News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brown's Chapel Rec Center: Same Song, Different Verse

Now that it looks like the Reston Association won't be buying a shiny new headquarters building anytime soon, we can all relax and not worry about anyone trying to build an awesome massive new $65 million rec center right next to one of the few historic buildings in Reston, right?

Maybe the folks at the Reston Community Center don't read the newspaper, because that's exactly what they're planning, right down to the fun referendum process that's required since the facility would be paid for by that Small Tax District we Restonians are fortunate enough to be part of.

RCC and RA are working to form conceptual plans for a possible indoor recreation facility to be built at Brown's Chapel Park. Leila Gordon, executive director of RCC, said a joint task force is considering a building that would be between 125,000 and 170,000 square feet with costs ranging from $45 million to $65 million. The building may include up to eight indoor tennis courts, a 50-meter pool, classrooms and a full-size gym.

Gordon said the task force has been looking at the Brown's Chapel Park as a possible site for the building because RA owns the property and it is zoned to support the use. After the study is finished information will be presented to the community for feedback, she said. "We believe most of the community will want this and it can be supported," Gordon said. The project would be supported by a capital bond and would require a referendum, she said.
Here we go again! Anyhoo, the folks who live in a nearby cluster are all up in arms for some crazy reason, saying the process "seems secretive," all because no one said anything about it to them or anyone else. You know how people can overreact!
Michael Rierson, president of the Newport Shores Cluster Association said the cluster board met Tuesday to discuss its position on the facility. He said a top concern is that conceptual plans are being worked on and his cluster was not notified of the process even though their homes are in close proximity. Rierson said not being notified made the process seem secretive.

Rierson said when he began to hear rumors a few weeks ago he wanted to make sure his neighbors were getting the correct information. He said he was told that RCC and RA are in the early part of the process but was alarmed when a neighbor sent him copies of conceptual plans. He said they showed what he considered to be beyond conceptual drawings and felt betrayed. "It's a large structure and the closest home in the cluster is 86 feet away," he said.
The editor of the Observer actually did something that newspapers should do more often, instead of leaving the dirty work to filthy vagrant "web-loggers" who use the word "awesome" too much -- he took both groups to the woodshed.
Leila Gordon, executive director of RCC, said no decisions have been made about the project yet, but she's wrong. A decision was made that the land near Brown's Chapel would be a suitable location for such a project. Decisions were made to reach a concept of what the proposed building would look like and how big it would be. A decision was made to hire a consulting firm to advise the planners on what could and should be built. A task force has been meeting for some months on the project, although those meetings have been conducted out of the public eye.

People are right to be upset. All residents of Reston may be interested to learn that RCC, which is funded by Small Tax District #5 made up primarily of Reston residents, is contemplating spending as much as $65 million on a very large new recreational facility.

It seems like RA and RCC have privately reached agreement on what the community needs and where it should be built, and they were waiting to consult with the public until they had most of the important decisions already made. A better approach is to involve everyone from the beginning in determining what future needs will be and how they should be addressed.
Oh, snap! Anyhoo, now a bunch of public meetings have been scheduled, what with the cat out of the bag and all.
A May 18 meeting has been scheduled at RCC Lake Anne at 7:30 p.m. for the residents of the Newport Shores Cluster Association. A meeting with the boards of RCC and RA and the joint task force will be held June 1 at 6:30 p.m. at RCC Hunters Woods. On June 15 RCC will hold its annual hearing for programs and budget at 7 p.m. at RCC Hunters Woods.
On the bright side, if this facility does get built, there's probably room for the RA to put its extra filing cabinets in the basement or locker room or whatnot.


  1. This sounds way too much like the new TV show "Parks & Recreation" on Thursday nights on NBC.

  2. Well, whatever they build wherever they build regardless of whether we approve it, I hope it is a totally glass structure so at least we can SEE the meetings going on. Sheesh. Do they forget who they work for? US? Where do they learn this. Oh yeah...capitol hill.

  3. The trees! The parks! The tennis! The buildings! The taxes! OMG!!!

    Reston is full of drama lately.

