News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, May 20, 2011

DRB Follies, or What Will Infill Redevelopment Do to Reston's Existing Neighborhoods?

inflill.jpgUnder the not-at-all-sensational headline "Is the Reston Design Review Board For Hire?", a group of neighbors in a South Reston cul-de-sac have alleged in a letter to the editor published in the Fairfax Times and the Reston Connection that the DRB has greenlighted a teardown that would create what the neighbors call a substantially larger lakefront home on Lake Thoreau for which a member of the board allegedly served as a consultant.

A group of neighbors who have lived on the same cul-de-sac for 30 years are opposing a proposal to tear down an existing home and build an oversized replacement at 2004 Cutwater Court.

We are not against the concept of a rebuild; we object to the size and mass of the rebuild proposed for this site. The proposed structure would be nearly twice as big as the current house, all above grade, on a small 11,000-square-foot lot. It seriously would infringe upon the privacy of close neighbors, as well as some neighbors across the inlet. Several huge trees will also be destroyed.

The proposal is out of scale and not in harmony with the neighborhood... Building "McMansions" on small lots is not in keeping with the character of Reston. It is precedent setting. It should be fully debated.
Let's hope we're not moving into a glorious new era of unchecked infill redevelopment, which will be something there will be a lot more pressure to do as the Silver Line hawtness starts pushing attention and housing prices up in existing neighborhoods. Infill development is almost certainly inevitable and can be done well, but to get a sense of what it can look like when unchecked, wander through some of the 1940s and 1950s neighborhoods near the Metro stations in Arlington, where modest ranchers sit shoulder-to-shoulder with buildings three or four times their size, and often, their height.

People worry about entire neighborhoods being bought out and redeveloped, but a 20-minute walk through a neighborhood like Westover is all it takes to show that piecemeal infill development can be far more devastating if it's not done in a way that respects the character of the existing buildings in the neighborhood. We don't know a lot about the "grammar" of architecture, but we do know an oversized building in an established neighborhood sticks out like a middle finger.

Then there's the whole conflict of interest thingy alleged in the letter to the editor:
On April 19, the third DRB meeting on this matter, Richard Newlon, one of nine listed DRB members, announced he now is advising the applicant, the owners at 2004 Cutwater Court, on their project and would therefore recuse himself from voting.

We were shocked to hear this without any prior notification.

The architect for the 2004 Cutwater Court applicant then made his presentation before the DRB.

Newlon, from his DRB chair, spoke in support of revisions. He questioned an affected party when she voiced her concerns. Newlon sat like a DRB member, but he talked and acted like an advocate and lobbyist for the applicant.

When asked, DRB Chairwoman Barbara Byron said what Newlon is doing was something that was done all the time. She was dismissive about any possible unethical implications.

At one point, Newlon even left his seat with the other DRB members, moved around to the front of the table, presented arguments in favor of the applicant, and quipped that perhaps he belonged on this side. He then returned to his seat next to the other DRB members, engaged in discussion with the other members when the merits were deliberated, argued forcefully for the applicant, and recused himself only from the actual vote.
Of course, letters to the editor are by their very nature one-sided, so we don't know all the facts. But this looks embarrassing.

Although the DRB approved the size of the expansion, there is some "good" news for the property's neighbors:
The official DRB letter that followed said the owners of 2004 Cutwater Court now only need to make some architectural fixes on the proposed structure, and we, the affected parties, can no longer bring up the primary issue, which is the size and massing of the proposed structure.
In other words, you can build a giant shiny McMansion by the lake, but by god, it had better not have snap-in munions in the windows.

Update: Richard Newlon responds to the letter to the editor, arguing that the property owner hired him because they "felt that having an architect more familiar with Reston’s Design Guidelines and contextual design in one of our most beautiful neighborhoods would be to everyone’s advantage," that his input resulted in a design that was more "responsive to the neighborhood," and that the DRB's architect members are frequently involved in similar roles:
Reston architects on the Design Review Board frequently have Reston clients that they represent at the DRB hearings. At the beginning of this meeting, I read my prepared statement that stated my involvement with the project and that I would recuse myself from the voting. I did make comments on the presentation and the design as the application was heard. This is all quite normal.

