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Op-Ed: The Tetra Property Opportunity

by RestonNow.com April 13, 2015 at 3:00 pm 55 Comments

Tetra building This is an op-ed by Eve Thompson, who represents Lake Anne/Tall Oaks on the Reston Association Board of Directors. It does not reflect the views of Reston Now.

By now, Reston Association members have begun to receive their ballots on the question of whether or not we as a community should move forward with the purchase of the Tetra Property.

The RA Board voted unanimously to put this question to the membership. The opportunity to add to Reston Association’s common areas are far and few between. This particular parcel provides a unique opportunity to create a multi-purpose venue that we believe, based on staff and committee research, would be much in demand and would add to the types of recreational opportunities we are able to offer our members.

Based on the appraisal, we believe we’ve arrived at a reasonable market price. I think it’s safe to assume that based on the development that will be taking place around Lake Anne the price won’t be going down; and that I think brings us to the real crux of the question.

The RA Board has a responsibility to investigate these kinds of opportunities. We are not empowered to act unilaterally, but we are empowered to gather enough information to determine if an opportunity makes potential sense for the community.

That is what we’ve done here — the rest is up to you. For some it will make sense to add to the band of 90+ acres that runs along Barron Cameron. For others it will make sense to make sure that the property is not able to be developed — now or ever; and for others it won’t make sense at all.

What is critical is that you had the opportunity to decide.

Something on your mind? Send a letter to [email protected] Reston Now reserves the right the edit letters for spelling, style and clarity.

  • Rational Reston

    No

  • Sean

    Much rather incur $2.6 million debt to upgrade existing facilities. How about some umbrellas for North Shore pool for a start?!

  • Richard

    Yes for me. I’ve lived here for almost 40 years now and watched the green space disappear with a massive acceleration in the past few years. We need to set aside those last few green spaces before they’re gone. There are plenty of places to put another restaurant.

    • Ming the Merciless

      The “green space” will not be “gone” if you vote no.

      http://reston2020.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-tetra-property-is-already-heavily.html

      • vdiv

        And will not necessarily stay if he votes yes. Case in point are the trees across the street at Lake Anne that were traded in to be sacrificed for a concrete parking garage…

        • JCSuperstar

          Good catch. I finally went to this site called Reston2020. I still don’t get their mission, other than to aggravate the heck out of people. They appear to be against everything.

          Interesting you point out Lake Anne. Check it out. This group was pulling their hair out, screaming at Reston, claiming they were allowing trees and open space to be destroyed. Now they’re yelling at Reston stating protecting the trees and open space isn’t worth it.

          Huh???

        • Ming the Merciless

          You can’t help but suspect they’ve earmarked Brown’s Chapel + Baron Cameron Park + Tetra as the Future Site of Something Huge.

    • Richard

      Not immediately, but if RA doesn’t grab this property, it’s just a matter of time. 20 or 30 years from now, buying this property will have been seen as a bargain.

      • Rational Reston

        If I put the used oil from my car’s engine under pressure for some amount of time, I’d get diamonds, too. It’s a fairly useless bit of land with a lot of debt for RA….another bad financial decision from the Board

        • east297

          You nailed it! Vote NO!

          • JCSuperstar

            Vote NO or vote YES. I’m so confused.

          • Richard

            Vote no for the restaurant. Vote YES for Reston.

          • edgyone

            Vote no to stop a bad deal. When RA makes a sensible real estate deal in regards to tetra we can revisit. Reston is no going to die if tetra sits and rots, as it has for the last 10 years. Reston will die when boards make horrendous decisions that make some of question why we want to live in a corporation run town.

    • ItsNotMyMoney

      Just to be clear: you are willing to pay 2.7 million dollars of other peoples money to purchase at most 2 acres of greenspace.

      • Richard

        Yes. The value of Reston Association’s land holding goes up by that much as well – or thereabouts, depending on whether you have a professional appraisal or a web-comments-based appraisal. Perhaps you would have us sell off some of our large holding of green space to keep your annual dues down, eh?

        • ItsNotMyMoney

          No, I would not suggest that. I might suggest selling my property for more than twice it’s value to the association in order for your dues to go up.

          The new rec center in Town Center North along with it’s increase in greenspace is more than sufficient to offset the benefits lacking in this Tetra purchase.

          • Ming the Merciless

            How is “greenspace” going to increase when they build a bunch of new buildings and parking on that site?

          • ItsNotMyMoney

            The fact sheet was quite clear on this matter, green spaces will be increased by planting a tree (larger than a sapling we hope).

          • Ming the Merciless

            (rolls eyes) OK so this is about planting more trees, now, is it? However many additional trees we could supposedly plant at Tetra, I guarantee you we could plant the same number of trees elsewhere in Reston, on existing RA property, WITHOUT having to spend $2.65 million on a new property.

        • John Farrell

          Richard, Most of RA’s holdings have no development potential and, thus, are valued at less than $100.

