Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

"Vienna leaders: 'No dice' to N.Va. casino proposal," Vienna Gazette Leader, December 5, 2023

 This is a reposting of an article from the Vienna Gazette Leader, December 5, 2023.

Vienna leaders: 'No dice' to N.Va. casino proposal

Town Council members include opposition to gambling emporium in 2024 legislative package

Faced with rumblings that some state legislators again might try to authorize a gambling casino in Fairfax County, Vienna Town Council members on Dec. 4 formally signaled their opposition to that prospect.

“Any such facility likely would have substantial deleterious effects on the quality of life in Vienna, including increased traffic, additional costs to locally owned independent businesses, and erosion of public morals,” read an item on the 2024 legislative agenda approved by the Council that evening.

“This casino thing is pretty imminent, a real threat,” said Council member Nisha Patel, who successfully moved to have the casino-opposition statement placed within the 19-item legislative agenda’s Top 5 priorities.

During the General Assembly session held earlier this year, one proposed bill would have authorized a casino near any of Metrorail’s Silver Line stations in Fairfax County that were located outside Interstate 495, said Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill), who attended the Council meeting. The General Assembly has authorized a limited number of full (i.e., permanent) casinos, Alcorn said.

Council members rejected the casino prospect, especially a rumored location at Routes 123 and 7 in Tysons where a Koons auto dealership is located now.

“It would be a real body blow to Vienna,” said Council member Charles Anderson.

“It’s not wholesome,” agreed Council colleague Howard Springsteen.

Mayor Linda Colbert also opposed the casino idea and said she had been consulting with former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th), a longtime scourge of the gambling industry. Wolf has compiled copious information on the detriments of casinos, Colbert said.

Besides the casino item, the Council’s other four top priorities included requests for the General Assembly to:

• Authorized a state-code amendment that would allow the town to provide tree-canopy credits for development that preserves medium- and large-sized trees on lots under development or  require developers to meet 20-percent tree-canopy coverage within 10 years, versus the current 20.

• Change the Virginia Department of Transportation’s local-road-maintenance funding formula from lane mileage to lane volume or provide additional funding to localities, such as Vienna, that have average traffic volumes exceeding state averages by more than 20 percent. This has been a perennial request by the town.

• Authorize localities to hold municipal elections in May, the way things used to be before a 2021 General Assembly bill switched them all to November.

Council member Ed Somers did not run for re-election this year, but said he found this November’s election in Vienna – which featured a slew of races for the General Assembly, Board of Supervisors, constitutional offices and other items – a depressing experience.

“It was very different from May elections,” he said of the November contests, which sent Vienna voters to four precincts, versus the previous one used in May. “It diverted people from thinking about the town. There was something very special about having our elections [in May] be about our elections.”

• Not approve any bill that reduces or eliminates local land-use authority.

• Maintain qualified immunity for police officers, in recognition for split-second decisions they sometimes have to make. The town also opposes any changes to sovereign immunity.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Opinion: A Casino in Reston? Hell NO!

 Reprinted from Reston Patch

Opinion: A Casino in Reston? Hell NO!

Lynne Mulston of Citizens Opposed to Reston Casino calls on all residents of Reston to join their efforts to stop Comstock's casino plans.

Lynne Mulston of Citizens Opposed to Reston Casino calls on all residents of Reston to join their efforts to stop Comstock's casino plans.
Lynne Mulston of Citizens Opposed to Reston Casino calls on all residents of Reston to join their efforts to stop Comstock's casino plans. (Michael  O'Connell/Patch)

This opinion piece was submitted to Patch by Lynne Mulston, the campaign coordinator for Citizens Opposed to Reston Casino.

Nothing coalesces Reston like outside legislators trying to force a bad idea onto our community. For the past month the Reston community has been rallying and uniting in their opposition to the idea of . . . wait for it . . . a casino at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

A bill to establish a casino on the Silver Line was introduced in January 2023 by State Senator David Marsden (D-Burke) and Delegate Wren Williams (R-Stuart). Thankfully it was withdrawn, but only because of the forceful advocacy of Reston’s local representatives State Senators Janet Howell and Jennifer Boysko.

So why all the attention now? Well two things have happened. Through interviews with legislators and campaign finance reporting, the Patch uncovered that all roads point to the developer of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, Comstock Holding Companies Inc (NASDAQ: CHCI), as the political money and lobbying force behind this legislation. And earlier this month, Senator Marsden and Delegate Williams indicated their intent to re-introduce the legislation.

