The coming of Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Temperatures drop from the 80s to the 60s, even the 50s. I get to put on a long-sleeved shirt and yet feel just a bit of a chill in the air. Still weeks from Reston trees being filled with colorful leaves, the Reston Farmers Market turns to pumpkins, squashes and long-awaited apples to replace fading sweet corn and peaches, plums and the softer tree fruits of summer.
However, my warm and fuzzy thoughts of fall have been rudely interrupted by news that a plan is afoot to thrust a casino on our beloved Reston. Yes, a casino! In Reston!? It is hard for me to imagine a worse idea.
Sadly, the plot is already in motion, driven by Comstock, the developers of the Wiehle Metro Station complex. The plot involves a two-step approval process. The first step is to generate legislation from the Virginia legislature to encourage casinos in areas meeting certain criteria … for example, around transportation hubs such as Metro stations. The plotters have identified at least three Democratic legislators who might assist with legislation, and they plan to lubricate the legislative machinery with the pols favorite fuel — cash. A fundraiser for these Dems — State Senators Dave Marsden and Scott Surovell, and Del. Don Scott, current House of Delegates Minority Leader, will be held at the Wiehle Station Oct. 16. Why on earth would Restonians want a casino in the community? Some legislators, such as Senator Surovell, will tell you, as he has told me, that casinos bring needed tax revenues which might otherwise go to Maryland instead of Virginia. That of course is not all they are likely to bring, and they are known to take a disproportionate share of profits from low-income families who can least afford to gamble. Perhaps legislators are always on the lookout for more revenue, and perhaps it's less of a hassle to get it from casinos than from higher income residents who are so resistant to paying taxes. I hasten to point out that our local legislators, Senator Jennifer Boysko and Democrat Karen Keys-Gamarra, who is expected to win the seat of retiring Reston Delegate Ken Plum, both oppose a casino here. Before anyone builds a casino, it will have to be approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. I know that Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn certainly is not on board for a casino. I don’t know where Board Chairman Jeff McKay stands but, I imagine both the Chairman and other Supervisors would be reluctant to oppose Alcorn on the matter! Still, this is a political issue and there is money involved. So, if you think a casino is a bad idea, you might want to let your elected officials know it.
Meanwhile, Fairfax County consultants leading Supervisor Alcorn’s effort to revitalize Lake Anne’s commercial center last week stirred up new controversy within the Lake Anne Condominium (LARCA) itself. While LARCA asked for the County’s assistance for revitalization, their fervor for financial help cooled after Alcorn made clear that PART of the County’s quid pro quo would be giving the County control of its commercial parking.
As we near a rubber-meeting-the-road stage, the consultants’ actual proposals include, for example, a couple of amphi-theatres that do not even directly benefit LARCA members’ businesses. Furthermore, the proposals include removal of most of the remaining trees in the village center area. (Note: Fortunately, the trees proposed for removal are on land not owned by either LARCA or the County.)
Alcorn recently got Board of Supervisors approval to add more than $200,000 to the consultants’ contracts. Let’s hope that the additional consultant effort will broaden the participation of real stakeholders and modify proposals to increase their impact on the Condominium Association’s member businesses as promised. Stay tuned.