All seven candidates for Reston Association’s Board of Directors said at a Candidates Forum on Monday that they are in favor of RA acquiring the former Reston Visitors Center for recreational and community use — but with caveats.
RA has sent a letter of intent to Tetra, the property owner for more than a decade, to purchase the building on Baron Cameron Drive for $2.65 million. The acquisition of the 3.48-acre property adjacent to RA’s Brown’s Chapel Park and Lake Newport would give the association 98 contiguous acres of open space and prevent a developer from purchasing the property — and using the 3,128-square-foot building — for a commercial enterprise, which is allowed under the current Reston Master Plan designation.
RA is planning a member referendum on the subject in April. If approved by the members (10 percent of 17,506 eligible voters), RA hopes to close the deal in July.
Andy Sigle, the former RA Vice President running for the South Lakes seat, said “the devil is in the details” when it comes to the purchase.
“In general, yes, I am in favor,” said Sigle. “We can hold that space and make sure it stays the way RA wants it means a lot. But we need to ask the questions that need to be asked.”
RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said there is $650,000 from an unnamed developer that will go towards renovation and repurposing the Tetra building.
“My question is what’s the next-best thing the money can be used for?” said Sigle.
Incumbent South Lakes Director Richard Chew has similar questions, but says answers are on the way.
“Is this acquisition in the best interest of RA? The short answer is ‘yes,’ ” he said. “Rest assured, the current board is asking difficult questions, financial questions. These are sensitive behind-the-scenes questions. The answers are coming shortly.”
At-Large Candidate Ray Wedell, a leader with Rescue Reston and proponent of protecting open space in Reston, said “this is an issue rare opportunity to seize control of open space.”
“We HAVE to take control of the Tetra building,” he said. “Of course there are issues, but they are all minor compared to difficulties we will face in stewardship of land. We will look back on this as a no-brainer.”
Other candidates Julie Bitzer (South Lakes), Mike Sanio (At-Large), Dannielle LaRosa (North Point) and Charles Dorfeuille (North Point) said they had similar concerns about the developer contributions and other financials, but were in favor of acquiring the building to protect green space and boost community programming.
Other topics of discussion at the forum included RA’s 2016-17 budget, member outreach and support for aging homes and clusters in need of renovation.
See the entire forum on the YouTube clip above.
Voting in the 2015 election (online or by mail) began Monday and will continue through the end of March.