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Land Deal Clears Way for Rec Center, Park at Town Center North

by Karen Goff February 13, 2015 at 10:00 am 3,209 49 Comments

Would open land by Cameron Glen make a good park?

The Fairfax County Park Authority has outlined a land swap that will enable it to eventually move forward on an indoor recreation center for the area known as Town Center North.

Park Authority Chair Bill Bouie said Friday the park authority has committed to a deal, pending a public hearing and park authority board vote, that plans for a 90,000-square-foot recreation facility to be built on the same block as the new North County Government Center on Fountain Drive.

The 47-acre area is bounded by Baron Cameron Avenue, Fountain Drive, and Town Center Parkway and Bowman Towne Drive.

Map of Reston Town Center North area

The recreation center would be owned and operated by the park authority, however, officials still do not know who would pay to construct the building.

“This is a very big deal — one we have been working on for a number of years,” said Bouie. “This satisfies a number of parties. We still don’t know the cost — and there is no money for the rec center at this point. But we are hoping [to pay] through a combination of developer proffers and park bonds.”

The deal means the plans to build a new Reston Community Center at Baron Cameron Park, which has been debated for more than two years, is all but dead, even though space for an indoor facility is on the Baron Cameron Park master plan. Bouie said he hopes RCC will be involved in the planning in order for Restonians to get top priority for facility use.

There has been more than two years of community meetings and a feasibility study about a joint project with RCC, whose indoor pool at Hunters Woods is aging, and the park authority at Baron Cameron. However, the plan faced much community pushback on traffic, as well as un unfair tax burden on Small Tax District 5 (Reston) residents.

RCC Executive Director Lelia Gordon called the plan a “win-win-win,” with no additional burden on STD 5 residents “other than the one that already exists.”

“We see this as terrific,” she said, adding that the work already done by RCC — and Reston Association in a previous plan for facilities at Brown’s Chapel Park — should shorten the process.

“[The new plan] can advance so much more rapidly because of RA and RCC,” said Gordon. “The last county facility of this type was built more than 20 years ago. I would say this accelerates the process by many years.”

RCC officials said earlier that Town Center North would be the only other good spot for such a facility because it is located close to other public facilities, is in the center of Reston growth and is easily accessible.

The Town Center North area is still about a mile from the future Reston Town Center Silver Line Metro station, which will open in late 2018.

The park authority will hold a public hearing on the subject at 7:30 p.m. on April 8 at the Herrity Building, at 12055 Government Center Parkway.

The five-acre property will be called the Reston Towne Green. The plan has been in the works for nearly three years, said Bouie. It was a complicated transaction that involved land owned by the county, the park authority and Inova.

The park authority owned five acres across from the Fairfax County Police’s Reston District Station building, which will soon be torn down. The park authority is conveying the land back to the county in exchange for a 2.5 acre town green and the rec center space, said Bouie.

The county is seeking public comment on the deal, which will include:

  • Conveyance of the Reston Towne Green property to the Board of Supervisors in consideration for a potential 2.6-acre urban Central Green.
  • Commitment to provide approximately 90,000 square feet of density for the indoor facility within one of the new urban blocks
  • Other items for consideration that may be advantageous to the Park Authority mission.

Voters in 2012 approved a $25 million Fairfax County Public Library Bond, $10 million of which will be allocated to building a new Reston Regional Library in the Town Center North area. Also, the Hunter Mill Supervisor and police from Reston District Station are slated to move into the new $18 million North County Government Center next week. That state-of-the-art building is the first in the new vision for the area.

In the Reston comprehensive plan amendment approved last year, the area is “planned for up to a .90 FAR for non-residential uses, which should include office, public, institutional, medical care, hotel, and retail uses, and a minimum of 1,000 residential units. The public uses may include public safety uses, libraries, shelters, schools, a recreation center, government offices, a performing arts center, and institutions of  higher education. Some of the existing residential uses may maintain their current use, density and character.”

In 2010, the Town Center subcommittee of the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force, outlined its vision for Town Center North:

“Town Center Metro North should become an extension of the Town Center urban core – rich with nightlife, signature restaurants and retail, perhaps a hotel with convention capability, an augmented office presence, a strong residential component consistent with transit-oriented development, and potentially at least one prominent civic use. In combination, these additions to the Town Center will make it a rich and balanced destination-origination station that will be a unique asset to Reston.”

Photo: Land owned by Inova and Fairfax County may be site of future 90,000-square-foot recreation center and a town green/file photo

  • Guest

    Is this the Cameron Glen area?

    • Guest

      Yes–and more around it.

