If the newly-elected members of Reston Citizens Association have their way, Reston will be on track to incorporate as a town or city by early next year.
At the first RCA meeting since a new group of civic volunteers took over, the board passed Monday an "aggressive" schedule to have a bill introduced into the 2005 General Assembly session that would authorize Reston to conduct a referendum on governance.
All of the new RCA members ran for election earlier this month on the platform that Reston should consider changing its governance structure. Reston is not an incorporated town or city — it is a part of Fairfax County, run by a variety of local organizations and the county government.
Though RCA is now beginning to investigate whether Reston should incorporate or remain the same, its new president, Mike Corrigan, has emerged as the community's leading advocate for becoming a town.
Consolidating Reston's many organizations — such as Reston Association and the Reston Community Center — into a single government would increase governmental accountability and give Reston greater political clout with the state and county.
"We don't have a single voice with political legitimacy on major issues," Corrigan said. "That includes everything from the Dulles Rail Project to building new roads, traffic calming measures or Lake Anne redevelopment."
NEARBY TOWNS Herndon and Vienna, though much smaller than Reston, have more time to address the county Board of Supervisors on issues facing the community. Herndon has 21,000 residents and Vienna has 14,000, according to the U.S. Census. Reston has a population of 66,000.
Were Reston to incorporate, it would be the largest town in Virginia or the 14th largest city.
By consolidating government functions, Reston residents would have a single body to handle everything from sidewalk snow removal to issuing permits for design review, Corrigan said.
Also, Reston's existing organizations have overlapping functions that could be eliminated, Corrigan said, giving citizens a streamlined government for their tax dollars. These functions include RA's and RCC's departments of programming, communications and aquatics, he said.
"About half of those two organization's have duplicative functions," he said.
Corrigan also suggested that having a single municipal government might be cheaper for residents because local taxes are deductible on federal income tax returns, while RA and RCC fees are not deductible.
UNDER THE TIMETABLE passed by RCA on Monday night, the organization will spend the next few months updating a 1988 report that outlined the costs and benefits of incorporation.
In the fall, RCA will attempt to gauge the feelings of the public through the local newspapers and will decide if there is sufficient interest to proceed. If there is, then in early January, they will have legislation prepared for Del. Ken Plum and state Sen. Janet Howell to possibly carry for the 2005 session.
RCA board member Eric Kessel said it will take a concerted effort to drum up interest about incorporation among Reston's population.
"We're going to need to do a lot of publicity over a long period of time to get people interested," he said.
A big obstacle to RCA's plans is likely to be ardent opposition from citizens worried that incorporation will lead to extra layers of bureaucracy and higher taxes, RCA members said. The trick, said RCA board member Debra Steppel, is to carefully show the community both the pros and cons and let them decide for themselves.
"We need to convince the people that think they're going to be injured," she said.
Steppel said RCA should discuss the idea of changing Reston's governance at upcoming community events, including Clyde's Oktoberfest and the Reston Multicultural Festival.