Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reston Citizens Association supports Merchants’ Action to Preserve Reston Town Center as a Welcoming Destination

March 28, 2017

For Immediate Release.

Reston Citizens Association supports Merchants’ Action to Preserve Reston Town Center as a Welcoming Destination

Last week Reston Citizens Association (RCA) and the greater Reston community learned about Jackson’s Mighty Fine Foods (Jackson’s) lawsuit regarding the paid parking solution being implemented by Boston Properties (BP) at Reston Town Center. RCA also understands that in the next 30 days further such lawsuits could be filed on behalf of the nearly 25-member merchant’s association as it explores its options and RCA wishes to announce its unqualified support to these efforts.

A group of RCA Directors for more than 12 months has tried to engage with Reston Town Center Management in order to find a compromise that would allow the Town Center to retain its character while respecting BP’s development rights since the Town Center is in fact its private property.

During multiple conversations with BP Management, its PR firm, and a separate crisis management firm, RCA has raised several pertinent issues. Initially RCA on its own accord chose to keep the details of those conversations private.  However, recent communications by BP has caused RCA to reconsider this position.

RCA has pointed out that many other shopping districts such as Mosaic, Fair Oaks, and Tysons Corner (a shopping area where an actual Metro station is currently open) do not have paid parking.  Also, at a minimum, a parking system that permits free parking for the first three hours or so would allow Reston area residents to visit RTC for short shopping and dinners trips while still preventing the alleged parking abuse by commuters, the ostensible BP reason for paid parking.

BP has stated that it is committed to reinvesting the RTC paid parking revenues in Reston.  If in fact paid parking is to remain in some form, RCA challenges BP to publicly commit the projected $8 million annual revenues to community betterments and activities that benefit Reston and not simply to new commercial construction.

RCA makes this call because of the misinformation and untruths that BP provided to RCA. From the very beginning, knowing how central the cellphone app would be for the paid parking experience, RCA asked many questions regarding how the App would work. Despite the assurances that were given to RCA that the ParkRTC App would provide a very user-friendly experience, today it is clear this is patently not true.

As users of the ParkRTC App frequently spoke of the confusion and frustration about parking validations handled via the App, BP did not communicate clearly that merchants and restaurants are set up to validate only specific garages, thereby requiring patrons to move cars between garages if they desired to avail validated free parking. This problematic setup would create more traffic movement within RTC and cause more parking imbalances, the very things that BP claimed paid parking would avoid. 

From a technology perspective, in response to a specific RCA query, BP representatives alluded that the ParkRTC was not an off-the-shelf solution, but was built internally. We now know this is not the case as BP has admitted publicly that the ParkRTC App is a “white label” parking app developed by Passport Inc. The ParkRTC App does not appear to conform to the best practices established by Google and Apple for their respective app stores, with the Google version of the app being a “port” of the Apple app and is many generations behind Google guidelines. This is not the state of the art experience that we were promised.

As a whole, the system is confusing, contradictory and subject of great frustration for users. Thus the RCA stands with merchants and the community in calling for paid parking to be scrapped or significantly overhauled immediately.

BP has in the past been a good and generous manager of the Reston Town Center and can be this again.  RCA stands ready to work with BP to address its legitimate concerns about commuter parking while at the same time preserving the open and welcoming character of the Town Center that has made it such a centerpiece of our community and the greater region.  

________________


For more information, please contact:


RESTON CITIZENS ASSOCIATION

RCA is a non-profit organization serving over 60,000 people who live in small tax district # 5.  It was founded in 1967 to promote and protect Reston’s founding principles by serving as a non-partisan forum for all residents and as a community advocate with County and State government.  RCA is the only community wide, non-partisan organization in which all Reston residents have a voice. 

