News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Future of Reston to Be Decided By Lego Playdate

lego-block.jpgHow on earth did we manage to miss this? The most recent meeting of the Reston Master Plan Task Force With an Unpronounceable Acronym (§) involved playing with Legos. No, really. They called it a "Lego exercise" to make it sound all official, but apparently that's what they did. Here's the account from Dick Stillson, a duly appointed representative of the Reston 2020 committee:

The meeting was in three main parts; one, a report on each of the committees and a vote to establish the new "vision" committee; two, a report from the consultants from the George Masion School of Public Policy on projections through 2050 on jobs and households in the Dulles Corridor, and three, playing with Lego blocks to... well do something but I'm not sure what. (I'll bet that our grandson Gavin -- almost 8 years old -- is much better at playing with Legos than the Task Force members.)
The mind boggles... did task force members build fancy scale models of the Wiehle Metro development and shine a flashlight to see how much light made it down to the canyon "civic plaza?" Did they create armies of developers and NIMBYs and make them fight on a futuristic battlefield of strewn Lego blocks, symbolizing the razed Fairway apartments and Macaroni Grill? Or, in the true spirit of Reston, did they simply collect all the bricks that were bright primary colors and throw them in the trash, leaving only beige bricks for future generations of task force members to play with?

We don't have an answer to these questions. But we do have an exclusive video excerpt from the task force's "Lego exercise:"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reston's Vibrant Economy: More Retail Changes Than the Mall of America

If your secret dream has always been to run an off-brand 7-11 and you can't spell, your ship has come in: the "grosery" in the parking lot of Lake Anne Village Center is on the market, with what we'll politely call "extreme prejudice."

Landlord in processof evicting present tenant(convenience store&small cafe/rest.)Business for sale $85,000 with some OTB.Bldg and Business for sale @$634,000,Bldg separately for sale $549,000.
85 grand will buy a lot of cheez curls.

But the news isn't all bad for Lake Anne. According to the Twitters, the Kalypso sports tavern is set to open any day:

Screen shot 2010-06-29 at 3.31.07 PM.jpg

Still skeptical? The restaurant's "Face Book" has pictures of people stone cold sitting around at tables, getting ready to open a restaurant or something.

Meanwhile, across town, the awesome Plaza America shopping center has changed hands.
A joint venture of New York-based Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Atlantic Realty Companies, Inc., one of the largest commercial real estate developers in the Washington, DC/Baltimore, MD region, today announced that it has purchased Plaza America Shopping Center in Reston, Virginia.

Plaza America Shopping Center opened in 1995. Atlantic Realty developed and built the center, and Atlantic Realty has managed the property since that time. The center includes more than 164,000 square feet of national and local stores and services including Whole Foods, Michael’s, Champps, and Fitness First.
In North Point, the pet store has closed its doors, meaning that people waiting in line for their fancy new iPhones at the nearby AT&T store won't be able to pass the time looking at the trapped adorable puppies in the window.

And finally, the old Ruby Tuesday in the fake downtown is now a FedEx office. The folks at Reston Town Center posted this somewhat demonic photo on their own fancy "Face Book" page:


We think someone needs to check the toner on that copier.

Actually, we're pleased with this last development. If a Ruby Tuesdays can become a FedEx office, it's only a matter of time until the Macaroni Grill magically transforms into a UPS Store.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Citing Lack of Affordable Housing, RCA Asks Hudgins Not to Support Fairway Development

The Reston Citizens Association has put pen to paper and written Fairfax County Supervisor Catherine Hudgins a fancy letter, complete with block salutations and closing signatures, asking her not to support the awesome Fairway Apartments redevelopment, which would replace the current garden apartments off North Shore Drive with 941 "high-end condominiums" in a 20-story mauvescraper and assorted low-rise units. Here's what they had to say about the project:
While the proposal has undergone some design modifications thanks to the persistent efforts of the Reston Design Review Board, the result can be compared to rearranging deck chairs on the proverbial Titanic. Moving the pieces around a bit, adding some taller buildings and a few trees and bushes does not alter the substance of a large, overly intense development in a medium-density location where it is obviously out of place. After a struggle with the developer, the DRB finally moved them from a position of refusing to include any affordable units to agreeing to the current County minimum standard of 12%, a net loss of about 225 affordable dwelling units for Reston.

This project, as designed, would deliver a shock to a stable residential neighborhood that is vital to the diversity of this area. This stable neighborhood is consistent with Robert Simon’s founding principle of assuring a variety of housing to serve all income levels to provide “the heterogeneity that spells a lively and varied community.” Regrettably, this project would augment the trend of the last decade of wiping out affordable housing in Reston. This trend should be halted and indeed reversed if we are to remain true to our founding principles.

Furthermore, if this project is adopted, we can only assume that affordable apartments and townhouses throughout Reston will similarly be marked for destruction in the not-too-distant future. Thus, the residents of The Sycamores, Chestnut Grove Square, Parkcrest Apartments, Southgate Apartments, Hunters Square, and Winterthur Apartments, for example, will suffer similar fates, unless you act now to avoid setting this bad precedent.
Based on the last-minute maneuvering to change the definition of workforce housing in the massive Tysons redevelopment, this issue seems to be on the backburner for county officials of late. But affordable housing has been one of Hudgins' stated priorities for some time -- to the point of drawing fire from some of her constituents. And it's encouraging that the DRB was sufficiently terrifying effective to force JBG to provide at least some affordable housing in the proposal, along with an earlier compromise to remove planned retail space in an acknowledgement of traffic issues and the struggling retail in Lake Anne Plaza.