The idea of a Reston casino is opposed by our local elected officials, including Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, State Senator Jennifer Boysko, State Senator Janet Howell, Delegate Ken Plum, and At-Large School Board Member and candidate for Delegate Karen Keys-Gamarra.

Additionally, the Reston Association Board, which is elected by its 63,000 members, issued a statement of opposition calling upon State Senator Marsden to ‘cease all further efforts toward this end immediately.’ Reston Association added, “If you are determined to reintroduce SB 1543 or a similar bill, the Association Board of Directors demands that such legislation exclude that area within the Reston Master Plan or the area with the Reston Census Designated Place as defined by the U.S. Census from the eligible sites under consideration for a casino.”

But in interviews and public engagements, the legislation’s sponsors insist on pushing on.

They would have us believe this legislation is actually intended for Tysons. They would have us believe this is “not a casino bill, but is a referendum bill.”

It’s time we tell them a little bit about the people in Reston.

First, we know how to read a bill. And this bill does not limit the casino location to Tysons. Rather it opens it up to nearly every stop on the Silver Line in Fairfax County, including Reston. If they really intended this for Tysons, they could have written it that way.

Second, we know publicly traded companies don’t raise and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions to pass legislation they don’t intend to use. The Patch has tracked how Comstock-related companies, its employees, and individuals it does business with have contributed directly to the bill sponsors and also funded a new political action committee to target even more.

Third, we can do math. There is a casino referendum in Richmond, and the side supporting the casino is spending more than $8 million this year alone. There are only 158,131 voters in Richmond. If a Reston casino goes to a referendum in Fairfax County, we have 784,282 voters in the county. We know the math here. This is going to be a massive and incredibly expensive campaign for our community to fight against.

Finally, we are a planned community, and an entertainment district with a casino is not in line with the community's vision for the future of Reston. Over the past three years, thirty members of our community, including representatives from developers, worked with County staff, interest groups, and the public to craft a Comprehensive Plan for the next decade of Reston's growth. In the community's plan that was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Wiehle Metro Station area is envisioned to be an urban neighborhood with encouragement for higher education, research and development, and tech uses. A casino would drastically change the vision for Reston.

Mr. Marsden and Mr. Williams, now that you know more about us, it’s time to be transparent.

To others, such as Fairfax Board of Supervisors Jeff McKay, who recently tried to “reassure” the county by stating “[t]here is no proposal on the table” and “[t]here is no bill that anyone has seen," — Mr. McKay, there is nothing reassuring about this. Now is the time to take a stance as bills are being drafted and negotiated for the new session. You know this.

And to our neighbors and friends, we hope you will join us. The Reston Citizens Association, Reston Strong, Rescue Reston, Reston 2020, and Save Our Sunrise have joined together to start Citizens Opposed to Reston Casino (CORC). Go to CORC's website and sign up for the email updates and sign the petition.

Together, we can amplify our voices in opposition to a casino in Reston.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Re-Engineering Fairfax Minimum Parking Requirements

 This is a re-post of Terry Maynard's op-ed in this week's Fairfax Times.

The residents of Fairfax County are about to experience a badly designed social engineering experiment carried out by the Board of Supervisors.  It’s called “Parking Reimagined.”  The essence of the concept is to change the zoning law to reduce dramatically minimum parking requirements so developers can save construction costs and increase their profits.  It does absolutely nothing for residents except make it more difficult to find a place to park at home, work, or other places they may wish to visit.

The asserted goal of “Parking Reimagined” is to get people out of their cars and on to public transit, bicycles, and their feet.  While this is noble, as presented, it does nothing to address its many consequences for county residents and others who live, work, or play here.  The county’ November 2022 white paper lists several goals made possible by the cuts in parking—more walkable communities, more affordable housing, more green space--but it does nothing to achieve them.

Yet, the real bottom line is clearly stated in this white paper:  “More productive uses of land area (i.e.—greater developer profits) once devoted to parking adds value to the County’s tax base.”  The county doesn’t really care about the other “goals.”  They’re just part of the sales pitch.  They want more tax revenue and developers want more profits!

But, of course, that’s not all:  Parking Reimagined calls for all parking “adjustments” (i.e.—reductions below the minimum base minimum parking requirement) to be decided by the Director of Land Development Services up to a 60% threshold in a process requiring NO public input.  The math says that means the parking requirement for future housing and other development could be about one-third of what it is today in the base case without so much as a public meeting, much less a hearing and Board of Supervisors approval.  What could go wrong?

