Dear Reston Newcomer:
Welcome to “A Place called Reston.” Reston is a world-famous planned community, founded by Robert E. Simon, Jr., who, at 92, is still an active participant in Reston affairs. It is one of the very few, if not the only, planned communities created in the 1960s that met its goals of economic and ethnic diversity, not to mention its other goals of a beautiful environment, pedestrian access to community recreational activities, and the ability to live and work within the community.
Politically, Reston is unincorporated, most of it designated as a Planned Residential Community on the Fairfax County Master Plan. If you are looking for the Town Hall in Reston Town Center, stop looking – Reston is not a town. My organization, the Reston Citizens Association, is pursuing a referendum on Reston town status, but we aren’t there yet. In the meantime, you will need to learn to navigate the various governmental, quasi-governmental, and non-profit organizations that provide services to our community. These include the state government, Fairfax County, the Reston Association, the Reston Town Center Association, the Reston Community Center, Reston Interfaith (and other charitable organizations), the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners, and the cluster and condominium associations. And if you have a business in Reston, you will want to get to know the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce as well.
The state government provides the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores, most of the roads via the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and a significant amount of county funding. The state Department of Rail and Public Transportation will start to play a major role in our community as Metrorail to Dulles Airport is built over the next eight years or so. Metrorail will run down the Dulles Toll Road median strip, with stops planned for Wiehle Avenue, Reston Parkway, and Monroe Street. We expect a certain amount of pain during the process, but we are also looking forward to quick public transportation to the airport, downtown, and Tyson’s Corner. Reston is represented in the state legislature by state Sen. Janet Howell and Del. Ken Plum.
FAIRFAX COUNTY provides a wide range of government services, including Fire, Emergency Medical, Police, Public Schools, Libraries, Planning and Zoning, and Human Services. If you need help in these areas, you can call the office providing the service directly or call the Hunter Mill District supervisor’s office at 703-478-0283. Our supervisor, Cathy Hudgins, is a Reston resident. Hunter Mill, one of nine districts in Fairfax County, includes Vienna and some other areas, as well as Reston. Based on a local poll, Fairfax County appoints the Board of Governors to the Reston Community Center (RCC). Small Tax District #5, of which Reston is the major part, pays for the RCC via a supplemental property tax. The RCC has two buildings with facilities for community meetings and other activities. Its Hunters Woods building includes an indoor pool and a theater. RCC runs a range of activities, listed in a schedule you will receive several times a year.
The next tier of governance (homeowners associations or HOAs) can be confusing. We have two levels of homeowners associations. At the top level, we have the Reston Association and the Reston Town Center Association. If you don’t live in Town Center or Deepwood (a stand-alone HOA), you are a member of the Reston Association (RA). When you buy a home in the RA part of Reston, you get a book or CD that explains what your benefits and responsibilities are as a member. Among other things, the lakes, outdoor pools, tennis courts, garden plots and pathways are available for your use. You will receive a schedule of RA programs several times a year. There is a small fee for the use of the pools and tennis courts, and a separate fee for garden plots, in addition to an annual assessment for the upkeep of all the facilities and for covenants enforcement by RA.
THE COVENANTS are where your responsibilities come in. In order to maintain the appearance of Reston, which is probably one of the reasons you came here, all of us in RA have agreed, as stated in our Deeds, to abide by design and maintenance standards. These standards impinge a bit on the freedom to do as one desires with one’s own property. For example, you can’t paint your house any color you like. You can’t cut down mature trees without RA approval. You might think that if you cut down your trees, you would have a better view of your neighbors’ trees or the lake or common grounds. However, it is pretty clear that if your neighbors follow your lead and improve their view by cutting down their own trees, nobody will have much of a view. This surrender of control seems to be a harder concept to understand for some newcomers than it is for those of us who have lived here a while, but if you don’t buy into the idea, it will cause you grief over the years. We don’t actually hug the trees here (at least not when anyone is looking), but if you cut one down without RA approval, expect a severe legal reaction.
The Reston Association has a number of advisory committees in which you may want to participate. These include tennis, facilities, environmental, transportation and senior advisory committees. In addition, the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee is loosely associated with RA. The P&Z committee provides recommendations to the county on proposed development in Reston.
The Reston Town Center Association (RTCA) provides functions similar to RA for the Town Center area. If you live in Town Center, you may use the RA pathways, but to use the other RA services (pools and tennis courts), you must pay non-resident fees. On the other hand, some recreational facilities in town center, or in your specific cluster there, may be available to you but not to RA members. RA is run entirely by its members, but RTCA is still partly run by the town center developers, who subsidize common facilities and services, keeping the fees low for the time being.
Within both RA and RTCA, cluster and condominium associations have responsibility for the community property of each cluster or condo. If you are in a cluster or condo, you will pay a separate assessment to cover the cost of maintaining this property, which may include common grounds, parking lots and access roads, and perhaps a small playground. The Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH) is an organization of cluster leaders established to share information between clusters on issues and potentially, on sources for maintenance and experiences with these sources.
Reston Interfaith is a non-profit association of religious organizations and other participants that provides affordable housing and social services to the less fortunate members of our community. You can support Reston Interfaith in a number of ways, including participating in the annual ‘Best of Reston’ event.
OTHER RESTON ORGANIZATIONS include the Reston Historic Trust, located on the Lake Anne Plaza, which provides information on the history of Reston, and LINK, which provides information on ridesharing and public transportation.
The Reston Citizens Association (RCA) was incorporated in 1967 to address issues that require the advocacy of a citizen’s organization. One of the longstanding issues RCA has considered is the possibility of Reston becoming a town. In 1980, Reston voted on this issue, but a three way split (between those that thought the proposed charter was too weak, just right, and too strong) doomed the referendum. RCA is once again looking at this issue and, based on guidance provided through community meetings and by our elected state representatives, is developing a charter that we hope will be viewed as “just right” by the majority of Restonians. Our goals include simplifying Reston governance and increasing local control over issues such as planning and zoning. We believe that a number of issues, such as improving the suitability of Reston infrastructure for “aging in place,” will be difficult to solve without more structured governance. We also believe that Reston can be a leading participant in determining how a community should work in the 21st century, just as it was in the 20th. Over the next few months we will be submitting a revised town proposal for community discussion and we look forward to getting your input.
Again, welcome to Reston. We look forward to hearing your new ideas and sharing with you some of our own. Maintaining Reston’s goals into the future will be a challenge, but with your help, we hope to do it.
Reston Citizens Association