide—specific subsidies for needy families and individuals, a policy consistent with Reston’s long-held accommodation for people of all incomes.  That said, the majority of Reston households with six-figure incomes who use the rec center ought to be at least able to pay fees that cover their full cost, including capital costs.  Rates for users beyond Reston ought to be at a sufficient premium above full cost to assure that Restonians are the majority users of the facility.  A recreation center is an amenity that, in general, ought to be paid for by those who use it, subject to subsidies for those with significant financial hardships.
  • Re population growth, please note the comments above regarding the much reduced forecasts for employment and household growth in the Dulles Corridor and the data in our attachment.
Thank you for your feedback.  We hope this additional information figures in your further consideration of a Reston recreation center.


Regards,

Terry Maynard

Co-Chair, RCA Reston 2020 Committee

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Colin Mills: Building Community, Face to Face, RestonNow, December 12, 2013

Colin Mills/File photoWinter has come early this season! Being a snow lover, I welcome this early taste of the white stuff.

Certainly, it’s a welcome change from the largely barren winters we’ve had the last couple of years. The snow and ice meant a surprise four-day weekend for my daughter Leslie.

For my wife and me, this meant working from home.

While I was tapping away on my computer and watching the flakes fall, I thought about the phenomenon of telecommuting. It’s pretty remarkable that technology has advanced to the point where we can be practically as productive outside the office as in it.

One of Bob Simon’s founding principles for Reston was that “the people be able to live and work in the same community.” In a way, telecommuting is the ultimate version of that goal: people living and working in the same house. And there are people who think that this is the future: widespread telecommuting will be what saves us from traffic paralysis and environmental degradation.
Maybe they’re right. But the move toward telecommuting is emblematic of a troubling trend in our society, toward less face-to-face human interaction. That trend runs the risk of damaging our sense of community.

We live in an increasingly atomized society; we spend less and less time in the company of others. For a lot of folks, life is a continuous cycle: from home to work to shopping and back home again. With the new self-checkout feature at grocery stores, you can get in and get out without having to talk to another person at all. It’s a lonely way to live.

Civic and fellowship organizations are a lot less popular than they used to be; so is going out for bridge night. Many of today’s leisure activities can be done at home alone (video games, surfing the Internet, etc.). Lots of people work out at the gym, but that’s a solitary pursuit too, a time to plug in the headphones and unwind from (or get ready for) the day.
The office is one of the few places where we really spend time with people outside of our families anymore. If we’re no longer going into the office every day, what happens then? We are social creatures; instant messaging and video conferencing aren’t a real substitute for face-to-face contact as our primary source of human interaction.

Moreover, that’s not how you build and sustain a community. A community isn’t a group of individuals holed up in their hives; it only happens when people come together. Interaction and relationships are how communities are built. In a world where people tend to be more isolated than ever, we need to explore other ways to bring people together.

Fortunately, in this way as in many others, Bob Simon was ahead of his time. By developing village centers that were built around plazas, he created spaces that fostered human interaction. Plazas force us out of our cars, and they increase the likelihood of chance encounters between neighbors, friends, and strangers. They are a breeding ground for community.

Plazas also serve as a staging ground for festivals, which are a great opportunity for bringing people together. Lake Anne Plaza is Reston’s best example of this. It was the original home of the Reston Festival, and today it’s the home to celebrations from Founder’s Day to the Multicultural Festival to the Jazz Festival. Not to mention the Farmer’s Market, where I run into at least a few people I know every time I go. If you want to bring a community together, you need to have spots for them to gather.

I remember the plazas well from my youth. We lived closest to Tall Oaks, so I spent plenty of time walking through their on my way to get baseball cards or sodas from Giant. But I remember being especially taken with the plaza at Hunters Woods; the multi-colored flags hanging from the pergola-style roof always made me feel like I was in a foreign country, somewhere European, perhaps.

Empty Tall OaksUnfortunately, many of our village centers have abandoned this original concept; today, all of them besides Lake Anne are strip malls rather than village centers. That may make them more efficient places to shop, but it’s not good for encouraging people to interact. The heart of the “village center” concept is that it’s not just a place to shop, but a place for people to commune.

I’m hoping we can bring the plazas back as Reston redevelops. And I’m not the only one. During the Master Plan Task Force, Bob was a big proponent of making central plazas a part of any Village Center redevelopment. RCA strongly supports Bob’s suggestion. Community is created when people come together. Bob was right 50 years ago, and he’s still right today: plazas help make that happen.

