Op-Ed: The RELAC Vote and Fairness for All

Lake Anne PlazaThis is an Op-Ed by Connie Hartke of the Reston Citizens Association. Something on your mind that you want to share with the community? Email Reston Now at [email protected]. Reston Now reserves the right to edit submissions.

As we turn the calendar to a new year, some of our Reston neighbors will be facing an important vote in January that affects their summertime comfort.

Covenant 15 of the Reston Association Deed requires 343 households to use the 50+ year old Reston Lake Anne Air-Conditioning Corporation cooling system (RELAC), unless they receive an annual medical exemption — a nightmare when the unit goes up for resale.

These 343 households will have the opportunity to revoke (or not) Covenant 15 by a referendum vote. A yes vote will allow choice without ending RELAC. This system works adequately for many, but not all.

The Reston Citizens Association (RCA) supports revoking Covenant 15 (commonly called RELAC). Sridhar Ganesan, President of RCA stated: “While clearly many people around Lake Anne still like and want RELAC because it seems to serve their purposes, it is also clear that a number of people have not been happy with the system, the costs and other burdens that they feel it imposes on them. RELAC is a system as old as the Lake Anne community. Not only would the investment in that system have been fully paid for, today’s technologies have surely far surpassed RELAC’s. Many of us on the RCA Board as well as members sympathize and feel that after all these decades of using and paying for the operation of that system, those that would like to opt out of RELAC and pursue other alternatives should have the Choice to do so.”

None of us on the current RCA board live where RELAC is mandated, but we listen to Restonians who do and who live on the sunny side of Lake Anne.

From a website created about the issue www.freefrom15.org: “A number of residents have been dissatisfied for many years with the poor quality of the service available and would like to install their own units. Some people experience high temperatures and humidity which requires them to run dehumidifiers and fans 24 hours a day to keep cool and to stop mold growth. Since the covenant states that it may only be amended or revoked by members of the residential clusters which have air-conditioning service to the lot line, the only way to resolve these problems is to revoke the covenant.”

Let us be clear — voting yes to revoke the covenant is a vote for choice. It does not end RELAC!

When RELAC was installed, it was state-of-the-art technology. In the intervening five decades, technology has vastly improved, and HVAC (Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning) systems have undergone several major iterations of improvements. New systems are energy efficient, quiet, cost effective and allow maximum flexibility by individual homeowners for how cool/dry/warm they want their homes to be on any given day. They do not pollute our atmosphere like the older Freon-using RELAC behemoth. More on this in John Lovaas’ Reston Connection article, RELAC–A Museum and Environmental Problem.

In speaking to unhappy Lake Anne area RELAC subscribers, we have learned that their quality of service is dismal, the air is moist requiring the running of dehumidifiers constantly, and costs exorbitant.

You can view the RELAC cost by address at the “Reference Documents and Links” tab of freefrom15.org. As our weather becomes more extreme and the water levels of Lake Anne vary depending on Hidden Creek Golf Course’s needs and drought conditions, the quality of RELAC’s product is anything but constant for all users.

If the referendum passes, then everyone will get a fair choice. It is a matter of fairness in allowing choice in the important area of comfort. This will require that two-thirds of those voting will agree to choice for RELAC ‘s involuntary subscribers by voting yes.

Vote yes even if YOU are happy with your summer cooling. Consider your neighbor across the street/lake/cul-de-sac who may not have the same experience.

Mass exodus from RELAC is highly unlikely as conversion costs are a major factor, but to imprison anyone in a system that does not work for them is … well, unkind. Kindness and fairness is crucial to maintaining the fabric of our community. Forcing bondage to an antiquated monopoly is not kind, fair or necessary.

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