  • Ming the Merciless

    “officials still do not know who would pay to construct the building.”

    Restonians: keep your hands on your wallets, the “officials” will be coming for your money. They know they want us to pay, they just don’t want to say so up front.

    • Greg

      Exactly. And yet one more highly desirable piece of property permanently eliminated from the tax rolls while putting tax-paying businesses (who pay citizens who then pay taxes on that income) out of business.

  • RobinTrish

    Can you post a link to a map of the area?

  • cautiously optimistic

    Does this take the idea of a rec center at Baron Cameron off the table?

    • Karen Goff

      Yes, Read the story please.

      • Mike M

        Um, . . . wow, Karen. That’s a stunningly nice picture of you.

        • Karen Goff

          Thanks!

  • C. Allen

    Paid with developer proffers that are supposed to go to Reston Association’s existing parks and pathways? Sounds like the “win-win-win” is only for Bill, Lelia and the individuals who will be using the facility (the majority of which will be non-Restonians).

    And who approves the construction of a major facility yet without knowing the costs?! My six year-old nephew knows better finances than the FC Parks Authority. “Jake, if you only have four dollars and the Happy Meal costs five, then I’m sorry buddy, no Happy Meal” He never asked me if he could float a General Obligation high-yield Muni so that he could get his french fry and toy.

    • Fake Bob Simon

      Good grief…You can’t have things both ways. People complained about Reston footing the bill and now it looks like that won’t happen. So now people are complaining that non-Restonians will be using the facility. Guess what? If/when the County pays for it, it’s going to be open to the entire County population. The County’s eight other RECenters don’t have preferential pricing/access for the communities they’re located in. If RCC were to have built this using SD5 (Reston) money, they have an existing pricing structure that greatly favors Reston residents.
      And there’s no law that says proffers have to go to RA. Fairfax County Park Authority has a lot of land in Reston. Furthermore, no where in the article does it say that the construction has been approved. That’s still a ways down the road.

      • C. Allen

        Not seeing your point. I don’t think we want it both ways – just one-way: Don’t build it! If you were at the Baron Cameron meeting, you could hear most of the residents voicing their opinions against the Rec Center. We already have plenty of Rec Centers, Community Centers, Gymnasium and Pools, all of which are fully utilized by Restonians. And for the current influx of residents, there are private facilities going up as well to meet these additional residents. Why build this in Reston if there is no local demand?

      • John Farrell

        FCPA has almost no land inside RA’s boundaries, Nothing like that amount found in other parts of the County proportional to the 60,000 people who currently live in Reston or the 85,000 projected to live here.

        And the few facilities FCPA does have are atrociously maintained, viz the rusting out backstops on the North Pointe fields which are in such bad shape that they can only be used for T-ball. Or the underesized soccer field on South Lakes Drive that is a gloried sand and gravel pit and hasn’t been resodded since it opened.

        The Zoning Ordinance does allow recreational proffers to go to RA. And they should because RA facilities are far better maintained than FCPA’s.

        • Fake Bob Simon

          Fair point. Unfortunately, FCPA’s budget is on the chopping block every year and they’ve been tasked with doing a lot more with a lot less resources (money and staff). 1 %, 3%, 5 %, or 10% every year adds up over time. This isn’t a Reston-specific problem. At least RA, as it’s own entity, has the ability to get things done and they can simply raise dues if they need more money. FCPA is at the mercy of the County BOS. And while I don’t think it’s in the RA boundaries, FCPA does have Lake Fairfax Park in Reston and that’s one of their premier facilities.
          With a Reston rec center, I’d rather see RCC and/or RA run it so it can be a state-of-the-art facility that gives preference to Reston residents. FCPA’s budget is bare-bones and I think maintenance and operations would suffer because of this.

  • RestonLyons

    I think it is great news. I have been in many of the County Rec Centers, and they offer a lot. The Reston Community Center has no parking for the disabled that is close to the building, all in the shopping center whereas the RCC isn’t in the shopping center. They can compliment each other..

  • LesAnn620

    Woohoo! I know this is just a land deal and isn’t an actual plan for a new community center, but I live just south of this and would love having a rec center so close to my house. 😀 Though I think a new library should definitely come first.

    • Greg

      What’s wrong with the old library?

    • RestonResident

      Funny. I live right down the road from Baron Cameron Park and was excited about having a rec center close to my house. Unfortunately most of our neighbors pitched a fit and were convinced that the traffic would be unbearable. While this new location is great, with the future construction in all of those plazas, I hope they put a lot of thought into managing getting access in and out of the cetner. But at least we are moving forward. Hopefully folks in that area will be more reasonable about having a great amenity added to their immediate neighborhood.