And as I’ve suggested in the past, perhaps we should start with Tall Oaks. If ever a village center needed a shot in the arm, a reason to get people to come, it’s that one. If we re-envisioned Tall Oaks around a community amenity like a plaza, or an amphitheater, or a public park, we’d be creating something truly distinctive. Tall Oaks would have a genuine draw for the first time in years, a reason for people to seek it out. Maybe we could even hold a revived Reston Festival at the revived Tall Oaks. The possibilities are endless.

Many things about modern life are individualized and isolating. There’s not much that we can do about that, but we can help mitigate it by creating common spaces for people to gather and interact with each other. These spaces were a hallmark of Reston in its beginning; with thoughtful planning and redevelopment, we can get back there again. I hope to see you all someday at the plaza in one of our revitalized village centers. Communicating online is nice, but it’s even better if we can talk face-to-face.

Also, time’s running out for Citizen of the Year nominations! The deadline is Sunday, so if you haven’t submitted yours yet, download the form and get writing.

Colin Mills is the president of the Reston Citizens Association. He writes weekly on Reston Now.

Latest Pew research shows Americans believe libraries are important to their communities

In light of the continuing battle to save Fairfax County's public libraries from a disgraceful debasement by its own  director, starting with Reston Regional Library as a "beta test" guinea pig, we thought it important to share this latest Pew Research Center report on "How American Value Public Libraries in Their Communities."  The following comes from the announcement of the study's release:
Some 90% of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63% saying it would have a “major” impact. Asked about the personal impact of a public library closing, two-thirds (67%) of Americans said it would affect them and their families, including 29% who said it would have a major impact.
Moreover, the vast majority of Americans ages 16 and older say that public libraries play an important role in their communities:
  • 95% of Americans ages 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed;
  • 95% say that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading;
  • 94% say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community;
  • 81% say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere. . .
Over half (54%) of Americans ages 16 and older have used a public library in some way in the past 12 months, whether by visiting in person or using a public library website:
  • 81% of Americans ages 16 and older have visited a public library or bookmobile at one point or another in their lives; 48% of Americans have done so in the past 12 months, down from 53% in 2012.
  • 44% of those ages 16 and older have visited a public library website; 30% of Americans have done so in the past 12 months, up from 25% in 2012.
Additionally, among parents with minor children living at home, 70% say that a child in the house has visited a public library or bookmobile in the past 12 months.
Taken together, this means that 72% of all Americans ages 16 and older have either used a public library in the past 12 months or live in a household where another family member or a child is an active recent user of the library. . . .
Click on the link above to access the full Pew report.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Follow up e-mail exchange between RCC and Reston 2020 on Reston Recreation Center issue

Below are two e-mails.  The first e-mail, sent by RCC's Executive Director Leila Gordon, expresses her concern that there are significant inaccuracies in our Reston 2020 blog post and that RCC has been transparent in its processes.  The second e-mail is Reston 2020's response, noting key areas of lack of transparency and addressing the perceived inaccuracies raised by Ms. Gordon.  They are posted here to help ensure that the Reston community has as much access a possible to the ongoing RCC planning to build a financially unsustainable recreation center in Baron Cameron Park using Reston tax dollars.  Both posts are lengthy.   

Message from Leila Gordon, Executive Director, RCC:

Subject:  Reston 2020 Post about RCC Planning

Dear Colin and Terry,


I am writing to object to your most recent Reston 2020 posting (copied below my signature) regarding RCC planning for future indoor recreation in our community. It is inaccurate. Beyond the inaccuracies, it is needlessly confrontational and disrespectful of RCC Board of Governors members. The spirit of dialog regarding this issue has been civil, open and flexible on our part; the discussions between RCC Board members and RCA Board members has been conducted up to now with a view to the community’s interests being served and acknowledging that is the intent of everyone involved in both organizations. The Reston 2020 post accuses our Board of acting “stealthily” – nothing has been done “stealthily” – and your assertions are just plain wrong about where things stand with respect to the current status of site identification and data collected.

I think your post needs revision to reflect our actions fairly in these aspects:

1. The Building Committee report and subsequent Board affirmation is that locations (plural) – among those suggested by the community – worth continued pursuit are Reston Town Center North and Baron Cameron Park, with the Hunters Woods site a third possibility for expansion should those two sites prove unworkable. Further, as the minutes of our meetings also reflect, it was specifically clarified at the November Board meeting that if another site suddenly becomes available and attractive from both location and cost perspectives, nothing about our decision-making to date would preclude us from pursuing such an alternate location.