Actually, we're somewhat shocked that the initial plan included no affordable housing at all, given the scope of the project, the current buildings on the site, and the familiarity of JBG with development issues in the county. Shame on them.

The Fairway proposal goes before the county planning commission on July 15.

Friday, June 25, 2010

On the YouTubes: We Watch the Reston Association Videos So You Don't Have To

As befits the beginning of summer, Andy Sigle has dressed down for this exciting episode of RA Today, forgoing his snazzy suit for a casual open-collar look as he lurks outside of a pool and stands dangerously in the middle of Reston Parkway to talk about the master plan task force.

"I see cranes in the median, so I actually believe Metro is coming to Reston," declares RA's representative to the task force, Paul Thomas. Possibly, but when it gets here, those trains may not have any cars attached.

There's also talk about RA camps and swimming pools, including a reminder to parents and guardians to actively supervise their children. If that seems unnecessary to you, you haven't spent a lot of time at an RA pool of late.

Cate Fulkerson also shows us the construction under way at the new RA headquarters, which opens in late July, and we're pretty sure the opening shot was in the future child labor cubbies.

But what intrigued us the most was the RA's offer to dispose of old American flags -- but only if they're "free of mold and debris." Then why get rid of them in the first place?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Consume! Consume! Consumers Line Up Overnight Outside Retail Establishment to be First to Consume, Fulfill Semiotic Self-Identification With Consumer Product

Meet "Jeremy," who lined up in front of the Apple Store in Reston's Fake Downtown at 8 last night, in hopes of being the first to get one of the new fancy cellular phones with built-in Twitters or whatever the kids are so crazy about these days. Or maybe he thinks he's camping out for Bobby Sherman tickets. Who knows?

According to this "web logger," there were at least 200 people waiting in line at 5:30 am for one of the fancy new iPhones. Please to be enjoying this grainy, Wire-like video of a ruly mob queuing up.

Won't they be disappointed when the doors open and they realize they've been waiting to get into the Pottery Barn?

Update: Reston web logger "Snarkshelf" posted this exciting photo of someone consulting their iPhone to check on the wait for an iPhone.

The universe has officially collapsed into itself.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tysons Corner City Set to Rise Phoenix-Like From Ashes of Car Dealerships

tysons cityscape.jpg
Behold the cosmopolitan flair and sophistication of "Fairfax County's downtown," which has been given the green light to become an even more awesome urban center, including -- we hope -- the construction of a gilded, 20-story tall statue of Crystal Koons.
Fairfax County officials on Tuesday approved a landmark proposal to allow the transformation of Tysons Corner from a sprawling, auto-dependent office park into a vibrant, walkable city.

The Board of Supervisors voted 8 to 2 after a six-hour public hearing on new building rules and a 20-year blueprint for Tysons, its most significant land-use decision in recent years. The proposal permits Tysons to become a city of office and residential towers with sidewalk cafes, boutiques and manicured courtyards. It also calls for energy-efficient buildings, affordable housing, park space and a new street grid to filter local traffic. A planned circulator bus system would ferry riders among future Metrorail stations, offices and shopping malls.

"Tysons is a downtown. While it may not be a municipality, it will be a community," Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), whose district includes the employment hub, said before the vote. "Tysons is not going to be an auto-oriented environment. It's going to be walkable for the people who live there and for the economy."

The biggest hurdles have yet to come. Excluding the rail system, officials have yet to identify a way to fund about $1.5 billion in road and transit improvements needed through 2030.

The public hearing was the culmination of five years of planning. The county was under pressure to adopt a final land-use plan because the four Metro stations are slated to open in 2013.
The "good" news is that time constraints brought about by Metro actually pushed the supervisors to approve the more desirable option -- as opposed to what happened when the county started feeling the heat to approve the Wiehle gulch Metro development.

What's pathetic interesting is the new definition of "low-income housing."
The Tysons plan calls for 20 percent of housing to be devoted to those who make $51,350 to $123,240, or 50 to 120 percent of Fairfax's median household income of $102,700. In exchange, developers would be allowed to build 20 percent more units.

Lynne J. Strobel, a land-use lawyer with Walsh Colucci Lubeley Emrich & Walsh representing several Tysons Corner developers, urged supervisors to cut the lowest tier of workforce housing, for those earning 50 to 60 percent of the median household income in Fairfax. That would include annual incomes of $51,350 to $61,620. Starting salaries for teachers and police officers in Fairfax County range from $44,000 to $49,450.
Yeah, who wants those icky teachers or police officers as neighbors? All that chalk dust, handcuffs, etc. We're just happy that people who make the paltry sum of $123,240 are finally being designated as undesirables in need of special accommodations to afford their 800-square-foot "condominium" overlooking a shopping mall, the end.

Accidental Shooting Takes Life of Reston Man

A Reston man has died after being accidentally shot in the head during target practice on a southern Maryland farm.

A Virginia man was accidentally shot in the head and later died from the injury while he and two other men were target shooting at a St. Leonard farm before sunrise on June 17.

The three men, all of whom live outside Calvert County, were shooting at a farm on Garrity Road in St. Leonard when George Frederick Noble, 23, of Reston, Va., was shot in the head with a .22 caliber rifle while he and two friends were practicing shooting at targets, a Calvert Investigative Team (CIT) press release stated.

