News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reston Reassessments Rise, But Where Are Our Wheelbarrows Full of Metro-Induced Cash? (A Restonian Investigation)

The only good news about the arrival of the Silver Line not magically causing our homes to double in value, all our hand-clapping to the contrary? Our real estate assessments didn't double, either.

In fact, the average 3.19 percent increase in 2015 real estate assessments in Reston was slightly below the county's 3.27 percent average. The biggest increases were in decidedly Metro-free Annandale, which is just... shocking. It's almost as though the availability of mass transit doesn't suddenly turn houses into bottomless equity machines!

The average home in Reston was assessed at the decidedly non-Metro premium price of $410,846, way below the county average of $620,080. But that's only part of what interested us. Our BFFs at the Connection "news-paper" did a little of what journalists might call "computer-assisted journalism" (and what we call "web logging") and included the assessment values and photos of the homes of all the Fairfax County supervisors, which range from a modest townhouse in Centreville to a giant-ish McMansion in McLean. (Anticipating the question, Cathy Hudgins' digs were somewhere in the middle of the pack, a sensible rancher valued at around the county average.) But... just look at them all on their fancy map. (Don't bother enlarging the image -- it doesn't really help enhance the aesthetics of the county's housing stock.)

Homes of the Sorta Famous 2
Wow. No wonder Fairfax County looks the way it does, the end.

Friday, February 13, 2015

For Rec Center, Third Location May Be The Charm

Rec Center Map
Our BFFs at Reston Now inform us that the long-debated indoor rec center project, which has drawn considerable opposition and the second-best video ever made about Reston since proposals to build the giant pleasure-dome/juicery at Brown's Chapel and then at nearby Baron Cameron Park first surfaced way back in ought-nine, is now making like a cupcake merchant and moving to Reston Town Center.


The Fairfax County Park Authority has outlined a land swap that will enable it to eventually move forward on an indoor recreation center for the area known as Town Center North.

Park Authority Chair Bill Bouie said Friday the park authority has committed to a deal, pending a public hearing and park authority board vote, that plans for a 90,000-square-foot recreation facility to be built on the same block as the new North County Government Center on Fountain Drive.

The 47-acre area is bounded by Baron Cameron Avenue, Fountain Drive, and Town Center Parkway and Bowman Towne Drive.

The recreation center would be owned and operated by the park authority, however, officials still do not know who would pay to construct the building.
The location makes sense -- it's currently largely unused space, not open space, near a whole lot of future dense bollardy construction whose condo- and apartment-dwelling denizens could benefit from recreation facilities. The land has also been earmarked for some sort of public use since the early days of rethinking Reston's awesome master plan, and considering it's one of the few parts of the plan that doesn't specify "incredibly dense mid-rise construction," we don't want to discourage this for that reason. (At one point, rumor had it an amphitheater was being considered for this spot. It makes us sad that we're apparently losing the opportunity to see Reston: The Opera under the stars, as its makers intended, but we'll get over it.) And there are still apparently plans to construct some kind of "town green" on part of the property.

But the question remains: who is going to pay for it? Other county park facilities have been funded county-wide, but RCC's current facilities are funded through our own special little tax district -- which might not be so little if it winds up footing the bill for some or all of this project. For its part, RCC says that's not going to be the case:
RCC Executive Director Lelia Gordon called the plan a “win-win-win,” with no additional burden on STD 5 residents “other than the one that already exists.”

“We see this as terrific,” she said, adding that the work already done by RCC — and Reston Association in a previous plan for facilities at Brown’s Chapel Park — should shorten the process.

“[The new plan] can advance so much more rapidly because of RA and RCC,” said Gordon. “The last county facility of this type was built more than 20 years ago. I would say this accelerates the process by many years.”
The first of what will undoubtedly be many public hearings on this project is in April. Who knows? Maybe all the opposition to the past proposals will wind up giving Reston something it needs without us having to pay a disproportionate share of its cost. Sounds crazy, we know, but crazier things have happened.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Frankie Doesn't Go To Hollywood: RELAC Just Did It

How many tortuous references to a long-forgotten 80s song can we make? Apparently, as many times as everyone's favorite lake-powered, jet-age air conditioning system manages to survive the referenda that would allow people around Lake Anne to stop using it. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

The RELAC air-conditioning system will stay in place for 343 Lake Anne-area homes after a resident referendum to remove the deed ordering it failed to pass.

The referendum needed a two-thirds majority of voters to remove the Reston deed item mandating the lake water-cooled system in the homes.

The final tally was 156 votes for no revocation and 118 votes to remove the deed item, Reston Association Board President Ken Knueven said at a special board meeting on Monday. Nearly 80 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, he added.

A similar referendum also failed in 2008.
People can continue to opt-out of using RELAC by providing a doctor's note, as if they were living in an 1960s-era college dorm instead of... a 1960s-era townhouse. Also, there's no truth to the rumor that despite the referendum's results, the RA is considering allowing the use of this slightly more modern water-powered cooling system:

Screen Shot 2015 02 10 at 7 06 59 PM
"Colors may vary." So much for that idea.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Flash-Forward Monday: Silver Line Trains Reach 88 Miles Per Hour, Jump Back to the Future

Twitter user "Jake" posted this exciting photo while waiting for a Silver Line train that, presumably, has managed to break free from the shackles of its speed-limiting software, reached 88 miles per hour, and jumped to a future where the Dulles station is currently open. What else would you see on this magical mystery Metro tour? A Tysons Corner that has finally reached its soaring Paris-like aspirations, or at least bedazzled the monorail-like pilings and maybe slapped some green paint on a few more parking lots to attract roving food trucks? Closer to home, will our awesome heliport finally be built? Will the Tall Oaks Stucco Wasteland be transformed into a viable, community-scaled village center bunch of high-rise apartments? All you'd have to do is board this train to find out, assuming it doesn't get stuck somewhere under Arlington while "single-tracking," whatever that is.

