Wednesday, June 26, 2013


As requested by Members interested in preserving the architectural integrity, appearance, and property values of Goodman Houses clusterwide, US Postal Service guidelines for through-door mailslots as published within USPS Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) Section 508 Parts 2.1.3 and 2.1.6, are summarized as follows: 

-  The slot bottom must be at least 30 inches above the floor
-  The opening must be at least 1 1/2 x 7 inches
-  Horizontal slots must have a hinged top flap
-  Inside privacy hoods shouldn’t be below the bottom of the outside plate and should not project more than 2 1/16 inches beyond the inside of the door.

Current USPS policy is that mail delivery to all new building developments be centralized, most often using Cluster Box Units (CBUs).  In addition, the USPS Office of Inspector General recommended in 2011 that USPS reduce labor costs by eliminating all door-to-door delivery, or to offset related expenses by charging extra for this service.  However, the new development CBU policy does not apply to existing individual residences like Hickory Cluster that receive door-to-door delivery, the Federal Government has not yet decided to eliminate all door-to-door delivery, and customers nationwide are resisting many such proposed changes to USPS service.

USPS guidelines above are supplemented by more specific RA Design Guidelines for Cluster Housing Mailboxes and HCA General Resolution 15 for Goodman House Mail Receptacles.  Products that meet these USPS, RA, and HCA requirements, and that provide weather-resistant seals, are readily available and easily installed.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Early photos show that Hickory Cluster once included a large children's playground between Blocks 2 and 3 near the western property boundary. 

Although not specifically shown on the original site plan drawings, this playground appears to be thoughtfully designed and most likely the work of Architect Charles M. Goodman or an associate.

Unfortunately the playground site was in a flood plain.  So the playground equipment eventually deteriorated, became a greater liability, and was removed.  Only the original wooden and metal bench remained.

Later two Goodman-style post-and-extended-beam swingsets were designed and installed, one near the playground and one near Block 1.  Since then, violent storms have wreaked havoc with Hickory Cluster trees.  A tree felled by the June 29, 2012 derecho storm crushed the swingset near the original playground.  The Board of Directors replaced both HCA swingsets in 2012 and added surrounding ground safety material.

In addition, one large tree partly-downed during the same derecho storm threatened to fall on a nearby RA footpath.  During the difficult and dangerous removal process, that tree was pulled clear of other supporting trees farther away than expected and accidentally damaged the former playground bench.

The HCA Board of Directors agreed soon thereafter to replace the bench, but a Director felt strongly that a location to the side of the now-open meadow might allow children and adults to run and play more freely.  It would eliminate a potential obstacle, potential injuries, and potential HCA liability.  It would be easier for grounds crews to maintain the meadow grass.  And since the original playground was long gone, the original bench location was no longer relevant.

Several Members disagreed with the Board and argued for replacement of the bench back in its original location in the middle of the meadow so they could be closer to their children.

UPDATE:  During the July 17, 2013 HCA Board of Directors meeting, Members and Directors discussed and then approved purchase and installation of two new wooden-slat benches similar to the original design, one in the Block 3 meadow as originally sited, and one nearby.  HCA Vice President Ralph Youngren FAIA is leading the effort.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


English Ivy is an Invasive Plant.  Reston Association and many others say so.  It grows over and up and into everything.  It clogs storm drains.  It invades and short-circuits pad-mounted transformer wiring.  It digs into brick walls, fractures mortar, and won't let go.  It damages tree bark, attracts gypsy moths, hides dangerous tree trunk defects, and smothers leafy branches, eventually killing otherwise healthy trees.  It often grows in combination with Poison Ivy.  And it shelters critters, including chipmunks, that some Members consider to be pests. 

However, English Ivy also provides excellent ground cover that controls soil erosion because its vast root systems anchor soil and help keep it from washing away.  It costs very little to maintain.  It can be very expensive to replace.  And in the eyes of many Members it looks just fine.

The RA Environmental Resource Team position on English Ivy is that they " ... encourage, but do not require, the removal of existing invasive species from private property, including Cluster common property."  Furthermore, " ... Plants already in place ... are grandfathered in, or exempt, from removal. ... "  A related RA brochure identifies eight common Invasive Plants, including English Ivy, that should not be planted in Reston after May 22, 2008.

In addition, RA Design Guidelines for Cluster Common Area Landscaping state that "DRB review is required for regrading or other erosion control projects.  Any such installation which alters the existing flow of water must not detrimentally affect neighboring properties or compromise the health of trees and existing vegetation."

Fairfax County also regulates erosion control and land disturbances, including cutting down trees or shrubs, excavating, grading, or adding fill dirt.  FC requires a Site Permit, Grading Plan, and Conservation Deposit for projects that will disturb 2,500 s.f. or more of land. 

The HCA position is that Members should not remove Hickory Cluster Common Area trees or plants, including English Ivy, or other cluster common property without first consulting and coordinating with the Board of Directors.  HCA has incurred thousands of dollars in unnecessary and unplanned landscaping expenses paid for by all residents to replace erosion control ground cover because of well-meaning but unauthorized removal by individuals. 

Members can also help HCA trees live longer and reduce tree removal costs by cutting and clearing English Ivy and other vines at tree trunk ground level.  And by removing as much trunk-attached ivy as possible.  This has been an easy and effective Cluster Clean-Up task for several years.  Removing vines from Goodman House brick and rear patio walls also helps maintain their integrity and appearance.

In response to recent concerns, HCA will be consulting with knowledgeable and experienced professionals to assess and propose budget-conscious solutions to related storm water runoff, storm drain, soil erosion, pad-mounted transformer, and ground cover landscaping and planting issues, hopefully consistent with the pending Stream Restoration project and with original Hickory Cluster modern landscape architecture intent, design, and construction.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Reston RELAC President Mark Waddell reported yesterday that Reston RELAC and Aqua Virginia signed legal documents on Friday, May 31, 2013 to transfer ownership of the system according to revised terms of their proposed agreement, including final stipulations of the Virginia State Corporation Commission.  RELAC is now a locally-owned and operated utility providing in-home customer service.