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Reston Association creates land use committee to focus on development issues

Reston Association (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In an effort to amplify its voice on land use issues, Reston Association’s Board of Directors voted earlier this month to create a land use committee that will advise it on planning and zoning issues.

The board formalized the creation of the committee on Jan. 4 after tweaking its scope and overall purpose. The committee will create draft positions on relevant issues and provide recommendations to the board.

A majority of the board touted the proposal as a way to elevate the voice of RA and its membership on development and land use decisions, which have become a top focus of the community following Fairfax County’s adoption of an updated Reston Comprehensive Plan last year and anxiety about the possibility of a casino.

Board president John Farrell noted that members would be able to provide their recommendations directly to the land use committee.

Board director Jennifer Jushchuk said the committee addresses a concern about the effectiveness of RA’s advocacy on land use issues that she often hears in the community. Board member Jalal Mapar agreed that the committee allows RA to project its power.

“The number one thing that stands out for me is that RA needs to be forward-leaning and RA needs to be involved 1,000 percent,” he said. “The game has changed. It’s 2024. We’ve learned our lessons from the developments that were done where RA did not really have a strong voice.”

In the past, Larry Butler, RA’s longtime chief operating officer who retired last year, attended many land use committee meetings and was the point-man on relevant issues.

“Larry’s gone and so, things have changed,” Laurie Dodd, the board’s North Point district representative, said. “It’s time for [us to] formalize the voice of RA, and this is a way to do with a group that is responsive to the board and to the association.”

But the move was met by some consternation from three board members who voted against the proposal.

Board member Robert Petrine, RA’s treasurer, said he was concerned about the amount of time and resources that would go into maintaining the committee.

At-large board director Trevor Grywatch said he was unsure if an advisory committee constituted “the voice of our membership.”

Margaret Perry, the board’s apartment owners representative, also noted that RA needed more time to hash out the specifics of the committee.

“I don’t think we are there,” she said.

The committee will be composed of up to seven voting members with three-year terms. They’ll be supported by a land use planner and subject matter expert — a position funded in RA’s recently adopted budget.

RA CEO Mac Cummins, who supported the overall effort, said the board should ensure the committee’s work is not simply rehashed when issues are discussed by the board.

“If you’re gonna have a committee do all this work and you’re gonna re-litigate it all again till 2 a.m., you haven’t necessarily gained,” Cummins said.

The board of directors is now seeking candidates for the new land use committee, asking anyone who’s interested to contact Board Liaison Brittney Copeland at bcopeland@reston.org.

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