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Votes

RA Candidates Discuss ResTown

Opinions differ on town issue.

Whether or not Reston should incorporate into a town is likely to generate a lot of debate over the next couple of months. Reston Citizens Association (RCA) is planning community meetings in April to present its case for incorporation.

At Wednesday night's forum hosted by the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH), Reston Association (RA) board candidates were asked whether RA should play any role in the town referendum dialogue. If so, should the RA take a position on the town incorporation issue? Five of the six candidates were present at Wednesday's forum, with Frank Lynch, an unopposed candidate for the North Point District seat missing.

"We already are involved in dialogue," said Robin Smyers, running unopposed for a second term as the Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District director. She said RCA members periodically appear before the RA board, presenting their case for incorporating Reston into a town. "We absolutely should be involved," she said. Smyers said there is not enough information for RA to take a position yet. She said more facts were needed from a monetary perspective before a position is taken. "I want to look at where every single penny will go," said Smyers.

Jane Wong, a candidate for the at-large seat, said she was involved with the second effort — this would be a third such effort — for a town referendum in 1989. She said the issue is too complex for RA to take a position on. "It's difficult for RA to take a position because there is so much misinformation," said Wong. She said the association's role should be to put out as much information on the subject as possible.

Wong's opponent, Joe Leighton, said he believes that with the right support the RA should take a position for incorporation. "We should go yes for town," said Leighton. However, he added, "RA should only take a position if we have the Reston Town Center Association, Reston Community Center and the business community behind us."

"THIS IS NOT about we need a new police force, it is not about we need better roads. It's about redevelopment," said Cheryl Beamer, candidate for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District seat. Beamer argued that RA should remain neutral on the issue. She said Reston would not be incorporated into a town before it is built out by redevelopment. She said Reston does not need to be a town in order to influence redevelopment decisions, but it does need to be organized. That is where RA should concentrate its efforts. "I believe the whole town issue is a $1 short and about 100 years late," said Beamer.

The other candidate for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District seat, James Burton, said he would be in favor of an association-wide referendum. "Reston residents deserve to choose their own government," said Burton. However, RA should only take a position after a well prepared cost-benefit analysis was conducted.

AUDIENCE MEMBER, and former RA director, Vera Hannigan asked whether the RA would hold another referendum regarding a construction of a new headquarters building for the association. "Absolutely, we will need a new referendum," said Smyers, the only one of the candidates currently serving the board. In 2005 Restonians allowed RA to spend $5 million to build a new headquarters building. The building at Isaac Newton Square where the RA holds its offices is slated for demolition in 2010. The lease for the current RA offices runs out in August 2009. Smyers said the board hopes to bring a new referendum to its members by late fall of 2007. The referendum would present a tangible project with a true dollar value, and would ask the members if RA still needed to get a new building, according to Smyers.

The other candidates agreed with Smyers that there should be a new referendum. Burton's response was short and to the point. "RA should come to the community with a new [referendum]," he said. Beamer said she was encouraged to hear the board would be putting together a new referendum, since the first one was an exploratory referendum.

"We will have to have a new referendum," said Leighton. He added that RA should have bought a headquarters 30 years ago. Wong said a new referendum was needed, and the new headquarters building could serve as more than an office building. It could also host some of the more needed indoor recreational facilities in Reston.