News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Brown's Chapel Rec Center: Small Group Fun!

rec center wtf.jpgHere's the "fun" graphic the Reston Association has come up with to ilustrate the "community input" process for the $65 million rec center/ juicery proposed for Brown's Chapel Park. It also aptly illustrates the change in how these meetings are being held.

Apparently tired of hearing from angry mobs, the Reston Association took a new tack for this week's meeting in North Reston. They split people into small groups to have facilitated discussions, and here's one account from the Save Brown's Chapel group:

The crowd of nearly 200 Reston residents split up into 18 groups for small discussion, and after a 30 minute discussion, each shared their collective results with members of the RA & RCC boards. The response was nearly unanimous (as Group 6 succinctly put it):

NO to a new rec center.

NO to building on ANY open/green space in Reston.
It's the very essence of the character of our community.

NO to giving up Reston land. If Fairfax County wants it bad enough,
let them build it on Fairfax County land.

While many were in favor of covering tennis courts, the crowd was clear: cover existing courts and do not build new indoor tennis on open/green spaces. Even those in favor of indoor tennis were against costly new buildings. There was overwhelming concern for local businesses that would be impacted by a new rec center.
See the comments for a group-by-group breakdown of the "input," if you're into such things.

The next RA/RCC meeting is scheduled for next Thursday, July 9, at Lake Anne Elementary School, and those sticks in the mud at Reston ARCH, fresh off the heels of having the unmitigated gall to demand accountability in the ongoing RA headquarters process, have scheduled a rec center meeting of their own for 7pm Tuesday, at the Jo Anne Rose Gallery at Lake Anne. Now if someone would just schedule a meeting for Wednesday, we'd have our whole week planned out!


  1. Here's selected group-by-group feedback from the North Reston community meeting, as reported by Save Brown's Chapel:

    Group 1: "The public sector should not compete with the private sector."

    Group 2 questioned the ecological impact of building a rec center at such a place as Brown's Chapel Park.

    Group 4 was very concerned about many questions surrounding the cost of such a project (many groups echoed this concern throughout the evening). They suggested converting existing facilities if indoor tennis is absolutely needed.

    Group 5 was also concerned about protecting our green/open space. "Do not spoil what is special about Reston." They too, were concerned about existing Reston businesses and how they would be impacted.

    Group 10 was concerned that Fairfax County was trying to hitch its wagon on Reston Association. Let Fairfax County build on Fairfax property.

    Group 11 asked why must it be built in Reston? They too, expressed concern for our endangered green space, "Don't destroy or green space, we'll never get it back." They also wondered, who would pay if the projected revenue doesn't come to fruition?

    Group 12 had a good mix of swimmers and indoor tennis fans... "but, we all had a lot of questions about this proposal. There seems to be conflicts of interests and dodgy surveys, which asked opinions of special interest groups and wasn't broad-based." They also asked, "why aren't commercial businesses joining in on this if it's financially viable?" They closed with, "Our stewardship requires us to maintain our open spaces."

    Group 13 added "we're against facilities as it has been proposed and planned, which has not been handled well." They too, questioned the past survey, in addition to the survey we received at this meeting, "This survey assumes we want it [the rec center] if we fill it out."

    Group 14: 7 out of 10 agreed: DO NOT TOUCH Brown's Chapel Park!

    Group 15: Their key concern was if something had to be built it should be built near high-density, such as the future metro station. Do not impact green space. We need to understand the business case, and need to understand the numbers.

    Group 16's spokesperson thanked the board members for coming to the meeting to brave the public comments, which by most accounts were adamantly opposed to moving forward with this, other than to consider covering tennis courts. Regarding the surveys, we need to ask the right questions (Do we need this? Is it fiscally responsible?...) People at Table 16 expressed an interest in indoor tennis, but is it a question of need?

    The remaining groups echoed similar sentiments as the previous groups, most notably that they're absolutely opposed building anything on our remaining open & green spaces. It is paramount that we protect what is precious about Reston - our open space, green space, trees, trails and parks. Do not give away Reston land to Fairfax County.

    Many expressed concern about past surveys that got us here in the first place. Specifically two points: The scope of the survey respondents (many expressed that they never had the opportunity to participate), and 2) the questions asked within the survey were biased (or lack of the right questions asked). For the upcoming survey, unless the right questions are asked, the results will once again be skewed and not actionable.

    In summary, we heard 18 different versions of no means no. A spokesperson from Group 9 offered this advise: "Brown's Chapel is a wake-up call to Reston to be vigilant and keep their elected officials on a short leash!"

  2. Absolutely agree:

    "Brown's Chapel is a wake-up call to Reston to be vigilant and keep their elected officials on a short leash!"