I would suggest that the negative energy the neighbors have toward this project be re-directed toward the specific design, and not the venomous attacks they’ve directed at their neighbor, myself and the Design Review process.
Read the full text of his comments here.

Update #2: The property owners have written their own response to their neighbors' letter to the editor, arguing that their information about the project was misleading, defending the DRB as "an objective process that is designed to promote proper development" that required them to go through two costly redesigns, and calling their neighbors' objections "a reflection of their bias against long-established processes and policies that have worked against their desires and interests." (Read the full text of their comments here.) They conclude:
DRB Officials are correctly focused on what is fair and reasonable for residential redevelopment in Reston based on objective criteria that must not be influenced by a hypocritical and mean spirited cabal of neighbors even if they have lived in Reston for 30 years.
And beyond the acrimony surrounding this one proposal, the DRB's role as redevelopment projects like this start popping up with increasing frequency in our aging neighborhoods is the real issue at stake here.

Update #3: The Reston Association has issued a statement about the issue.

Update #4: A commenter echoes our concerns about this issue in a much clearer way than we were able to:
This is perhaps a healthy opportunity to explore the larger issue of how a DRB can/should function in a future age of in-fill. "Conflict of Interest" issue aside, are total home rebuild/in-fill development scenarios "too big" for the DRB? Should another authoritative body within Reston have responsibility?

Choices in siding or roof colors are one thing, but entire homes rebuilt from scratch? Houses in the south of Reston are well past forty years old and are reasonable targets for in-fill, and our best answer might not be a volunteer board of skilled architects that reserve the right to consult on the in-fills in question. This is not to diminish the excellent work done by the DRB, but rather, it is simply to point out that the stakes are too high not to have greater accountability, transparency, and (unfortunately) hierarchy of review.

And so we can hope that this resolves itself in as amicable a manner as possible, but everyone is watching because precedent will be set with these early in-fill examples.
Nicely put.

46 comments:

  1. One word of fact: The house to be built is smaller than its neighbor's. It is not outsized or out of context.

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  2. Unless I am misremembering the goosesteppy rules that RA randomly applies or ignores depending on how cranky they feel, don't two neighbors, including one cluster board member, have to sign any application submitted to the DRB?

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  3. Applications submitted to the DRB have to be signed by two neighbors and one cluster board member. However, the signature only states that the signee has been made aware of the application and that they have an opportunity to be listed as an affected party. It does not mean that you agree with the application.

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  4. Anon 10:33,

    The current house is not out outsized. The proposed monstrosity is severely outsized and out of keeping with the neighborhood of homes that have been there for 30+ years.

    What's worse however, is the DRB's absolute corruption. The chair of the DRB was a PAID CONSULTANT for the tear-down/ McMansion rebuild.

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  5. That is outrageous.

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  6. The first comment is totally untrue and sounds like it was written by the applicant of this monstrosity. This structure is all above grade and will be the biggest on its lot size (about 1/4 acre) of all houses on Lake Thoreau. What else need be said as this is FACT. The applicant is trying hard to justify this eyesore by giving false data when making comparisons to neighbors' homes. The applicants whole presentation has been questionable and is currently under investigaion but not by the DRB. However, the complicity of the DRB with the applicant is beyond suspicious, raises serious ethical issues, and needs investigation by the RA.

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  7. Please, someone with knowledge of the rules: tell us what we all can do, no matter where we live in Reston, to prevent this monstrofication from happening. Is that a new word? I see this in Vienna on my way to word, and it's horrible. Thanks, Restonian, for bringing it to light!

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  8. What's worse than a nit-picking, iron-fisted DRB? A nit-picking, iron-fisted DRB that is also corrupt. Maybe I can have that purple house with green spots I always wanted -- all it'll take is to hire one of them as a paid consultant.

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  9. If Mathews makes more than $200k in salary and benefits and Reston is not a town, there is something very wrong at the RA. What more can you expect?

    As for the DRB, it's a joke. There are no clear guidelines and it's a toss to get anything approved. It's nothing new that some DRB members get hired as consultants to help with this process because of how ambiguous it is.

    RA needs some massive cleansing. When will the board grow a pair and start cleaning house?

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  10. In response to the accusations directed at me in their letter to the Editor from the neighbors of Cutwater Court, I would like to clear the air. I’ve been a Reston resident for over 20 years, on the Design Review Board for 13 years and had my own architectural practice for almost 40 years.

