At most Reston events these days, people are hearing more and more about the effort to make Reston a town. Last week’s Holiday Parade at Reston Town Center was no exception.
As a car with “RESTOWN” written on each side slowly made its way down Market Street, the passenger in the back held a sign that read, “We’ll move mountains.” It was a reference to the two-year effort led by Reston Citizens Association to help Reston become a town — a goal the RCA ambitiously aimed to accomplish in 2006.
While the hope for town status in 2006 is still alive and well among RCA board members, the group will likely have to wait until 2007 before the people of Reston have a chance to move mountains and vote on incorporation.
For now, Mike Corrigan, president of RCA, is going through the motions, still “cautiously optimistic” that 2006 could be the year.
But for that to happen, a lot needs to happen before Dec. 5.
THE PAST YEAR and a half, the RCA has pushed for a 2006 referendum on town status. Reston could become a town if Reston residents supported the idea in a referendum. But a referendum can only be granted through legislation passed by the state legislature.
Reston’s state elected representatives — Del. Ken Plum (D-36) and state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) — have told RCA that they need to see broad support among the community and approval by the county before they would bring the issue to the state legislature.
To demonstrate the county’s approval, RCA has asked the county to add the issue to its legislative package, which is a "wish-list" that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors submits to Richmond each December before the state goes into legislative session in January.
In the past few months, the Board of Supervisors has been assembling the package. At a public hearing on the county’s legislative package on Monday, Nov. 21, the Board of Supervisors heard from several RCA representatives requesting that Reston township be in the package.
“We got their attention,” said Marion Stillson, vice president of RCA, who spoke to the Board of Supervisors. However, she said support was lacking.
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), who represents Reston, has also been reluctant to support the town effort. She has argued in the past that RCA hasn’t demonstrated that the town effort is broadly supported. She’s also argued that because the county provides such good services, there isn’t a clear need for a town.
For Reston township to get in the legislative package, Hudgins would have to offer a resolution to the Board of Supervisors at a meeting on Dec. 5. Although Hudgins, a long-time Reston resident, supported a similar movement back in 1980, she has avoided taking a position on the issue this time around. Given her past comments, it is unlikely she’ll change her mind next week and submit a resolution.
Yet Corrigan plans to “do as much of a full-court press as possible” until then. “I’m focused right now on responding to the county,” said Corrigan.
BUT GIVEN MUCH of the discussion at RCA’s monthly meeting Monday, Nov. 28, many board members are looking to 2007.
Even Corrigan, ever the optimist, has said that last year's learning process will only make their effort for next year stronger. Corrigan also said that the town charter being submitted this time, which takes little control away from the county, could be different in a push for a 2007 referendum.
“If it doesn’t get to the legislature this year, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a blank slate,” said Corrigan, suggesting that a revised town charter could include greater planning and zoning controls — something that many on the RCA board have heard is a community concern.
“I think the issue people are thinking about is local control,” said Bob Haley, RCA board member. “You want a government that is closest to the people. That’s what this country is all about. And local control is what we don’t have.”
Having the final say over planning and zoning, Haley argued at Monday’s meeting, is a crucial step toward the local control he says Reston residents want. “I agree. I think there is a strong urge to do that,” said Corrigan.
David Pierpont, who is new to the effort, thinks more education about incorporation needs to be circulated. Pierpont became a member of the RCA board on Monday, when he was unanimously appointed to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of board member Deb Moore, who was elected earlier this year.
“I’m surprised at how many supervisors didn’t understand what we’re proposing,” said Pierpont, who spoke to the county supervisors on Nov. 21.
“There’s always resistance at first,” said Pierpont, describing the reaction by the Board of Supervisors. “They want to know how committed you are.” Pierpont, who has brought other issues to the Board of Supervisors, said making them aware of the town movement was a good first step. However, he also said, based on past experience, that the supervisors may not act until they perceive the issue to be important to their re-election.
DURING MONDAY’S RCA meeting, Colin Mills, RCA board member, said he has noticed a gap in the attitudes held by Reston residents and local elected officials. From his view, residents have generally been supportive of the town idea, while local representatives have been indifferent.
Others on the RCA board revisited reasons to become a town. “The important thing is more say,” said RCA board member John Fay. “If you go to a meeting or down to Richmond, you’d have a representative — the mayor of Reston. Now, if you’re from Reston, you have to say who you are in three paragraphs just to explain all the quasi-governments in Reston.”
Timetables aside, RCA is committed to the incorporation of Reston for the long haul. “I’m not at all pessimistic in the long-term,” said Corrigan. “The learning process [this year] has been invaluable. I still think there’s no reason a referendum can’t be done in 2006, but if not, we’ll be a year smarter.”