Or maybe we're reading too much into this sign. Maybe Metro, bowing to reality, is now simply displaying the number of years until the first Silver Line train reaches the airport, the end.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Eight RA Board Candidates, A Whole Lot of Words

Word Cloud
Please to be enjoying this word salad careful, computer-assisted analysis of the official statements of all eight Reston residents seeking a seat on the RA Board of Directors this year. Apparently they all like "Reston" and "community," which is good, plus "committees," which is maybe good, depending on the committee. Interestingly, the word "golf," the cause of some unpleasantness of late, figures less prominently than "values" and "space." Sadly, the word "bocce" is conspicuously absent. If we just keep staring at this for another 20 minutes, we're certain we'd crack the code and determine the deep secrets the RA is hiding, but, you know, the judge shows are about to come on the teevee and whatnot.

Eight candidates are seeking four seats on the Board: two at-large seats, plus the North Point and South Lakes seats. Current board member Richard Chew is facing challenges from former board member Andy Sigle and newcomer Julie Bitzer for the South Lakes seat. In North Point, recently appointed incumbent Dannielle LaRosa faces a challenge from Charles Dorfeuille.

Three people are vying for the two at-large seats, including incumbent Michael Sanio and challengers Bart Astor and Ray Wedell.

It's nice to see an election where all seats are contested, which hasn't always been the case. There's plenty on the board's plate, after all, and the more these issues get talked about during this election season, the better.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Flashback Monday: Reston: The Blank Slate

Blank slate
Set the controls of the Earth-Toned Wayback Machine to the early 1960s, and gaze upon this unspoiled landscape, this terra incognito, that would soon become everyone's favorite earth-toned community. No manmade lakes, no golf courses ripe for redevelopment as midrise condos just five decades later, just the W&OD railroad snaking along the bottom of the photo, years before tracks would be replaced by spandex-wearing cyclists, and Rt. 7 and what would become Baron Cameron Avenue near the top. The drunken village of Wiehle appears to be obscured by trees, and the homicidal nudist colony is somewhere to the south of this photo. The one sign of human habitation is this:

Sunset Hills Farm
The Sunset Hills Farm, where, we dunno, sunsets were harvested? Actually, even after Reston grew up atop and around the farm, the property was still used to produce a low-grade liquor favored by students at a certain university, until its owners decamped to Fredericksburg in 1988, leaving us with a landscape that's very different from the one just two decades before, the end.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why Is The RA Considering Buying Its Old Visitors Center? Location, Location, Location

Visitors center
The Reston Association is looking to reclaim its former visitors center, announcing last week that it intends to go through a referendum process this spring to purchase the 2.5-acre property adjoining Lake Newport.

There are a few minor issues, including the fact that the RA doesn't know the current value of the property or what they'd use it for. But it's got a sweeeet parking lot and is currently zoned for a "convenience store," so maybe we could see a convenient "grossery" for folks living on the fancypants north side of Baron Cameron, assuming that North Restoners ever slum it by purchasing Slurpies or similar non farm-to-table fare. Maybe free-range jerky?

But we digress. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

The RA Board on Thursday unanimously passed a motion to authorize a referendum on the purchase this spring.

Members would vote on whether RA should purchase the building, which is set on 2 1/2 acres off of Baron Cameron Avenue.

The building was constructed in 1982, and for nearly two decades served as a visitors center to familiarize people with Reston, particularly the North Point area as it was constructed.

The 3,200-square-foot building is currently the headquarters of Tetra Partners, a commercial real estate firm. Tetra approached RA about purchasing the property about a year ago, said RA president Ken Knueven.

The property would be a natural fit for RA as it abuts several other RA properties. Among them: Browns Chapel Park, Lake Newport Dam and Lake Newport Tennis. The building also has a 50-foot extension into Lake Newport.
Kind of like a game of Monopoly, only we're assuming that they won't be putting houses or hotels on it.
“This seems like a wonderful opportunity to get control of a piece of property that could, over time, be subjected to a lot of pressure as surrounding areas develop,” Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Director Eve Thompson said at Thursday’s board meeting. “It would be better to have that in our control and have the land used in a manner appropriate to its setting.”
It may actually be a smart move: The current owners approached the RA to see if they'd be interested in buying the property, presumably thinking the RA would be a better neighbor than a random developer. If the RA doesn't buy the land, the land will likely be designated for office or community space in the ongoing master plan revisions, meaning something bigger and blockier could ultimately mar Lake Newport. On the other hand, if the property can be used as community space, it could become yet another proposed location for the never-quite-extinguished dreams for a new rec center.

Also, it's definitely a lot smaller -- and presumably cheaper -- than buying Reston National Golf Course, which is an idea that's been floated by the RA should the current zoning unpleasantness there not go the community's way. Would buying one preclude the RA from buying the other?

More questions than answers at this point. The RA Board would formally decide to go forward with the referendum process early next month, followed by public hearings. Referendum ballots would go out in April and be due in early May.

Who knows? Maybe it could become a visitor's center yet again. God knows we certainly have enough new residential properties coming on line to need one.