2. The Board has communicated directly to Fairfax County offices discussing the potential for public facilities at Reston Town Center North that we wish to have an indoor recreation facility considered among the public facilities that redevelopment there could produce. We received a letter in response to our formal request indicating that such a facility is being considered. We have communicated our interest in both locations, Reston Town Center North and Baron Cameron Park, to our colleagues at the Park Authority. All of this information is in our public records as it has been stated and documented in our meetings.

3. Our processes have been completely transparent. The studies, discussions, input and dialog with members of the community at our meetings have all been fully accessible. We have consistently responded in full and in detail to community members’ questions and all the materials we have produced or recorded have been made available on our website.

4. There is absolutely no relationship whatsoever between our decision-making on indoor recreation and Lake Anne redevelopment.

5. As documented in the Board package for our December meeting, our conversation with Supervisor Hudgins at the November Board Orientation (which was also publicized and conducted in accord with open meeting requirements) included discussion of both the Reston Town Center North location and funding from proffers being of great interest to us and that we welcomed her support as planning progresses.

6. The Brailsford & Dunlavey update did outline that there would be a core user population of 1,500-1,700 people that could be relied on as regular, fully engaged/paying types of users. Beyond that, there are a variety of other users that would be expected to contribute to utilization of this type of facility on a more casual and/or less frequent basis. The purpose of identifying “core users” is to help us understand the most conservative outline of planning for cost recovery. Core users would be augmented by other community users along a full spectrum of participation.

7. Nowhere does the update or the original report describe a pro forma that contemplates that less than half of the users would be Restonians; there were questions asked when Craig made his presentation about how the ratio of Reston/non-Reston users impacts the pro forma spreadsheet results; perhaps you confused those questions with the data presented. The assumption we requested Brailsford & Dunlavey use has been 90% Reston use. That is the current utilization pattern for RCC.

8. The cost recovery slides in the update contemplate cost recovery at current RCC Reston patron levels of subsidy; if we adopt fees more aligned with Fairfax County Park Authority or other public provider fee rates, that rate rises as the subsequent slide illustrates. However, both slides are based on an assumption that RCC as a facility operator would continue a higher level of subsidy to Reston patrons as a result of the tax district, hence a less robust cost recovery fee schedule than that of similar public facilities. None of the slides or studies account for the impact of other funding resources – without knowing the scope of other resources we felt it important to understand cost recovery on the basis of our current model.

9. The data we have obtained to date from Brailsford & Dunlavey also doesn’t incorporate future population impacts, nor does it include consideration of Reston-located businesses’ employees beyond a minimal level as “corporate” types of pass users. Reston’s growth on both fronts would change the potential service profile and cost recovery performance of a new facility.

10. This issue is one of great importance to the community and to our Board of Governors. However, it is not the sole issue with which our planning for the future is concerned. Our agenda for our January 3,4 sessions will focus on where we find ourselves in the current RCC Strategic Plan and how we might position ourselves for the future in light of where we are now. The public is welcome to attend and listen; comment opportunities will be provided at the beginning of each day’s efforts.
I hope you will correct your post –especially its headline – to reflect the above information, Terry. Given how collegial and open we have been with regard to discourse with our community on this issue, I find the tone of your post and its assertions of “stealth” really disappointing. My understanding is that RCA is seeking collaborative and collegial relationships with other Reston civic organizations; this is an odd path to pursue toward that end.

Sincerely,
Leila
Leila Gordon
Executive Director
Reston Community Center

Message from Terry Maynard, Co-Chairman, RCA Reston 2020 Committee:

Subject:  Re:  Reston 2020 Post about RCC Planning

Leila—

Thank you for your feedback on the Reston 2020 blog post concerning RCC’s efforts to establish a new Reston recreation center.   In spite of what you say, Reston 2020 still believes that RCC has been acting in a less than transparent way and disagrees that the post was substantially inaccurate.

Let’s start with the issue of stealthiness, specifically, the letter RCC sent to the FCPA following the BOG’s receipt and acceptance of its own Building Committee report:  According to information we have from County officials, RCC shared that information with FCPA and received a formal request from RCC to work collaboratively to build an indoor recreational facility “in the park.”  That would be Baron Cameron Park, not the FCPA-owned park land in Town Center North. 

That is the information we have.   Maybe you can clarify matters, but until we see the letter(s) RCC sent to FCPA concerning the matter, we must consider it accurate.  It would have been helpful had you made RCC’s request to FCPA to work collaboratively available to the public, a step you could have taken as part of your e-mail to us, but you didn’t.