And there is more.  Developers don’t need to add any parking if they decide to expand their existing development by up to ten percent.  Expansions between 10%-30% would require additional parking at the reduced parking standard (minus any “adjustments”) and, in many if not most cases, would be approved administratively—no public input. 

And all these kinds of residential minimum parking requirement reductions apply in varying degrees to every single type of development and renovation across the county from office buildings to retail. 

All this may make more sense by looking at a real example:  the redevelopment of Crescent Apartments in Reston.  These affordable (ADU) apartments owned by the county are part of Lake Anne Village Center.  The county is now studying how it should be redeveloped, starting with Crescent Apartments.  Here are the calculations for the implications of Parking Reimagined for Crescent Apartments:

  • Current:  181 apartments with at least 235 parking spaces (1.3 spaces/dwelling unit); housing for 380 people using county housing calculations (2.1 people/unit). That’s two-thirds of a parking spot for each resident.
  • Proposed:  935 apartments under the consolidated option with 972 parking spaces required (1.04 spaces/dwelling unit—a 20% reduction from the current minimum); housing for 1,964 people. That’s about one spot for every two people expected to live there.
  • “Adjusted”:  The Director of Land Development Services, at the request of the developer and without any hearings, reduces the number of parking spaces at Crescent Apartment by another 60% to 389 spaces or roughly one space for every five people expected to live there.

So, while the number of planned apartments quintuples, the number of parking spaces could less than double.  That is a future shortfall of 280 to 826 parking spaces at a redeveloped Crescent Apartments based on today’s minimum parking requirement. 

And for Crescent residents, the alternative transportation options are not good.  Crescent Apartments is 2.0 miles from the nearest Metro stop—Reston Station.  Bus service to Reston, Herndon, and Tysons Metro stations runs at about half-hour intervals during peak periods, making it  difficult for commuters.   People are not going to walk to Reston Station (38 minutes) although some may bike (12 minutes).  Taxis/Uber are expensive alternatives for regular use, especially for those in affordable housing.  As a result, Crescent Apartment residents largely rely on their automobiles to reach jobs, shopping, entertainment, etc.  To add public transit and other needed infrastructure would almost certainly require another Transportation Service District tax for Lake Anne Village Center as now exists in Reston’s transit station areas ($0.021 per $100 valuation).

If Parking Reimagined is approved and Crescent Apartments re-developed, what will happen is that more residents will park along already crowded North Shore Drive and, if they can get away with it, at Lake Anne’s Washington Plaza or even more distant schools and churches—not a fun walk in rain, sleet, snow, and oppressive heat.  As a result, their quality of life will be reduced unnecessarily so developers and the county may make more money.

In short, Parking Reimagined is a one-dimensional social engineering experiment to force people out of their cars that ignores the wide variety of consequences it would generate and fails to guarantee the societal gains it states as goals.  Most importantly it fails to consider the complexities faced by people living, working, and playing in our county and the Reston community.  If approved, the county will create a less desirable place to live and likely lead to the growing outmigration of residents.

If you share these concerns, please let Supervisor, Walter Alcorn know.  You may also wish to share your concerns with the entire Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission, whose next hearing on the topic is scheduled for 7:30 PM, Wednesday, September 13, 2023, at the Fairfax County Government Center.  Be there—and testify if you want—or tune in on Channel 16.

Terry Maynard

Reston 20/20 Committee

Reston, VA

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Lake Anne Vision Presentation by StreetSense, May 2023

Follow this link to the full presentation. 

The presentation offers two alternative conceptual futures for the Lake Anne Village Center:

  • The Original Village:  Develop a curated community with neighborhood draw.  This envisions Lake Anne's future character as being nostalgic, charming, and refreshed.
  • A Destination Landmark:  It positions Lake Anne as an iconic destination with regional draw.  It envisions its future character as a welcoming, vibrant, and revitalized.


Monday, May 29, 2023

E-mail to Supervisor Alcorn re DPD Staff Report on Reston Plan Urban Parks and Facilities

Supervisor Alcorn—

I hope that you are well and enjoying this Memorial Day weekend despite the many issues facing our community and the county.  I am writing you to address just one:  The gross disservice the DPD staff report does to Reston’s future parks needs, especially for large athletic fields, to serve the 90,000 people who are planned to live and 60,000 people who are planned to work in Reston’s TSAs per the existing and proposed Reston plans.  And that doesn’t count the 80,000 people who could live in the suburban PRC parts of Reston at the current 13 people per acre cap, which I anticipate you will propose to increase.

