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Alcorn: Reston Master Plan Review Delayed; Budget Talks Continue

Patch logo Patch 3/25/2020 Michael O'Connell
a man in a suit sitting at a table: Supervisor Walter Alcorn (Hunter Mill) practiced social distancing by hosting a video call with reporters Wednesday morning. © Screenshot Supervisor Walter Alcorn (Hunter Mill) practiced social distancing by hosting a video call with reporters Wednesday morning.

RESTON, VA — At his very first meeting in January as the supervisor representing the Hunter Mill District, Walter Alcorn introduced a board matter kicking off a public participation process to amend the Fairfax County Master Plan for Reston.

Just a few months later, that board matter is on hold as the county figures out how it can conduct public meetings and encourage public participation as it advocates for social distancing as part of its response to the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

"We've had to delay initiation of the planned task force process," Alcorn said, Wednesday morning during a video call with reporters. "We've heard from a number of folks who had volunteered to be on a task force. I don't expect we're going to initiate any task force activity, until we make sure we can have a robust process."

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors was able to hold its regular meeting through a combination of remote and actual participation. Most of the supervisors were in their usual place in the Board Auditorium, while Supervisors Penny Gross (Mason) and Dalia A. Palchik (Providence) participated remotely via video calls.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion last Friday saying that all governing bodies in the state can conduct a public meeting electronically provided the meeting's purpose is to address a declared emergency, such as COVID-19.

For all other public meetings, Herring made it clear that in the interest of transparency and public accountability, government bodies should continue to meet in person and reserve remote meetings only for discussing matters specifically related to a declared emergency, such as the coronavirus.

At its meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a policy that would allow some members to participate in the meeting via electronic communications provided a quorum of the Board was in place at the Board Auditorium, as it was on Tuesday.

"Now we have the ability for individual members of the Board of Supervisors to call in or video in and participate in a meeting," Alcorn said. "We can have a regular meeting that's not limited to only emergency matters. I would call that a modernization of our system yesterday, which just makes sense."

In spite of the coronavirus crisis, Alcorn said the Fiscal Year 2021 budget process that County Manager Bryan Hill kicked off at the end of February when he presented his FY 2021 budget proposal is still moving forward.

"A lot of things have happened since the advertised budget was published," he said. "The Board of Supervisors Budget Committee is going to be meeting next Tuesday and that's going to be a particularly important budget committee meeting. At that meeting, the county executive said he will provide updated numbers and assumptions for the FY2021 budget based on what's been happening with the coronavirus response and how that's going to affect revenues."

Alcorn was planning to host two community meetings, one in Vienna and the other in Reston, to allow Hunter Mill residents a chance to voice their opinions about the budget. Those have now been canceled. They will be replaced with a virtual town hall scheduled for sometime after next Tuesday's budget committee meeting.

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