    I was retained by my client on Cutwater Court to assist their architect in preparing designs for their proposed new residence on their lakefront property on Cutwater Court. Their original designs were criticized by the Design Review Board at their first presentation, and they felt that having an architect more familiar with Reston’s Design Guidelines and contextual design in one of our most beautiful neighborhoods would be to everyone’s advantage.

    The subsequent design, after my input, displayed a complete re-design of the first proposal. Massing was reduced, height reduced, materials made more homogeneous, architectural elements more cohesive, and in general a design more responsive to the neighborhood.

    Reston architects on the Design Review Board frequently have Reston clients that they represent at the DRB hearings. At the beginning of this meeting, I read my prepared statement that stated my involvement with the project and that I would recuse myself from the voting. I did make comments on the presentation and the design as the application was heard. This is all quite normal.

    I would suggest that the negative energy the neighbors have toward this project be re-directed toward the specific design, and not the venomous attacks they’ve directed at their neighbor, myself and the Design Review process.

    Richard Newlon A.I.A.
    Architect
    Member, Reston Design Review Board

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    Replies
    1. I don't live there don't have any reason to take a side but I do live in a home owners association so I do know what its like for people to tell you how to keep your home yard and porch when did it become everybies business how you built your house and whether you mowed your lawn on Saturday??? Unless this man is taking over land he didn't buy why is it any of ya'll business its his money let him spend how he wants that's the American dream or have you all forgotten that???

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  11. This is what is known as an interested transaction.

    Newlon has his interest as a hired gun for 2004 cutwater over the interests of the community and his duties as a member of the DRB.

    Then you have the structural bias of the DRB. On one hand you have Newlon who knows and works with the other members who apparently also engage in similar practices, so even if he recuses himself from voting but then advocates f0r 2004 in his capacity as an "independent" architect, there is no way that the DRB can have an impartial vote.

    The DRB is a broken body that needs to have stronger ethics rules to keep this sort of thing from occurring any more.

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  12. I don't care how often a member of the DRB has been retained for design guidance. It is very clearly a conflict of interest and should not ever happen. Mr. Newlon, your recusing yourself does not erase this conflict of interest. The rest of the DRB members are your colleagues; it's very easy to see, particularly from the chummy way your presentation to your colleagues was described to have been, how the other voting members would be predisposed to vote in your client's favor. Who from the DRB can the neighbors hire to be in their corner?

    Whether the neighbors' attacks have been "venomous", I don't know -- but their complaint has raised an important question of conflict of interest and whether members of the DRB should be consulting in the fashion you did.

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  13. I live in a 3,000 sq ft house that feels too small. I would love to add square footage! Dang, those darn DRB rules. Hmm, what to do.

    I know! I'll hire a member of the DRB as a "consultant"! That should grease the wheels for me!

    Hey neighbs, got my sweet extra square footage! You no like? Too bad!

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  14. Beau & Susanne LendmanMay 22, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    We are the owners of the property at 2004 Cutwater Court, which was the subject of the “Letter to the Editor” in the May 18 issue of the Reston Connection. In that letter, our neighbors criticized the Reston Design Review Board (DRB), disparaged the reputation of one of its members, Mr. Richard Newlon, and accused us of influence peddling. The neighbors resorted to such a public letter because they oppose our project and are not getting their way to block it. In their arguments, they claim that they have lived in Reston for 30 years. That does not make them right.

    First of all, their letter is full of blatant misrepresentations. They claim that the issues have not been fully debated while over the past year there have been three public DRB meetings that they have attended, and for which we have provided a multitude of presentations. As a result of these meetings, the DRB has required that we undertake two major redesigns, at significant expense. The neighbors call our new design a “McMansion,” when in fact, the size of the new house will be less than two of the homes of those who signed the subject letter (2006 and 2008 Cutwater Court). Furthermore, the new design is not “nearly twice the size” of our existing house and our new lot coverage will be no greater than our adjacent neighbor. The obviously hypocritical positions taken by our neighbors have been a sad fact since we began this process.

    Another fact is that the homes in our neighborhood were built nearly three decades ago and most no longer meet the needs and lifestyles of the current generation. Since 2003, we have lived in our lake house that lacks lake views from inside and has numerous space, plumbing, electrical, and other structural problems. Having consulted more than half dozen architects, the best and cheapest option was to tear down and rebuild rather than renovate.

