"Back in 1968, when Robert Simon, Reston's founder, left, there was a feeling that if there was going to be a 'big county," and a 'big industry' (Gulf-Reston), then there had to be a 'union' to represent the community," said Joanne Brownsword. That "union" turned out to be the Reston Community Assn. (RCA).
RCA's original purpose was to present a united front for Reston against any efforts made either by Fairfax County or GUlf-Reston, the town's new developer, to change the nature of the new town concept.
"I guess you could call us 'preservationists," said Brownsword, who is serving as RCA's ninth president. "Although it's hard to talk about preserving anything so new as Reston."
After all, Reston is still on the road to "becoming" the self-contained urban area its founder envisioned. But, for instance, there is the matter of protecting the community from county-bred commercialism, particularly along Route 7.
Restonians like RCA's Planning and Zoning committee chairman, Calvin Larson, said that if Reston's own carefully planned commercial areas are to succeed, they must not be subjected to undue competition from non-Reston commercial development.
Larson's committee scrutinizes all plans for development, commercial or otherwise, planned for Reston and the surrounding area of Fairfax County.
"Most of the time, there is no problem," said Larson. "But we are very committed to retaining a 'green belt' of very low density around the town."
Last year when a portion of that belt was threatened - by plans to build a golf driving range on land that is now a children's zoo between Lake Fairfax Drive and Route 7 - RCA rose up in opposition.
RCA's fight was successful, so the "Pet a Pet Farm" with its llamas and ostriches, will remain as a buffer between the town and Route 7, at least for now.
But most of the association's effort and funds, which are collected in annual $3-per-household dues from RCA's 1,000 family members, go into perennial campaigns to convince Fairfax County voters that bonds for school construction in and around Reston are necessary.
"Getting out the vote consumers a lot of our effort," said Brownsword. "We have a lot of children here. More than the county planners calculate on the basis of their people per unit figures."
As for Gulf-Reston and RCA, there is an uneasy alliance between the two.
According to Larson, most of what Gulf proposes in Reston, the RCA supports. But there have been fights in the past, mostly over the density of development Gulf wanted to accomplish. And three years ago, RCA fought Gulf all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court over a gas station Gulf wanted to put on the corner of North Shore Drive and Wiehle Avenue. An out of court compromise was reached, and the station was built elsewhere.
"For years we've argued over density," said Brownsword. "Now the leadership at Gulf-Reston has seen it gets a lot further if it has RCA's support."
"I think we have a good working relationship with RCA," said Gulf-Reston executive vice president Francis Steinbauer. "Of course it has ebbed and flowed, but I would characterize relations as better today than they were some years back. I think the idea of an RCA is a good one for the community."
"They analyze all issues ver thoroughly, very objectively and most of the time - not always - I honor their position," said Fairfax County supervisor Martha Pennino (D-Centreville), whose district includes Reston.
As Reston has grown - its population is now 28,000 and it is estimated that it will be 74,000 by the mid-1980s - the interests of its citizens have become more diverse. And the RCA board, which is made up of representatives from all sections of the 7,000-acre town, has begun to reflect that.
In the past two years, there has been increased infighting between those who want to protect the status of their own areas, versus those who see change as a necessary ingredient in realizing Simon's original new town dream.
One of the bitterest battles has been over the location of a 102-unit subsidized housing project called Island Walk.
"A mix of economic strata has always been part of the Reston concept and the town's Master Plan calls for subsidized housing to make that a reality. However, the plan never designated where that housing was to be located," said Brownsword.
In the case of the Island Walk development, subsidized housing units are proposed for a site adjacent to a cluster of $80,000 to $90,000 houses called Golf Course Island. Residents of Golf Course Island have opposed the plan, which was jointly hatched by Gulf-Reston and the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority in 1975.
Twice, Golf Course Island residents have tried through court action to stop the project. Both times they have failed and, according to the housing authority ground breaking for the housing authority, ground breaking for the project could be this summer.
The Reston Community Assn. took a position favoring the housing project. "It has caused incredible bitterness on the board - bitterness which continues to this day," said Brownsword. "I don't mean to be pessimistic, but I'm afraid it's an indication of things to come, as we face more and more issues like this."
The RCA board was the scene of another struggle recently over a segment of Reston called "Parcel 12," 11 acres of vacant land on North Shore Drive, near Lake Anne. Residents of Waterview Cluster, again a group of $80,000 to $90,000 houses, opposed Gulf's plans to build town houses on the tract.
After factions for and against the development fought it out on the RCA board, the association's position simply stated a preference for more open space on the site. Site plans for the development have subsequently been nixed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, however, so yet another fight may be in store for RCA once Gulf-Reston decides what to do next.