Monday, August 4, 2014

RCA Letter to Supervisors Hudgins, Chairman Bulova on Reston Master Plan Process, August 2, 2014

                                                                                                   August 2, 2014
Ms. Cathy Hudgins
Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Fairfax County
12000 Bowman Towne Dr.

Reston, VA 20190

Dear Supervisor Hudgins,
After consultations with many Reston residents and my colleagues on the Board of Reston Citizens Association (RCA), I am proposing that the County amend the Phase II of the Reston Master Plan (RMPII) planning process. 
Though we had been given many assurances that there would be strong public involvement, the recent presentations (June 7 and July 21) of the County's plans for the future of our community appeared to be a very general, top-down, pre-determined exercise on what is to be done.  While the public was able to ask questions in one-on-one interactions with County officials and submit disconnected comments, we believe that these briefings lacked the interactivity, responsiveness and accountability that a presentation of proposals in a group setting, followed by question and answer/comment format, would normally provide.
Without collaborative discussions early in the process, we believe that the citizens of Reston would be left out of the process and the ideas from residents and those that might be affected would be lost or presented entirely out of context or ignored with limited or no accountability. We cannot see how the process so far has allowed us or other citizens groups to participate in a constructive manner.
We suggest that after the “strawman” is released in September, the County holds additional three or four meetings with community representatives to identify and address, among others, the following key issues in re-planning suburban Reston, including how or whether this needs to be done. 
·      What should be the future of the Village Centers? 
·      How do we protect developed Reston neighborhoods? 
·      What should be the future role of the Baron Cameron North area and the Convenience Centers? 
We believe that the additional meetings would also help the Planning Staff to understand the minefields in front of it as it tries to develop a responsive and constructive plan. 
We understand that you are trying to work within tight schedules, and we all wish to avoid the time-consuming, frustrating exercise that was Reston Master Plan Task Force, but it is important that you facilitate interactive public involvement on crucial decisions that will directly affect the neighborhoods where we live. 
I also have two other questions that we would like to get your responses on:
1.    During one-on-one and email exchanges with the County staff, we have been led to understand that the goal of RMPII is to stabilize the density and mix of use at village centers at their current levels, which in fact will be even lower than the previously planned (and zoned) levels.  I am requesting you to please confirm that that is in fact the case. 
2.    We would also like to understand the parties that have directly participated in the RMPII process thus far – Is it just the County staff and officials?  Or have external parties such as real estate developers, commercial landowners, brokers and agents had direct one-on-one opportunities to participate in the process and if so, why? 

Given the aggressive timetable for this process, I am requesting that you please respond to our proposals and questions above at the earliest.  I will also be happy to meet with you to discuss how we can improve the process to make it more interactive and accountable. You can reach me on my email or via my phone, +1-202-409-2722. 

Thank you and yours sincerely,
Sridhar Ganesan
President, RCA
Email:  sridharganesan1 @
Tel: +1-202-409-2722

cc:  Ms. Sharon Bulova, Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reston Master Plan Special Study Phase II

Last Friday was the deadline to submit comments for Phase II of the Reston Master Plan Special Study. Terry Maynard summed up the thoughts we hear most often in his cover letter to the County:

“A theme that runs throughout these coordinated comments is that Restonians generally like suburban Reston the way that it is and believe few changes should be made.”  He continues: “We offer some flexibility in the village center mixed-use areas.  We also lay out some general requirements for any future redevelopment.  All of our ideas are driven by the Reston Vision and Planning Principles approved by the Reston Task Force and incorporated in the Comprehensive Plan.”

Read the ideas about planning needs for Phase 2 of the Reston Master Planning effort from RCA’s independent committee, Reston 2020.

Rescue Reston submitted comments also. Reston National Golf Course is not the focus of the Phase II study, but it is a good opportunity to publicly thank our County Supervisors for their support to date. It also allows us to remind developers how positive it is to have this tax-free amenity so close to Reston residents and office workers.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@RCAreston), and subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll keep you posted as new information from the Phase II Special Study comes available.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Thank You to All of RCA’s Volunteers

by RCA Board Member Connie Hartke

An all-volunteer organization such as RCA faces the same challenge as volunteers everywhere. We take vacations, many have day jobs, some have young folks in their lives; some have eldercare responsibilities. Life events happen.  Phase II of the Reston Master Plan comments are due. Life in Reston is not quiet.

