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RA President’s Perspective: Understanding RELAC’s Challenges

by RestonNow.com January 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm 5 Comments

Lake Anne Plaza

By Ken Knueven, Reston Association

Living on Lake Anne is all it is advertised to be; it is beautiful, serene and a reminder of what has made Reston special for 50 years.  And, as I sit on my deck and admire the snow-covered banks, I am thankful that sense of peace and tranquility lasts throughout the seasons.

Of course, as close as Lake Anne is to my version of Utopia, I do understand it comes with a few challenges.  And yes, RELAC is one of those challenges.

The Reston Association Board of Directors is currently reviewing changes to the Use & Maintenance Standards Resolution 15; Air-Conditioning Units/RELAC HVAC System and is still accepting public comment on these issues.  Amendments have been made to constitute what establishes a member has “worked with RELAC” to correct/address problems with the system.

As well, new language has been added to clarify the term and conditions under which temporary exemptions from the covenant are to be granted.  These changes are not designed to make it more difficult to be removed from the system, but instead are intended to decrease the ambiguity associated with how one does get an exemption.

While RELAC has its detractors and critics, the community did have a chance to remove it as the cooling system for Lake Anne through a referendum a few years ago.  The community spoke, however, and chose to keep RELAC.  Those who own and operate the system need to ensure it is efficient for all who use it.  And, those who use the system need to discuss coming together and possibly resurrecting the community committee which existed years ago to look at the sustainability and viability of the system.

In the meantime; as with all RA board activities, the board needs your input on the rules allowing for temporary exemptions to use alternate methods of air-conditioning when needed for medical reasons.  The public comment period is open and we look forward to hearing from you.  You can email [email protected]  or attend an RA board meeting.  Board agendas will be available on www.reston.org prior to the meetings.

Ken Knueven is a Lake Anne resident and the president of  Reston Association.

  • Dennis McDermitt

    As written, the proposed amendments to the Use and Maintenance Standard increase the burden on RA Members with legitimate medical needs, fail the ostensible purpose of clarifying how a resident has “worked with RELAC,” and add significant ambiguities to the exemption process and covenant enforcement procedures. If the RA Board is confused as to why some are suggesting that it is placing the interests of a poorly run monopoly over the interests of RA Members, it need look no further than this confusing and badly written draft document.
    It is also disingenuous to suggest that we are stuck with RELAC in perpetuity because “a few years ago” the “community spoke.” That referendum took place more than eight years ago — eight additional years of inadequate cooling, poor customer service, inadequate capital investment, outrageous rate increases, and an obsolete system that is dwarfed in effectiveness, operating efficiency, and environmental benefits by quiet, modern air conditioning units.
    Regardless of one’s opinion of RELAC, the proposed amendments render the Use and Maintenance Standard even more confusing and ambiguous, and they do so at the expense of the people who “live, work, and play” here.

  • Tammi Petrine

    I have lived in Reston for 37 years and have NEVER heard one good thing about RELAC. I find contemplating “peace and tranquility” difficult if one is broke, hot and sick as many of the RELAC members have testified. God help the prisoners of that miserable system! One friend tells me that she pays $400/month for A/C during the cooling season!!! My entire electric bill for a large home has NEVER neared $400/mo.

    One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that moist, cool air on a hot day is a recipe for mold and a health hazard. Dry air can be much warmer and FEEL cool but moist air must be very cold to feel cool. What are the stats for energy efficiency for this beast that does not do the job, costs a fortune and promotes health hazards? Those are the facts that should be highlighted.

    The fact that our very own HOA, RA is forcing membership for this horrible utility is stunning. I have no idea how or why RA is supporting this mess but it is time to listen to the disenchanted membership and make RELAC a voluntary system. New A/C technology is very efficient and very quiet. Amen to everything that Mr. McDermitt has written as well.

    I feel sorry for anyone in the present situation trying to sell their property if RELAC membership is required. Ditch this albatross and free LA folks to join 21st century technology. RA needs to step up and support members vs. punishing them further. BTW, Ken, RA spends a ton of dues $ on PR and recent events have not served RA’s reputation well. Time for the RA board to change course? Fingers crossed.

  • John Lovaas

    What an interesting, although partial, perspective
    you bring to the RELAC controversy!

    Characterizing the amendments the RA Board made recently (very quietly in May) combined with those you now propose to the RELAC provisions of the Reston Covenants as intended just “to clarify” is quite an understatement.

    In fact, you have changed the definition of affected homeowners from users to being “disabled” in order to qualify for relief from the RELAC monopoly!

    In addition, the RA Board has made it more difficult for users seeking
    relief by imposing additional requirements for even a medical exception; and
    you would change any exception granted to “temporary”, i.e. requiring annual
    full medical re-certification rather than the relief continuing for the period
    of ownership of the home as has been longstanding practice. Further,
    you now require those granted exceptions permitting the installation of modern,
    efficient A/C systems to continue to pay RELAC fees for a service no longer
    used. A really innovative concept! The Board’s desire
    to serve the interests of an outmoded, poorly performing, for-profit monopoly seems
    to have clouded your viewing lens. Certainly as a RELAC user yourself
    in a cluster where homes get less direct sun and thus are more easily cooled,
    you know that many of your neighbors are neither so blessed nor cooled by the
    RELAC system. Lastly,
    the referendum to which you refer on continuing the RELAC monopoly lost by a
    modest margin—100 homeowners voted for free choice, while 130 including those
    with more favored billing and cooling situations voted NO. Furthermore, the referendum took place before
    nearly 60% increases in RELAC rates and the vote was influenced by the promise
    of major investments in upgrading the system—investments which were never made,
    and which the new owners now say will NOT be made. And, don’t
    even get me started on the inequities in RELAC billings or mechanical changes
    to the system which advantage some users over others….

    This is a much bigger problem than you portray, good
    sir. It deserves more serious analysis
    and consideration by RA before making any changes to the covenants.

  • Reston Member

    You regulate it, you own it, including mold related lawsuits resulting from denial of medical applications.

  • Socialism is Organized Evil

    The word “collectivism” does not refer to the interactions and voluntary association that arise spontaneously from our social human nature.


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