A Reston neighborhood dispute about a proposed home-building project has led to accusations of unethical behavior and the investigation of a Design Review Board member.
Beau and Susanne Lendman have been trying for about one year to obtain DRB approval to tear down their home and rebuild on the Cutwater Court site on Lake Thoreau. The family moved to Reston in 2003.
Their neighbors on Cutwater Court, as well as some who live across an inlet on Halyard Lane, say the Lendmans’ proposed design is too large and out of character with the other homes in the community. Most of the neighbors have lived in the community for 30 to 40 years.
After the DRB rejected two prior designs, the Lendmans hired DRB board member and professional architect Richard Newlon to help with their application. With Newlon’s work, the revised project is headed toward approval, although the DRB has yet to approve it.
Newlon recused himself from voting on the application but still participated in the May DRB meeting, according to people who attended the session.
That action outraged neighbors who opposed the project.
“This is supposed to be a board that represents all sides,” said Carl Grant, who lives adjacent to the Lendmans. “It is so wrong for a community such as ours to be dealing with a double-dealing board like that.”
Grant and eight other residents took their concerns about Newlon’s actions to the Reston Association Board of Directors earlier this month.
The RA Board was scheduled to discuss the community’s allegations against Newlon in executive session Thursday, according to board President Kathleen Driscoll McKee.
“We take our members’ comments very seriously,” McKee said, adding the board asked RA staff to compile information and brief them on the matter this week.
Lendman said there was nothing wrong with what Newlon did. The couple has spent about $40,000 on architectural designs and revisions, he said, and without Newlon’s assistance further revisions would have been guesswork as to what the DRB wanted to see.
“There was very practical assistance that he provided. It was essential for us to have that,” Lendman said. “We would still be doing redesign after redesign after redesign.”
Lendman maintains the design is not out of character with the neighborhood and said there are two homes on the street that are larger than what he is proposing.
“We believe that our neighbors are hypocritical and disingenuous,” he said. “I think they just do not want change.”
Halyard Court resident Carole Medoff, who said she can see the Lendman’s home across the inlet, was upset when she learned of the proposed design. With the large wall of glass the Lendmans want to install to take advantage of their lake view, Medoff said, the rebuilt home would “look like a hotel.”
She became further outraged when she learned Newlon was working for the applicants.
“I feel this is corruption,” said Medoff, a 40-year Reston resident. “If we have lobbying on the DRB … that to me is totally against the whole purpose of DRB.”
McKee said this is the first time she remembers such an issue coming up in her 12 years being involved with the RA Board, and she is unsure what the next steps would be.