Sgt. Sciana Roach of CIT assumed the investigation, and, at this time, the shooting appears to have been accidental, although it is still under investigation.

Commander of CIT, Lt. Steve Jones, said "[Alcohol] was not an attributing factor."

They were shooting at bottles on a family member's farm, and they were far enough away from any buildings and not disturbing the peace, he said.

"It was a tragic event," Jones said.
"Tragic" is just about the only word that fits.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Smog Alert: Oracle Residential Buildings Before Planning Council Thursday

Screen shot 2010-06-22 at 10.15.14 AM.jpg

Not a smoggy glimpse of Reston's hellish, Blade Runner-like future, these illustrations instead show the two fancy residential buildings that Reston Excelsior LLC hopes to build on Oracle's campus near the intersection of Sunset Hills and Reston Parkway. Residential development on the Oracle campus has been on the books since 2006, but it's finally advancing. The Fairfax Planning Commission will consider the project this Thursday, though county staff is recommending the application be denied.

If approved, the two buildings would contain a maximum of 457 residential units and 830 parking spaces, 820 of which would be in an underground parking garage, as well as 1 acre of open space. A third office building has also already been approved in an unrelated process, but not yet built.

The planning commission approved a similar plan in 2006, but expressed concern "with the relationship or lack of relationship that would be established between the residential buildings and the office buildings, as well as the Plaza America development to the east." We'd suggest having some sort of mixer, maybe playing some Kei$ha or whatever noise the kids like today and maybe having a game of Twister to break the ice, but instead the developer promised to build "passive recreation areas" around the existing stormwater management ponds. We think "passive recreation" involves sitting inside and reading "web logs," but that's just us.

Other concerns cited by county planners include transportation noise, access for pedestrians and bicycles, and a lack of affordable workforce housing. They also dinged Excelsior for not providing a sufficient level of detail about the architecture of the residential buildings or any planned transportation improvements. Having seen the pictures above, though, we're not sure what they're talking about.

Update: The planning commission deferred a decision until its July 22 meeting.

On the YouTubes: There Can Be Only One

Why watch the World Cup kickball game on your computer machine when you can enjoy this trial of athletic prowess from this weekend's Taste of Reston festivities?

Monday, June 21, 2010

This Week in Crime: New Attempts to Make Gold Burglary Charges Stick, Public Disorder, and a Dognapping Most Foul

Picture 1.jpgHey, remember that time a group of burglars targeting Indian families for their gold wreaked havoc for a few months last year, then got busted, then had their cases thrown out of court?

Yeah, that was awesome. In any case, police are trying to make the charges stick.

The string of nearly 30 gold burglaries in Northern Virginia stopped cold after seven New Yorkers were arrested on suspicion of taking part in what police called a well-organized crime ring.

The ring had zeroed in on gold that had been handed down through generations of families, and the victims were hopeful that some of the more than $1 million in valuables might be recovered after last year's arrests.

But when the cases went to court, they died.

Of the seven people arrested, six have been released and a seventh will be freed soon. Of the 58 felony charges filed, 55 were dismissed and one was reduced to a misdemeanor. One man was convicted in one burglary -- a case in which nothing was taken -- and one misdemeanor plea was obtained from another suspect, for a penalty of $72 in court costs.

Everyone else walked away. The case imploded through a combination of bad luck, smart criminals and savvy defense lawyers.

But authorities aren't giving up. Fairfax County police have resumed their investigation.

Last month, a group led by Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II met with U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride to see whether his office would take up the case. Federal prosecutors can use grand juries as an investigative tool, subpoenaing witnesses and documents, in a way state prosecutors cannot.
The entire story is spelled out in the "news-paper" article linked above, but a key mistake was a break in the "chain of custody" of some key evidence.

Meanwhile, a fun Friday night on the town led to multiple charges filed against a 45-year-old Reston man.
Police responded to the 1200 block of Wild Hawthorn Way for an investigation around 4:25 a.m. on Friday, June 11. While there, a man allegedly refused to obey officers’ commands when they attempted to arrest him. Once in custody, the suspect reportedly kicked out a window in a police vehicle. [The suspect of] Bowman Towne Drive in Reston, was taken to jail and charged with destruction of property, drunk in public and resisting arrest.
Kicking out a police car window = justifiably unsympathetic police officers.

But the most intriguing bit of crime of late was shared without comment on the police department's weekly incident summary:
1900 block of Crescent Park Drive Chihuahua stolen from residence
A dognapping? ¡Ay caramba! Yo queria el McTacoHut?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dude, Where's My County?

Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 8.28.33 PM.jpg

This fancy "inter-active" Web machine thingy from Forbes magazine shows the flow of people to and from Fairfax County, where we lay our scene. While we're no demographers, with the red lines indicating people leaving and the black ones showing people coming, we have to conclude that Fairfax County is a net importer of people from New Jersey, who apparently either become a) insufferable elitists who then move to the even smugger Bay Area, or b) chaw-spewin' southerners who opt to head to warmer climes within striking distance of a NASCAR track.

On the plus side, we bet that one dude who moved to Fairfax from Permafrost County, North Dakota is pretty cool.

