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Looking Back at '06

News, issues and events that affected Reston last year

It was a raucous year at Reston Community Center. Not only did five of the nine members on the center's Board of Governors resign at once, but also the area serviced by the center shrunk.

Five members of the board resigned claiming that the board and the taxpayers do not have control over happenings in the district. The resignations came after a hotly contested debate over lowering the tax rate that pays for the services of the RCC. Chairman of the board Joe Lombardo, Vice Chair Kevin Deasy, Treasurer George Lawton, Secretary Mary Buff and Peter von Muehlen issued a statement that explained their decision to resign.

"This action is motivated by a series of events and actions that, in our view, demonstrate conclusively that the taxpayers and Governing Board of the RCC do not in fact exercise local control over the affairs of Small District 5," read the statement.

Soon after the resignations, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) appointed new members to the Board of Governors and it was business as usual for the RCC.

HOWEVER, THE RESIGNATIONS were not the only event that shook up the RCC in 2006. Twice during the year, once in March and once in November, the area serviced by the RCC — Small District 5 — shrunk as households outside of Reston dropped from the map. The March redistricting resulted in a net decrease of 300 households. The redrawing of the boundary in November resulted in a loss of 687 more households. The reduction in households results in $326,000 of lost annual revenue.

The supporters of redrawing the tax district argued that the new district better represents the Reston community. The new boundaries are closer to the boundaries of the Reston Master Plan. The changes took effect on Jan. 1, 2007. "At that point, we will truly be the Reston Community Center," said RCC Board Chairman Bill Bouie in December.

It took more than four years to complete, but in April of '06 the Reston Association revised its governing documents. The event marked the first time the documents were revised since 1984.

"That was our big achievement for '06," said Jennifer Blackwell, president of the RA Board of Directors, as she reflected back on the year. The RA originally considered revising the documents to bring them to conformance with today's needs for the association members. Blackwell called the revised documents member-friendly.

The revision of the documents also allowed the RA greater flexibility from a financial perspective. According to the 1984 documents, the RA had an assessment cap which it was approaching. The revised documents, however, changed the formula for calculating the assessment cap. "From the financial perspective [the revised documents] will allow us to keep reserves well funded," said Blackwell. She added that the reserves needed to be funded well in order for the RA to provide its members the high level of service they have come to expect from the association.

PASSING THE REVISED documents took a much effort. Not only did the staff and the directors have to dissect and interpret the language of the 1984 documents, but they also had to come up with new recommendations. After the recommended language was written, the RA needed the support of the community to pass the revised documents. The 1984 documents state that 40 percent of the members needed to vote in super-referendums in order to validate them. The association had set a 60 day deadline for the members to send in their votes, but by the end of that period, the RA had not received 40 percent of the votes. The association then extended the deadline by 10 days, and the referendum barely crossed the 40 percent quorum.

Director Rick Beyer said at the time: "It took a little bit of prodding, but I'm delighted by the fact that people with different philosophies came together for the betterment of the community. It was too much of an effort not to see a result. It would have been a waste of money."

After receiving the necessary 40 percent of member votes, the referendum passed with more than a 70 percent approval on all three questions. Blackwell called the passage of revised documents a testimony for the hard work on part of the RA staff, directors and the community.

Early in 2006 Restonians learned that soon there will be enough of them to reach the density cap of 13 people per acre, as outlined in Reston's master plan. Approaching the cap presents problems to a community that attracts a lot of new development, which may have to be halted.

"As far as I'm concerned the final count is 11.68 persons per acre," said Jim Zook, Fairfax County director of zoning and planning, on the current density in Reston. However, the exact number of residents is not known. The population is not calculated according to a census, but rather, according to a 1975 formula that factors an estimate of how many people occupy different types of housing.

Zook and the county staff recommended that the factors, not the density cap, be changed in order to accommodate more building and people in Reston. For example, the 1975 formula assumes there are 3.5 people per detached house, while the county proposal assumes there are three people per detached house. The 1975 formula estimates the population of Reston to be at 72,700 people, at a density of 11.68 people per acre. The proposed formula estimates the population at 64,277 people, at a density of 10.33 people per acre. The maximum population of Reston, under the 13 people per acre density, is 80,912.

COUNTY'S PROPOSAL also requires more review from county planners and Board of Supervisors when a development wants to come to Reston. The Reston Association Planning and Zoning Committee voted to approve the County proposal at its December meeting. This means the committee will recommend to the RA Board of Directors to take a public stand for the proposal. The committee was unanimous that the process — more review of developments — needed to be changed, and that the density cap needed to stay at 13 people per acre. The committee voted seven to 6, two abstentions, to change the formula.

President of the RA Board, Jennifer Blackwell, said the board would not take a public position on the issue until it hears from all of its committees reviewing the county proposal. However, she said: "We have sent a letter to [Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill)] outlining our initial thoughts and concerns."

The events surrounding the density issue are sure to make many headlines in 2007. See "Topping Out"