So when someone else does a part of our job for us, we really appreciate it!

In this week’s Reston Connection, John Lovaas, wrote about the “Changing of the Guard at Reston Citizens Association.” He writes an outstanding farewell to our outgoing Board Members while also giving a synopsis of the 46-year history of RCA. Be sure to take a moment to read page 5 of the paper version or the online version here.

Lovaas gives a very clear explanation of the difference between Reston Association (RA) and RCA – a topic we’ve been planning to turn into a 411 series document. Thanks to John, we now have the outline for it! 

Our three new board members bring a range of abilities that should serve us well moving into Reston’s next 50 years. 

Dennis Hays will bring some diplomacy that should be useful as we navigate growth with our local government, Fairfax County.  He is a former ambassador to Suriname and past president of the Reston Runners (with 800+ members). He also serves on the boards of Community Living Alternatives and the Friends of Reston Regional Library.

Robin Hogan has been my right arm at Rescue Reston for the last two years.  Her experience will serve RCA well as we increase our activities and keep Restonians aware of who we are and how we can help represent your interests. She is VP of Communications for Rescue Reston.

Hank Schonzeit has always been an active volunteer in the Reston communities that he has lived in. He has followed the Reston Master Plan progress, and wrote an insightful article after one of the Task Force meetings last year.  As a retired healthcare system executive, supporting the health and well-being of the community he lives in is second nature.

We welcome your input and queries and hope to soon have an easy way for you to email your Board representative directly.  Subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll keep you informed each month on our projects. Be one of our volunteers and help preserve the Reston we love.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

RCA Election: Sridhar Ganesan Elected President Together With New Board Members

Reston Citizens Association (RCA) today announced the election of Sridhar Ganesan, who was elected to RCA’s Board from Reston’s North Point District, as President and the election of four other directors to its Board for the year 2014-15.

John Hanley, Hunters Woods District director, was re-elected by the Board as RCA’s Vice President, a position that he has held for the past two years. Board Member Nick Georgas was elected as Secretary and Joe Leighton was reelected to the position of Treasurer.

Incumbent Hunters Woods District Director Constance Hartke was re-elected to the Board.

Dennis Hays was elected to the Board as an At Large Director.

Hank Schonzeit joined the Board as a new Director from Town Center/Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District, while Robin Hogan also joined the board as a new Director from South Lakes District.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

President Colin's Farewell

By RCA President Colin Mills

This is it.  After three years as President of the Reston Citizens Association, having written weekly about community issues for Reston Patch and Reston Now since August 2011, this is my final column.  RCA is in the process of counting and verifying the results from our recent election.  When the Board sits down to meet next Monday, someone else will be sworn in as President, and my three years in charge will officially come to an end.

Now that I’ve reached the end of the road with RCA, I have mixed emotions.  On some level, I’m sorry to be stepping down; it’s still a very exciting time in Reston, between the Silver Line’s (finally scheduled) opening, the further revisions to the Master Plan, the question of how we’ll meet our community’s transportation, recreational, and environmental needs as we redevelop and grow in the future.  I feel that RCA will have a key role to play in those community conversations, and I’m sorry I won’t be there to guide the organization on those issues.

On the other hand, I also feel more than a little relieved.  The schedule of meetings, emails, and other ancillary duties is tough on someone with a family.  I’m really excited about getting to spend more time with my wonderful wife Jennifer and my amazing daughter, Leslie.  And I also look forward to having the chance to tackle something new.  I’m the kind of guy who likes to look ahead to the next challenge, the next hill to climb, and now I’ll have a chance to do just that.

I’m proud of all that RCA has accomplished in the last 3 years under my leadership.  When I took over as president, I wanted RCA to have a much stronger voice on Reston’s political and social issues.  We succeeded.  In the last three years, RCA has informed and advocated for our citizens on a wide variety of issues, from the funding of the Silver Line to the rewriting of our Master Plan to the funding and administration of County libraries to the re-planning of Baron Cameron Park.  Our Reston 2020 Committee has become a widely-recognized authority on planning, development, and transportation issues.  We held forums, wrote articles, performed analysis, and spoke up in hearings on behalf of Restonians.