Come to Think of It, Maybe We Shouldn't Save the Date

Screen shot 2010-06-17 at 5.16.26 PM.jpg
Once again, we're forced to contend with the waking nightmare of unspeakable aural horror from Lake Anne Plaza! But since we don't have to move, buy industrial strength earplugs, etc., until July 10, there's a bevy of things to do this weekend.

  • The Taste of Reston is today and Saturday at the fake downtown established array of midscale retail and dining options. Along with the usual carnival (which continues through Sunday) and food on a stick options, there's something called "Guns and Hoses," which apparently involves a cook-off between police and firefighters.

  • The Tour De Cure comes to the fake downtown on Sunday. While it's undeniably for a worthy cause, we're mainly happy for the excuse to link to this video.

  • If you don't like food or bicycles or the outdoors, you could always go to the Reston Association Board's extra special meeting at 9am on Saturday, to "discuss their plans regarding the Reston Master Plan Task Force." Among those plans is "establishing a subcommittee," so we can all rest well tonight, and all weekend long until the sound of ukeleles crushes our spirits, the end.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Meanwhile, in the Anti-Reston: Herndon Cigarettes To Cost a Quarter More

evil spock.jpegIt's been a while since we've checked in with our newly tolerant neighbor to the west. What's been doin' in Herndon? Well, if your idea of a good time involves hanging around Elden Street or Alabama Street looking for work smoking a cigarette, the privilege will soon cost more.

If it's any consolation to Herndon's nicotine-addicted hordes, the town council, like other great leaders, voted against raising the cigarette tax before they voted for it:

On first attempt, the council voted against raising the tax from 50 cents to 75 cents per pack -- leaving the fiscal 2011 budget more than $100,000 short.

Without increasing Herndon's cigarette tax by 25 cents -- as town staff had recommended -- an additional $123,000 would have to be cut from the $42.25 million budget... Ultimately, the council did just that. On a second vote, the cigarette tax increase was approved, 5-2.

"I'm not willing to sacrifice the things that we forced the town manager to designate," said Councilman Richard F. Downer, who voted for the increase, adding that the revote was made "under duress."
That's all well and good, Appropriately Named Councilman Downer. But what of the children?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This Week in Crime: Nostalgic Bit of Americana Menaces Cyclists

The-Daisy-air-Rifleman-50'.jpgTwo cyclists riding south of Franklin Farms were menaced by a nostalgic bit of Americana:

Police are investigating two suspected shooting incidents that occurred within an hour of each other on June 1.

County police from the Reston district station said around 8:47 p.m., a 47-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman were riding their bicycles in Reston near the intersection of Fairfax County Parkway and Rugby Road when they heard a series of noises.

Police said the woman then noticed a minor injury to her leg from something striking her.

Police said around 9:41 p.m. the same day, a 26-year-old man driving a 2006 passenger bus was driving on Lee Jackson Memorial Highway near Alder Woods Drive when his passenger window shattered. Police think the injury and damage in both cases was caused by a BB-style pellet.
Just remember, folks: when BB guns are outlawed, only 7-year-old outlaws will have BB guns.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hey Culture Vultures! Guess the Name of This Reston Sculpture

See if you can guess the name of this sculpture, which graced Reston Town Square Park in the Fake Downtown as part of the first collaborative project between IPAR, the Reston public arts initiative, and GRACE.

a) Green Terraced Thingy
b) One Confusing Container Store Window Display
b) Mannequin 3: Really Not on the Move At All
c) Monument to the Sun and Stars
d) Epic Statement of Ironic Futility, as a Ladder Is Required to Access a Ladder-Shaped Structure

If you guessed c), then congratulations. You are among the chosen few who are fit to consume Reston's public art.

Reston Real Estate: How's That Market Looking?

Based on everyone's favorite game of real estate wheeling and dealing, we all know it's always time to BUY BUY BUY in Reston. But it's been a while since we've seen the spastically dancin' real estate signs, which got us to wondering how the real estate market is these days?

You'll be happy to know that Reston is still near the top -- at least in commercial office space vacancies.

The direct office vacancy rate hit 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest point in more than 16 years. Throw in sublet space, and the vacancy rate bumped up to 16.4 percent. The majority of the vacant space can be found in four submarkets: Tysons Corner, Reston, Chantilly and Dulles.
There is good news, though. Despite 2009 ending as the worst year on record in Fairfax County since the dot-com/telcom bust of 2002, demand so far this year has been the strongest in three years.

As for the residential real estate market, here's what one local sage had to say:
The real estate market in Reston, and in many cases nationwide, seems to be on an improving track. Sales nationwide in March were up over 6 percent. In Reston, we have seen great activity in the under $400,000 range. It is interesting that we are seeing multiple offers and in some cases escalation agreements on well priced properties in good locations.

What's hot: All condos, everything around Reston Town Center (with some re-sales in the $1,000,000+ range). Properties walking distance to the future Wiehle Metro station (would be primarily townhouses and condos) and anything in North Reston under $600,000.

And what’s not — older properties in all categories that have not been improved/upgraded. This is not a market where we can put a home up for sale in any condition and assume it will sell. Reston properties from the 70s and 80s are “outdated” by today’s standards — 8-foot ceilings, small bedrooms and bathrooms. To get top dollar, you want to invest in upgrades that buyers are looking for. They will pay top dollar while the unimproved properties linger on the market.
We're guessing this property got top dollar then.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flashback Monday: Reston: The Next Generation

Please to be enjoying this magazine article from 1988, which announces the exciting news that NASA had selected our favorite earth-toned community as its headquarters for the International Space Station -- then just an attractive artists rendering, but now a functional collection of Tinkertoy-like modules floating in low earth orbit for the enjoyment of various space tourists. And apparently the headquarters is still here! We can sleep well knowing that the next time there's a crisis with one of the space toilets, one of our neighbors will be on the ball, trying to fix it.