    We understood from the beginning that DRB approval would be required. Over the past year, we have found the DRB to be professional, cautious in adhering to the rules, considerate of the comments of others when they make sense, and forward thinking. Notwithstanding, the DRB is not a magisterial court. It is comprised of experienced professionals who are helping us formulate a design for a new house that meets the established criteria. There is no basis for collusion between us and the DRB and no basis for “influence peddling” within a collaborative process that exists to ensure that new houses fit into the Reston architectural aesthetics. The availability of a Reston architectural expert and DRB member like Mr. Newlon to assist us makes perfect sense for an objective process that is designed to promote proper development. Our neighbor’s characterization of this assistance as unethical is a reflection of their bias against long established processes and policies that have worked against their desires and interests.

    We can only guess at their underlying motivations, but in their effort to block our project, our neighbors have resorted to spreading false information about our project within the community; writing libelous letters to the DRB; hiring an attorney against us; appealing to the full Reston Board; and numerous other actions that show no sense of propriety. Notwithstanding, DRB Officials are correctly focused on what is fair and reasonable for residential redevelopment in Reston based on objective criteria that must not be influenced by a hypocritical and mean spirited cabal of neighbors even if they have lived in Reston for 30 years.

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  15. Wow. I've been wanting to put an addition on my dinky townhouse but figured the DRB would kill it out of hand. Now that the Djini has been let out of the bottle, I might want to reconsider moving to a new *more expensive* home.

    Let's see. I've got between the back of my townhouse and the survey spike. If I build a 10' addition on the back of my townhouse, that will give me an addition 500 sq ft. Plus, my property backs up to woods, so the only people that will see it are the neighbors in my row.

    This has me really thinking now. I have a two story unit but there are several three story units in our sub-division. Maybe I'll go up and out. And my assigned parking spot is in front of my house. Maybe my old living room will become my new garage with the new kitchen and living room where my existing bedrooms are at.

    The possibilities are endless...

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  16. Referring to Mr. Newlon as a "hired gun" and as being "chummy" with his fellow DRB members is just plain tacky. I feel sorry for the applicants on Cutwater Court. It sounds like their neighbors are a bunch of real jerks with major attitude problems.

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  17. Without seeing the Lendmans' plans, those of us who are hearing about this via Restonian and media outlets can't know whether their claims that they're not trying to build an outsized McMansion hold any water. All we know is that several neighbors on the street feel that the plans, if implemented, would harm the character of the street.

    And still, the conflict of interest issue remains. The burden to be in compliance is with the homeowner, and the burden to enforce the rules is with the DRB, and the members of the DRB should not be allowed to take money to help homeowners get into compliance.

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  18. There is no appeal. As members of the RA have explained to me, the DRB reports to no one. Once they decide that's the end of the road. So threatening to appeal to the RA board is pointless; they could even disagree with the DRB's decision, but there is NOTHING they can do about it.

    Changing this would require amendments to the bylaws of RA.

    If the powers that be wish to run Reston as if it were a "real" town, then they should stop with the clubby DRB and convert to a zoning department. The developers are long gone from residential Reston so we should be done with their tool of compliance. The artsy-fartsy critique clique should be revamped. Fewer "professionals" and more real residents.

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  19. Question presented: Is the DRB for sale?

    Newlon stated: "Reston architects on the Design Review Board frequently have Reston clients that they represent at the DRB hearings."

    Answer: Yes it is apparently.

    FYI Ms. Lendman, something is libelous only if it is not true. Pointing out the ugly truth of an unethical transaction is not libel.

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  20. Mr. Newlon says "Reston architects on the Design Review Board frequently have Reston clients that they represent at the DRB hearings." Oh? and how frequently might that be? RA needs to investigate. And the answers are unlikely to be reflected in DRB Minutes. There's nothing in the April 19th meeting minutes regarding Mr. Newlon's statement about his involvement with the project and that he would recuse himself from the voting.

    DRB policies on ethics, conflict of interest, and transparency need addressing.

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  21. After reading all of this, I have come to the conclusion that I would HATE to live on Cutwater Court. What started as inconsideration has blown up to nastiness. Even the people get to build what Newlon has designed, their neighbors will never be ... neighbors or friends. What a price to pay to have a lake view.

