Time Runs Out on Laborer Site

Time Runs Out on Laborer Site

Reston Interfaith Asks for Indefinite Deferral

After a year of town meetings, public hearings and at times, heated debate, Reston Interfaith has to go back to the drawing board for its conditional-use permit application for a temporary day-laborer site.

The Stanley Martin Companies, which offered the use of the old lumber yard, is acting on its plans to develop the site for either residential housing, which requires a zoning code amendment, or commercial use, which is by right.

"Because of the length of time, Stanley Martin is moving forward with developing the site," said Kerrie Wilson, executive director of Reston Interfaith. "They made the offer a year ago. They haven't withdrawn the offer, but they are moving forward with their own plans."

GRAYSON HANES, the attorney representing Stanley Martin, told the Herndon Planning Commission Oct. 6 that the site will be developed in the near future.

On behalf of his client, Hanes has requested a zoning ordinance text amendment that would permit single-family-detached homes in the planned development mixed use district. Should the amendment be approved, Stanley Martin plans to construct homes on lots that could end up being smaller than 6,000 square feet. If the amendment fails, Hanes said, the developer could construct an office building with a parking deck under the present zoning.

"We've been after this since April 2002," Hanes told the commission.

At the request of staff, and supported by Hanes, the Planning Commission deferred the amendment.

REGARDLESS of the status of the Stanley Martin amendment, it signals that time has run out for Reston Interfaith, as far as that site is concerned.

"We are confident our application at the lumber site would do the job," Wilson said. "But until the community decides, we can't be using our limited options to push for something."

Wilson said the nonprofit, faith-base organization does not want to proceed with the current conditional-use permit application for fear of getting a site up and running only to have to close it a few months later.

In the meantime, the group is looking at other sites within town that could satisfy the requirements for a temporary facility, but budget is a problem.

Wilson said that so far, contrary to some community complaints about the town spending tax payers' money on the project, Reston Interfaith is the only body that has spent anything.

"We hired a person to be on [the informal 7-Eleven] site," Wilson said. "If we have to go to another site, there is the issue of whether we'd have to pay rent. We were also offered the use of two temporary trailers for the site. We may lose them because we don't have any place to store them."

IN THE MEANTIME, what steps Reston Interfaith has taken at the informal site at the 7-Eleven, located at the intersection of Alabama Drive and Elden Street, to curb complaints and help the workers have been working, said Wilson.

She said the group has offered a number of educational classes, including courses in English as a second language, tax-payer identification and electrical work, that the workers have taken advantage of. The organization has also helped with referrals for food banks, clothing and grants for the homeless.

In addition, the workers have formed a sort-of leadership group that has created a code of conduct that was worked out with town officials.

"The men themselves have learned what the community is looking for from them," Wilson said.

She said the police have released statistics that show in the year since Reston Interfaith has had a coordinator at the informal site, that crime has gone down and trash left behind from the laborers looking for work has become less of an issue.

SO FAR, Reston Interfaith is the only organization that has expressed interest in managing an organized day-laborer site. If the group should have to pull out, some think it could kill all hope of having a managed site, especially given all the controversy within the community over the issue.

"I think we're at a point where the only application we're going to get is from a faith-based organization and I don't think we're going to find someone willing go through all this …," said Town Councilman Harlon Reece at the Sept. 23 meeting, where the council approved the code change that permits a temporary day-laborer site.

At the moment, however, Reston Interfaith is not ready to throw in the towel.

"Right now we're waiting to see and talk to Stanley Martin again," Wilson said. "Then we'll see if other sites materialize."

Henry Bibber, the town's director of community development, said he believes town officials will work to make sure Reston Interfaith can find another site.

"The town invited Reston Interfaith to be the applicant. We kind of presented Reston Interfaith with this location," Bibber said. "We would probably continue to look around to see if there is another site that would work."

He said, however, there was no chance the town itself would create and manage a site.