Update: Actually, they won't. Because we couldn't get the Googles to search outer space, we missed the fact that the Space Station headquarters decamped for Texas in 1993 -- a tough decision made easier, we're sure, by the presence of an inferior, but still earth-toned, planned community in the Houston suburbs.

Either way, there's no truth to the rumor that the streak of light in the top photo was a rocket shooting Reston's original color swatches into low earth orbit, where they would be preserved for future generations.

Friday, June 11, 2010

All the News That's Fit to Print

Reston lobster via @funinfairfax.jpg

See, this is why we need those old-fashioned "news-papers" to keep us up-to-date on what's happening in our earth-toned community. Actually, upon further examination, this bit of news was from the Reston in Scotland, which scuttles our theory that the crawfish in our own recently denuded streams have started getting an attitude.

(Hat tip to @funinfairfax.)

Your Dream Job With the RA Has Arrived

Screen shot 2010-06-11 at 7.44.11 AM.jpg
That is, if your "dream" involves taupe color swatches and hangin' with the DRB. Clicky clicky for more details.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the YouTubes: We Watch the Reston Association Videos So You Don't Have To

Check out Andy Sigle, complementing his dulcet tones by rocking out a snazzy suit! This early June edition of "Reston Today" talks about the upcoming Reston festival, celebrating Reston's 46th birthday on July 10-11, plus the Reston Youth Network. Kathleen Driscoll-McKee invites us -- well, really she invited Andy, not us -- to her home for a "rap session" about her goals as RA President, which apparently include reminding people that for "authentic news" about Reston, "they need to look to the RA," not some filthy "web log" or the rapidly decreasing number of "news-papers" serving the area. She also tells a joke about commuting when she first moved to Reston: "People asked if I had a jet because there were no roads," she says. Also, we wonder if the canoe sailing placidly by in the opening shot of the video is flying the flag of the Marshall Islands, but maybe that's just us.

This and That: A Random Slouch Through Reston News

  • BREAKING: In its boldest move to date, the Reston Association has modified its vision statement to include the words "get involved," as in "leading the model community where all can live, work, play and get involved." Cue rioting, dogs and cats living together, and general chaos in 3, 2, 1....

  • Inova Health System is putting the Cameron Glen Care Center and assisted living unit in Reston up for sale, and apparently a buyer is out there, kicking the tires. Meanwhile, Reston Hospital Center, among other hospitals in the region, got dinged by the Human Rights Campaign for leaving out gender identity and sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policies.

  • Construction of the fancy shrine to rad '80s art known as the Wiehle Metro station will soon lead to lane closures on the Dulles Toll Road. Meanwhile, the RA has sent a letter to the airports authority encouraging air rights development over all three area Metro stations.

  • The multiplex in Reston's Fake Downtown has changed its name... to something called "Rave Cinema." Bring your glow-sticks and baby pacifiers, or whatever the kool kidz do these days.

  • Some dude named Patrick Murray won this week's Republican primary for the 8th District. This "upset" win gives Murray the opportunity to lose, badly, to entrenched incumbent Jim Moran this fall.

  • Hey, did you know a Reston company called Centennial Contractors Enterprises makes railroad bridges out of recycled plastic? Now you do.

  • Here's a schedule of summer concerts in Reston's Fake Downtown. Having missed the Michael Jackson tribute at the Herndon Festival, we'll settle for the tribute band for some obscure British combo.

  • Legendary developer Til Hazel recently sat down with the Washington Post "news-paper" to talk about development, the Silver Line, and Tysons. (Spoiler alert: The legendary developer likes development.)

  • You can get a "Taste of Lake Anne" from 9am-noon this Saturday -- which we're hoping means samples from the growing number of Plaza restaurants rather than free glasses of lake water.

  • Hey now, more than 1,000 AOL employees helped clean up a Reston wildlife habitat at the Old Westbury Recreational Area, among other places around the region as part of a day of volunteering. Who knew AOL still had 1,000 employees?

  • Finally, Forest Edge Elementary is holding a memorial 5K to pay tribute to special education teacher and Herndon High School alumn Courtney Schilling, who died at the age of 24 last fall. It's a nice thing to do, and we hope people show up.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sad: Observer "News-Paper" Closes Its Doors

Screen shot 2010-06-08 at 10.52.30 AM.jpgSad news: the Observer newspaper, one of a handful of print publications that actually paid close attention to our earth-toned community, is closing its doors.

Publisher Christopher Moore of Reston said the newspaper is no longer in business.

"We are not planning an issue for this week," Moore said Monday. "The paper has lived its life span."

Moore said that although the paper was popular, the economy and plight of newspaper advertising did the paper in.

"We tried really hard to take a newspaper company and become a media company," Moore said. "But in the end, the money just wasn't there."
Tell us about it! Though to be fair, this site has never been popular.

The news confirms rumors we've heard for the past few weeks; also, the paper's fancy "Web site" had not been updated in over a month. Last year, the Observer consolidated its Herndon and Reston editions, as did the other newspaper that covers the area, the Reston Times. (Somehow the Connection keeps plugging along, though it's been ages since we've seen an actual hard copy of that "news-paper" out in the wild. Come to think of it, maybe that's their secret!)