Our actions and advocacy could be controversial sometimes, but you know what?  I’m okay with that.  As a community, we’re better off if we’re openly discussing and debating the issues that will shape our future.  We may not always agree, but we’re much better off hashing these things out rather than having our leaders make decisions with no input from an apathetic public.  Reston has long been famous for its active and engaged citizens.  I’m glad RCA has helped perpetuate that tradition, even if it gets a little messy at times.

I’m also proud that RCA has strengthened its ties with other community organizations.  Collaborating with RA and ARCH has helped RCA achieve its goals, but more importantly, it’s helped us all better serve our constituents.  One of my proudest accomplishments with RCA is the joint forum we held about the Master Plan and Reston’s future.  It was the best-attended community meeting I have ever seen, and we did a great job bringing our citizens up to speed and helping them understand how the changes to the Master Plan will affect us as a community.   It was a fine example of what we can achieve by working together. 

I’m also proud to have made the public aware of the fine work our citizen volunteers are doing, both by better publicizing the work of our Reston Accessibility Committee and through our annual Citizen of the Year Award.  In this case, I can take no credit for the work; that’s being done by the volunteers themselves.  But I have been very happy to celebrate and recognize the excellent work that they do on behalf of the community.  If I have helped make Restonians aware of RAC’s tireless efforts to make Reston’s buildings and facilities more accessible for people with disabilities, or of the volunteer efforts of super citizens like Nick Brown, Cate Fulkerson, and Kathy Kaplan, that fills me with pleasure.  It’s inspiring to volunteer in the community alongside people like them.

I’m also proud that I’m leaving RCA in excellent shape.  When the Board sits down on Monday, we’ll have a diverse group of hard-working and dedicated Restonians with different strengths, all of whom are committed to building RCA and helping Reston move forward.  The Board has several people who have the strength, capability, and vision to serve as President, and I’m sure the Board will choose one of them to lead the organization.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what RCA will accomplish under its next leader.

As for me, I promise that I will stay involved in the community.  Reston is in my blood; I love this place, and I am driven to keep serving.  I haven’t decided where my next challenge lies, but you haven’t heard the last of me (decide for yourself if that’s a promise or a threat).  I’ll be around and involved.

I’ll close out my farewell message with a lyric from one of my favorite artists, Warren Zevon:

We'll go walkin' hand in hand
Laughin' fit to beat the band
With our backs turned, looking down the path

Some may have, and some may not
God, I'm thankful for what I got
With my back turned, looking down the path

I don’t know what paths I’ll be heading down in the years ahead.  But it’s summertime, and right now, walking hand-in-hand with my family and watching the fireflies along Reston’s paths sounds like just the ticket.  I’m thankful for my family, and I’m thankful to have had the privilege of serving Reston these last three years as RCA President.  Also, I’m thankful to everyone who reads this column.  If you see me out on the path, be sure to say hi.

Good news, Leslie: Dad’s coming home on time tonight.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Thanks For Voting!

The 2014 RCA elections are now closed.  Thanks for all of you who took the time to vote!  The results have been handed off to the RCA Election Committee, which is responsible for validating and tabulating all of the votes cast.  The Committee will follow established procedures to ensure a fair and accurate count, while working to get the results as quickly as possible.

As soon as the Committee is finished counting the votes, we will post the results on this website, and we will distribute them to the local media for publication.  Check back within the next couple of days for the results.

Thanks for your interest in RCA.  We look forward to serving the citizens of Reston once again in the coming year.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Gang's All Here

By RCA President Colin Mills

Last night, I attended one of my favorite meetings.  I got together with RCA Vice President John Hanley, RA President Ken Knueven and CEO Cate Fulkerson, and ARCH President Jerry Volloy.  We had a couple drinks and talked about the hot issues in Reston, what we’re each working on, and how we can help each other out.  We laughed a lot and teased each other a fair bit, but we left feeling like we understood each other and the community a little better.

