Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

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 Thankfully it was withdrawn, but only because of the forceful advocacy of Reston’s local representatives State Senators Janet Howell and Jennifer Boysko.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.