For more information, please visit RCA’s website www.rcareston.com 


Monday, March 27, 2017

RCA Board of Directors Meeting - February 27th, 2017



RCA Board of Directors Meeting
February 27th, 2017
National Realty Building


Those attending included: Nick Georgas, Hank Schonzeit, Sridhar Ganesan, Dennis Hays, Moira Callaghan, Yavuz Inanli,  Joe Leighton, Connie Hartke, Lynne Mulston, Robin Hogan, and Joe Leighton
Absent were: Annmarie Swope, John Hanley
Guests were:


  1. Agenda - Based on a motion by Joe and a second by Hank the agenda was unanimously adopted by those in attendance.
  2. The January 23rd RCA Meeting Minutes - Based on a motion by Dennis and a second by Hank, the minutes were approved by Yavuz, Sridhar, Dennis, Moira, Lynne, and Nick. Joe, Robin, and Connie abstained.
  3. Treasurer’s Report – Based on a motion by Joe and a second by Hank the Treasurer’s report previously circulated by Joe via email was approved as distributed. Connie abstained.
  4. RNAG - Hank briefed the group on the most recent transportation tax meeting which took place in Herndon. Hank thinks that RCA should meet with Supervisor Hudgins to voice RCA concerns on the proposal. Moira brought up that our previously prepared positions would be beneficial being presented to Supervisor Hudgins. Sridhar will create the action.
  5. Reston Soccer Field - Connie spoke about the open discussions around Reston Soccer Association’s proposal for paying to improve the Lake Newport Soccer Fields and that nothing in their proposal was set in stone. Connie first became aware of the idea last June when RSA held a Town Hall meeting and has followed the process since in the online news sources and RA Board meeting videos. The idea that RA could be a leader in Fairfax County in finding a way to improve athletic fields without the use of tire crumb was of great interest. At the 2/23 RA Board meeting the discussion was officially tabled. Connie is disappointed that discussions and community input on a Reston-wide athletic field amenity could not be continued.  
  6. RA Tetra and conflict of interest - Sridhar discussed the Tetra review and that it is on track to be complete on time. Sridhar also spoke about the conflict of interest statements that were still incomplete by RA board members. It was encouraged that RCA members send questions to the Reston Association board of elections.
  7. Citizen of the year - Lynne spoke about the COY awards and the need of a chair. Lynne made a motion to skip the award ceremony for this year, seconded by Moira. It was decided unanimously to approve the motion.
  8. Education - Sridhar spoke about the education committee meeting with the FCPS chairperson. The next step is to meet with Pat Hynes to amend the amendment to allow repurposing buildings.
  9. Reston Community Center - Connie gave a report on the 2/13/2017 RCC Community Relations and Program/Policy Joint Committee meeting. Three options for a new aquatic layout were shared with hopes that the one that falls within current budget would be chosen.. Connie noted the large turnout of approximately 100 people. The audience included swimmers of all sorts of interest from therapeutic to competitive.
  10. Lake Anne Fellowship House - Connie mentioned that improvements and process’ at the LAFH were moving along well.
  1. Other Business -
    1. Paid Parking - Hank discussed the paid parking situation at RTC and how the various residential buildings are handling it.
    2. Dog Park - Moira spoke of the dog park as being an ongoing issue in the community.
    3. Delegate Election - Robin spoke of a way to host a delegate open house for the upcoming election.
  2. Location and Time of Next Meeting - The next meeting will be March 27th, 2017 at 7:30 at the Hartke Building. Hank made a motion to adjourn the meeting and Robin seconded it. The motion was unanimously approved by all those in attendance.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Agenda RCA Board of Directors Meeting

March 27, 2017
7:30 - 9:30 pm

National Realty/Hartke Building, 11890 Sunrise Valley Dr, Reston, VA
Item
Time
Topic
Disposition
Presenters

  1.  
7:30 PM
Adopt Agenda
Action
RCA Board

  1.  
7:35 PM
Approve February 27, 2017 Minutes
Action
RCA Board

  1.  
7:40 PM
Approve Treasurer’s Report
Action
RCA Board

  1.  
7:45 PM
Parking/ Reston Town Center Association
Update/ Discussion
Hank Schonzeit/ RCA Board

  1.  
8:05PM
RTC Press Release
Action
Yavuz Inanli

  1.  
8:20 PM
Reston National Golf Course
Update
Connie Hartke

  1.  
8:30 PM
RA – Tetra Review, Elections, Other Matters
Comments
RCA Board

  1.  
8:45 PM
RCA Membership/ Fundraising
Discussion
Moira Callaghan/ RCA Board

  1.  
9:10 PM
RCA Elections Committee
Action
Sridhar Ganesan

  1.  
9:15 PM
Other Business
Discussion
RCA Board

  1.  
9:29 PM
Time of Next Meeting; Adjourn
Action
RCA Board

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Report on 3/6/2017 Presentation from JBG on the RTC West Development

From Hank Schonzeit, RCA Board Member

On Monday March 6th I attended a presentation from JBG on the RTC West development. JBG plans on further development in RTC West and has a current request for the approval of a 1.3M SF second phase of development Some on-line comments have estimated that the full roll-out will be 1.8M SF. You may want to review a “Reston Now” article (restonnow.com/2016/10/25/jbg-files-plans-for-1-3-million-sf-of-residential-retail-and-office-at-rtc-west/) which provides a graphic and some more details.

