Reston Spring

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reston Task Force Chairman Letter Blows Off Proposed Community Advisory Groups

In a letter to members of the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force, Chairman Patty Nicoson blew off the RCA Reston 2020 Committee's proposal to create Community Advisory Groups to help the panel cope with the tough issues it is addressing. As reported in January:

The proposal calls for the creation of six Work Groups to assist the task force by:
• Researching previous Fairfax and other jurisdiction studies relevant to the issues assigned to them by the Task Force
• Working with outside experts to obtain their views on their assigned issues
• Organizing field trips to inspect and better understand the areas affected by the planning
• Performing other tasks assigned by the Task Force through its chair.

The six proposed Work Groups are:
• Transportation
• Environment
• Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities
• Residential & Housing
• Urban Design and Livability
• Implementation and Phasing

The Work Groups will prepare brief written reports and presentations on what they learn and provide the Task Force with their views

As an alternative, the chairman proposed the following:

I would like to create a subgroup of the task force to help with designing communication strategies, as well as opportunities for engaging the community. Let's call it a Communication/Community Engagement subcommittee. This group would be made up of task force members and invite the participation of others such as the representatives of Reston Association, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and the Reston Town Center Association. . . I think that we should wait on appointing any additional formal groups until such time as we feel a given issue needs to be explored in greater depth.

It is not unnoticed that the chairman specifically excluded two leading Reston-wide citizens civic organizations, the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH) and the Reston Citizens Association (RCA), both of which include a significant number of Restonians who are not members of Reston Association. Moreover, two of the three organizations she identifies for this "engagement" subcommittee represent business interests whose members sell things in Reston, but may or may not be residents here.

The undated (the filename indicates "020510"--presumably the date), unsigned, unofficial letter goes on to suggest, "Let’s discuss this further at our next meeting." That meeting is this evening at the RCC--Lake Anne. It's not on the agenda, but who knows what topics will actually be discussed.

As for the RCA Reston 2020 Committee, I am proud to say that the committee will proceed with its groups comprised of Reston citizen volunteers. They will study the issues that are central to potential changes in the Reston area's Comprehensive Plan and provide reports and, if briefings if allowed, to the task force. The reports will be focused, balanced, and comprehensive, and fill a vacuum left by the inability of an overworked and understaffed DPZ to provide the support the task force and Restonians deserve. If the task force cares about the implications of its Comprehensive Plan recommendations, it will use these reports in its future deliberations.

Below is the full text of the chairman's letter.

Nicoson on TF Communications Strategies

Terry Maynard
Reston, VA

1 comment:

  1. I'm new to this stuff, so I do not immediately see the Chair's letter in an adversarial light, although I suspect Terry Maynard does. I think the Chair just said, "Let's not put the cart in front of the horse."

    Master Plan review is a major undertaking, and if not carefully managed can result in a huge waste of resources with few net results. Effective communication with stakeholders is fundamental to success. If a communication plan was not already developed, then the Chair's suggestion is excellent. The Reston Master Plan stakeholders include at least residents and local businesses, and probably neighboring communities and county government. The stakeholders should be actively engaged from the start of the review process, and stakeholder input needs to be fairly represented, recorded and acted upon by the Task Force.

    Polling stakeholders will help the Task Force to identify which issues are currently considered critical, so they can focus their efforts on studying those topics. It is also reasonable to ask that people not commit valuable resources (volunteer time) to studying issues until this first step is completed.

    Susan Levitt
    Reston, VA


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