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New RCC Facility Won’t Go to Referendum in 2015

by Karen Goff — January 16, 2015 at 11:00 am 11 Comments

Reston Community CenterReston Community Center will not send the idea of a new indoor recreational facility to a community referendum in 2015, RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon said.

RCC’s Board of Governors has been discussing since February 2013 the idea of adding a new recreation center with a 50-meter indoor pool

RCC’s current indoor pool, at Hunters Woods, is more than 35 years old and need of modernization, the board of governors says.

The pros and cons have been debated at a series of sometimes contentious community meetings. A feasibility study by Brailsford & Dunlavey, completed in 2013, said the facility would cost about $30-40 million if RCC built it on land donated by the Fairfax County Park Authority at Baron Cameron Park.

Last June, the park authority approved changes to the Baron Cameron Park Master Plan, incorporating the rec center as a future option at the 68-acre park.

The board is also considering the area known as Town Center North as a potential site.

RCC is not in position to have a referendum this year, Gordon said, because county planning for Town Center North has not been completed.

“The RCC Board of Governors affirmed in its meetings on Jan. 9 and 10 that we continue to pursue the best options for the community to realize both of our facility priorities: an indoor rec center/aquatics facility and a performing arts venue,” said Gordon. “We established with the community and with the county our studies’ outcomes that the only two suitable locations at present to pursue for indoor recreation are Reston Town Center North and Baron Cameron Park.”

“Given that the County’s planning for Reston Town Center North hasn’t concluded yet, we won’t be in a position to put any type of bond referendum question related to either facility on a November, 2015 ballot,” she said.

Gordon also said RCC will “aggressively seek other contributions” to get the facilities built. That money would likely come from developer proffers and partnerships.

The cost of the proposed rec center and concern that residents of Small Tax District 5 (Reston) would have to foot the bill have been among the biggest concerns from residents. Many who live in the Baron Cameron Park area are also concerned about traffic and noise.

It will cost RCC $75,000 to conduct the referendum, which would determine if the community is in favor of building the new facility.

  • John Farrell

    Instead of looking to saddle Restonians with a $50 million debt to pay-off in order to build the Walmart of exercise rooms at Baron Cameron and wipe out open space, the RCC Board should first use the surplus to be generated by all the new development in Reston to significantly reduce, AND PREFERABLY ELIMINATE, the vast menu of fees charged to participate in the various classes and other activities offered by RCC.

    • Terry Maynard

      John–There hasn’t been and, for the time being, isn’t likely to be any significant development in Reston (presumably around the Metro stations) because economic growth just isn’t happening in a big way so there aren’t nor will there soon be “surplus” taxes to facilitate eliminating RCC’s various service charges. Maybe some day….

      More to the point, the CURRENT service charges cover only ~15% of the RCC’s operating costs, well below their stated goal of 25%, and the rest is paid for by our STD#5 tax.

      From my personal perspective, the tax ought only cover the capital costs (the mortgage has long since been paid off, but there is a continuing need for capital investment to sustain RCC HW & LA) and the users–not the general public–should cover the bulk (or even all) the operating costs.

      To its credit, the RCC Board of Governors is moving toward their 25% operating cost goal of 25% a step at a time. After listening to RCC strategic planning offsite’s discussion of its financial situation last Saturday AM, I urged Ms. Gordon to move more quickly in reaching that goal.

      Regarding the planned recreation center, RCC’s consultant has repeatedly stated that “successful” rec centers recover 80%-plus of their operating costs (i.e–the users pay most of costs). Under virtually no scenario that RCC or its consultant developed and Reston 2020 has examined is there the possibility (much less the likelihood) that a Reston rec center would achieve that level of operating expense recovery. All the county rec centers do, however, meaning they charge significant user fees. Why should Reston choose to build an unsuccessful rec center for itself where taxpayers end up paying too much so a few can swim in a 50-meter pool?

      And, by the way, did you know that, in addition to the planned recreation center, RCC has established a long-term goal to build/finance (your Reston taxes + any partnerships) the performance center called for in the Reston Master Plan? That is long-term goal, not a referendum issue soon to be sure, but watch for it by FY2022–the end of RCC’s next 5-year strategic plan that will be developed in the next year or so. When they do that, should all the shows be free too?

      • John Farrell

        Hi, Terry

        Assessments within the STD #5 area have already increased significantly based solely on the rezonings of the commercial and high-rise land around Reston. The value of the land has been reassessed and increased.

        Surpluses in STD #5 will grow as those buildings are built out. Which looks like it will happen soon at Spectrum and the International Center. We agree that the office only projects will be delayed until the existing 18 million square feet of vacant office is absorbed.

        I see no prospect of the STD #5’s minimal tax rate every being reduced or eliminated.