This is a major development in Reston with several buildings over 20 stories. The renderings looked quite attractive and JBG confirmed that they will be following Reston Master Plan guidelines and the FAR (a measure of density) will be under the new (and higher) Master Plan limits. The first step in this new development will be the building of several restaurants next to existing buildings, with an expected opening of the first restaurant (an upscale wine and dining venue in late 2017. Some phases of the development have already been approved by the county, but JBG wasn’t specific. They did mention that they had received a “special exception” but this was not explained.

Although there were only 10 or so RTC residents in attendance, there were many questions:

1.      The renderings appear to show the open space as a combination of hardscape and landscape. What percentage will there be of street-level green space? – JBG responded that they are planning for at least 20% which includes a central green.

2.      There will be an increase in the number of cars and pedestrians in the area. JBG was asked how JBG planned to deal with the increased stress on the roads and paths? – JBG responded that they had not done a traffic study yet. Robert Goudie (Reston Town Center Association) then mentioned that the county has a road improvement plan that is dealing with issues like this. I stated that the county’s remediation plans have been long-delayed, will phase in over time and won’t be complete until 2050, long after the increased demand on Reston’s infrastructure is felt. The Soapstone overpass was originally planned for completion before the Wiehle station opened. It is now at least another 9 years away. The nearby Town Center Parkway/ toll-road underpass is at least 10 years away, given that environmental studies have not even started.

3.      JBG had mentioned that they expect patrons to cross the W&OD trail from RTC to reach RTC West. I mentioned that there are few places to cross the W&OD and there certainly would be issues in the morning when the W&OD is used heavily by biking commuters. JBG was asked how they planned to eliminate the problem— better paths to the W&OD, a bridge over the trail, or what? — JBG responded that they hadn’t gotten to review that issue yet but recognized that the county shied away from pedestrian overpasses. Presenters did note that their larger proposed residential tower would be “oriented” toward the W&OD and that they anticipate featuring the trail in siting that building.

4.      The rendering appeared to show large buildings very close to the street. JBG was asked if this were accurate. – JBG responded that the rendering may have exaggerated how close the buildings are to the road because of overhangs and that they are planning to be within the guidelines of the new Reston Master Plan. The new Master Plan reduced the setback from something like 30 feet to something like 20 feet.

5.      JBG was then asked if there will be paid parking in the new development.  JBG responded that there will be vouchered parking for patrons and that they did not want commuter parking in RTC West. A member of the audience then pointed out this was paid parking.

6.      JBG was asked if the residential units would owner-occupied or rentals. They appeared to respond that the decision will be based on financing conditions, but it appears likely the units will be rentals. It was commented that rental tenants don’t have the same stake in a viable Reston as owners do.

It was clear that this development, though attractive and compatible with the revised Reston Master Plan, will likely increase congestion in Reston. This congestion will not be ameliorated for many years.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

RCA Report on Merchant Meeting re: Reston Town Center Parking - 2/6/2017

Dennis Hays and Hank Schonzeit of the Reston Citizens Association were among the more than 60 people who met at the Vapiano restaurant on February 6th to express unhappiness and concern over Boston Properties' decision to charge for parking at the Town Center.   The meeting, primarily of owners and managers of businesses in the Reston Town Center,  was organized by Aaron Gordon of the Red Velvet Cupcake Shop and Aaron Mervis of Big Bowl.  

Speaker after speaker told of the direct and indirect costs to their businesses caused by the imposition of parking fees, where for 25 years there had been none.  

In general, business is down from 10 to 40 per cent.  Several managers stated that "walk ins" - people who stop into a store as they are passing by - are down by 50%.  Waiters and waitresses note their weekly earnings from tips are down hundreds of dollars.  Stores have cancelled weekday programs.  At least two owners said they may be forced to close their shops or leave Town Center.  A restauranteur expressed concern that he has not had a single person apply for a job since the parking fees were instituted.  A handicapped employee who used to park next to her store has been told to park three and a half blocks away.  