        • edgyone

          A professional appraisal that is guided by the inputs of the customer for who knows what reason becomes less valuable than the “web comments” appraisal you pejoratively described. The fact is that some of use are tired of RA board’s arrogance of thinking they know better. We have read the appraisal, and we are expressing the result of our analysis. My thought is that this looks a lot like a third world, back room deal to me. If the owner of Tetra is the only one getting paid then the RA board members are really squandering an opportunity for a lovely payday.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Just to be clear: a plot of land with a large building and a large parking lot on it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered “greenspace”.

    • John Farrell

      Have you read the 95 page appraisal, Richard.

      Because if you had you would know that it agrees with the County that the property as is is only worth $1.3 million.

      In order to justify the $2.6 million price tag, it speculates what 6,000 square feet of new office space might be worth. Only the current owner is quoted in the appraisal as saying there can be no new office space.

      And the appraisal doesn’t say how much a 6,000 square foot restaurant is worth.

      And in either case, unlike any appraisal I’ve ever worked with in 38 years of law practice, there is no feasibility study performed by a licensed civil engineer verifying what development potential exists.

      So rely on that appraisal at your peril.

      The reality is that regulations adopted since the original idea for the restaurant make further development of that property impossible.

    • edgyone

      Why would a restaurant by that piece of land? There is a significant amount of investment required for enterprise and it is essential that there be a return. Buying the property for 2.7 million just because that is what the owner wants and what an appraisal based on impossible conditions says is not a sound investment. Let the property go on the market and see what offers the owners get. After a few years of it not moving we’ll see how much they are willing to let it go for.

      • Ming the Merciless

        It has been on the market for any years with no takers, which is among the reasons the argument that “we must prevent it from becoming a restaurant” should be rejected. (Another reason, of course, is there is no convincing reason a restaurant should NOT be there if someone thinks they can make a go of it.)

        • edgyone

          Have the ballots been sent out? I did not get mine via email. can anyone get lawn signs made real cheap to create more awareness of how dumb this deal is?

  • Ming the Merciless

    Waste of money, excessive secrecy, total lack of any convincing rationale.
    NO, NO, NO.

  • JoeInReston

    “Based on the appraisal, we believe we’ve arrived at a reasonable market price”

    Based on the appraisal? The appraisal is the nut of the debate. Several concerned residents have pointed out issues with the appraisal. To write an op-ed without addressing these issues is troublesome and perhaps revealing.

    Knueven’s op-ed was similar. In fact, Knueven went further and answered many questions in the comments section, except for questions on the appraisal.

    Its the question that shall not be addressed.

    • JCSuperstar

      Perfect place for a restaurant. This is its natural course.

    • Rational Reston

      Ken gave his reasons. I do not agree with his reasons, but they’re well thought out. Ms. Thompson’s op-ed is essentially that it gives her a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’, there is no clear cut thought process, it’s just ‘beliefs’.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Well thought out… other than starting from false premises, not making a lick of sense from a cost-benefit perspective, and reaching preposterous conclusions.

      • edgyone

        I read Ken’s reason and they were well thought out justifications based on the same inaccurate representation of reality. It’s like the RA board of directors is fearing some developer boogie man that hides in a closet. The same logic that says if everything is not painted brown Reston will cease to exist.

  • Joel Patterson

    No. The vote asked if Reston would undertake a 2.6M bond to buy the property. I see no compelling reason to raise debt.

    • JCSuperstar

      Bond?

      • edgyone

        You are against this purchase.. Why do you antagonize everyone that comes out against it?

        • JCSuperstar

          Yes, I am against the purchase. I don’t intend to antagonize, but I laugh (and share that laugh) at the diatribes of those here who ACTUALLY BELIEVE their rants, (and, more times than not,) lack of facts, will have a positive effect in their favor with the uninformed membership. Many here are pure trolls and pariahs, which makes for great fun. Welcome to the blogosphere.
          JC

      • Joel Patterson

        The Reston Association Board of Directors recently voted unanimously to send to member referendum the question of borrowing up to $2.65 million for the purchase and renovation of the 3.47-acre Tetra property on Baron Cameron Avenue, as an addition to RA’s common area.

        • JCSuperstar

          Joel, I get the bond thing, which Reston is not seeking. If most of the trolls here would just bother to read the facts, they wouldn’t be such ripe targets.

          • Joel Patterson

            Whatever. I couldn’t remember the exact wording at the time (wouldn’t let me back in to see the exact phrasing) but it certainly was a question of borrowing the money. Odd you comment about trolls then follow it up with being easy targets. Seems rather trollish of you.

          • JCSuperstar

            It is isn’t it. Question, do you support the purchase of the Reston National Golf Course? Another debt.

          • Joel Patterson

            I do not. I do not (nor do most Restonities) have a dog in that fight nor do I feel an obligation to purchase a property for the benefit of what is a very select group. Like it or not with the arrival of Metro, Reston is going to continue to urbanize and get denser. Change is the only constant.