Although you probably know the staff report by heart, I would like to emphasize the section regarding parks and playing fields:

…staff recommends the plan text provide guidance that prioritizes meeting athletic field needs through increased capacity at existing fields located near the TSAs. In addition, the text recommends that complimentary park features and amenities be provided in conjunction with athletic fields to ensure parks meet a range of community needs….

The staff recommendation goes on to note, “According to the population needs in Reston determined by the FCPA, provide capacity equivalent to at least 12 athletic fields, including one in or nearby each of the three TSA‘s.”  No, the Parks & Recreation Policy Plan calls for 12 full-size athletic fields in areas with the planned density of Reston’s TSAs, not “equivalent capacity” and not “nearby”.  In fact, DPD then defines Lake Fairfax, Stratton Woods, and Fred Crabtree parks as “nearby.”  None of them are even in Reston.  Except for the inaccessible southwest corner of Lake Fairfax Park, none of these parks nor any of their entrances are within a mile of any of Reston’s TSAs, nor are they accessible by walking, biking, or bus.  They are by no reasonable definition “nearby” the TSAs and they do, in fact, discriminate against those without cars—usually the less fortunate in the Reston community. 

These shortcomings (among many in the staff report) are set against the county’s Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan, approved by the Board of Supervisors, which brags that these parks and facilities, “play a key role in shaping both the landscape and the quality of life through the conservation of natural and cultural resources, protection of environmental quality, provision of public facilities and human services, and management of urban growth.”  In the process, it lays out important goals for meeting county park needs.  I will focus on two in which the Reston plan fails miserably:

  • First, the policy establishes “countywide” Park Facility Service Level Standards.  It specifically calls for one full-size rectangular athletic field for every 2,700 residents.  With Reston’s TSAs planned for a population greater than 90,000, that means there should be 34 such fields easily accessible to Restonians, not 12 “near” the TSAs, much less 3.  The 20 other categories of facilities have similar standards for our burgeoning Reston population, and allowance is given in the draft plan for very few of them, e.g.—construction of a Hunter Mill Recreation Center in RTCN, still a pipe cream despite being long overdue.  No, instead you have endorsed a performing arts center instead of viable and needed park option when your district leads the county, a county rich in performance centers of all types, in performing arts centers.

·        On a broader scale, the Urban Parks Framework appendix to the Parks & Recreation plan establishes an “element” for park size and service area stating “(n)ew developments should provide 1.5 acres per 1,000 residents and 1.0 acre per 10,000 employees.”  This park service area should be “within a 5-10 minute walking distance (or ¼ -½ mile) from nearby offices, retail and residences.”  That is, right in the TSAs.  So, that means Reston TSAs should have about 140 acres of park land. We are not remotely close to that total, including the space BPX has set aside for mini-parks.

In short, the county staff’s recommendation make a farce of the county parks and recreation policy plan.  As a longtime resident, it is utterly amazing to me that the Board continues regularly to ignore its own policies rather than relying on them to guide their decisions.  They appear to be just glittery baubles the Board can point to when it serves their interest, not guidance for their deliberations and decisions.

The failure to provide adequate parks for Reston’s urban residents is all the more obvious when compared against Manhattan as I did a decade ago using the Trust for Public Lands data and methodology.  First, it shows that Manhattan has more than three times as much land per capita committed to parks as Reston’s TSAs resulting in a similar metric for Park Accessibility Score.

Second, even with the three athletic fields in Reston’s currently approved plan, Reston has only two-thirds the number of fields per capita as Manhattan—and the Town Center has less than half of number of fields per capita as Manhattan.

If you and the Board are truly interested in advancing the county’s parks and recreation policies in Reston, I recommend you propose that the county put its money where its mouth is.  Specifically, I propose that the county assume financial responsibility for maintaining, upgrading, and adding parks and facilities for all privately owned, but publicly accessible, parks and recreation facilities in the county, in addition to public lands.  This includes Reston’s RA and BPX facilities.  In so doing, the county should meet the owners’ expectations for the quality of those facilities and sustain all residents’ quality of life.   

I wish you the best in advancing Reston residents—and voters—legitimate interests in sustaining its excellence in respecting our environment and sustaining our quality of life by rejecting the DPD’s proposals to further weaken draft Reston plan language regarding its parks and recreation—and other areas.  

For your information, I will be sharing this with our Reston neighbors via NextDoor and other mechanisms.  I am hopeful it stimulates their involvement in this draft review process, including participating in the June 6 community meeting you and John Carter are hosting regarding the draft plan and staff report at South Lakes High School at 6:30PM. 

Thank you for listening. 

Terry Maynard

Reston, VA