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Model for Community Revival?

Candidates discuss RA role in Lake Anne revitalization.

Public meetings concerning Lake Anne Village Center revitalization efforts are imminent. While the public waits to hear from the team of consultants drafting the land use design guidelines, Reston Association board candidates discussed what role the RA should play regarding Lake Anne revitalization.

Robin Smyers, incumbent Lake Anne/Tall Oaks District director, said the RA had to take into consideration residents and merchants at Lake Anne, as well as other Reston residents. "What we do at Lake Anne will be important to other parts of Reston," said Smyers. "Lake Anne revitalization impacts all of Reston, not just Lake Anne."

Smyers represents the RA on the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation (RCRC) board of directors. The organization guides the Lake Anne revitalization process. Smyers urged all Reston residents to take interest, and offer public input, in the process. "I am a two-way conduit for communication," she said, stating that the residents can come to her for input to the RCRC, as well as to hear about RCRC's efforts. Also, said Smyers, RA is involved because it is a landowner in the considered area.

Frank Lynch, the unopposed North Point District candidate, said he believed the RA needed to provide its members with as much information as possible on architectural and fiscal implications of the revitalization. Also, the association could speak on behalf of its members regarding the issue. "RA could be a consumer advocate for the residents," said Lynch.

Joe Leighton, candidate for the at-large seat, said RA should take a leadership role in promoting the right kind of redevelopment at the historic village center. Such a role would depend on public input, he said. Also, the retail at the village center needed to be self-sustainable. "We don't want to put stores down there that will go out of business," said Leighton.

One of the candidates for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood district, Cheryl Beamer, also said RA should take a leadership role in issues that affect the entire Reston community. The association needed to be more than a source of information regarding Lake Anne revitalization, she said.

THE CANDIDATES ALSO discussed recent developments regarding the building of the metrorail extension to Dulles Airport. James Burton, a Hunters Woods/Dogwood candidate, said RA should cooperate with the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce to conceive public positions on metro-related issues. The issues included future development at the two Reston stations — Wiehle Avenue and Reston Parkway — as well as regional discussions regarding a possible tunnel through Tysons Corner.

At-large candidate Jane Wong said she did not like the current progress regarding the metrorail extension. "We need help," said Wong. "Unless [Reston becomes] an incorporated town with a unified voice, we just won't be heard," she said.

RA's role in aiding organizations providing human services, such as Reston Interfaith, was also evaluated at the forum. "When you're a community advocate, you're a community advocate to everyone," said Lynch.

Smyers said RA has reached out to the local homeless population, as well as the local police force, to ensure Reston offered a safe environment to all of its residents. Also, the association provides scholarships for many of its programs, which in turn encourage children from low-income families to attend the programs. "We are encouraging participation in all of those programs," said Smyers.

The candidates all agreed that public input was extremely important to RA's operations. The challenge of increasing public participation could be partially met with modern technology, according to Beamer.

Computer communication could enhance the participation to some level, but could not replace the face-to-face meetings, argued Lynch.

Burton said he was glad there would be two district meetings per year between the directors and the districts they represent. "[RA board] needs to open up to residents and to be available," said Burton.

Wednesday night's forum marked the last of the three forums for the candidates. The ballots have been sent to the voters. They are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 30. Members of the RA Election Committee are urging the voters to vote. In order for the election to be considered valid 10 percent of the ballots in each district need to be returned.