  4. It's about time Reston gets a rec center. It would be nice to see a couple of indoor soccer fields. Soccer fields could be use for indoor football, lacrosse, and hockey. Hopefully they are planning to include a gym for exercise and volleyball. Racquetball courts too. A good example of a rec centers is the one in Golden, Colorado.

  5. The Convict in Gulag 4April 24, 2009 at 1:41 PM

    Well, if they've got to build the monstrosity, I hope that they included a banked track roller skating ring. We have a couple of ice skating rinks in Reston, but no roller skating rink. I'll take roller skating over ice skating any day of the week.

    To help fund this venture, we could approach the DC Rollergirls about either moving out to Reston, or allowing an expansion team out here to participate in their league. Then we could take a cut of the ticket sales to pay for this beast. Heck, we could even charge for parking on the event days, just like all of the other major sporting venues.

    In any case, it will save me a bunch of time and gas going to and from the DC Armory. And think of how proud our North Restonians will be knowing that they are hosting a semi-professional sports team and facility.

    Help bring Roller Derby to Reston!

  6. The Convict in Gulag 4April 24, 2009 at 1:43 PM

    They should also include a few bowling lanes as well. South Reston has felt so empty for me since they shut down the lanes on Michael Faraday. I really miss the video arcade too.

  7. A fan of how Reston should be...April 25, 2009 at 5:17 PM

    A roller derby, indoor soccer, bowling lanes - what happened to the green and pleasant land that was Reston's promise? People walking their dogs, jogging, kids playing, a basketball game, the baseball diamond, a walk holding hands and all among the trees and by a lake. The reason many of us choose to live in Reston. The things we have an association to protect. Oh - that's actually what Brown's Chapel is today. Not only is it a travesty to destroy it. RAA and RCC think we are dumb enough to pay $65 million to do so. Shame on them (and someone tell them that we are smarter than this - or at least smarter than them).

  8. I attended the RA Annual Board meeting this past Wednesday which was Earth Day. Ironically, the main topic of conversation was how to plow ahead with the project to destroy Browns Chapel Park as quickly as possible despite the public outcry against it. President Robin Smyers talked about how to control the media (she put a gag order on her board members ordering them not to talk to the media about the project) and how to control the negativity (can we change the format of the May 18 meeting and not allow residents to talk?). Many of us moved to Reston because of the open green spaces. How has our board gotten so out of touch with the values that Reston has always represented?

  9. Those of us wondering how the RA Board could top their $10,000,000 headquarters debacle didn't have to wait long. Bravo, the RA Board led by Robin Smyers have truly outdone themselves this time! A $65,000,000 recreation center so that a bunch of middle-aged tennis players don't have to pay the Worldgate membership dues. I love it!

  10. This RCC/RA $65M (+ paying for operational costs) rec center proposal and the recently failed RA HQ referendum clearly shows two organization out of touch with its Reston membership which is taxed enough. We pay property tax, a special Small Tax District 5 (Reston) tax, sales tax, utility taxes, vehicle tax and so on... and in this economy where folks are loosing jobs and being in a full blown recession what we need is a $65M+ debt. Board elections are coming up (3 seats are up in RCC and probably 2 in RA) it is time to begin the process of reorienting these organizations by voting in those who understand the principle on which Reston was formed... Stewardship of our natural resources, our financial resources and representing its members not just interest groups. For those who have been in Reston a while, RA (Reston Association) used to be called RHOA-Reston HOMEOWNERS Association. As in 19th century politics 'it time to sweep out the old ways and bring back true representation'... start passing out the brooms!!

  11. I am 24 and I like Reston the way it is but Brown Chapel is just an empty parking lot. If anybody is been around there you can’t walk thought the trees that are there, no trails. Is better to put a rec center there and make a park of land that has population of footsteps ZERO. Since most people in Reston are democrats, remember who you voted for. So don't complain about the TAXES.

