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Votes

Energizing Town Drive

Robert Simon gets involved in referendum activism.

Reston Citizens Association’s effort to gain enough signatures for a referendum on whether Reston should become a town gained an energy boost this week when Reston founder Bob Simon agreed to collect signatures himself.

"We’d be much better off as a town," said Simon, 93. "But I’m not optimistic about our game here," he said. Simon added that when push comes to shove, Fairfax County supervisors would not support the referendum. However, he said he is willing to work past his skepticism and help with the effort.

RCA South Lakes Director Colin Mills said it is an honor to petition with Simon. Mills is one of the volunteers who will collect signatures with Simon at the Hunters Woods Village Center’s Safeway, starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16. "It is like petitioning for the Declaration of Independence with Thomas Jefferson," said Mills. He said Simon’s agreeing to petition for the referendum has energized the RCA board, which he said is already upbeat with the signatures collected during the summer. Mills said about 1,800 signatures have been collected thus far and RCA is shooting for close to 6,000 signatures before turning the petition to the state legislators.

Another volunteer who will work with Simon on Thursday is 60-year-old Sandra Blacklock. Blacklock, a 34-year resident of Reston, said she was excited to collect signatures with Simon. "It is an honor to be able to work with the man who wanted in the beginning for Reston to be a town," she said. "It would be a wonderful thing if he could see us become a town."

RCA VICE PRESIDENT Marion Stillson said the group has known of Simon’s support for the referendum for a long time. According to Stillson, Simon signed the referendum petition last year and made a monetary donation to the cause. "I don’t think a lot of people realize he supports the idea of a town," said Stillson. During a recent signature collecting effort, Stillson said one person asked her, "What does Bob Simon think of this?"

Political activism is new to Blacklock, who believes Reston has no say in front of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors when it comes to major issues. "It just makes sense to become a town," she said after reading the information supplied to her by RCA board members. She fears overdevelopment could endanger Reston’s woods, pathways and other resources. "I want Reston to stay the way he [Simon] wanted it to be," said Blacklock, a former Reston Association employee, who worked at RA’s Central Services Facility.

As an example of the county ignoring Reston residents’ concerns, Blacklock cited county’s March decision to change the population factors that allowed more people to move into Reston under the density cap. The action was taken after three Reston organizations, including the Reston Citizens Association, asked the county not to change the factors before reviewing the entire zoning ordinance. "That’s not speaking to Mr. Simon’s original plan," said Blacklock of the decision.

However, Simon was a supporter of the act. "We do have to expect change. Over the next 20, 30, 40 years Reston will look quite different than it does today," he said at a Feb. 22 Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing. He added later in his testimony that the changed factors would benefit Lake Anne Village Center, which is a revitalization area, and in consideration of bringing additional density in hope of raising the economic viability of the center. "When Lake Anne develops everyone will be thrilled," said Simon in a Tuesday, Aug. 14, interview.

Simon, Blacklock, Mills and other volunteers will collect signatures in front of the Hunters Woods Village Center Safeway on Thursday, Aug. 16, from 6 to 7 p.m. Stillson said that those who want to sign the petition can do so online at www.go-resTOWN.org.