        So the surpluses are going to burn a hole in someone’s pocket. The question then becomes what is done with those surpluses.

        Before using the surpluses existence to justify the issuance of massive bond offerings, the fees charged to locals should be cut. The usage of RCC is concentrated in young families, senior citizens and the less fortunate. I’m very happy to reduce the cost of use to those populations while keeping charges for non-residents of STD#5 comparable to market rates for similar services.

        Thus, I do not agree with the 25% goal for fee coverage.

        • Terry Maynard

          John–According to County records, STD#5 assessed values peaked in FY2008 at $15.3 billion. They dropped to $12.6B in FY2010 (Great Recession and all) and have returned only to $14.4B in FY2014. We haven’t even broken even yet although we haven’t seen the FY15 assessment yet!

          STD#5’s tax rate could be reduced (as it has been previously) if (a) its operating expense recovery rate improves and (b) RCC doesn’t build a rec center. I, too, doubt it will ever disappear–it’s a real milk wagon.

          I am, however, a little skeptical that too much new development will occur in the near-term although it’s true that key planned developments have received virtually all the multitude of approvals they need. That said, I think RTC is likely to see development more quickly than some other areas, including Tysons, because of the amenities it provides.

          • John Farrell

            Terri

            RTC is part of STD #5.

            The Avant, the Harrison and Comstock’s BLVD high-rise residential building will generate serious revenues for STD #5. Those and other new RTC developments and the sky-rocketing commercial rents in existing RTC buildings will also translate into higher STD #5 revenues.

            Futher, the closing of the tenants at several of the other redevelopment sites tell me that the owners of that land are breaking ground soon, too.

            I was looking for the STD #5 assessment totals today – can you post the link, please.

            Even @ $14.4B, the $0.047 STD #5 mil rate generates $6,768,000 per year! That’s a lot of life guards hours!

            The STD rate started @ $0.03 in ’79 and the cuts have been fractional since 2001. Further cuts won’t be very large, if any.

            Those new revenues cannot be used as an excuse to saddle Restonians with $50-100 million in more bonds to enlarge the RCC empire.

  • Linda Ascher Singer

    Let the Park Authority build it for Reston. They have built other Rec Centers in Fairfax and even have spent money to improve the facilities already in Fairfax.

  • Tammi Petrine

    There is NO WAY that Reston/Hunter Mill (no, actually not even ALL of Hunter Mill but JUST Small Tax District #5/RCC members) should EVER vote to tax themselves to fund a rec center that the Park Authority (by virtue of County RE taxes) funds for EVERY OTHER home in Fairfax County. WE pay for their facilities forever and they should NEVER put a penny into ours in Reston/Hunter Mill? This is insane thinking. Who would EVER vote for anything so unfair and stupid?

    Bill Bouie, long time chair of the FFX Co. Park Authority, long time RCC board member AND Reston resident would do well to get the Reston Rec Center front and center on the Fairfax Park Authority funding list with highest priority.

    Oh, it can be done. Bouie may not like to admit it but not that long ago, the Chantilly area which also did not have a rec center was told the same thing… NO REC Center for you! They went wild, protested and Voila! Cub Run Rec Center was built for them.

    Reston has only been waiting, oh, say, 50 years!!! If not NOW, when Bill? PS: NEVER is not an option.

    Also, Restonians should know that the only other Small Tax District (an EXTRA real estate tax above and beyond what other county residents pay) that funds anything like our Reston Community Centers is in McLean (STD #1) which enjoys its community center , large fancy library AND a NEWLY RENOVATED (costing $ millions of OUR tax money!) fantastic Park Authority Rec Center – Spring Hill.

    BTW, OUR STD rate in Reston is 4.7 cents/per 100 assessment; McLean’s is only 2.2. If the RCC coffers become too full when and if development adds more funding, RCC board members can always vote to reduce (gasp!) our rate. No one would complain about that! (Especially all the families and seniors struggling to pay their bills and still live in Reston.)

    Thank you!

    • John Farrell

      All that the RCC does is recommend a tax rate. The Board of Supervisors are the body that actually sets the tax rate.

      • Tammi Petrine

        Oh, my John… Please advise: do you think the BOS would turn down the RCC’s board if they requested a rate decrease?

        If the BOS is the boss of the RCC board as you say, isn’t that even more reason why Restonians should NOT vote to tax themselves for ANYTHING extra and instead insist on the Park Authority building a Rec Center for Reston? Who wants the authority to raise our special taxes held by a county-wide BOS that we did not directly elect!

        • John Farrell

          Such things have happened. The details are a bit foggy but I remember a showdown between Bob Dix and the RCC board.

  • YL

    How about building a decent library instead of Reston’s 30th pool?

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