How About Some Good News?

How About Some Good News?

Independent Progressive

— It seems like nearly all our news is bad these days. Think about it. It’s not just the new kleptocracy in Washington. Here’s a sampling of our typical news fare: the Metro service we waited for so long cannot take us safely or on time from point A to point B; our Virginia legislature is such a nightmare that the biggest accomplishment out of Richmond this year is a standup Governor setting a record for vetoes to kill the laws they pass; Fairfax County’s latest rip-off of unincorporated and defenseless Reston is a special transportation district tax on Metro station area property owners to pay for neighborhood streets; and, our conflicted Reston Association’s purchase and golden gilding of the infamous Tetra/Lake House. I could go on, but let’s turn the page instead to a couple of big positives!

For two years we’ve been watching what many thought was another predictable saga of a developer having its way with a Reston neighborhood. I speak of the case of St. John’s Wood: 250 luxury apartments in “the tranquility of lush wooded landscape” says their website. Then, property owner Bozzuto Group announced plans to redevelop the 14-acre site with 5- and 6-story mid-rise buildings containing 625 multi-family units and 34 single-family townhomes. There was fierce opposition from SJW residents. As the proposal was reviewed by Reston Planning and Zoning (P & Z), now part of the Hunter Mill Supervisor’s office, and the Design Review Board, an appendage of RA, many issues arose and Bozzuto was asked to do some downsizing and redesign. The two committees seemed to be moving toward ultimate approval, while residents organized and were having none of it. Revised plans were submitted. After several revisions, the latest plan removed the townhomes and proposed two buildings with a total of just 481 units.

After Bozzuto made its latest case to P & Z, the neighbors team made their own impressive presentations, attacking every aspect of the proposal—traffic impact, architectural flaws, conflict with the Master Plan, and building massing unlike anything in Reston. Faced with this tour d’force, Bozzuto asked P & Z to defer a decision.

At the DRB review the next evening, the proposal was sharply criticized by Richard Newlon, the sage of the panel IMHO. Within a couple of days, Bozzuto “decided to indefinitely defer application for the redevelopment of the St. Johns Wood apartment complex,” according to the Supervisor’s office. This is a huge victory for the neighborhood. I’d like to believe this is final and that it could happen elsewhere, even to lower income folks! But, that remains to be seen.

Another item of truly historic good news is that citizens of Fairfax County now have an independent Civilian Review Panel to receive and review resident complaints about encounters with County Police. The Board of Supervisors has appointed CRP’s nine Panel members who are now preparing by-laws and a code of ethics, hoping to begin serving the public within a few months. The Panel is chaired by Adrian Steel, a leading member of the County’s Ad Hoc Commission on Police Practices created by the Board of Supervisors in the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of unarmed John Geer. Rhonda Van Lowe of Reston is a member of the Panel.

The CRP’s mission is to consider complaints involving: use of abusive, racial, ethnic or sexual language; harassment or discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, familial status, or disability; reckless endangerment of a detainee or person in custody; and, serious violations of Fairfax County or FCPD policies. I am cautiously optimistic.