We would also note that the May 2013 B&D update report notes, p. 2.3, that “A separate analysis was being conducted by RCC to understand the potential impact on the small district 5 tax rate.”  If this has been completed—or even if it is still in draft—it is important to share this information with the community now.   Our earlier post makes an estimate that, in the early years of a new recreation center, the STD$5 tax rate would need to rise nearly 60% to $.075/$100 valuation. 

To help clarify these matters, please consider this e-mail an official FOIA request by Reston 2020 for all correspondence, including e-mails, text messages, memoranda, letters, memos for the record, agreements, reports, meeting notes, etc., between and/or among RCC, its Board of Governors and its management and staff, and the FCPA, including the Park Authority Board, management, and staff regarding the proposed construction of an indoor recreation center in Reston from December 1, 2012 through your receipt of this e-mail. 
 
Hopefully, making this information available to the public in a timely manner will make the dialogue on a proposed Reston recreation center more transparent and positive. 

Here are some brief comments on your points:

1.  The Building Committee report.  What you say is not inaccurate, but it is also incomplete as to the specific nature of the committee’s recommendations re BCP and TCN.  Here are the recommendations for those two options with emphasis added:
  • Baron Cameron Park:  “Based on the below information, the Building Committee recommends that the Board consider this site a strong location option for a new recreation center; the Board should continue to work with the Park Authority to explore an RCC recreation center at this location.”
  • Town Center North:  “Fairfax County is currently master planning this site and the RCC Board has requested that a recreation center be included in the master plan. The Building Committee suggests that the Board continue to pursue this request with the County and that this location be considered a viable location, and should be pursued in consultation and collaboration with the Park Authority.”
Which do you believe is the committee’s “strong” preference?  More broadly, these preferences (along with the third place RCC/HW location) have remained unchanged since at least the January 2012 RCC Long Range Committee planning offsite nearly two years ago , according to notes of that meeting.   


2.  Communications concerning locations.  If this information is available in public records, it is unretrievable.   I have searched the County website, including the FCPA area, and wandered through the RCC website at length (which has no search tools).  Internet searches using Google have been equally unproductive.  The only materials I have found are those posted on the RCC BOG webpage—meeting materials and various reports by B&D, RCL, etc.


3.  Transparency.  Until the public knows the full nature of RCC’s involvement with FCPA in siting a recreation center at BCP, you cannot claim to have been transparent.  Hopefully, our FOIA request will shed light on those discussions.


4.  BCP location and Lake Anne Redevelopment.   The statement that there is “no relationship whatsoever” between the proposed location of the recreation center and Lake Anne redevelopment strains credulity.  Indeed, the new Lake Anne Comp Plan calls for the developer to make contributions to the development of a recreation center (& other recreational facilities) “in the vicinity.”


5.  Conversation with Supervisor Hudgins.  It is important that Supervisor Hudgins continue to support the construction of any Reston recreation center in Town Center North as part of the urbanization of central Reston.  Proffers will play a vital role in a wide variety of critical infrastructure improvements tied to the urban transformation of the Silver Line station areas. 


6.  B&D November 2013 Reston market “potential” assessment:  In its 2009 final report, B&D made an important distinction between the “potential” market (the number of people who fit the profile for usage of a rec center) and “core participants,” people who would likely be regular users.  It specifically used the word “potential” in identifying the 1500-1700 in its latest update which, frankly, seems low to us as well.

Still, even 1500-1700 regular Reston users is an extremely small number—about 2.7% of Reston’s population.  The May 2013 update’s “Option B” (an 84,900 SF structure with facilities similar to those proposed in November, then costing $33.9MM) offers a good cost grounding in how much we will pay for these Restonians’ use of a new recreation center.  RCC will invest $35-$40 million per the November 2013 brief (higher per SF than in June 2013) in construction costs and, from Option B in the June update, $1.8-$2.4 million in annual operating costs over the first decade PLUS an annual debt service cost of $3.0 million or so on a $37.5 million, 20-year AA bond at 3% using straight line bond amortization.  (Note:  For reasons that are unclear, B&D appears to use a mortgage amortization approach, which leads to a significantly lower annual debt service cost forecast as principal is paid down over time.  For bonds, the borrower pays interest on the full value of the bond over the period of indebtedness, then pays back all the principal.)  That’s about $4.8-$5.4 million per year total expenditure leading to an additional $110-$140 tax burden per Reston household, depending on whether RCC charges “Reston rates” or “Fairfax County rates.”  Why should any Restonian pay more than $125 per year so 1500-1700 people, nearly two-thirds of whom have a household income exceeding $75,000 according to B&D’s November presentation, can regularly use a rec center at a substantial tax subsidy above even operating costs?


