I had the privilege of chatting with Parker Messick earlier this week, at Caffe Amouri. He’s one of four candidates seeking election to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors from the Hunter Mill district, following the announced retirement Supervisor Catherine Hudgins.
This was a first for me, in many ways, so let me share a few things that I learned.
About this election.
First, this is such an overwhelmingly Democratic district that, for all intents and purposes, this Board of Supervisors seat will be decided in the June 11 Democratic primary election. It’s not even clear that there will be a Republican candidate.
Second, the Democratic primary election often has low voter turnout, particularly in off years. For the June 2017 Democratic primary — where the vote was for, among other things, the candidate for Governor — a little over 13,000 people cast votes in the Hunter Mill district. (Out of about 85,000 registered voters, data taken from the Fairfax County’s official county-wide returns). Given that four democratic candidates have declared, a few hundred votes one way or the other in this election could easily determine who will be on the next Supervisor from Hunter Mill District.
About the issue(s).
Hunter Mill district encompasses Reston and Vienna, and in Reston, the main issue appears to be development. There, zoning is controlled by Fairfax County, and attempts to increase the density of development — particularly along the Silver Line — appear to be meeting some significant resistance. You can see some bits of newspaper coverage here, here, here, and here.
If anything, it appears that the citizens of Reston are more fired up about this than we are. That might have to do with self-selection: If you bought a house in Reston, you bought into the entire idea of a planned, fairly egalitarian community with relative low density. So the fact that they’re now changing the rules may not sit well. But in addition, they have some actual buildings up, and people there can see for themselves where Reston is headed.
I was not surprised that Reston is facing some of the same issues as Vienna. In part, it’s the economy, but in part, it’s new opportunities that have opened up. In Reston, it’s development around the Silver Line. Here, it’s the change in zoning to allow high-density housing on Maple.
What I did find interesting is that, in both cases, the governmental authority seems to be in quite a hurry. You can read that for Reston, here. And in the case of Vienna, you can hear concerns about the rapid schedule for revising MAC zoning and lifting the moratorium on new MAC projects, described by various Town Council members as “ambitious” and “unrealistic”. So the government response in both communities, to an awakening of public concern, is to plow ahead as fast as possible?
About the candidate.
My first response to Candidate Messick is that he’s young. I mean, granted, I’m 60, so for me, “young” covers the overwhelming majority of the population. But he’s a couple of years out of college. Objectively, by the usual standards of elected office in Fairfax County, that’s young.
His response was: “I’m the only candidate under 50”. That is, of the four candidates announced for the Hunter Mill seat.
And I have to say, he has a point there. What we’re seeing this year, in Fairfax County, is in some sense a retirement of the old guard. And by that I mean, not only have most of the Supervisors served several terms, they are past typical retirement age. Supervisor Hudgins, for example, is 74.
And in just the same way that most people look young to me, to Millennials and late Gen Xers, a bunch of 50-year-olds replacing a bunch of 70-year-olds may not exactly register as a youth movement. To hear Candidate Messick express it, to the younger generation, that sort of change would be seen as business-as-usual, rather than as any sort of significant change in direction.
The second thing that registered about Candidate Messick is that he is sincere about retaining Reston’s traditional community character. He grew up living here, just on the border between Reston and Vienna addresses. He’s seems pretty much OK with Reston the way it is.
And that doesn’t come out just as an opposition to increasing the density of development. One seemingly odd position is that he’s opposed to charging for parking at Reston Town Center. At first blush, that seems like just a random bit of government meddling in the private marketplace. But ultimately, if I translate his reasoning, using the words currently being tossed around in Vienna, he thinks that Reston Town Center is a significant “gathering space” for the Reston community. And paid parking is kind of screwing up that fairly important bit of the fabric of their community. And that’s why he has taken that position. He’s focused on the fact that seemingly “nuisance” parking fees are adversely affecting his community.
Why is this page up, on this website? Two reasons, really.
First, to Vienna residents who oppose these new MAC buildings, the message is, we are not alone. This is not some sort of aberration. Reston is, if anything, facing tougher challenges than we are. And they are, if anything, more fired up than we are.
The second is to note that this is the first time I have ever had a candidate for Board of Supervisors reach out to me and ask for a meeting. I mean, my only claim to fame is posting articles on this website. Which ain’t much. But that shows how much the development issue appears to matter in this year’s election cycle, for the Hunter Mill district.
To be clear, our zoning is controlled by our Town Council, not the Board of Supervisors. Yet I can’t help but think that having a strongly anti-development Supervisor would, in some ill-defined way, be helpful to Vienna residents opposed to MAC development.
IN ANY CASE, this is a reminder that the Democratic Primary is June 11. That a few hundred votes one way or the other in that primary could easily decide who our next Hunter Mill supervisor is. And that this race is shaping up to be a way for you to express your sentiments, one way or the other, about the size and pace of development in our area.