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On the Docket: Block 4 at Reston Town Center, RELAC at Lake Anne

by Karen Goff June 11, 2014 at 3:30 pm 31 Comments

Block 4 Residential Towers/Credit: Fairfax County The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday night on the transformation of Reston Town Center’s surface parking lot to a mixed-use development.

Developer Boston Properties’ plans for the surface lot at Reston Town Center include two high-rise residential buildings as well as a park with a yoga area, public art and picnic areas. The 6.35-acre site, called Block 4, is currently a 251-space surface parking lot, the only remaining surface lot at Reston Town Center. The lot is currently zoned for up for 250,000 square feet of office space.

According to the county planning staff report, which recommends approval of the project, the 250,000 square feet of office density represents the last remaining non-residential density available under the proffered maximum 3.465 million square feet of non-residential development approved within Reston’s urban core.

The meeting is at the Fairfax County Government Center, 8:15 p.m. To sign up to speak, visit the Planning Commission website.

Boston Properties is seeking to move the office development to Block 5, where the current FedEx/Kinkos and Ann Taylor are now located, with additional office space above.

The plan calls for turning the three-story retail/office building, part of One Fountain Square, into a 17-story building with 276,788 square feet of office space and 7,800 square feet of ground-floor retail. The building would also have four levels of underground parking.

Block 4 and 5 development will flow into other approved high-density development nearby.

The Spectrum, a low-rise strip mall located just across New Dominion Parkway, has been approved for redevelopment into 774,879 square feet of non-residential use and 1,422 multifamily residential units in seven new residential buildings. The new area will feature a hotel, and Harris Teeter is the only retailer expected to remain under the current plan.

Additionally, part of the Spectrum will wrap around the planned 23-story office tower at Bowman Towne Drive and Reston Parkway. That building, which will contain retail and 18 stories of offices, was approved by the supervisors in 2012.

On Thursday, the Reston Association Board of Directors will hold a special meeting to discuss who can get an exemption from RELAC, the lake water-fueled air conditioning system that about 300 homes near Lake Anne are required to use.

Homes that have a RELAC system are bound by deed to use it unless owners can show a reason for a medical exemption. The RA board has been discussing changes to the RELAC policy since last year. It was slated to be revisited by February.

The board is likely to keep the requirements much as they are, with several changes regarding what constitutes a medical disability. One of the main changes includes adding a form that must be signed by a physician in order to get a temporary exemption.

Some RELAC users have expressed privacy concerns and take issue with being designated handicapped in order to gain an exemption.

“A resident [will now have] to be classified as ‘disabled’ under the The Federal Fair Housing Act  — whereas currently you merely need a medical need (as determined by a doctor),” says RELAC user Mike Pritchard.. “This greatly narrows the scope of medical waivers, and notably doesn’t include allergies. The waiver is tied to the residents ‘disability’, as opposed to the property. And, RA will have the right, at any time and as often as they choose, to verify the resident still has that ‘disability.’ ”

Photo: Rendering of Block 4 development/Credit: Fairfax County

  • “The board is likely to keep the requirements much as they are”, really? Not sure about that, I’ve read the draft proposal and its pretty draconian representing a BIG change from the requirements as they are – do you have a source that says otherwise?

    • Karen Goff

      Mike, they seemed pretty similar to me, but I am an observer. Tell me what you think and I may use your opinion in a future story.

      • Sure. Here are, IMHO, the biggest changes;

        1. A resident now has to be classified as ‘disabled’ under the The Federal Fair Housing Act – whereas currently you merely need a medical need (as determined by a doctor). This greatly narrows the scope of medical waivers, and notably doesn’t include allergies.

        2. The waiver is tied to the residents ‘disability’, as opposed to the property. And, RA will have the right, at any time and as often as they choose, to verify the resident still has that ‘disability’.

        These 2 are HUGE. The ability to get a medical waiver is greatly reduced due to the much narrower scope, and RA can remove that waiver at anytime.