  • Linda Ascher Singer

    Finally, Reston is getting the support from the Park Authority for a REC CENTER
    to compliment The Reston Community Center. Restonians pay a special tax for the Community Center. Now we will see a needed project being paid for by a wider community. Proffers from developers should pay for part of the cost and bonds
    may also be committed to the project.

    • RestonLyons

      Thanks Linda!

  • Tammi Petrine

    Great news, indeed!

    A couple of questions:
    1. All of the property in TCN is extremely valuable so why did FCPA trade its existing 5 acre site for a 2.5 acre site?
    2. Is 2.5 acres enough for Rec Center and required parking?
    3. Does any one have the details of how or why that was considered a fair trade?
    4. Did FCPA also get some cash and if so, will it be used to build Rec Center in Reston or spent elsewhere in county?

    Thanks so much to anyone who may know the answers… AND is willing to share!

    • Bill Bouie

      Ms. Petrine, I would be more than happy to share the answers to your questions, but I do not want to get into a back and forth in this type of forum. Please contact me and let’s set up a time for coffee next week and I will take all of the time needed to answer all of your questions. There is a fair amount of detail that I will share with you regarding the proposed deal and how the Park Authority works with its sister agencies in a cooperative manner. I am available to anyone that wants to ask questions. regarding this. This is the first step of a process that again will have multiple opportunities for public input prior to the Center being built. The answer to your last question is no, there is no cash in this deal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

  • east297

    Of course, let’s put the YWCA and other private rec facilities out of business so Reston residents can pay more taxes to support this debacle!

    • Del

      Isn’t that a YMCA in Reston? Why is there no County Rec center in Reston? Good for the community and the youth. More competition for the rec facilities.

      I would rather have a new Rec center and simply refurbish the library and homeless shelter.

  • RestonLyons

    A new library will be built, perhaps will be on the first floor of a high rise. Fairfax County owns the land north of the present library. FC REC CENTERS do not give prefereial pricing to the locality in which they are located if in Fairfax County. They have a County rate and an outside the County rate. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/rec/wp-recenter-rates.htm

    Please list the other YWCA and other private rec center facilities that are comprehensive as are the FC REC Centers.

  • RestonLyons

    Keep in mind budgets library and rec center budget are separate.

    Oak Marr and Spring Hill appear to be the nearest Fairfax County Recreation Centers. You don’t have to join a public rec center. You use it if you want to and pay for what you use. Ming the Merciless, you only seem to see doom and gloom.

    The library isn’t old, but it is too small. The new library in Oakton doesn’t relieve us.

    • Greg

      Then why are 1/3 or more of the Reston library shelves empty as well as that silly “teen” center?

      And, please don’t spout nonsense that the rec centers are paid for only by those who use them. I’ve never used a jail, but I pay for them every year.

      • b

        Actually, FCPA RECenters, lakefront parks and golf courses are part of the agency’s Revenue Fund and those sites generate revenue to cover direct and indirect costs. No general fund dollars go to those sites. Revenue comes from admission fees, class fees, rental fees, etc.

        • Greg

          Perhaps, but there are frequently issued bonds that are paid for by taxpayers; salaries and benefits paid by taxpayers; the costs of an “authority” with redundant costs of administration and overhead; and the very significant opportunity costs of not using the valuable property for tax-producing purposes.

          Moreover, if there was such great demand for these places and services, then there would be no need for government to provide them as commercial entities would do so and pay taxes in the process.

        • Guest

          While the FCPA RECenters do collect revenues, those revenues do NOT cover all their day-to-day operating costs, much less needed capital investments.

          So, yes, general tax revenues are going to at least partially pay for County RECenters. Let’s keep this discussion real!

          • Bill Bouie

            The Rec Centers are totally self sufficient and funded by the Park Authority’s revenue funds. General Fund taxes do not support the Rec Centers. The only General Fund contribution is through the issuance of General Obligation bonds to build them. I hope that this helps to clear this up.

          • Greg

            Who pays your salary and benefits?

          • Bill Bouie

            The board are all appointed and are volunteers. Staff in the Rec Centers are paid by the revenues from the Rec Centers and not from the General Fund. The same for benefits.

          • Greg

            Thank you.

  • Rational Reston

    Glad it won’t be in Baron Cameron Park, where it would be sacrificing existing utilized space. But ” “This is a very big deal — one we have been working on for a number of years,” said Bouie. “…. this has been in the works for a number of years? Why did RCC and FCPA embark on the Baron Cameron work, then? And RCC invested money in studies and other work for the Baron Cameron site (as well as the quick look at alternates) and all the while, FCPA had this in the works.

