Opinion: Independent Progressive: Hopeful for Reston Association

Opinion: Independent Progressive: Hopeful for Reston Association

Change is in the air in Reston this summer. Supervisor Cathy Hudgins is quietly completing her tenure of twenty years. Her replacement will be Walter Alcorn, who stands unopposed for the election in November. He’ll be sworn in to take her place in January. Walter is quite experienced in a big part of her job — land use planning and development — having served 16 years as a political appointee on the Fairfax County Planning Commission. He brings a thoughtful competence to the job, and the transition from Cathy to Walter should be seamless. The first major action we can expect will be the re-opening of the Reston Master Plan with a view to reducing density in village centers, among other things.

That’s right, reducing the density. That was the outcome of the huge brouhaha over the proposed increase in Reston’s zoning cap last year. Walter committed to a review of the Master Plan and reduction of densities at least in some village centers. Keep your eyes on this ball and join in! At Reston Association, stability seems to be returning. After the Tetra/Lake House fiasco of a few years ago followed by collapse in management and financial controls, a Board of Directors led by Sherri Hebert restored order and reined in some costs (such as bloated consultant lawyer fees approaching $1 million), introduced controls on procurement, built a much stronger Fiscal Committee, and even cut the annual assessment. Recently, however, RA has not filled the key Chief Financial Officer slot, has trimmed procurement controls, and at times management has bypassed the capable, community-based Fiscal Committee on budget/financial control decisions — a bit reminiscent of the recent bad old days.

Yet I remain hopeful. At the beginning of the year, the Board hired a new CEO to replace the casualty of the Tetra affair and its aftermath. He is Hank Lynch, an experienced nonprofit CEO who is said to be low-key and methodical and seems to have what it takes to follow through on the restoration of needed management systems and actually put them to their intended use. In addition, he is launching a major initiative to increase non-assessment revenues to supplement assessments and hopefully slow the pace of their increases. RA reports that fees for elegant weddings at Lake House are growing and may ease the burden of operations’ costs for that facility, while keeping it available for use by community groups at affordable rates, they say.

Lynch announced at a recent Board meeting that RA is encouraging major events at lakes, pools, and other facilities to generate additional revenues. Also, a proposed policy calls for greater policing of boat usage and licensing on lakes and possibly charging fees for violations. Keep an eye on this one.

The staff at RA, especially their naturalists and parks personnel, continue to impress with their excellent service to the community. In the last year, I witnessed them organizing an eagle scout project with a lakeside cluster association to put in an attractive erosion control to protect Lake Anne and the cluster’s property, all at a very low cost.

And, when the fountain in Lake Anne broke down and needed replacement, RA staff not only went out and identified a fountain, but also researched the plans for Reston and the intentions of Mr. Simon when the original fountain was installed 55 years ago. They learned that the original was patterned after a fountain in Italy (Portofino perhaps). They succeeded in locating a US source for one very similar to that original model, with up-to-date features such as colored lights which will add a unusual beauty at night. The fountain, which will shoot water 50 feet in the air versus the 30 feet of the last one, will be installed very soon. Everyone is anxious to see it in action.