        So, if your kids have an allergic reaction to mold that RELAC tends to encourage, then you’re out of luck – your kids just have to suffer.

        And even if you could get that waiver for you child, if they were to move out of your house you need to fork out the $5-10K to remove a modern A/C system to reinstall RELAC,

        So, yeah, this is a big deal. And lots of people are angry about it.

        • Karen Goff

          Mike – I added some of what you said to the story. I never said it wasn’t a big deal. I summarized and also linked back to the concerns RELAC users have had for months. But this fleshes it out more. Thanks.

        • Brenda Louis

          Mike- I think you’re mistaken about the allergies being excluded. I am a Human Resources professional and have dealt with many request for a reasonable accommodations under the ADA in the work-place.

          The Act says that if your day to day activities are limited by your condition then you can be considered “disabled” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I had children who had asthma triggered by allergies and don’t believe I would have any difficulty in getting a waiver.

          • HI Brenda. My reading of the act is that it must “substantially” limit one or more persons “major life activities”, I think the word “substantial” is obviously fairly open to interpretation and I’m sure asthma would be covered. But allergies might not be.

            The big issue here is that before you just needed a Doctors note (i.e. it was simply your Doctors opinion) and the new form they mention makes your Doctor specifically state that you have a disability under the fair housing act – which is a higher bar and requires documentation to support. And, states that your doctor is open to perjury charges (which is ridiculous, RA is now adding threatening language).

          • Anna Radlinski

            Mike, you need to read the ADA as amended in 2008.http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/adaaa.cfm. You will see the purpose is to greatly expand the definition of a disability and reduce the requirement of proof. Pay special attention to Section 2, B Purpose (5). The last sentence clearly states that the purpose of the act is to convey that the question of whether an individual’s impairment is a disability should not demand extensive analysis. Since Fairfax County uses the ADA definition of disability for its Fair Housing Act, it appears that RA is going down a dangerous path with their extensive anaylsis of what constitutes a handicapped individual. The big question is why are they doing this when they were already in compliance with a simple doctor’s note.

          • Brenda Louis

            I didn’t see anything that looked like extensive analysis–It looked like a simple statement to me. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect RA to just wink at people and say yes. They’re charged with managing this thing. I doubt that a doctor will find it anymore onerous than filling out a DMV request for Handicap Parking.

          • Anna Radlinski

            Brenda, The proposed new rules say that the Covenants Committee may, “from time to time request updated documentation and confirmation from the requesting resident.” That is pretty capricious. There are already Federal court cases on the books that call this type of behavior intrusive and unnecessary. In one case the President of the Association was held personally liable.

          • Brenda Louis

            They from time to time make sure that our houses are painted the right colors and property is maintained; how is this different? They do have a responsibility to administer the covenant they could just as easily be sued by someone for not maintaining the covenant.

          • Anna Radlinski

            I didn’t realize that paint colors were a protected class.

          • Billy Smith

            Would if be better if it were once a year? Twice a year? Since the rest of us have to pick up the expense for people bailing off the system I for one am glad that RA might put some tiny bit of effort in keeping cheaters in check.

          • RELAC prices are regulated by the state, so its not true that if people get off of RELAC they will automatically push the prices up. And from what I’ve seen, the state isn’t necessarily going to support price hikes given how much more RELAC costs compared to a conventional system (5-10X the cost).

            Besides, is it really fair that people with sub-standard RELAC service should be FORCED to stay on the system to subsidize other people?

            Some people don’t want to live in a house with toxic mold and 80-90F temperatures? I didn’t.

            If it worked, people wouldn’t want to leave. This is supposed to be a free country, with a free market. RELAC needs to be competitive, in both quality and price. It doesn’t come close on either count.

          • And for the record, I had to pay RELAC almost $1,000 a season for cooling. I couldn’t get the temperature in the house below 80F, it would routinely be 85-90F upstairs. And, yes, modern double glazing. Even installed a new roof with upgraded insulation. I had to run fans and dehumidifiers 24/7 but still couldn’t get the toxic mold growth under control. And, yes, RELAC checked the system and it was within spec.

