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Reston Today

A look at the issues shaping the community

July 26, 2002

Although funding issues may push the project back, a rail line is scheduled to be built through Reston by the end of 2010. The line will include three stops along the Dulles Toll Road. One stop will be at Wiehle Avenue, one will be at Reston Parkway and a third will be at the Herndon-Monroe bus stop.

The rail line is planned to branch off of the current Metro Orange Line, between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations. Right now the Orange line runs into Washington, D.C., with the last Virginia stop located in Vienna.

The new rail line, which is planned to eventually extend to Dulles Airport and into Loudoun County, will be preceded by a system of buses. This bus rapid transit system should to be installed in 2006. Bus rapid transit will begin at the West Falls Church Metro Station and will continue along the same route as the future rail line.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) recently released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project. The document, which is available for review at libraries throughout the region, presents several proposals regarding the extension of bus rapid transit, and then rail.

The entire rail project, culminating in 24 miles of new commuter rail track, is estimated to cost $3.3 billion. That estimate is based on a high cost version of the project, using the most expensive bus rapid transit system and the most expensive Tysons Corner rail alignment. The federal government is expected to pay 60 percent of the cost of the bus rapid transit portion of the project, and 50 percent of the rail portion. The rest of the funding is expected to come from the state of Virginia, Fairfax and Loudoun counties and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority.

As money is committed to the project, higher density levels will be allowed along the Dulles Corridor. Last year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decided to allow the higher densities under the condition that developers build mixed-use buildings, with both residential and commercial units. This move is meant to encourage greater rail usage in the corridor, which is currently dominated by office buildings.

<sh>Southgate Recreation Center

<bt>At the beginning of September, every homeowner in Reston should be receiving a ballot in the mailbox.

If enough residents vote "yes" on this ballot, Reston Association will be authorized to hand over the 2.4-acre Southgate Recreation Center to Fairfax County on a 99-year lease. In return for the property, Fairfax County will build a new, $2.3 million recreation center on the site. The new center will include an indoor basketball court and several multi-purpose meeting rooms.

If the referendum fails, Reston Association will be need to pay for renovations to the aging center. The homeowners association can only afford around $800,000 worth of renovations, officials have said.

For the referendum to pass, though, at least 40 percent of Reston homeowners need to cast a vote. Of those, at least two-thirds need to vote in favor of the project. Reston Association has never seen 40 percent participation for one of its ballots. The most popular ballots have generated just over 30 percent participation. So, to hit the 40 percent mark, the homeowners association is undertaking a public relations campaign. Reston Association officials are speaking to cluster associations, schools, churches and other community groups in order to educate as many people as possible.

Fairfax County intends to keep the Southgate Recreation Center neighborhood-oriented. There will be a Southgate council, made up of neighborhood members, which will guide the program decisions at the center. But even though it is planned as a neighborhood center, most of the residents in the surrounding neighborhood will not be sent a referendum ballot.

Southgate is surrounded by one of the lowest income neighborhoods in Reston. Most of the dwellings in the area are apartment buildings. But the Reston Association ballot is open to homeowners only.

<sh>Reston Community Center Skatepark

<bt>Discussions over building a skatepark have been circulating through Reston for years. But in the next few months, officials from the Reston Community Center will decide whether or not they want to go forward with the project.

In late May, Dennis Kern, executive director of the Reston Community Center, received a skatepark business plan drawn up by a local consulting company. The plan gave cost analyses for building a skatepark at either of two locations: the Reston YMCA or Lake Fairfax Park.

"It has shown that this is a good line of business for us to be in," Kern said in June. "The market is good here, there is no other skatepark within 30 minutes of Reston. The Reston YMCA is located on the public bus routes, which would make it accessible. There is the Teen Center right there. Given the market and accessibility, [the skatepark] could be a revenue generator within the first year."

But some residents in the West Market neighborhood, which borders the YMCA site, are concerned the skatepark will bring increased foot traffic and possible vandalism. Many neighborhood residents would like the skatepark built at the Lake Fairfax Park site, which is removed from residential areas.