    • Leila Gordon

      The deal in the works for several years that was referred to was the strategic planning goal for RCC and our cooperative work with the Park Authority to find the right approach to achieving that goal. In fact, since 2008, RCC has sought partnering to achieve a new Rec Center for Reston with RA first and then the Park Authority. Our work with the Park Authority included examining the options at Baron Cameron Park and then Reston Town Center North. We systematically examined one option after another and we think this outcome is the result that is ideal for Reston.

      • Rational Reston

        “We systematically examined one option after another….” after witnessing and participating in the process, ‘systematicallly’ is not the word you’re looking for. My view, and that of many others, is that FCPS/RCC determined a solution and then tried to shoehorn a process into identifying it. Another thing it wasn’t was ‘transparent.’

        One thing is certain: RCC and FCPA has lost a lot of credibility with this.

      • Greg

        If you are so pro-Reston, Leila, why don’t you move here, live here, and subject yourself to the same taxes, assessments (or “dues” as your fellow bleeding-heart liberals like to call them), and fees that burden the rest of us?

        • Leila Gordon

          Greg. My family owns and operates a business in Reston Town Center. Believe me, we make our fair contribution to the county’s and Reston’s taxes. (And yes, I know that it’s property taxes, but I am quite confident that Boston Properties recovers that from its tenants, as well as the cost of its investment in Reston Town Center Association – which is the RTC analog to RA). I live in Washington DC because that’s where my husband’s home was and where we wanted to live together in 1993. We pay taxes in the District of Columbia that would make you feel a lot better about yours. I love Reston; I spend nearly every waking hour in the community. If I didn’t have a family home just over the river, I would be overjoyed to live, work, and play there. But since I do have a home in DC, I will continue to happily pay my share to the Dulles Toll Road (usually 6 or 7 days a week) to enjoy a community I have served at RCC since 1983.

  • Terry Maynard

    This is generally good news, and there are a number of details that are not yet presented, but may be available.

    The good news is that FCPA has acknowledged the COUNTY’s obligation to sustain a RECenter built in Reston–filling the void of no RECenters in the Hunter Mill District, the only magisterial district without one. The apparent commitment of some County land dedicated to that use and FCPA’s apparent willingness to pay operating costs appear to be important commitments, and we need to make sure those commitments are met.

    Three other issues are not discussed fully here:
    1. Who actually pays for building the RECenter?
    2. Who will use the RECenter?
    3. How much will a RECenter cost?

    Some thoughts on who pays: The way Mr. Bouie’s remarks are phrased, it appears that FCPA is looking to Restonians in their “special” tax district to handle the capital costs of building the RECenter. Despite what Ms. Gordon says, if Restonians vote to build this RECenter through a referendum in their special tax district, the debt service costs will add to their annual property tax bill and the Reston tax district rate would probably have to increase. RCA Reston 2020 estimates put the needed Reston special tax rate increase at 30%-45% to cover construction costs based on the latest (2013) study of a proposed Reston RECenter.

    If we expect (rightly, in my view) that the County will pay for the cost of construction, we could be in for a wait, possibly a long one. Those who follow County matters know that the County is running up against a self-imposed ceiling on its public debt, one that helps it sustain its “AAA” bond rating–and saving us higher bond interest rates. The problem is driven by the reality of Congressional sequestration (& occasional government shutdown all together) and its effects on federal hiring and spending, especially on contracts, which had been an important driver in County tax revenue growth. Indeed, at least one bond rating service has given Fairfax County a “negative outlook” on its rating because of Congress’ actions. The County is very much trying to limit its bond referenda to the most essential new capital investments required.

    Who would use the RECenter is, however, a leading issue in deciding who pays for building one. Repeated market studies by Brailsford & Dunlavey (B&D) for RCC have shown that the preponderance of use will be by non-Restonians. Its 2013 report showed that 92% of the QUARTER MILLION people comprising a RECenter’s “core market” within 10 miles for a Reston RECenter would NOT be Restonians. Moreover, the percentage of Restonians who would use such a center would be relatively small, so all of us would not only pay for only a few Restonians to use the facility, but also for thousands of non-Restonians to use it.

    And, of course, how much a 90,000 square foot RECenter costs is important. The 90K RECenter described about is about the same as the 84.9K “Option B” RECenter B&D assessed last year. It would incorporate a 50M competition pool with diving well, weight & fitness space, two group fitness rooms, 2 multi-activity courts (gym), and two meeting rooms. B&D put the construction tab on that facility at $33M including parking. That’s about $390 per square foot.

