Reston Spring

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Reston Spring

Saturday, May 14, 2022

NBC4: Suit Moves Forward Alleging Fairfax County Officers Protected Sex Traffickers

Following up on motions to dismiss by the FCPD defendants, Federal Judge Anthony Trenga ruled that the case may proceed.  Here is how NBC4 reported the development:

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a lawsuit against two former police officers accused of protecting a sex trafficking ring in Northern Virginia in exchange for sex can move forward.

The former Fairfax County officers, Michael O. Barbazette of Manassas and Jason J. Mardocco of Gainesville, had asked a judge at a hearing Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to have the case tossed out.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, Judge Anthony Trenga rejected the motion to dismiss. He did toss out some counts on technical issues but is allowing the plaintiff to file an amended complaint that will comply with the technical failings and allows the substantive accusations to move forward intact.

The case alleges five named and more unnamed FCPD officers, including then Acting Chief Ed Roessler, participated in and/or protected a sex trafficking ring.  

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Fairfax County Attorney's office files motion for dismissal in federal case against several FCPD officers for their involement in sex trafficking

 In October 2021, a federal lawsuit was filed against several Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) officers for their involvement in a sex trafficking ring involving Jane Doe. The officers, none of whom are now with FCPD, are Deputy Chief Edwin Roessler (retired), James Baumstark (now a deputy chief with the Ashville, NC, Police Department), Vincent Scianna, Jason Mardocco, and Michael Barbazette.   The Senior Assistant County Attorney for Fairfax County states, in a motion to dismiss the case on March 21, 2022, that there are five legal arguments applying to some or all of the defendants that warrant the dismissal of the case.

This link will take you to the 15-pp. Fairfax County motion on Scribd.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Is a Performance Venue the Best Way to Spend $92 Million in added Reston Taxes?

 (This is a slightly edited version of a commentary published in Reston Patch this week.  The edits include the addition of a couple of examples of cost per square foot for performing arts centers as shown in blue ink below.) 

In recent weeks, the Reston Community Center (RCC), has called on Restonians to finance the building and operation of a Reston visual and performing arts center (RVPAC) on land proffered by Boston Properties.  It has set up “public meetings” in mid-February and beyond to achieve that end.

The RCC effort is not being driven by any need for such a center nor in consideration of the many others legitimate needs of this community.  RCC has its own small performance venue, the high school has a larger auditorium, and outdoor performances are routine at the Town Center.  Within in 10 miles of Reston, major performance and visual venues exist Wolf Trap and its Barns and the new Capital One Center at Tysons.  A website of Washington area visual and performing arts centers shows that Hunter Mill District already has 19% of all the performance venues in Fairfax County, the most of any county magisterial district.  Neighboring Dranesville and Sully districts add another 19% share to county venues.  For a real night out adventure, Washington, DC, has myriad performance and arts centers.  The point is the visual and performing arts are readily available to Restonians now. 

A 2019 “scientific” survey conducted by the University of Virginia on RCC’s behalf on Restonians’ view of such a RVPAC showed that only 38% of the respondents were supportive or very supportive of an RVPAC financed only by Restonians, not close to a majority of the sample.  Moreover, that is 38% of the self-selecting 1,906 respondents out of 5,500 queried in the survey.  In short, three percent of Reston’s 63,226 population were allowed to speak for our community in a survey designed to generate positive responses.  That is hardly sufficient justification for pursuing a multi-million dollar initiative through added taxes on Restonians.

Nonetheless, RCC is proceeding with its public meetings to determine what Restonians want in their RVPAC—not whether they want one nor how much they are willing to pay.   Trying to achieve dreams without first considering financial limitations is a recipe for fiscal disaster.   In fact, if Restonians are to pay for the construction and operation of a VPAC, RCC needs to first determine how much Restonians can and will pay for that “want.”

What is on the table is building a 60,000 square foot visual and performing arts center on land proffered by Boston Properties in Reston Town Center per Reston Connection.   An extensive Google search of performance arts center design and build costs shows an extreme range of costs per square foot, current costs ranging from about $300/sf to $2,000/sf in one case.   The range is largely attributable to the elegance of the venue and the extent of its ancillary facilities.  In fact, at this point, expecting design, build, and equip current costs of $1,000/sf is a reasonable preliminary estimate for planning a well-fitted, but not ostentatious, VPAC.  That means a Reston VPAC would cost an estimated $60 million to build—and, of course, more to operate. 

A couple of examples:

·        Tysons’ new Capital One Center cost about $960/sf ($120 million total) for its two venues—a 1,600 person principal theater and a 225-person “box theater”--in a 125,000 sf facility.  It also has an amphitheater on its campus.