But we digress. As filthy "web loggers," robust news coverage by local media is important to us because we're incredibly lazy we complement straight reportage, which shouldn't be biased, with our own interpretation of how things should be. Or sometimes we just type the word "awesome" a lot and go have a sandwich. Either way, we take no pleasure in seeing the maelstrom that's taking traditional media by storm hit so close to home.

Moore is taking a job at AOL's news service, so we may not have heard the last of him. We'd heard previously from different sources that AOL's new network of local "web-sites," called Patch, is planning to cover Reston and Herndon, though hopefully not by returning to their late-90s strategy of carpetbombing the country with CD-ROMs. That's a good thing -- more, not fewer, voices are what's needed.

Update: A longer story about the Observer's history.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The SHOCKING Reston Connection to the Gulf Oil Spill

Marshall-Islands-Flag.gifLast week, we showed you what the Gulf oil spill might look like, if it was red mulch spreading out from an epicenter in Reston. Now, after an EXCLUSIVE RESTONIAN INVESTIGATION, we can confirm that there is a real Reston connection to the actual spill. No, those concrete structures in the middle of Lake Anne, Thoreau, and Audubon aren't cleverly disguised BP oil rigs. The truth is far worse... or at least a lot more bureaucratic.

The exploded BP rig was built in South Korea, is registered in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, whose registry is maintained by “a little-known company” in Reston, Va., and owned and operated by the foreign company British Petroleum, he said.
You won't get these hard truths from the "lamestream" media. Thank you, Bemidji Pioneer, which is apparently a hard-chargin', truth-gettin' "news-paper" in "North Central Minnesota," which we weren't aware was currently covered with a thin layer of oil.

As part of our EXCLUSIVE RESTONIAN INVESTIGATION (the only part, really), we Googled around and found the name of this "little-known company" overseeing the Marhsall Islands ship registry. It's International Registries Inc., and instead of being headquartered on the Marshall Islands, it has office space on Commerce Park Drive right here in Reston. You can also register your private yacht with the company, so once that AdSense revenue starts pouring in, watch out for our 30-foot pleasure craft, proudly displaying the flag of the Marshall Islands, terrorizing the electric pontoon boats on Lake Thoreau.

Reston Master Plan Task Force Meeting Tonight 'First and Maybe Last Major Opportunity' for Public Input

The awesome Reston Master Plan Task Force With the Awesomely Long Acronym as a Name (RMPTFWALAAAN) meets tonight, and the folks at the Reston 2020 committee are calling this "the first--and maybe last--major opportunity for you to listen or speak to the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force that is in the process of re-shaping Reston into an urban community."

Here's what Reston 2020's Terry Maynard had to say about the importance of the meeting, and the process writ large:

The focus of the open comment session will be to gather community inputs on what should be done in developing the Dulles Corridor area--roughly the area between Sunset Hills and Sunrise Valley drives--and Reston Town Center, especially the under-developed north area from Baron Cameron to Bowman Town Center drives.

The task force has spent months hearing County officials and outside experts about what exists in these areas and the opportunities for transit-oriented development (TOD). TOD calls for high-density, high-rise, mixed-use (residential, office, retail, & other) development around the coming Metrorail stations. This is your one opportunity to make a contribution before they move on to deciding what and how much may be built where over the next several decades along the Dulles Corridor and in Reston Town Center.

RCA's Reston 2020 Committee will be participating as a civic group. Its five work groups, covering such important issues as urban design and livability, environment, transportation, parks and recreation, and implementation, phasing, & financing, will be making very short presentations based on their months of research on these issues. The reports these work groups have submitted to the Task Force that back their brief presentations, they will be available on Reston 2020's blog (Reston 2020: Citizens Shaping Reston's Future) by Monday evening.

Reston 2020's experience has indicated that the Task Force will listen and consider the concerns of the community. First, the vast majority of the Task Force members are Restonians. Second, Reston's civic groups are adequately represented among the Task Force membership, including RA, RCA, ARCH, and the P&Z Committee. Most importantly, the Task Force has demonstrated an increasing openness to new ideas as it has progressed. If you have a concern or idea, I think they will listen to and consider your thoughts.

If you are invested in Reston as a place you plan to live for most of the rest of your life--and hope that maybe your children (or future grandchildren!) will live here too--I strongly urge you to attend Tuesday evening's meeting. The meeting will be held at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne South Lakes High School and begins at 7PM. The meeting will give you the opportunity to hear other Restonians' concerns and ideas as well as give you an opportunity to share your own. If you wish to speak, be prepared to say what you want in three minutes because we expect many others will wish to speak as well. Your participation in a huge turnout would be fantastic for the Task Force and the future of Reston.
Along with Reston 2020, the Reston Association Environmental Advisory Committee and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce are expected to speak. Take note: the meeting is strictly BYOFCB (bring your own fanciful concrete bollards).

Screen shot 2010-05-11 at 10.06.29 AM.jpg

Update: The location of the meeting was changed at the last minute to South Lakes High School, home to other level-headed discussions of weighty issues.