    I, too, have reservations about the propriety of professionals who serve on the DRB also being hired by people to present to the DRB. In the law we have a saying that the appearance of impropriety is. The old smoking gun still smokes.

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  22. All one need do is go on the Fairfax County.gov website that lists the sizes of all homes to see that the applicants of 2004 are presenting information to all that is in direct contradiction to Fairfax County's figures (used as our tax base) by saying that their proposed house is smaller than 2008 that has 4,034 sq. ft. above grade and 2006 that has 5,307 sq. ft.--not to mention that 2006 is on over an acre of land with a house that does not infringe upon the privacy of anyone. With what we feel are deceptive plans presented that did not comply with the DRB Guidelines for submission we have no way of telling what the real square footage of 2004 is going to be. No square footage is listed on their drawings only a figure given by them which I guess all are suppose to accept if "the born yesterday rule" applies. With all the data manipulation that has been presented to get this monstrosity through plus hiring and paying a DRB member (as if there were no other architects available) we were well advised to seek counsel as it is beyond what good neighbors would do. We just ask for a house that fits in with the character of our neighborhood and is not so massive as to overwhelm the entire neighborhood and infringe upon the privacy of others. How can the justifiable concerns and rights of the affected parties be fairly considered in such a seemingly corrupt situation?

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  23. I sincerely hope that the Lendman's neighbors put down their pitchforks and torches. It is time to let cooler heads prevail and work together to resolve conflict--much like Mr. Newlon, the Lendmans, and the Design Review Board have been doing the entire time. Mudslinging on the part of the opposition is not only counter-productive, but is clearly full of untruths that are not only mean-spirited but slanderous. Quit churning out propaganda and unfounded accusations and focus on peaceful resolution, neighborly unity, coexistence, and old-fashioned good manners.

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  24. The Letter to the Editor asked: Is the Reston Design Review Board for hire? In his blog on this Web site, Mr. Richard Newlon's said yes he was retained by his client at 2004 Cutwater Court. Mr. Newlon implicated other DRB members by saying they encouraged his involvement as being to everyone's advantage. (Not the affected parties I must say!) Mr. Newlon brazenly stated that Reston architects on the DRB frequently have Reston clients that they represent at the DRB meetings. I think that's what is called "pay for play." Chicago-type politics has come to Reston. Reston is better than this.

    Mr. Newlon seems to think that recusing himself from voting makes everything alright. He totally downplays the manner in which he spoke out from his seat at the DRB in favor of the project of his paying clients from Cutwater Court. He was forceful in his comments and he was dismissive of any objections or criticisms. He even questioned an affected party. Mr. Newlon acted and performed like a full-fledged DRB member. And who knows what calls may have been made before the meeting.

    I believe the Cutwater Court neighbors do not oppose the project per se. The neighbors oppose the sizing and mass of the proposed structure. The entire proposed structure has to be built above grade while others in the neighborhood had parts of their construction done below grade. This makes the size comparisons apples and oranges. The comparisons should be above grade to above grade and the footprint justified by the size of the lot. Some aspects of the architecture are also questionable as to blending into the neighborhood. One DRB member even thought some aspects were wacky to use her words. The lakeside is virtually all glass, looking a bit like an office condominium.

    Mr. Newlon in his blog also touts his contribution to the project in somewhat glowing terms as you would expect any paid consultant to do. Unfortunately, this paid consultant can also justify his fees because he has the potential power to influence other DRB members to shut down dissenting opinions which in this case are the affected parties.

    So we raise this blatant conflict of interest and Mr. Newlon calls it a venomous attack. Really. Is it venomous to expect the DRB to review cases fairly and at an arm's length? Is it venomous to expect a DRB Board Member to not cut personal deals to benefit financially for helping an applicant at the expense of affected parties? Is it venomous to expect the DRB to have a Code of Ethics? Is it venomous to try to make sincere points to protect a 30 year investment?

    The fact that Mr. Newlon boldly condones this unprincipled conduct of getting paid to advise applicants whose proposals are before the DRB and doesn't see anything wrong with it is venomous, which in this case means toxic. And in his blog, Mr. Newlon calls it all quite normal. If the Reston Association allows this kind of unethical conduct to continue then everything that Reston is supposed to stand for in the way of character, harmony, community and exemplary living conditions is a sham. All projects before the DRB should be put on hold until this is fixed. The Reston Association must stop this unethical activity by the DRB immediately. Who is in charge?