            I installed an A/C system, and my electricity bill is actually a little lower then before. The new system will pay for itself in about 4 years, and I can get the temperature in the house as low as I like.

          • Anna Radlinski

            1. Where do you get the idea that people who have a medical exception are cheaters? That is absurd. You do not know what their issues are – nor should you.
            2. YOU picking up the expense for people off the system????? You have got it backwards. By continuing to support the mandate that people use the system (or have no AC) you are asking them to subsidize your expensive habit. Are you aware that you are paying approximately five times as much for substandard air conditioning that you can’t even turn on until May and have to do without in October? I am perfectly happy that you like RELAC – just don’t ask people who don’t like it to stay on it because you don’t want your rates to go up.

          • Anna Radlinski

            And one more thing. It is a myth that you are picking up the expense for people off the system. Your bills are calculated by an antiquated system that was last revised (maybe) 20 years ago. The heat load derived for each house is multiplied by the SCC approved rate. Your bill should not change until the SCC approves a new rate. If it has changed, then you should contact the SCC. If you are interested, go to freefrom15.org and look at the heat load calculations for each house. You might be surprised to see how different they are from houses similar and size and location.

          • Brenda Louis

            It’s pretty standard language that Dr’s sign all the time- look at camp forms for kids, request for handicap parking permits, etc. They all ask the doctors to basically testify that the person has the condition or needs the exception or has been vaccinated, whatever applies; in fact most of those types of forms will have a perjury statement or a statement of what the penalty for falsifying the form is right on them. There is nothing unusual on this form.

        • Billy Smith

          Dude- news flash- the current waiver is tied to a person not a property.

          • -news flash- Nope, not true. If you read a waiver it sates that it is only revoked when the owners either sale the property or rents it. So if the waiver is for my kid, it’s tied to me, the owner of the property. So if my kid moves out, the waiver is still valid.

  • David Cavalieri

    As a correction: The Block 5 building is part of One Fountain Square, not One Freedom Square.

    • Karen Goff

      Dave- Good catch. Been changed. Thanks.

  • east297

    what about container store. understood they would relocate, but remain.

    • Karen Goff

      Re: Container store. Those kind of logistics for Spectrum won’t be decided for a long time. Harris Teeter’s plan was just part of the original proposal.

  • Guest

    Brenda, The proposed new rules say that the Covenants Committee may, “from time to time request updated documentation and confirmation from the requesting resident.” That is pretty capricious. There are already Federal court cases on the books that call this type of behavior intrusive and unnecessary. In one case the President of the Association was held personally liable. Asking a doctor to swear under oath (under penalty of perjury) is is also considered excessive.

  • Charlotte Geary

    RELAC is an ineffective and dangerous system, even for people without disabilities. My pediatrician states that it is unsafe for young children. RA wants to mandate families’ use of it anyway. That is clearly not acceptable.

    Let people make their own health choices, RA!!!

    • Brenda Louis

      Charlotte- This statement demonstrates a real lack of understanding on what RA’s role in the RELAC system is- RA doesn’t mandate, the covenants mandate everything from design standards to in your case use of the chilled water utility for AC. Get your pediatrician to fill out the from and get off the system- it should be simple for you.

      • Charlotte Geary

        That is incorrect. RA is working to change the covenants to require proof of disability. Having children is not a disability. Nor is a desire for comfort, clean air, and cheaper HVAC.

        • Brenda Louis

          Charlotte- if you go read what you have to do today to get off RELAC you’d see that today you must get documentation from your doctor. The form should make it easier, not harder to get off – it is not hard to demonstrate a disability under the ADA, it can be anything that limits your normal day to day activities.

  • Charlotte Geary

    Karen, could you please consider an article that interviews doctors about the dangers of RELAC? We really could use some publicity.

  • Mykle Lyons

    RELAC. LOL.

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