Monday, June 7, 2010

This Week in Crime: 15 Years in Wetsuit-Clad Slaying of Taxi Driver, Plus Robbery at Reston Homestead Suites

110508gargiuloevan.jpgEvan D. Gargiulo, the wetsuit-clad Reston man who shot a taxicab driver in 2008, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The man who shot a Fairfax County cab driver to death, after he couldn't pay his $130 fare, was sentenced Friday in Fairfax Circuit Court to 15 years in prison.

The man claimed that cabbie Mazhar Nazir, 49, who lived with his wife and 12-year-old son in the Baileys Crossroads area, came over the front seat at him after he revealed he had no cash for the ride from the District to Reston and then to Tysons Corner. But evidence at trial showed Nazir was still wearing his seat belt and had been shot in the back of the head on Nov. 2, 2008.

In March, Evan Gargiulo, now 23, a Hillsborough, N.J., man who had recently moved to Reston, claimed he was temporarily insane when he shot Nazir. A jury rejected that claim and convicted Gargiulo of second-degree murder. The jury then imposed a sentence of 12 years for the murder, and three years for the use of a gun. Nazir's family and cab driver friends, who attended every hearing in the case, were stunned. But they attended again Friday, as a final farewell to Nazir.

Gargiulo's lawyer, Barry Helfand, asked Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. White to suspend five years of the jury's sentence, and impose a 10-year term. Helfand also proposed that the judge order Gargiulo to pay "reparations" to the Nazir family, in the amount of $250 a month, or 20 percent of his gross salary, once he is released from prison.

Gargiulo stood and apologized to the Nazirs, and particularly to Nazir's son Zain Nazir, now 13, whose emotional testimony at trial had an entire courtroom in tears. "No one could fill the hole in his life that I created by taking away his father," Gargiulo said Friday. "That is entirely my fault...I'm truly sorry."

Judge White could have imposed or reduced the jury's sentence, but he could not increase it under Virginia law. He imposed it, and declined to order reparations.

"You say you want to make things right," White told Gargiulo. "I don't think there's anything you can do to make things right in taking the life of this gentleman. Paying reparations doesn't make things right."

There is no parole for prisoners in Virginia, but they may be released after serving 85 percent of their time if they have served with good behavior. Gargiulo has been in the Fairfax jail since his arrest in November 2008. With good behavior, he will be eligible for release in about 2021, when he will be 35 years old.
And 14 years younger than Nazier when he was shot in the back.

Meanwhile, the Homestead Studio Suites on Sunset Hills Road was robbed Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday, June 5 around 12:09 p.m., a 26-year-old female hotel clerk and a 27-year-old female were robbed. A man entered the Homestead Studio Suites, located at 12190 Sunset Hills Road, displayed a gun and demanded money. Both victims turned over cash and personal property. The suspect fled on foot in an unknown direction. There were no injuries.

The suspect was described as white, around 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 2 inches tall, medium build and wearing blue jeans and black T-shirt.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, e-mail at or text "TIP187" plus your message to CRIMES/274637 or call Fairfax County
Police at 703-691-2131.
Update: Weirdly, the Homestead Studio Suites in Sterling was robbed the same day. Maybe someone really likes the complimentary breakfast buffet.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The DRB Is Going to Need a Bigger Boat

Screen shot 2010-06-03 at 12.09.33 PM.jpg
This exciting image from one of those "interactive web sites" put together by some group of SUV-hatin' hippies shows what it would look like if Reston was at ground zero of the BP oil spill, only instead of oil, maybe it would be red mulch spreading rapidly out of control, beyond the boundaries of our fair community and the ability of the DRB to do anything about it. Oh, the humanity!

Can You Hear Me Now? Tree Disguised as Cell Phone Tower Considered for Lake Newport Pool

CellTower_Camo_closeup.jpgHey, it's a tree carefully pruned to look like a cell phone tower! Or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, the Reston Association is considering a proposal to stick one of these bad boys at the Lake Newport Pool complex. Apparently all those cellular iPhone email machines the kidz are "web logging" with these days have created huge demand for more cell phone towers and whatnot.

The proposed Lake Newport tower would be one of the “stealth tree” models, which are constructed to look like part of the surrounding foliage.

Lawrence Loring, a site acquisition specialist with Compass Technology Services, summarized the need for the tower to the Board of Directors, as well as the process for placing the tower.

STEALTH TOWERS are usually placed in the middle of a wooded area, and they are placed in a secure area, separated by an 8-foot high board-on-board fence. All power lines are placed underground, and unless one is standing within a few feet of the tower, there is no sound, Loring said.

He also addressed several of the common issues that tend to arise within the community before construction.

“If it weren’t crucial to T-Mobile, they wouldn’t do it, the objective is to first find an existing structure,” Loring said. “They’re safe facilities, there’s no scientific evidence anywhere to suggest any sort of negative health impacts. There’s the argument of lower property values, there’s no evidence to support that either.”

“At some point, these towers are going to have to be in Reston someplace, we might as well have our input in how they come into Reston,” said Milton W. Matthews, chief executive officer of the Board of Directors.
The RA board harrumphed for a while, then board member Richard Chew posed a Zen riddle.
“I’ve seen a number of these stealth tree poles, and they’re terrible,” said Richard Chew, an at-large director on the board, but admitted, “I may have not seen a few others that were fine.”
If an ugly cellphone tower falls in the forest and no one sees it, does it make a sound? (Answer: not if it belongs to T-Mobile, which has, what, five customers these days?)

If the RA goes ahead with covering the pool with a giant plexiglass dome, couldn't they just stick the antenna on top of that? That way, it could double as a lightning rod.