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  25. Regarding the outrageous letter written by Cutwater Court residents:
    Richard Newlon and the rest of the DRB are unpaid volunteers. They work tirelessly (and often thanklessly) to protect the beauty of our homes and neighborhoods. I am saddened, as a Reston resident, to see a neighborhood’s opposition to their neighbor’s design turn so malicious that they are publically assaulting the professionalism and ethics of one of our community’s kindest, most beloved volunteers.
    Richard Newlon is a professional architect who was hired as a consultant because of his knowledge of Reston and DRB guidelines. Mr. Newlon’s experience and expertise assisted the applicant and their architect in revising the proposed design so that it would meet design guidelines.
    Any applicant approaching the board has the same rights to an advocate as the complaining neighbors of Cutwater Court who had an attorney represent them at the DRB.
    The professional positions on the DRB are filled by professional architects who live and work in our community. There is nothing wrong with a professional architect being hired for his experience and knowledge whether he is a volunteer on the Design Review Board or not.
    It would be a great wrong to our community if only those who do not know anything about the design review guidelines speak and vote at DRB meetings.

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  26. The assertion that the DRB is corrupt is patently untrue. It is clearly an utterly ridiculous attempt to manipulate the public with misinformation and ‘conspiracy-mongering’ by a few disgruntled neighbors who aren’t getting their way.
    For those of us that love to “stick it to the Man”, and are tempted to blindly accept the falsehoods and accusations of corruption being slung so casually about by an angry handful of people, allow me to break it down for you:
    How many McMansions and polka-dotted house does one find here in Reston? Wait for it…
    None.
    Want to know why? Well, you can thank (rather than spitting nails at) the DRB. Yes, folks, that’s right. The Design Review Board reviews each and every one of our proposals to assure that it will adhere to our Reston design guidelines. They are on our side, protecting our interests, as they have done for years and will continue to do.
    Who are these DRB members, who according to some posters here are nothing but corruption incarnate? These DRB members are community volunteers. Read that again, if it didn’t sink in. The DRB is composed of people—our friends and neighbors, in fact—who live and work in Reston, just like the rest of us.
    I can hear you gasping, but it’s true. In fact, I happen to know Mr. Newlon and many of his fellow DRB members, and may I assure you that anyone who knows Mr. Newlon finds the assertion that he is anything but one of the nicest, most thoughtful, caring, honest, good-hearted members of our community and advocates for Reston to be complete and utter horse manure. Honestly, it actually makes me feel sick inside reading the level of rancor in many of the previous posts. Do you folks beat up kittens when you’re not harassing the DRB and your neighbors at 2004 Cutwater Court? I mean, come on! This vultures-circling-for-carrion routine is getting silly. If anyone is unethical, it is you folks who appear to have no compunction about publically demeaning another human being’s character, ethics, etc.
    Retract your fangs. Or go find some three-legged dogs to kick. They would be just about as “corrupt” and worthy of persecution as Mr. Richard Newlon.

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  27. Beau and Susanne LendmanMay 23, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    With respect to the 5/22, 7:31pm comment from "anonymous," please be advised that the square footage of our new home design is 5,015 as per our architect and civil engineer. As per Fairfax County, our neighbors at 2006 Cutwater Court have 5,307 square feet (6% larger); our neighbors at 2008 Cutwater Court have 4,034 above grade and about 1,700 below grade for a total of about 5,800 (about 14% larger). The Lot Size of 2008 is smaller than our lot while they have a significantly larger house. These numbers have been repeatedly provided yet, beyond any logical reason, our neighbors refuse to accept them.

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  28. "Unpaid volunteers." "working tirelessly." "13 years." That doesn't seem to be the American way. In America, everyone's interest is his conflict of interest.

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  29. The Lendmans do not get it--2006 is on over an acre of land while 2004 is on about 1/4 of an acre. Building on 2004, because of the lake, has to be all above grade. Someone in first grade would understand that you don't compare above and below grade or apples and oranges! Do we believe your figures? The house is enormous and unsightly and covers almost the entire small lot. The unethical practice of pay for play has to stop. Deception may be OK with some but not with those of character! If 2004 doesn't get it by now, they never will. The precedent will be set for polka dot houses! Out-of-touch!

