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Town of Reston?

Community leaders review proposal to make Reston an incorporated town.

Members of the Reston Citizens Association and a bipartisan group of longtime Reston residents are hoping the third time is a charm for a push to incorporate Reston as an official town, with its own municipal government.

Citizens have tried and failed to incorporate Reston twice, once in 1980 and again in 1988. Organizers held a referendum on the proposal in 1980 that was defeated two-to-one. And in 1988, staunch opposition from Reston's business community derailed the community's efforts.

Today, a similar push is being spearheaded by Mike Corrigan and the Reston Citizens Association, the volunteer community group he leads. Corrigan and RCA have worked over the past few months to develop a detailed proposal of what the Town of Reston might look like.

Saturday morning, RCA presented their proposal to a gathering of Reston leaders, including the top executive of Reston Association, Reston's founder Bob Simon, former RA Board chair Susan Jones, Reston Community Center board member Bill Bouie, and League of Reston Artists member James Bailey.

"We've put our thoughts down on paper and we're asking for input," Corrigan said. "We're entirely open to suggestions here."

A TOWN OF RESTON municipal government would provide most of the same services already provided by existing Reston organizations and would be led by a non-partisan Town Council and mayor, under RCA's proposal.

It would fold into the government most of the disparate organizations that currently offer services to Restonians, eliminating any duplicative functions and streamlining governance.

Also, it could actually save citizens money, the proposal asserts, because it would convert existing organization dues into deductible taxes.

"Becoming a town is the cheapest alternative to the homeowner," Corrigan said.

The proposed town charter also includes a formal statement of Reston's founding principals, including a commitment to equality and preserving nature.

Corrigan acknowledges the governance proposal faces an uphill climb before it could ever become reality. Incorporation would require an act of the General Assembly, a decisive show of support in a Reston-wide referendum, and some level of backing by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

But both he and other members of RCA are confident the public will support the proposal because it could save them money, give Reston more clout on issues such as the Dulles Rail Project, and offer Restonians more control over their community's destiny.

RCA wants to solicit input from the general public via an online poll and through the community newspapers in December. Once the public's support appears to be secured, Corrigan said, the politicians would likely follow.

A SUPPORTER of the town governance proposal, artist James Bailey said at the Saturday meeting that he has seen first-hand the value of municipal government.

While he lived in Biloxi, he helped plan and promote the creation of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, designed by architect Frank O. Gehry and set to open next spring. After Bailey and other organizers proposed the museum to Gehry in 1995, the first thing Gehry told them was that they needed to have the town's mayor and City Council on board with the project.

Once the local elected officials supported the project, the museum plans started to move forward, he said.

"That's why I support incorporation for Reston," Bailey said. "I think it would allow people like myself and the League of Reston Artists to generate more interest in the arts and in culture."

In addition to potentially providing a greater level of community support in the arts, RCA members said they believe an incorporated town would give Reston more control over public safety, traffic measures, affordable housing, business development and health care.

"This proposed organizational structure gives you more, based on what you pay in taxes," said RCA Member Mark Terry (at large).

MOST RESTON leaders who spoke at the Saturday morning meeting with RCA said they support changing Reston's governance structure, though they urged RCA to find a unified message that the general public can understand precisely why Reston should become a town.

"The numbers are going to speak for themselves for homeowners," said Jones, formerly the top elected RA official. "But the case has to be made about why this is preferable to what we have now."

Bouie, of RCC, agreed with Jones, saying the public will not support a governance change without believing its in their best interests. Otherwise, a repeat of the 1980 governance referendum's defeat will likely be in store.

"You've got to have a very, very solid cost-benefit analysis on this," he said.