The Virginia Senate today voted 28 to 10 to allow Reston residents to vote on whether they want their so-called "planned community" to become a town, a legistative action that Fairfax County officials denounced as an "abomination."
"This is why we need home rule," complained obviously angry Fairfax Supervisor Joseph L. Alexander (D-Lee) after the vote."We go hat in hand to the General Assembly, and we get slapped down and stomped on. They take our money and grind us in the gutter."
County officials have long feared that incorporation of Reston would siphon off valuable tax revenue from the county and prompt other areas in the county to seek independent status. A county-engineered compromise plan, which would have turned Reston into a "chartered community" and granted it far fewer powers than are enjoyed by Virginia towns, was buried by a Senate committee earlier this week.
Northern Virginia's largely Democratic Senate delegation, which has struggled this session to present a united front, split down the middle on the Reston vote. Sen. Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun, Fairfax) whose district includes Reston, led the fight for the referendum measure, with the support of Sens. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William), Clive L. DuVal II (D-Fairfax) and Wiley F. Mitchell (R-Alexandria).
Waddell's Fairfax colleague, Democratic Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan, led the attack on the bill, with Fairfax Democrats Richard L. Saslaw and Adelard L. Brault, and Edward L. Holland (D-Arlington) also voting against it.
Waddell told senators that Reston, created as a "new town" in the Washington suburbs 15 years ago, deserves the "political freedom and liberty" to decide what form its government should take.
He said many in the 37,000 member community feel alienated by the county's huge bureaucracy. "Many citizens feel a sense of frustration in trying to deal with a government so big and so decentralized," Waddell said. "The bottom line (for Reston) is to be able to exercise some measure of control over its own destiny."
But Gartlan charged that the Waddell measure would open the door to the proliferation of towns within urban counties, a condition that some in Richmond call "municipal chicken pox."
"If we are going to change the law . . . who is to say the law should not be changed again and this county Balkanized by the creation of another city within its boundary?"
Gartlan argued that the state's annexation law prohibits the creation of towns or cities within urban counties such as Fairfax. If the Waddell bill took effect, he said, "all the painful work we went through a year ago (in enacting new annexation legislation) would go down the drain."
An amendment offered by Gartlan that would have required a countywide referendum was defeated by voice vote.
Waddell's proposal picked up some unexpected support from influential Senate Democrat Edward E. Willey of Richmond, who had opposed Fairfax's "chartered community" option in committee. "They (in Reston) just want to manage their own affairs," Willey said today.
Fairfax's Alexander pledged that the county board will launch a lobbying campaign against the measure when it is placed before the House of Delegates. Waddell said its chances there are "fair."
"I just can't understand why in the world they would do it (approve the Reston referendum) when they know it's wrong," Alexander said. He charged that town status for Reston would produce a costly duplication of government services and a loss of tax revenues for the county.