The Reston Community Center Board of Governors recently reviewed the skatepark business plan, and decided to send it back to the consulting company which prepared it. The board wanted more information on the Lake Fairfax site, which they felt was not given the same amount of consideration as the YMCA site.

"They wanted to make sure we had equal detail, equal weight of analysis for both sites," Kern said.

The board will receive a new draft of the business plan on July 26, it will circulate through various Reston Community Center committees in August, and at its September meeting the board should decide whether or not to adopt the plan. It will then be released to the public for 30 days, after which there will be a public hearing. After listening to public comments on the skatepark, the board will decide whether to approve the park. Then the proposal will go to the Fairfax Planning Commission, which will make a recommendation, then forward the proposal to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which will give final approval.

Kern said if the project progresses quickly through all the boards and commissions, the park will be ready to open in a year. He considered that a "very aggressive schedule," though, and said a two-year schedule is more realistic.

<sh>Summit property

<bt>Fairfax County recently approved design plans for the redevelopment of Reston's Summit Apartment Complex. The proposal represented a dramatic change from previous plans for the apartment complex, located near the Reston Town Center, at the corner of Reston Parkway and Temporary Road.

The new plan includes the construction of one new six-story building, rather than five buildings, ranging from 11 to 15 stories, as in the original plan. Eighty-two units will be taken out to make way for the six-story building, which will hold 360 units. Of the current apartment units, 154 will remain in place on the southern 13 acres of the property and 182 will remain on the 10-acre section to the north. This means a total of 696 units.

For the last two years, Summit has been pushing to build 1,150 units on the property. Those units would have been concentrated in five towers on the southern section of the property. But due in part to objections from neighboring residents and local governmental officials, Summit decided to scale back the project.

<sh>Nature House

<bt>One year ago Reston residents decided, through a referendum vote, to build a Nature House at the Walker Nature Education Center, 11050 Glade Drive.

Although there was a group of residents against the project, citing the increased foot and automobile traffic the building might bring to the park, 70 percent of the referendum voters were in favor of the Nature House.

But before construction can start, the Friends of Reston, an organization that raises money for various Reston projects, must raise enough money to cover the entire cost of the house, estimated at about $700,000. So far $250,000 has been raised and Gerald Volloy, executive vice president of Reston Association, said it should be another year or two before the building is complete.

Reston Association currently holds summer camp programs at the park and the building will accommodate additional campers. The building might also allow camps over spring break and winter break. Additional money from extra campers will help cover maintenance costs on the house.

There will be a naturalist on duty six days a week at the house. In addition, three full-time staff members, including Shaw, will have offices at the house. There will be also be a public display room with nature exhibits.

<sh>Hunter Mill Controversy

<bt>For years, debates have risen over the land along Hunter Mill Road, near the interchange with the Dulles Toll Road. Residents, developers and the Virginia Department of Transportation have squared-off from time to time over the future of the area. Sandwiched between the two large commercial centers of Tysons Corner and Reston, Hunter Mill residents have fought to keep the rural character of their neighborhoods in the face of encroaching development. They have formed a citizens group, called the Hunter Mill Defense League, to represent their interests.

Hunter Mill Defense League members have researched the history of the road and are working to have it designated as a state and national historic district. With the help of state legislators, Hunter Mill Road has been named a scenic byway. However, scenic byway status does not place any limits on alterations to a road.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has been working on five improvements projects for Hunter Mill Road, including the replacement of bridges over Colvin Mill Run and Difficult Run, improving the Dulles Toll Road interchange, realigning Hunter Mill Road near Sunnybrook and widening the road at the Route 123 intersection.

Although the Hunter Mill Defense League opposes many of these projects, which involve widening the road, the group would like to see improvements to the Dulles Toll Road interchange come sooner than later. At an April meeting with the defense league, Virginia Department of Transportation representatives said the $37 million to $40 million they had been anticipating for the project, over the next four years, had all but disappeared. Now just 4.6 million is available, and no construction schedule is in place. To alleviate some of the traffic problems around the interchange, though, a stoplight will soon be installed nearby, at the intersection of Hunter Mill Road and Sunset Hills Road.