·        A newly built PAC on a college campus in Chula Vista, CA cost $66 million to design, build, and equip.  It includes a 540-seat performance theater and a 151-seat “box theater” plus other small instructional and support spaces.  The building has 48,576 square feet gross floor area, meaning it cost $1,076/gsf.  It was funded by two general obligation bonds through two regional referendums, not by the college nor Chula Vista alone. 

A reasonable planning assumption, one used by the county, for an RVPAC would be to assume the interest rate of three percent on a AAA general obligation bond.  At a 3%/year interest, Restonians would have to pay an additional $3.1 million annually to the Reston special tax district ($91.8 million over 30 years), increasing current RCC annual tax revenue needs by one-third.   

Is paying $91.8 million over 30 years for a visual and performance venue the best use of Restonians’ STD#5 community or even county property tax funds?  I certainly don’t believe so.  I suspect that is also the reason that Supervisor Alcorn hasn’t taken this idea on as a county initiative.  In fact, at least three other important areas in Reston need that money: d

·        New Reston schools to accommodate the 20,000 new students planned to live in Reston in the next 30 years according to the Reston Master Plan and FCPS student yield models. 

·       New parks in and immediately around the increasingly intensely developed Reston transit station areas to give some legitimacy to the county’s urban park guidelines.  There are virtually no parks for the 90,000 people planned to live there, just wall-to-wall concrete.  Boston Properties’ proffer specifically identifies a park as an option to a VPAC.

·     A new Reston Regional Library to replace the dilapidated, outdated and inadequate one at Town Center North.

I encourage all Reston residents to attend and participate in RCC’s upcoming public meeting at 6:30PM on February 14th at RCC.  Let them know what you think should be Reston taxpayers’ investment priorities.  After all, RCC is trying to decide how to spend some $92 million of your money, not theirs.

 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

RCC plans meetings to discuss building a Reston Performing Arts Center without noting funding issues.

A recent RestonNow article presented a mildly edited press release from the Reston Community Center noting a series of upcoming meetings to discuss what should be included in a Reston Performing Arts Center (RPAC). Terry Maynard responded with an extended comment that noted the article and press release did not mention any cost or financing issues in its construction. Below is a slightly updated version of his comments: 

What neither this article nor the RCC press release behind it say is that this project, if built, would be paid for ONLY by the residents of Reston through the Reston Special Tax District (STD#5). It could cost hundreds of millions to build and tens of millions each year to support. I'm sure that neither RCC (Leila Gordon) or Supervisor Alcorn mentioned that fact. Nonetheless, the first step taken by any prudent executive re a proposal is to examine its feasibility. In fact, it's a fiduciary responsibility. To proceed otherwise is to make a decision based on dangerously incomplete information. 

If you dig deep enough in the County webpage on this project, you will learn that, if BosProp doesn't build the venue (it has only offered the property, not the construction), it will take an STD#5 bond referendum to build it. (Presentation of July 26, 2021, two years after the underlying survey was conducted) In a survey question asking "Do you support RCC financing the building of a new arts venue by means of a bond issue?" only 38% said they were supportive or very supportive.  It should be noted that this questionnaire was responded to by only four percent of Reston's households, according to the US Census

A comment about that question's phraseology: It phrases the question as "RCC financing" the construction when, in fact, it would be "Reston residents financing" or "STD#5 financing." It is not money from the county or manna, just us. 

Based on the experience at Tysons with the Capital One Performance Center, we may reasonably expect an RPAC to cost $100 million to build. Assuming (generously) that a 30-year loan issued today for that construction could be obtained and RCC could garner a AAA bond rating like the county, the annual cost to Restonians to pay off that bond would be more than $5 million. For 2022, RCC's proposed budget is less than $9 million, so the construction alone would increase RCC's tax revenue needs by more than half. This would require an increase in the STD#5 tax rate, contrary to a statement by RCC Chief Leila Gordon in 2019. 

We've seen how similar ill-considered acquisition efforts have been sold by local officials, for example, the RA purchase of the Tetra property. You can bet Leila Gordon and RCC will use every trick in the book to sell this one. 

It is ludicrous to think that such a burden should be placed on Restonians alone or even on the county when we so many other higher priority needs that are going unfilled, including the 20,000 additional kids needing schools under the current Reston Master Plan.  Parks nearby to accommodate the 90,000 additional new TSA residents will also be needed, but are unbudgeted, even unplanned for.

In case you are concerned about a cultural vacuum nearby, Capital One has built a performance center at Tysons--8 miles away--with a 1,600 person capacity main theater, a small theater, and an amphitheater all easily reached by Metro. FYI--it cost at least $120 million to build.