    Unfortunately, experience nearby suggests this cost estimate may grossly understate the cost of this facility. In June 2014, Arlington County scrubbed all together the planned construction of a RECenter at Long Bridge Park because, when the bids came in, the construction cost was over $80M. THAT’S ABOUT $760 PER SQUARE FOOT. In contrast, the last B&D report for Arlington put the cost of the 105K square foot facility at $43M or about $400 per square foot. The Long Bridge Aquatics facility included an added therapy and general use pool and underground parking, but offered no gymnasium space. The forecast operating costs had also escalated tremendously over time.

    In short, we may reasonably assume that the actual construction cost of a new RECenter in Reston to cost at least half-again as much as B&D’s forecast of $33M, and it could easily double that cost the longer construction is deferred.

    The point here is that the Hunter Mill District needs a RECenter just like the other supervisorial districts in the County that should be paid for IN FULL by the County, meaning all County residents, and any private partnerships that may be reasonable. Such a RECenter will primarily serve non-Restonians and Restonians alone should not be saddled with its construction costs.

    For a brief synopsis of RCA Reston 2020’s analysis of the RECenter proposal, please read this short (2-page) comment it presented to the RCC Board of Governors last year: https://www.scribd.com/doc/230043569/Reston-2020-Statement-on-Proposed-Recreation-Center-at-the-RCC-2014-Public-Hearing-FINAL-print

    • Terry Maynard

      I forgot to point out one other important positive aspect of this news: Locating a RECenter in Town Center North (TCN) is exactly the right place to put it.

      TCN will be in the center of a high-density residential community that will have immediate access to it, the decision will not require diverting limited existing park facilities at Baron Cameron Park to build a RECenter, and it will be a centrally located attraction for all Restonians and those beyond (including Metro commuters willing to walk/bike a 1/2 mile or so).

    • Bill Bouie

      The future Rec Center will be owned and operated by the Park Authority and will be available to all members of the Fairfax County community. It will be the first Rec Center in the Hunter Mill District. The Center will be built with a combination of Park Bonds and Proffers.

      There is NO RCC involvement, unless the RCC Board decides to partner with the Park Authority on programs that are needed to supplement offerings, especially swimming. The Center will be self sufficient and will pay for its own operation and maintenance. Throw out the B&D study because this will be a completely new design based on the current needs analysis that has been ongoing since last summer and will last through the end of this fiscal year.

      Great Falls, Herndon, and Vienna citizens and groups are very excited about having this facility as it means that they will not have to travel to Oak Marr or Spring Hill.

      You are correct in your assumption that it will take some time for this to happen as there are no funds currently earmarked for this, but there will be discussions on what is included in the 2016 Park Bond. You are also correct in that bond funding will be limited. We are further limited by only being authorized to spend $13.5M per year in capital bond programs. That will extend this project out a ways, although proffer partnerships will help. Two great examples of that are the recently opened Sully Highlands Park in Centerville/Chantilly and Arrowbrook Park in Herndon which were turnkey proffers in the amounts of $15 and $17M.

      RCC will not be raising the tax rate or having a special referendum as you were told during our January meeting. At the appropriate time, there will be public hearings for input into the programming to take place when the facility is built.

      • Terry Maynard

        Greatly appreciate that clarification, Bill.

  • JoeInReston

    Restonians and visitors to the area have plenty of exercise options for swimming and exercise.

    – Sport and Health Reston, across the street from the Wiehle Metro
    – LifeTime Reston Athletic Club, four star gym near the Metro
    – Crunch Gym in the RTC
    – Gold’s Gym in Plaza Americana
    – Reston Community Center
    – The 9 community outdoor pools
    – Worldgate Gym in Herndon
    – Herndon Community Center

    This list isn’t exhaustive. There are plenty more options. This is just the gym and pools that come to my head.

    Why do we need another recreation center? And why must this be something addressed by local government?

    • JoeInReston

      “Yes private business have filled a gap but the market shows still room for more, based on how busy the current RCC pool is.”

      Indoor pools is a niche market that a local government need not concern itself with, let alone spend millions of dollars for a building in prime retail space the opportunity cost of which could bring in tax revenues. Rest assured, if there is a market need, somebody will come along and fill it.

      “More importantly though the rest of the country district have one and for reston to stay comparatively competitive we should have one as well”

      If other areas of the county have a quality indoor pool, than Reston should better itself in other areas that serve Reston and surrounding area better. Its better for Reston to think itself as part of the county and the surrounding DMV area and not as a competitor.

    • east297

      AMEN!!!!!

  • east297

    oops! WMCA no women GO there!

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