This is the Gang of 5.  We’ve been gathering, in various configurations and at various times, for the last two years.  Meeting with the Gang has been one of the highlights of my RCA presidency, and I believe it’s been a great benefit to our organizations and to Reston as a whole.

Our meetings are very informal.  There’s no agenda, no one takes minutes, and Robert’s Rules of Order definitely don’t apply.  It’s a chance for us to let our hair down, say what’s on our minds, smooth out any bumps in the road, and find ways to better serve our constituents.

One of my goals when I became RCA president three years ago was to strengthen our relationship with other Reston organizations.  We’re all serving the community and we share many of the same broad objectives; why shouldn’t we work together more?  If we don’t, we risk duplicating efforts or, worse, fighting where we could collaborate.  We may not agree on everything, but I suspected we might agree on a lot if we sat down and talked things out.

This wasn’t the first effort to bring Reston organizations together.  About 10 years ago, the leaders of many Reston groups formed the Coalition of Reston Organizational Leadership (COROL), to share information about what everyone was working on.  But that effort faded quickly, and since then, our organizations had largely been stuck in their silos.  Too often, we didn’t talk to each other, we didn’t really trust each other, and we spent too much time guarding our own turf instead of looking for ways to help each other.

The “Gang of 5” concept was John Hanley’s idea.  John is a great raconteur, and he believes that big things can happen in casual meetings.  So he proposed a get-together with Jerry, Ken, and then-RA VP Andy Sigle.  Happily, they were all on board.  We met at the now-closed Greenberry’s Coffee shop, and spoke about our organizations, our projects, and our goals for the community.  The relationship bloomed from there.

What have the Gang of 5 meetings accomplished for Reston?  Quite a lot, actually.  We’ve discovered that we’re on the same page about a lot of community issues, and that Reston would benefit from a collaborative effort, a unified citizen voice rather than a Greek chorus of organizations with different messages.  So we’ve sought out opportunities to join forces and present a united front to the community.

In addition to presenting a unified message to the community, joining forces also allows us to take advantage of each organization’s unique strengths.  There are things RCA and ARCH can do that RA can’t, and vice versa.  But by coordinating our plan and backing each other up, we’re able to do the most good for our citizens.

This approach really paid off during the Master Plan Task Force discussions.  RCA, RA and ARCH all had representatives on the Task Force, but like the other citizen representatives, we all had our own separate messages, which paled in comparison to the much more unified efforts of the developer reps.  In our Gang of 5 discussions, we recognized that we shared many of the same goals regarding Reston’s planning and land use, so we decided to work together.

This resulted in a couple of joint statements to the County outlining our goals and concerns, and a joint forum at which we told Restonians how the planning process was going, and let them know what still needed to be done.  The forum drew an overflow crowd of hundreds, and many more watched it at home on YouTube.  That turnout showed the County that the people of Reston were paying attention, and that our message was resonating in the community. 

Did we get everything we wanted in the final plan?  No.  But we did get a lot of our points incorporated, and that wouldn’t have happened without a strong, united campaign by all three organizations on behalf of our constituents.  And that campaign couldn’t have happened without the trust, working relationship, and open discussions that the Gang of 5 made possible.

The Master Plan campaign has been our biggest effort to date, but our collaboration has worked in other ways as well.  For instance, we’ve been brainstorming about ways to better inform and engage the community on issues concerning Reston’s future.  And RA and RCA are also working on reviving Reston’s Sister City relationship with Nyeri, Kenya.

None of this couldn’t have happened if John hadn’t proposed the Gang of 5, or if Jerry, Ken, Cate, and Andy hadn’t been open to pursuing closer ties.  I’m very optimistic that the collaboration will outlive our terms with our respective organizations.  We’ve done a lot of good for Reston in the last couple years, and I believe all of us see the value in continuing that work.

What does the future hold for the Gang of 5?  Ideally, I’d like to see it expand to include other Reston organizations.  There are a lot of groups out there that do good work, and I think the kind of collaboration that RCA, RA, and ARCH have done would only be better if more groups were involved. 

As for me, I’m assured that even after I leave RCA, I will remain an honorary Gangster and will still be welcome at the meetings.  I look forward to seeing my friends again, and I’m delighted that we’ve taken a big step toward better representing the people of Reston.