  12. I'm not sure when Elperuno walked through Browns Chapel, but I can tell you that there are 2 baseball leagues that play games and practice at the park. There is trail that is goes through the park and continues around the lake that is used by joggers, dog walkers, families with kids, etc. There is a picnic pavilion, basketball court and tot lot. Maybe he was looking for a nightclub, bowling alley, roller derby rink...

  13. its a health club and it is for Fairfax County. The county just can't put it on the backs of the citizens of all of Fairfax County because they are also cutting back in basic services (schools, police & fire). But why should they when Reston Association is just dumb enough to give away the land for free (and sign up Reston residents to pay for the building). If you moved to Reston for the parks - you should move out - I am. But since I work in Reston I will enjoy the gym membership you bought me - thanks.

  14. StopDevelopingRestonNeedlesslyApril 29, 2009 at 6:55 PM

    there is a save browns chapel petition at this link -

    Please sign it (electronically) and send the message --leave it alone!

    Also, come to the Public Input Meeting on May 18 at 7:30 at the Lake Anne branch of the Reston Community Center. Wear white to show your support. We encourage kids to come wearing their baseball uniforms.

  15. Yes, please, please, please, bring the DC Rollergirls to Reston! Better yet, why not start up a rec league of rollergirls from the Reston area to take on a team from DC? Wow! I'm dreaming of my new name now ...

  16. Hey Gulag: the DC Rollergirls is flat track, not banked track.

  17. A fan of how Reston should beMay 2, 2009 at 10:51 PM

    RA tells us that this is all at the conceptual stage. That's why they haven't put it in front of residents yet. Yet if you read the latest RCC board meeting minutes - the center has a name (Simon Center), they are planning to move exercise classes from Hunter Woods to the new center and they are presenting admission costs.

    They imply that the name Simon Center is after the Reston founder. It seems to me like they named it after their behavior 'Simon Says' - they think they will call out the moves and we just make them. Think again !!!

  18. Here are some of the latest web resources regarding this issue:

    The Save Brown's Chapel Park Website:

    A compilation of some of the correspondance that has gone back and forth between the RA and the Community:



  19. Why don't the residents of Reston file a class action lawsuit against those supporting this "welfare for developers" project to have them pay all our taxes on this for the next twenty years?

    It's simple. Estimate the cost of the building and how much it will be to maintain it for twenty years, and since the proponents of it see such a dire need for it, I'm sure they'll all be happy to pay for it by selling off all of their own assets , putting their money in a trust fund, and paying for both the construction and the maintenance of it for twenty years. After all, did the people of Reston and this tax district demand this? I think not.

    Let those who insist on it pay for it. No more welfare for developers!

  20. I love reading the postings. It certainly helps give me insight. Thank you! I do want to set the record straight. I have never wanted to destroy Brown's Chapel, nor any other space RA owns. And, this issue will be decided by our members, if it ever gets to a vote. I have lived here for 30 years, when Reston Avenue (now Parkway) was 2 lanes and one stop light. I remember when Brown's Chapel had only woods behind it, where I took my Hug-a-tree campers for their cookouts. Now there are homes there, not open space, but I don't begrudge the changes. I am not trying to destroy anything, but I do feel it is my responsibility to listen to the all members of this community. We have been asked by many people over the 5 years I have been on the board, and even before that on the DRB, for consideration of additional facilities. Swimmers, tennis players, campers, seniors, teenagers, soccer players, baseball players, lacrosse players, skateboarders, and the list goes on and on. Everyone deserves to be heard no matter what your interest may be or where you live. Let's disagree but let's do it with facts, education and civility. Participation will make this a better process and ultimately bring us to a community decision.

  21. anyone around long enough to remember the last time RA decided to run an indoor rec facility? No? Maybe that's because it was a money losing disaster. And BTW, we HAVE indoor facilities! Reston community center and the YMCA, both in Reston.

  22. We don't need to do this just because we can; there is no benefit to alteration here. Where do these ideas come from? Just leave Brown's Chapel Park alone, avoid the high cost of more borrowing and maintenance, deflect the crowds, and preserve a lovely area. Brown's Chapel is great As-Is!


(If you don't see comments for some reason, click here).