Activists Unite, Support Town Status

Activists Unite, Support Town Status

Local political divisions fade when it comes to Reston becoming a town.

A long time ago, a consistently divided group of prominent Restonians — Vera Hannigan (R), Dr. Thomas Wilkins (R), Mike Corrigan (D) and Marion Stillson (D) — had reached one of the oldest political agreements: they agreed to disagree.

But last week, in an act of solidarity on the television show, Reston Impact, these same people reached another agreement.

“Tonight we are united on having Reston become a town,” said John Lovaas, host of the TV program and former chair of the Hunter Mill Democratic Committee.

Reston, which is now worth $11 billion in residential and commercial property, has grappled with the notion of becoming a town before. It went to referendum in 1980, but did not pass, and in 1988, the idea was thoroughly examined, producing a study of governance options in Reston.

“This time,” said Lovaas, “it seems to have a new sense of urgency.”

Corrigan and others cited the case of Metro coming to Reston as one reason for the issue’s recent resurgence. He explained how Reston, the 14th largest community in Virginia, was virtually ignored during Metro train discussions when compared to the town of Herndon, a much smaller community. Incidentally, Herndon, because it is a town, was able to maintain its 25-cent tolls at its exits on and off the Dulles Toll Road, while the tolls at the Reston exits will double May 22.

EACH OF THE GUESTS on the TV program proceeded to make arguments why Reston should be a town.

“I supported the issue [of township] in 1988,” said Wilkins, a long-time community activist. “I wanted what was best for the citizens of Reston.”

Now, Wilkins, who moved to the Reston Town Center, feels Reston is being split in two.

“We need to rid ourselves of the two Restons," said Wilkins. "You have an RA board and a board governing the Reston Town Center.”

Hannigan, former chair of the Hunter Mill Republican Committee, agreed.

“We are losing our own people moving out to the Reston Town Center; they lose the right to be involved in Reston Association issues,” she said.

“The best type of government is a government closest to the people and that is a town,” Wilkins said.

Many critics of the idea have argued that making Reston a town would create another level of government.

“This is not an extra layer of government, this is replacing a layer of government,” said Stillson, who sits on the board of the Reston Citizens Association (RCA) whose chief issue has been to help Reston become a town.

A township would increase Reston’s control over its own infrastructure, said Corrigan, president of the RCA. He called the current system “fragmented” and “complicated.”

“If you have a town, you also have an outreach office that pursues grants from organizations as well as government grants,” said Hannigan. “But none of us can apply for that because we’re not an entity.

“One of the other reasons we should support town status is because of the higher density the county is assigning us,” said Hannigan.

She said that the county has increased density but hasn’t dealt effectively with the ramifications of increased traffic and increased damage to the roads.

“Our advising role has been ignored when its come to critical decisions,” she said.

According to Hannigan, township would give Reston control over zoning and planning, helping to resolve many of these concerns.

“The time has come for us to move forward on having Reston become a town,” Wilkins said.