Just days after their first organization meeting, members of a new Reston cluster coalition looked to scale back the rhetoric and striking a more conciliatory tone than the Aug. 5 letter that gauged initial interest in the proposed alliance of cluster presidents.
The August letter, sent by Michael Kogan and Frank Pfeilmeier, was aimed at the Reston Association (RA) Board of Directors. Kogan, who fought the covered tennis court at Lake Newport, and Pfeilmeier, who led the charge against the Ridge Height bubble, accused RA of acting more like a "recreational cooperative" rather than a homeowners association. "They ignore the requests of individual members and clusters and forge ahead with their own agenda," the letter read.
On Sept. 30, about 20 of the more than 100 cluster presidents met to discuss shared concerns and strategy on issues that transcend artificial cluster boundaries, Pfeilmeier said. More than 25 percent of the clusters expressed interest in the coalition. Of those in attendance there was unanimous consensus to move forward, Pfeilmeier said.
"The meeting was quite positive and there was significant interest," said Pfeilmeier. "The conclusion is although there are transactional things that impact a given cluster and could impact other clusters, we felt that those are things that can be addressed at the appropriate time and place. The cluster coalition needs to take the high ground in the community."
Pfeilmeier said several participants felt that there "had been enough confrontation in this community." Consensus among the presidents found a coalition should not be viewed as overly "protective and against productive change," the Westcove Cluster president said. "If the coalition is seen as hindering progress it would be tainted and the only people involved would be people interested in confrontation rather than constructive change."
Longtime Reston resident Marcia McDevitt was one of those people. "The impetus that got everybody together were some high-profile problems," McDevitt said. "The clusters need a group that they run themselves, like the old Council of Clusters. To be successful in the long run, you are going to need more than three cluster presidents bitching and moaning about something they didn't want," she said.
THE CLUSTER COALITION comes on the heels of the Reston Youth Sports Coalition which also bills itself as a "group dedicated to non-confrontational activism" for the Reston-area youth. Pfeilmeier acknowledged that the dueling coalitions might have differing views on issues like lighted fields and swim bubbles. "On the surface that would seem like a threat," he said, "But we are all trying to get the same things which is facilities that are viable and stand the course of time and meet the needs of the community but avoid goring any individual neighborhood's ox."
The cluster association spokesman said he looked forward to talking with those coalitions about long-term solutions to hot-button issues like lighted fields.
"I think we have a trend here, the sports groups have formed a coalition," McDevitt said. "I find it fascinating that there is something in the air with special interest coalitions."
Jerry Volloy, the RA executive vice president, said he doesn't think it is a "coincidence" that coalitions like this are forming now, but he isn't troubled by their presence taking time out to praise the initiative of community members to come together and work for the betterment of the community. "There are issues involved in the update of our governing documents that are very complex and will require the input from everyone in our community," he said. "I think that's where a lot of this impetus comes from.
"I welcome that interface and the opportunity to address organizations about what actions RA is taking."
McDevitt said she isn't worried about the increasing number of "alphabet soup" organizations that are once again proliferating in Reston. "The way Reston has been managed by outside forces in the past is to pit organizations against each other then they throw their hands up in the air and say, 'since you don't know what you want, we won't give you anything.'"
Nonetheless, McDevitt said the new coalitions will have a positive effect on Reston.
"We all have to work together and I think this cluster coalition is going to be a group that will encourage clusters to work on common goals," McDevitt said. "You have to have some place for dialogue and this might be an access ramp for dialogue. That is what Reston was supposed to be all about."
McDevitt believes that the more residents get involved in the processes of the community, the better it is for all residents. Coalitions like these may be used as "training grounds" for community and political positions in the future, she said.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM facing the clusters is maintenance and repair, cluster presidents at the meeting agreed, according to McDevitt. "When it comes down to it, it's not fighting bubbles or a bunch of NIMBY [Not in my backyard] things, it's what can we do to make Reston a better place. Lots of people would like to make this coalition out to be a NIMBY-thing, so they can marginalize it."
Pfeilmeier agreed. "There are a lot of cluster boards that are new in their jobs and are eager to have tactical support and training and support to allow them to do their jobs better," he said. "We also decided that we should act as a buying cooperative from the standpoint of trying to identify suppliers that are eager to do business with the clusters.
Volloy said he looks forward to working with the new cluster coalition. "It's important that our communities understand what the issues are," Volloy said. "So the more involvement we get from the community and the more we are able to educate our community on these issues will benefit Reston Association in the long run."