RELAC Users to Get 2015 Referendum for Options

by Karen Goff November 21, 2014 at 11:00 am 18 Comments

1602 WainwrightThe Reston Association Board voted on Thursday to authorize a referendum for the 343 users of the RELAC air-conditioning system.

The 343 Lake Anne-area homeowners are bound by the Reston deed to use the lakewater-cooled system which was touted as revolutionary in the mid-1960s, but has been met with frustration at its inefficiency in recent years.

Some users have complained it is expensive, mold producing and cannot cool the top floors of some of the townhomes. Several homeowners have used a medical exemption to allowed to install, at their own expense, an additional air conditioning system.

Last summer, 110 homeowners signed a petition asking RA for the referendum.

The RA board approved the referendum for January. The question to be asked:

Air-Conditioning Units. In any residential Cluster in which central air-conditioning service is available to the Lot line, no individual air-conditioning units of any type shall be permitted. This covenant may only be amended or revoked by at least a two-thirds vote of the Category A Members of all residential Clusters on the service.

At the public hearing portion of Thursday’s regular board meeting, several RELAC users spoke in favor of keeping the system, one calling it an “aesthetic catastrophe” to change the system. Others asked that the referendum be delayed until summer, so users would have more time to see how it is running under new management.

Vernon Wiley, who also lives on Wainwright said RELAC provides excellent cooling for his home.

“As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with system and I would like to stick to the status quo. Allowing homeowners to get off RELAC may raise rates. In the worst case, RELAC may no longer be possible, and collapse. If this happens, it will force other homeowners to seek other systems, which may cost thousands of dollars.”

Blake Travis of Maple Ridge disagrees.

“Those of us in favor of referendum are not trying to kill RELAC, but we want a choice,” he said. “It is a faulty system.”

Travis said he does not think the only alternative is a “loud air conditioning unit.”

“Units today are extremely quiet,” he said. “Street traffic is louder than what you will hear from an air conditioner.”

RA last held a RELAC referendum in 2008. It was defeated 130-100.

In other RA Board news:

The Board voted that the 2015 assessment rate will be $642. It also established a reduced rate of 50 percent for property owners qualifying for Fairfax County real estate tax relief.

The Board authorized $30,000 to hire an urban planning consultant as Reston and $30,000 to conduct a parks and recreation survey that will be useful for the next budget planning round for 2016-17. The money is available in the budget, RA directors said.

Photo: Townhomes on Wainwright are on the RELAC system

  • Lake Anne Resident

    What is considered a quorum for the RELAC vote? Do we need 2/3 majority of the 343 residents or 2/3 majority of the total number of households voting on the referendum?

    • Karen Goff

      2/3 of homeowners. Though there was some discussion last night that several homeowners thought it should be 2/3 of voters.

      • Dennis McDermitt

        If the RA Board determined that this is 2/3 of homeowners on the system and not 2/3 of the people who actually vote, then they have (yet again) failed to read the Reston Deed.

        Section I.2 Interpretation of the Reston Deed states (emphasis added):

        (a) Whenever a “majority vote” or “two-thirds vote” is specified, it shall mean a majority or two thirds vote, by voting power, OF THOSE PERSONS ACTUALLY VOTING on a matter and that, unless otherwise provided by the Reston Documents or law, at least ten percent of the eligible votes are cast on such matter.

        Karen, are you sure this was the decision? It also contradicts the RA’s 2005 referendum fact sheet, which stated that “at least two-thirds (2/3’s) of the votes cast must be in favor of the question presented…”

        • mlbjunkee

          Dennis – Is there some legal option we have to challenge this? I was at the meeting and even their attorney said it wasn’t specific, but said that precedent says that the ruling goes to the most detailed language, which he recited (but I’m not sure from where). However, in this case, the most detailed language would seem to be the Reston Deed.

          • Dennis McDermitt

            Oh, definitely…this isn’t even a gray area. The incompetence of the RA Board’s current leadership is truly astounding.

        • Karen Goff
      • Anna Radlinski

        A vote to revoke Covenant 15 is a vote to join the 21st century. Modern air conditioners are QUIET. The noise from traffic on North Shore Drive and planes overhead is far louder. Why aren’t the people on RELAC who worry about the cost of installing a modern AC system complaining about the ridiculous fees they pay for four months of inadequate cooling? A new system would play for itself in four years. If you love RELAC then you are welcome to stay on it, but please give those who don’t want it the opportunity to get off. It adversely affects property values, is exorbitantly expensive, and only provides cooling for a limited season. If all the residents of Reston were subject to Covenant 15 there would be a revolution.

    • Reston Realist

      I looked this up today it is 2/3 of the people who are on the system not 2/3 of the voters.

  • Bah

    Give them some cheese with their whine, too.

    I bet they are many of the same people who insist that Lake Anne Plaza and the rest of Reston Must Never Be Changed relative to what it was in 1969. But it’s different when their interests are affected, oh yes.

  • Laura Calacci

    Another 30K survey for parks and rec. Unreal. Who are they hiring to conduct this survey?

    • Reston Realist

      Based on the YouTube of the meeting the 30k isn’t an addition it has no budget impact.

      • Karen Goff

        Yes. that is what “money is available in the budget” means. However, is it money that could be spent somewhere else more effectively?

  • Reston Watcher

    Several people speaking at the meeting asked that the referendum be held in the summer. They argued that the new owner of the system was doing a good job resolving issues that homeowners had, and that much of the improvement would not be seen until warm weather returned. They suggested that if held sooner, voters would be expressing their opinion of the the previous owners, not the current system.

    One speaker said that replacing aging valves had made his system work as he wanted. Another said that the problem wasn’t with the cooling capacity that RELAC provided, but with the design and materials of the homes built in the 1960s, and that he had cured the problems with uneven cooling in his home by replacing old, single-pane windows with more modern ones and adding insulation that was up to current guidelines.

    A person whom I think was a RELAC employee said that RELAC was holding an open house (I think it is to be tomorrow morning) for people to come and see the facility.

  • Laura Calacci


    I have a question about the last paragraph of this article. It seems a bit unclear. 30K for parks and rec study and another 30K for urban planning consultant or is it just one study?


    • Karen Goff

      It is two separate studies. 30K each for a total of $60K.

      • Laura Calacci

        Thanks Karen. That is what I was afraid of. They are so out of control on the spending. Its truly disheartening and sad. Do you know who they are hiring to do these studies?

  • WVC owner

    Regarding RELAC vote, will RA and DRB provide — prior the the referendum — approved plans and estimated costs for external AC units for each neighborhood?

    • Karen Goff

      Not that I know if, but stay tuned.


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