Ironically, a number of managers said some customers blame the stores for the new fees! 

The organizers stated they have tried to reason with Boston Properties, but without success. The next step is to publicize the plight of the businesses through events such as this one.   A possible third step is to consider obtaining legal representation.  The organizers have already been in touch with a distinguished law firm and a decision on this will be made in the coming days.  A large number of those present signed a pledge to support any legal engagement.  

The RCA representatives expressed their strong support for the merchants.  They noted RCA had met with a representative of Boston Properties last summer to express concern that the then proposed parking fees would cause great damage to the merchants, the public and for that matter the reputation of Boston Properties.  RCA noted there were alternative ways to address Boston Properties' expressed concern about commuter parking, such as have the first three or four hours be free, but charge after that.  The BP representative did not appear to be interested in alternative solutions.  

RCA will continue to work with the merchants and the public to find a reasonable path forward. Interested residents of Reston (including residents of the Town Center) are welcome to work with us.  Please contact RCA@northernva.com to find out more.  

- submitted by Dennis Hays, RCA Director

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

NOTICE - Feb 9 Meeting of Reston's Hunter Mill District Community Resiliency Group

CCDR logo for District emails
Please share with your cluster, local HOA, Condominium Association or Neighborhood Watch!


Northern Virginia is lucky - weather wise. For the most part we do not have to deal with floods, landslides, tornadoes and severe hurricanes. As such, we may be a bit lax on being prepared for a natural or other disaster, but we should do some planning.  Remember the Derecho event in 2012?

Fairfax County has received a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to enhance community resiliency. Volunteer Fairfax is calling on organizations - both large and small - to join this effort which could be so helpful in recovery after a disaster.

Last month Connie Hartke attended an introductory meeting of this "Community Resiliency Group." Its mission is "to create a local network to support each other and strengthen the whole community by coordinating our capabilities and resources to better prepare, respond, and recover from emergencies."

If your organization would like to learn more, attend the next event on February 9. Details and RSVP here and in copy of email below.


Hello Connie Hartke,

Thank you for participating in the Hunter Mill Community Resiliency Group Seminar on January 10! It was a huge success with over 80 individuals in attendance including Supervisors Hudgins and Foust.

We hope that you will be able to join us for the next piece in the Hunter Mill resiliency effort – the Table Top Exercise. This event will take place on Thursday, February 9 at Heritage Fellowship Church from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. At the Table Top Exercise (TTX), we will practice what we learned at the Seminar and identify ways to strengthen our resiliency efforts through a “winter event situation” designed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Exercise Program (NEP).

Like the Seminar, the Exercise is free of charge and, of course, we offer a catered dinner!

Register for the Hunter Mill District Tabletop Exercise on Thursday, February 9 from 6pm to 8:30pm by clicking here -huntermillresiliency.eventbrite.com.

If you have any questions regarding this initiative, we would be happy to speak with you further to provide more information regarding the importance of your organization’s participation in the Fairfax County Community Collaboration for Disaster Resiliency Program. Contact us at emergency@volunteerfairfax.org.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Agenda RCA Board of Directors Meeting

January 23, 2017
7:30 - 9:30 pm

National Realty/Hartke Building, 11890 Sunrise Valley Dr, Reston, VA

Item
Time
Topic
Disposition
Presenters

  1.  
7:30 PM
Adopt Agenda
Action
RCA Board

  1.  
7:35 PM
Approve November 28, 2016 Minutes
Action
RCA Board

  1.  
7:40 PM
Approve Treasurer’s Report
Action
RCA Board

  1.  
7:45 PM
RNAG/Transportation and Transportation Tax
Update/ Discussion
Hank Schonzeit/ RCA Board/ Member Comments

  1.  
8:30 PM
Tetra-Lake House Independent Review Contract Termination
Update
Sridhar Ganesan/ Moira Callaghan

  1.  
8:40 PM
Citizen of the Year
Discussion/ Action
RCA Board

  1.  
8:50 PM
Education
Update
Annmarie Swope/ Sridhar Ganesan

  1.  
9:05 PM
Community Resiliency Group – HM District
Update
Hank Schonzeit

  1.  
9:15 PM
Other Business
Discussion
RCA Board

  1.  
9:29 PM
Time of Next Meeting; Adjourn
Action
RCA Board