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  30. The lot size of 2008 Cutwater Court is 10,436 square feet. From the lake front, all of 2008 is above grade with at least 4 levels. It is a massive home that is significantly larger than what we are trying to build. Our 2004 lot is 11,740 square feet, 13% greater than 2008 while the interior square footage of our new design is 14% less than 2008. These numbers are facts that speak for themselves.

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  31. We would be very pleased if 2004 would do as 2008 did and build 4,034 above grade. Wow, would this be fantastic! Fairfax County says 2008 is 2 1/2 stories your quote is 4 stories. Well this comes from one that cannot conceptualize above and below grade and the true impact it has on house plans. As said above--you just don't get it! Enough--we have better things to do!

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  32. I recommend all parties resolve this at the table, in person, vs the blogosphere... The points being raised are sound from both sides -- i truly believe this can be resolved if handled respectfully in person.

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  33. Very sad to see a dispute among neighbors get to this point. Maybe Cutwater Court should be renamed Cutthroat Court.

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  34. Amazing. This is an embarrassing for the whole neighborhood. Bad neighbors, all of them, right or wrong.

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  35. Embarrassing for them; entertaining for me. Keep up the good work!

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  36. To follow-up on on anon just above, all the hot air shared above is an embarrassment to Reston, not just the neighborhood. Can you imagine someone thinking of moving to Reston reading this balderdash? It's enough to make one want to live in Herndon.

    In the end, it is the unintended consequence of historically RA over-aggressive design and covenants programs in which everyone thinks they have a say in what everyone else's property should look like.

    Maybe if we cut back the heat on what everyone else's property should look like--whether its design or the color of the shingles--we'd have a better, more diverse, more tolerant, community.

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  37. Calls and letters in support of the parties affected by this eyesore proposed at 2004 Cutwater have been pouring in. Keep them coming! The affected parties have actually lived in harmony and as close friends for over 30 years. This 2004 incident is a first! The more letters dropped in our mailboxes and calls in support of the affected ones--the better. Blogs from those who have not seen the plans are meaningless! Wow--we actually have a SUPPORT GROUP growing!

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  38. At the May 12, 2011 Reston Association Board of Directors meeting, several members of the Association from the Cutwater Court neighborhood raised concerns related to a recent hearing of the Design Review Board (DRB) and whether one of the DRB members acted ethically.

    The DRB decision on the project has not been made yet. Moreover, according to our governing documents, the Board will not be commenting on the decision regarding that property.

    In addition, it is important to remember that the members of the DRB must disclose relationships with any applicant.

    The Reston Association Board takes comments by members seriously and is in the process of considering their statements as well as conducting interviews with appropriate parties. As a matter of long-standing policy, any discussion involving personnel – paid or volunteer –is conducted in executive session and accordingly, we will do so at our next meeting on Thursday, May 26.

    After the Board has concluded its discussion of the situation, we will provide a response. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and continued cooperation.

    Finally, we truly appreciate the time and concern of all the members who spoke at the board meeting and the hard work of the members of the DRB.

    Thank You.

    On Behalf of the Board of Directors,

    Kathleen Driscoll McKee

    President, Reston Association

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  39. While no one (Convict excepted) wants to watch this painful episode on Cutwater Court continue, this is perhaps a healthy opportunity to explore the larger issue of how a DRB can/should function in a future age of in-fill. "Conflict of Interest" issue aside, are total home rebuild/in-fill development scenarios "too big" for the DRB? Should another authoritative body within Reston have responsibility?

    Choices in siding or roof colors are one thing, but entire homes rebuilt from scratch? Houses in the south of Reston are well past forty years old and are reasonable targets for in-fill, and our best answer might not be a volunteer board of skilled architects that reserve the right to consult on the in-fills in question. This is not to diminish the excellent work done by the DRB, but rather, it is simply to point out that the stakes are too high not to have greater accountability, transparency, and (unfortunately) hierarchy of review.

    And so we can hope that this resolves itself in as amicable a manner as possible, but everyone is watching because precedent will be set with these early in-fill examples.