  3. And regarding our stellar RA/RCC/County Leadership... from an earlier post...

    Slightly off-topic, BUT, related to the ill-conceived priorities of our RA/RCC/ and Fairfax County leadership... I just walked through the pedestrian tunnel displaying the Lake Anne Elementary School Mural... it’s now significantly damaged by graffiti and tagging... very, very sad. Here is a great story on the Mural:

  4. In all fairness, the leaders up front indicated that in all liklihood, that the chances of a large rec center getting built in Browns's Chapel were nil. I'm not sure why so many people belabored that so much. The Browns Chapel idea was apparently only one concept of many.

    It seemed like a few of the group speakers had their own agendas, regardless of what was said.

    I went in there unbiased, and was surprised and came away with a totally different picture. It seemed like the RA People were really trying to solicit input, and make sure everyone knew that nothing had been decided yet. This was very evident in the group sessions

    I got the sense that most of the groups did support indoor tennis in some fashion through RA, and also maybe covering over an existing pool.

    My group was certainly of this mindset.

  5. Apparently RA is learning through experience -- that breaking into small groups takes the tone of the disagreement down.

    What concerns me is that many of the people who are vitriolic/passionate (depends on your point of view, I guess) about this see this as simply a 'Browns Chapel' issue. While the level of angst over the Rec Center potentially taking BC away did get people thinking about green spaces all over, there's a danger that we will seek back into apathy once our own "interest" is answered or taken off the table. ALL of us need to do better than that.

    Robin Smyers' written comments for the RA board meeting was very agenda driven and defensive, however, she is right about one thing. We have an appalling history of apathy in Reston...with occasional outbursts of anger.

    If we can turn this anger into constructive forward movement, we won't be saddled with elected officials that we don't trust. People who allow their elected officials to run unopposed get what we deserve. I include myself in this indictment as well. We ALL need to stay awake and involved.

  6. RA, RCC and the County should also be held accountable for their lack of transparency and "after-the-fact" information dissemination. I've lived in Reston since the "80's and its quite apparent the big decisions have already been made and laid out -- giving the membership little, or no time, to respond or even get involved.

  7. Their big decisions won't do them any good without the land at Brown's Chapel and they can't take our common lands without a referendum.

  8. So when do we start the recall? Let's get rid of Smyers.

  9. You live in Lake Anne District, no? Collect about twenty or thirty people who are willing to collect signatures. I am pretty sure the information you need will be their names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, and a signature. Of course, you could call Cate Fulkerson, the adminstrator of RA, she would know for sure, but it's unlikely she would cooperate. Also, you need someone to run against Smyers. Someone with the interests of the homeowners at heart and someone who agrees with your position.

  10. So anonymous and Southlakesmom, is it a Brown's Chapel issue? Yes it is until the RA officially take it off the table. One of the directors made that proposal at their last meeting. The proposal, an excellent one, was remove the 'Browns Chapel' issue so that a real conversation on the rec center could take place. The motion was tabled - not even voted on. There are few on the RA board with backbone, or not in Smyers pocket, they run and hide when a real decision has to be made. Why would those defending the park change the issues when RA board don't show the courage or integrity to provide a direct answer.

    As to the apathy, perhaps if people weren't shot down, ignored or ridiculed they might stay involved. Southlakesmom accused people at a meeting of griping - problem was that she was commenting on a part of the meeting that she did not even wait to hear. That's encouragement to people to stand up an be heard. Robin Smyers has listened to hundreds, probably thousands of voices and insists on referring to them as a minority. This is America (an appropriate reference for 4 July) and not Iran - let people speak, hear them, disagree if you want to but don't complain about how they are speaking. Appreciate every voice and encourage every speaker - that's the way past apathy.

    However I do feel that a sleeping beast has been awakened. Robin, Cathy and others will be wishing for apathy when election time comes around. All of their actions are now under the microscope of public attention.

  11. The Convict in the GulagJuly 3, 2009 at 7:55 PM

    Hey, here's a nifty idea for RA. If the tree huggers and the NIMBYs don't want Brown's Chapel paved over, why don't we buy up a large swath of North Reston along Baron Cameron or Reston Parkway and flatten it instead? We could -- or better yet, the County could -- use iminent domain to acquire the property at fair market value. That way we wouldn't have to tear down any trees and our bretheren to the North can share in supporting facilities for all Restonians.

    I think that's a really great idea. Especially if they include a roller rink.

    Bring Roller Derby to Reston!

  12. The moutainbikers or ATVers seemed to have already tried that in one part of Browns Chapel. Many of the trees have been cut down to create ramps and obstacles. There's very little vegetation in the woods behind the baseball field.

  13. As I thanked everyone who attended last night's meeting at Lake Anne Elementary, it is OK for us to disagree. I do appreciate the fact that people are paying attention and weighing in on the issues that we have been working on long before I was elected to the board, and will be after I am gone. My term is up in April 2010 and I look forward to the supporting the next director for Lake Anne and Tall Oaks.

    Again, it is OK to disagree. Getting involved and staying involved is a responsibility I hope many in our community will embrace.I will not apologize for letting the process run its due course. All members should be heard and to the previous point, I do hear from hundreds of people, many who are in fear of being ridiculed for supporting some of the ideas others who disagree. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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