RELAC Stays as Referendum Fails to Get Needed Votes

by Karen Goff February 10, 2015 at 9:00 am 53 Comments

Lake Anne PlazaThe RELAC air-conditioning system will stay in place for 343 Lake Anne-area homes after a resident referendum to remove the deed ordering it failed to pass.

The referendum needed a two-thirds majority of voters to remove the Reston deed item mandating the lake water-cooled system in the homes.

The final tally was 156 votes for no revocation and 118 votes to remove the deed item, Reston Association Board President Ken Knueven said at a special board meeting on Monday. Nearly 80 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, he added.

A similar referendum also failed in 2008.

The homeowners in Coleson, Waterview, Wainwright, Washington Plaza, Hickory and Governour’s Square clusters are bound by the Reston deed to use the system. RELAC was touted as revolutionary in the mid-1960s, but has been met with frustration at its inefficiency by many users 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, more than 100 homeowners signed a petition asking RA for the referendum.

John Hunter, who lives in Washington Plaza Cluster, was one of the leaders in the quest to get the referendum.

“We are not giving up,” he told the board on Monday. He also asked for information on how each cluster voted.

“This could be helpful to RELAC,” he said of the company that operates the system, adding the company is sometimes unaware of the issues.

Robert Gerstein of Wainwright Cluster resident said he does not like the concept of revisiting the RELAC issue.

“The folks were very, very diligent about getting the referendum done,” he said. “What [Hunter] seemed to imply was they were going to again canvas each of the clusters an try to have another referendum. I hope you folks consider this is an intrusion on all of us. Let’s get this over with.”

The board heard repeatedly from both sides at meetings over the last several months. Some in favor of RELAC called it an “aesthetic catastrophe” to change the system. They also praised RELAC for being very quiet and were also concerned that rates would rise among remaining customers.

Rising rates were also a concern of RELAC opponents, who said their rates had skyrocketed in recent years. Opponents also said they wanted a choice, and also pointed out that new HVAC units were much quieter than they were in the mid-1960s, when RELAC was first developed.

Homeowners who have been granted the medical exemption have said they have spent $4,000-6,000 on new HVAC systems — which must be disconnected when they sell the home.

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