News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Reston's Uncivil War, or Something, Magazinesplained In 3,600 Excruciating Words, Not One of Which Was 'Bollards'

Have you felt a little bit... unsettled this holiday season? Maybe it's not those extra cookies or all that eggnog you had at the holiday party the other night, but rather that you're "locked in a battle for your soul. And golf."

Fancypants Washingtonian magazine, fresh off its culinary review of Reston's finest, and now forever changed, dining locale, returned to our plastic fantastic planned community with a lengthy feature, which consolidated the complexities of the past five years of Metro-fueled development into... um, bright yellow T-shirts and subtle racism?

Give us some good scene-setting blockquote, BFFs at Washingtonian:

Looking back on it, the night 900 people marched into South Lakes High School was probably the moment when things got out of hand in Reston. There was the preposterous number, for one. And how most of them came dressed for combat in bright-yellow T-shirts. Nine hundred fired-up citizens descending on a municipal meeting, demanding to take back their town, fighting for all that was good and righteous. And also, ostensibly, golf.
Imagine thinking that people being vocal about the future of their community is "preposterous." But apparently it was also "portentous." By all means, magazinesplain what that means to us simple flatlanders:
The forces blowing through the room—class, generational politics, race—were no less portentous.
Funny, we thought it was about rubber-stamping development without any supporting infrastructure, and in particular the idea of increasing density far away from the Metro stations we're condescendingly told is where development should be. Maybe we need a civics lesson:
But this was not quite a civics lesson. It was closer to a blitz. Within four minutes of questions and answers, the crowd began booing the Fairfax County officials pitching the plan. There was a frenzy of accusations, recriminations, even an allegation of bribery. The county was going to ruin Reston! As the Yellow Shirts shook a sea of multicolored placards, the room convulsed like a geriatric day-glow rave.
Never mind the fact that the proposal that so preposterously and portentously brought out nearly 1,000 supposed geriatric racists was ultimately tabled after the county first tried to developmentsplain that "we can't stop development waiting for roads to be built" and then shamefully attempted to shut down public input completely. But okay, NIMBYs and racism, sure.

We'll spare you the Wikipedia-fueled summary of Reston's glorious past (which somehow still managed to skip the good stuff) and the quotes from various people on Both Sides of the Battle For Reston's Soul, and just skip to the end, since that's where journalists, like filthy "web loggers," tell you what they personally believe by picking who gets the last word:

In the absence of consensus, each new development is becoming a symbolic, piecemeal battle about Reston’s identity—all over again. And the Yellow Shirts, if they didn’t exactly welcome this new phase, seem ready. At our last meeting, Hays, the former ambassador, flipped his phone over the table and showed me the website for Rescue Sunrise Valley. It’s a new citizens’ group, opposing a proposed development—not along a golf course but near the Metro. “They’ve got a website, flyers, bulletins, information sheets,” Hays noted proudly. They were meeting Saturday. Did I want to go?
Had the reporter actually gone to that meeting, he would have learned that this "symbolic piecemeal battle," in fact, resulted in some significant concessions and improvements in the way the mauvescrapers were massed in the Campus Commons proposal, along with fixes to help traffic flows, and, most importantly of all, a pledge to put some money into getting the more than 1,000 people who will live and work there across six lanes of Wiehle Avenue to the nearby Metro Station with something slightly safer than a crosswalk and crossed fingers.

Shockingly, there was no "geriatric day-glow rave" or cries to "keep the poors out" or whatever -- just reasonably voiced concerns about legitimate issues which were, for once, at least acknowledged by the developer (no thanks to the county, BTW).

We don't question our former County Supervisor or others for their sincerity about keeping Reston open and inclusive -- and if people in Reston didn't want that, more of them would move to Loudoun County, where you apparently can successfully oppose the redevelopment of a golf course without being accused of being a geriatric yellowshirt, or whatever. But it's too easy to paint all opposition to growth with a single brush, and as others have pointed out, there are powerful forces that benefit from doing so -- and are putting lots of money into trying. Too bad the reporter missed that part of the story.

To be fair, it's not just Washingtonian. Another filthy "web log," Greater Greater Washington, has written similar sneering pieces equating any opposition to development to NIMBYism, at first lumping together the legitimate concerns raised about Campus Commons and "Manhattanization scare tactics" and asking "if we can’t build there, where can we?"

We'll say again we'd rather live somewhere that's growing, not stagnant. At the same time, we shouldn't fault people for resisting unchecked development, a county government that has historically overrided calls for the additional affordable housing that these writers accuse Restonians of not wanting, or the wanton destruction of open space that -- if we are to cite Bob Simon and his vision for Reston as the Gospel against which the yellowshirters have sinned -- can (and should) co-exist with dense, well-thought out development.

The reality is that each new development will have to be a "piecemeal battle" for the "soul of Reston," or whatever, which is as it should be. Something tells us that the "Great" Falls and Northwest Washington residents who are our supposed betters make up the bulk of Washingtonian's affluent subscriber base would likely agree if someone decided to pop a 14-story mauvescraper that might be home to Those People next door, the end.


  1. Don't forget LBJ! According to the article, he and the Great Society Subway (aka Metro) are the whole reason Reston has gone to hell... said no one ever.

  2. Excellent analysis, Restonian. So nice to have an actual journalist cover the story. BTW, if Wofford had gone to that Saturday meeeting regarding Campus Commons, he would have met a number of younger faces with very small children in tow, asking to be educated on how they can effectively affect change. They are now part of Coalition for a Planned Reston. That 50-foot set-back between Sunrise Valley Drive and TF Cornerstone’s new buildings (at Campus Commons) will allow the developer to save some mature trees on their property and plant three rows of new trees. A very positive outcome!

  3. "Open space that -- if we are to cite Bob Simon and his vision for Reston as the Gospel against which the yellowshirters have sinned -- can (and should) co-exist with dense, well-thought out development."

    Well said

  4. Proud to be a NIMBY

    I attended the 900-NIMBY meet at South Lakes. Walking to the high school I passed more trailers than a FEMA site.

    Now, just where in the Master Plan is land set aside for North Lakes High School? Or the middle and grade schools to feed it? Or the roads, water, sewers, and facilities?

    Where are the teachers coming from? Do they expect the shabby Fairfax pay scale is going to house teachers in $700,000 condos? Who is going to buy $700,000 condos if their children are to receive a 3rd-world education in an overcrowded trailer?

    My little corner of the mauve paradise is pretty isolated from land grabbing. I still support NIMBY. Sooner or later some sleazy shyster is going to declare the sacred wetlands behind my place are only slightly damp lands, thus eligible for concrete and asphalt.

    So I shall support every NIMBY to the utmost in hope that when my patch falls under the developers' gaze NIMBY will support me.

    NIMBY now. NIMBY forever. NIMBY. NIMBY. NIMBY!


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