7.  Non-Restonian users.   You are right, nowhere does any of B&D’s reporting explicitly “contemplate that less than half of the users would be Restonians.”  Unfortunately, when you put B&D’s numbers together from the 2009 report as RCA did in its mid-2013 report on the Reston recreation center initiative, that is exactly the result you will find.   As the table on p. 20 of that report shows, with the exception of the swimming facilities with a low non-Reston capture rate (10%), B&D’s data shows that all of the facilities would be used more by non-Restonians than Restonians.   B&D hasn’t updated those data or calculations since, but we believe there is no legitimate reason to believe they would change substantially.   

A couple of related factors presented in various B&D reports point to a greater use of a Reston recreation center facility by non-Restonians than by Restonians.
  • The B&D reports going all the way back to 2009 are  confounding because they all assume that Restonians will account for 95% of total usage.  In part, this leads to the low level of facility use B&D describes in its various reports—and the resulting high tax subsidy required to make such a facility financially sustainable.  B&D, in fact, states in both its 2009 report and 2013 update that a 10% capture rate of the extended market is a “conservative” estimate.  The May 2013 update, p. 2.7, makes that statement and shows the total area potential core market in Exhibit 2.5:  Reston = 22,000, Non-Reston = 236,000, ten percent of which is 23,000—and more than the number of Restonians likely to use the facility.  As the table in RCA’s report shows, higher capture rates lead to a greater share of usage by non-Restonians.
  • We would also note that B&D’s May 2013 report shows, Exhibit 2.11, p. 2.12, that Reston’s private facilities serve 22,750 people—more than the core participant market it now estimates for Reston.   The result is that, absent huge tax-subsidized usage fees for Restonians that undercut the existing private recreational facilities, the number of Restonians who would likely use a new Reston recreation center will be extremely small. 
The fact that more non-Restonians than Restonians are likely to use the new recreation center is a huge and valid argument for the rec center not to be paid for by the citizens of Reston via the STD#5 tax vehicle.  The facility should be an FCPA facility, built and managed by the FCPA within the County budget and charging 100% operating cost recovery fees like other County recreation centers.  As it is, Restonians are helping to pay for close to a dozen other County recreation centers as part of our annual property tax bill.  Reston 2020 believes it is time for the rest of the County to contribute to a recreation center in Reston.


8.  Cost recovery.  Actually, the Reston 2020 post specifically identified both the “Reston Rate Structure” (50% maximum recovery) and the “Fairfax County Rate Structure” (71% maximum recovery) in our post.  Both of these recovery outcomes are inconsistent with the goals laid out at the beginning of the latest (and earlier) B&D presentation(s) and the expectations of other communities of covering operating expenses through operating revenues.  In fact, B&D’s May 2013 executive summary states (p. 1.3):

In B&D’s experience, most of the successful recreation facilities are able to cover 80-90% of operating costs with the remaining expenses subsidized by various public monies.  In the case of Fairfax County, all of the recreation facilities operate at break-even or better. 

For the record, our calculation of the County’s experience based on data for four County rec centers described in B&D’s 2009 report is that they achieve a 114% average recovery rate (see table on p. 21 of RCA’s report).  Why should the people of Reston be forced to live with a lower, unacceptable recovery rate expectation?


9.  Future impacts.  Actually, B&D’s May 2013 report lays out a 30-year pro forma balance sheet statement for the recreation center (both options) which we assume includes population increases.  It explicitly assumes expense increases (3.0%) and larger revenue increases (3.65%).  Its most recent November presentation update makes only cost recovery percentage projections for the first five years of operations—and its results are little different than the June 2013 update.


10.  Offsite agenda:  We look forward to seeing the agenda in a timely manner and hope it offers significant opportunities for public contributions. 

We would close by noting that we understand that FCPA will be forwarding to the Park Authority Board its recommendations for the Baron Cameron Park master plan for its meeting in February 2014--before the public has had an opportunity to review it.  Instead, the community will only get to comment on it after it has been reviewed by the Board.  We believe it is important that the Reston (and broader County) community have an opportunity to review and comment on this draft plan--at least by correspondence if not a pubic hearing--before it goes to the Park Authority Board.  The County's Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, and Library Trustees--the boards I'm familiar with--take public comments on their plans before reviewing them.   For the Park Authority Board to do otherwise would be absolutely contrary to a constructive open process.


In the spirit of community transparency, I will be posting your e-mail and my reply on the Reston2020 blog for the public to see. 


Regards,
Terry Maynard
Co-Chairman, RCA Reston 2020 Committee
Reston 2020 Blog Administrator