How will Reston move through the next several years - which will include the Metro coming to town and accompanying population and traffic growth - while still maintaining the community as an excellent place to live, work and play?
That theme ran through the series of questions asked to the six residents running for a spot on board of directors at Wednesday's Candidates Forum.
South Lakes director candidate (running unopposed) and five At-Large candidates (incumbent lawyer lawyer engineer and Realtor ) running for two seats answered a question from the RA's elections committee as well as series of questions filed in advance from citizens in attendance and citizens who emailed questions to RA.
There was lots of talk about RA assessments - whether they were too high, a good value and whether the candidates would pledge to keep assessments at the current rate
Several of the candidates said it is a good value for all residents get in retrun - but Reston can do better.
"People want to move to Reston," said Rostant, who for years used Reston's amenities as a non-resident. "You look at the 55 miles of paths, the 15 pools, the tennis courts - I don't think there is a place like that in Virginia. But there is always room for improvement. There are seniors on a fixed income" for whom paying the assessment is challenge.
Sanio has similar concerns.
"Assessments have increased," he said. "Incomes have not. How do we continue to support the many services Reston offers and end up with a balanced budget? I believe the board has an opportunity to strike that balance and demonstrate value for the residents."
Another question: if candidates will work to reduce expenses so "that no increase occurs on your watch."
Chew, who served as an At-Large director from 2007-10, said "you will see in my previous term I was one of few directors who voted against raising dues."
Farrell pointed out while the two-year budget has already been set, he said he will have an impact on the budget should he get elected.
"I believe there is money to be saved in the budget," he said. "When I get there, I am going to take a line-by-line analysis to see that we are not spending more than we need to serve you."
A foundation of Farrell's platform has been obtaining developer proffers to pay for building new recreational facilities such as a 50-meter indoor pool and an indoor tennis facility. Rostant agreed at the forum that alternative partnerships will be key to adding services while keeping costs down.
Thompson, like most of the candidates, said it is not wise to say assessments will not go up.
"The cost of goods and services go up," she said. "If you do not keep up, you run the risk of needing a special assessment. You cannot risk the value of your property by being pennywise and pound foolish."
Other topics posed to the candidates.
* What importance do you see for biking and walking in Reston?
Several candidates say Reston has some shortcomings when it comes to biking as means of transportation. Vis, a resident of Reston since 1979, says he has never thought of Reston's paths as particularly bike-friendly, but will "be mindful and listen" to experts such as RA's Pedestrian and Bicycling Advisory Committee.
Sanio, who has made sustainability a main part of his platform, says he has seen the shortcomings firsthand. He lives a quarter-mile from yet because his children must cross Wiehle Avenue, they are unable to bike to school. Farrell pointed out he has long advocated for sidewalks on Soapstone Drive and said proffer money could help complete the trail system so their are no gaps.
* What are your issues with the Design Review Board, and what kind of reform, if any, would you pursue? Should there be term limits on the DRB?
Thompson said the DRB will play an important role as Reston moves forward with development. Rostant said she is troubled by some homeowner's complaints of a lack of compassion.
While some candidates said term limits might be something to explore, others pointed out experience is necessary to have Reston's consistent vision represented.
* What will you work hardest to change?
Vis: "I work pretty hard already. Large ticket items, not annual expenses. We have to work to maintain the longterm assets.
Thompson: "I would like to see Reston be a lot more trimmed up. We have let the wild stuff in non-wild places get out of hand."
Sanio: "To procactively engage the association in development that is occurring and will occur in next five years. It is essential we get ahead of process so we can shape it now."
Rostant: "To work with the county and the in a cooperative effort. That is how we will get things done."
Farrell: "Proffers. We need to get them. If we don't , we will not be able to get two facilities, indoor tennis and a 50-meter indoor pool. But most important thing I want is transparency. There shouldn't be any surprises from the RA Board."
Chew: "I want to challenge the board to be great. We can better position ourselves to meet the challenges ahead. IF the board can be great, the rest of the stuff will fall into place."
* Reston has an increasing number of senior citizens. How can RA expand servies for them?
All candidates noted the popularity of residents staying in Reston as they age. Ideas on how to serve them included the indoor recreation facilities, improving pedestrian access and keeping assessments and fixed incomes in mind.
* Should Reston continue to look to finance indoor tennis?
Chew believes the continuing battle has nothing to do with money.
"The issue is where would we put it, not how would we finance it," he said. "They don't want it in their backyard."
Farrell suggested that not only could proffers pay for the facilities, they could also be built at a new site, such as tennis on the top of a parking garage or a pool in the basement of an office building.
Rostant said the board needs to do a better job of communicating that it can be done without assessments rising. Thompson and Sanio said they support the facilities, but not necessarily asking residents to pay for them.
"I have to believe we can get it through proffers," said Thompson. "It doesn't feel right to talk about financing when people are struggling economically."
Said Vis: "I don't give much thought to the financing portion if we can't get past the whether to construct it or not portion."
* What would you do to ensure the board focuses on policy and sound governance while having a respectful dialogue and sound debate?
Sanio said he would lead by example. Farrell said he would insist on the board keeping to Roberts Rules of Order. Chew said the board could ensure a respectful atmosphere "if we put good people on the board."
To see the whole forum, tune into Comcast Channel 28 March 16 at 7 p.m; 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 1 p.m.
Voting is open though March 30.