Anyhoo, the RA board kicked the can over to the DRB, which will require the tree to be painted "burnt orange" to fit in with the surroundings, the end.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This Week in Crime: Hunters Woods Elementary Break-In, and an Update on Garden State II: Full Metal Jacket

lloyd-woodson-branchburg-moteljpg-871392790d475911_large.jpgHey, remember that time Reston native Lloyd Woodson decided to go on a nice vacation in New Jersey, and brought an "arsenal of weapons" with him? Yeah, that was awesome. Well, he's planning on pleading insanity, which seems like a decent strategy, given that he apparently preferred the charms of the Garden State to our own earth-toned community.

The attorney for a Virginia man accused of stashing an arsenal of weapons in a motel room here said he plans to pursue a psychiatric defense on his client’s behalf.

Lloyd Woodson, 44, of Reston, Va., was charged with multiple offenses, including second-degree attempted armed robbery and possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose.

During today’s status conference before Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong in Somerville, defense lawyer James Wronko said a psychiatrist, Martin Weinapple, has evaluated Woodson and is waiting for the man’s military records before he completes a report.

The Jan. 25 case started shortly before 4 a.m. when Branchburg police responded to a call about a suspicious person inside a Quick Chek on Route 28, the prosecutor’s office has said.

Woodson was in the store about 40 minutes but ran out when a patrolman approached him. Officers then arrested him at the Regency Trailer Park on Route 22.

He was wearing a bullet-proof vest and had a loaded Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle converted for .50-caliber rounds, authorities have said.
In the room he rented at the Red Mill Inn on Route 22, police found another semi-automatic rifle with a defaced serial number, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and other items.

Federal officials say he also had a map of the U.S. Army base at Fort Drum, N.Y. Woodson is facing a federal charge for being a convicted felon in possession of weapons.

Woodson deserted the Navy in 1989. It was eight years before he was returned to naval custody, and he was discharged in August 1997, according to military officials.
Meanwhile, closer to home, someone broke into Hunters Woods Elementary School... for no apparent reason.
Someone broke into the Hunter Woods Elementary School, 2401 Colts Neck Road, some time between 2:13 a.m. and 2:20 a.m. on Thursday, May 27. Minor damage was caused inside but nothing appeared to be missing.
Guess seven minutes wasn't long enough to find the really good gluesticks.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fancy Garage May Be Only Thing Standing When Metro Comes to Reston

Garage.jpgAlthough Fairfax County supervisors approved the fancy new Comstock Wiehle Metro development last week, there's no guarantee anything except the attractive parking garage will be started--much less finished--by the time the first dangerous, smoke-filled Metro cars roll into the Wiehle Metro station in 2013.

Although there might not be any new buildings at the Wiehle Avenue Metro station when service starts in 2013, riders at least will be able to park at the Reston commuter rail station.

Although the market will determine how quickly new buildings go up, developer Comstock Partners has promised that, at a minimum, the Metro facilities, parking garage and the public plaza will be complete when service begins in late 2013. Comstock is building the project through a public-private partnership deal with Fairfax County, which owns most of the land that will be developed.

As part of the development, Comstock will make some improvements to the Wiehle-Sunset Hills intersection to accommodate increased traffic volume and make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, said Rick Stevens, a county transportation planner. The Washington & Old Dominion Trail crosses Wiehle Avenue close to the intersection.
So now we know what the fanciful concrete bollards are for.
Comstock has made changes to the plan throughout the review process to address community and county staff concerns, such as promising to set aside 19.5 percent of the residential units for low- and moderate-income housing. The buildings also will be built to environmental design standards.

Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said this project is only the beginning of redevelopment proposals to accompany Reston's two future Metro stations.

"It's important that this site is developed well, but it's also important that the adjacent properties complement that development," said Hudgins of Reston.

Hudgins said she thinks the project now reflects the principles that Reston was founded on 46 years ago.

"This is really the beginning of this project, and making sure that it represents what Reston is," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D-At Large). "I think this will be a very exciting place."
Here's hoping "market conditions" allow the site to be something other than a muddy field civic plaza adjoining an ugly parking garage by 2013.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Something New To Worry About: Bigfoot Sightings in Reston?

bigfoot.jpgApparently a group of investigators tracking Bigfoot sightings in Virginia didn't take a recent report from Reston too seriously -- or should we say seriously enough?

The small but avid universe of Bigfoot enthusiasts includes self-styled investigators who pursue their quest during off-hours from their day jobs. Willard, for example, hosts an Internet radio show and maintains a Web site from his home in Manassas; he also monitors his Bigfoot hotline for reported sightings (a recent caller announced "I just saw Bigfoot in Reston," before exploding in laughter and hanging up).
We shouldn't take such sightings lightly. After all, if it lived in Reston, we're guessing Sasquatch would take a NIMBY approach, politics-wise, to the recent stream deforestation restoration process. It would consider that kind of redevelopment of its habitat akin to, oh, we don't know, building a lightless canyon near a Metro station or something. All we know, Bigfoot could be biding its time, waiting to strike at the unwary passerby with the force of a thousand DRBs.

Sadly, none of the three "documented sightings" these folks have recorded in Fairfax County were anywhere near Reston. Apparently Sasquatch prefers to throw rocks at people near Occaquan Reservoir than to live, work, and play in our own earth-toned community. Go figure.