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  40. Amicable Resolution?!? I'm thinking something more along the lines of a cage match.

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  41. In her blog, RA President McKee said, "it is important to remember that the members of the DRB must disclose relationships with any applicant." Special relationships between DRB members and applicants are a conflict of interest and they should be disallowed.

    DRB members should be prohibited from accepting money for consulting or for any other reason from applicants. That is pay for play. And recusing oneself from voting is not enough because there are so many other ways that a DRB member who is being paid by an applicant can influence the outcome of a DRB decision in favor of the applicant. Money is a corrupting influence.

    The problem with all of the above is it tilts the playing field dramatically in favor of the applicant. The affected parties are left with virtually no rights. They can submit a letter and speak for three minutes at a DRB meeting. They do not have an inside pleader who has a vested interest to advocate on their behalf.

    Ms. McKee says the RA will issue a response after it meets this Thursday. The RA should forbid special relationships between DRB members and applicants. Failure by the RA to state emphatically and unequivocally that members of the DRB cannot under any circumstance accept payment of any kind from applicants and / or affected parties for proposals they are considering, will amount to a tacit RA endorsement of an unethical practice.

    And let me point out as another blogger did earlier, Reston is a maturing community and the possibility of future teardown / in-fill projects looms on the horizon. The DRB is handling the proposal for 2004 Cutwater Court in a very slapdash manner when it is a precedent setting decision. All of Reston should demand a more professional approach in replacement building because it is coming to your neighborhood.

    It is unfortunately becoming apparent that the DRB has unchecked power. It has no Code of Ethics. While it appears that the RA appoints members to the DRB, the RA in many ways seems to have no oversight powers or at least chooses not to exercise them. Ms. McKee writes that according to RA governing documents, the RA Board will not be commenting on the decision regarding the property.

    Will the RA at least stand up and comment on the absolute necessity of updating and modernizing the DRB's modus operandi for this and future teardown / in-fill projects before the whole process runs amuck. Please do it now before this thing at 2004 is built. Perhaps, as the some have suggested, the DRB should be scrapped in favor of a zoning board or some other professional body. Something needs to be done before we allow a beautiful community to be destroyed by cavalier and influenced decisions. Silence is not an option.

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  42. The DRB decision regarding Cutwater Court is tainted. Clearly, through conflict of interest,
    improper influence was applied to affect the final outcome. The DRB should itself invalidate the ruling if it wants to retain the public's trust, and arrange a new hearing for the project.

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  43. "Want to know why? Well, you can thank (rather than spitting nails at) the DRB. Yes, folks, that’s right. The Design Review Board reviews each and every one of our proposals to assure that it will adhere to our Reston design guidelines. They are on our side, protecting our interests, as they have done for years and will continue to do.
    Who are these DRB members, who according to some posters here are nothing but corruption incarnate? These DRB members are community volunteers. Read that again, if it didn’t sink in. The DRB is composed of people—our friends and neighbors, in fact—who live and work in Reston, just like the rest of us. "

    Yeah volunteers who accept fees to make sure that proposals get rammed through. Paragons of virtue they are.

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  44. The notion that Richard Newlon has committed some kind of indescretion here is ridiculous. The DRB has a number of professional architects as members. These architects volunteeer their time in an effort to keep Reston beautiful - and to keep neighbors from each others' throats. If they are prohibited from engaging in their professional pursuits while they serve on the DRB, then they may well not be able to afford to volunteer their services.

    Those who complain about these professionals practising their craft while serving on the DRB should be prepared instead to pay them salaries so they can afford to turn down business. I haven't seen any comments in support of paying salaries to these men and women - just complaints about them also earning a living while serving [for free] on the DRB.

    The policy of the DRB is for members to recuse themselves when engaged by an individual who appears before the DRB. Mr. Newlon did just that. He did not act as a DRB member. He did not vote on the matter at hand. He represented his client - and apparently he represented him well. For this he should not be criticized.

    I'd like to add that I am the president of a cluster in Reston and have had numerous opportunities to observe Mr. Newlon's work on the DRB. I have appeared before him and the DRB many times. He has always impressed me with his objective, very measured approach. His ethics appear to me to be unimpeachable. He is a credit to the DRB and to Reston - and, I am certain, to his profession.

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  45. So is there any update to this story?

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