      • Joel Patterson

        And on the whole “bond” thing.

        Bonds are a form of debt. Bonds are loans, or IOUs, but you serve as the bank. You loan your money to a company, a city, the government – and they promise to pay you back in full, with regular interest payments. A city may sell bonds to raise money to build a bridge [or buy an overpriced building – JP], while the federal government issues bonds to finance its spiraling debts.

      • Terry Maynard

        Actually, JC, the borrowing is like a “bond.”

        It is not a mortgage because no financial institution would give anyone a $2.65 million mortgage on a property worth less than half that–and certainly not at 3.45%/yr interest for the first decade.

        Instead, it is a loan that is like a “general obligation bond” in that we, as members of RA, are pledged to pay the debt no matter what. If it were a mortgage, RA could stop paying it and the property would be sold at auction. We have no such option.

  • John Farrell

    It is an opportunity?

    For the developer to get a $2 million windfall? Sure.

    Buying this land would principally benefit the 3 houses on the cul de sac at the end of Lake Newport Road who are across a small cove of Lake Newport from the Tetra property.

    So its an opportunity for them

    Buying this land would be a benefit to the political allies of those 3 homeowners.

    So its an opportunity for them

    For the rest of RA membership, particularly those living south of the Toll Road, the benefit is ephemeral or attenuated at best, if at all.

    So its no benefit for them at all.

    • JCSuperstar

      John, may we discuss Reston National Golf Course? Here again, Reston appears to be trying to get in the way of what appears to be a formidable fight. They claim they will purchase the property if needed. As I see it, the potential price for that is going to be significant as Reston tries to pry it from the owners.
      More importantly, it looks like the owners have the strength in their corner. As I recall, you had many questions as to the wisdom of this battle.

      • John Farrell

        Your recollection is inaccurate.

  • Robert Mowbray

    RA is for more green space now but gave away much higher quality green space, to a developer, in the Lake Anne land swap.

  • Secret Observers

    “we are empowered to gather enough information….”
    …… to distract public with “no feasibility study performed by a licensed civil engineer” and appraisal for an overpriced building with a foundation on unknown soil and subsoil.

    “That is what we’ve done here — the rest is up to you.”
    ….. best way to escape or avoid accountability for a group of “we” DIRECTORS leading “the rest” to wrong directions.
    …..”the rest” will soon be forgotten while “we” (RA board & staff) will be remembered for FAMED or…. BLAMED for what happens to TETRA in the next 20 + years.

  • Irwin Flashman

    There is one and only one thing of value in Eve Thompson’s Op Ed piece. In the past, only the RA Board President and the CEO were allowed to make statements as representatives of the RA. Board members were not even free to speak their own minds in public as individuals not representing the RA positions. It seems that Eve Thompson has broken ground and made a statement without the explicit blessing of the aforementioned “authorized representatives”. I take it that this means the former policy is now abrogated and Board members may now freely speak their minds in their personal capacities without any Board authorization. This is as it should have been years ago. It is time to celebrate freedom of speech and one small step for openness of the RA.

    • Ken Knueven

      Irwin,

      First, pardon my low presence here. I feel like I’m entering the Wild West where trolls have no names. That’s my attempt at humor folks.

      I need to clarify your comment. The Board of Directors, CEO, Senior
      Leadership Team and Committees are Ambassadors to the community. They have the opportunity to share their thoughts at any time.

      It is good governance and our policy, per the Board & Association Operations Resolution 11; Association Spokespersons, put in place June of 2011 — that certain efforts are in place to make sure matters pertaining to the Association are following a process regarding external communications.

      Yes, the CEO and President are the sole spokespersons (unless they delegate) for Reston Association and its Board of Directors in providing Association information to the Members and the general public, including the press, and in providing position statements and correspondence with County, State and Federal Policy Makers.

      This does not preclude any Director to speak as an individual at ANY time. Director Thompson ran her statement by the Communications Director and me to make sure the facts of the Board were stated correctly. She is being a good ambassador.

      Irwin, as you know, in a couple of instances, in the past, Directors have decided to speak for the board representing the information incorrectly, requiring the Association to quickly provide the correct facts and details.

      As I explained to a couple of your friends/colleagues on the Board, if you wish to represent the Board with a statement, you should please run it by the Communications Director or the CEO or President to make sure you are clearly stating the facts and the position correctly. That’s it.

      The reason for this – Reston Association is a Virginia Corporation, which must act accordingly. Directors, misstating a position, or facts, can put the Association in jeopardy.

      Lastly, with regard to the referendum. I would expect, once a referendum is passed unanimously, the Directors continue to promote and advocate the referendum accordingly.

      Thanks,

      Ken

      • Reston Realist

        “Director Thompson ran her statement by the Communications Director and
        me to make sure the facts of the Board were stated correctly. She is
        being a good ambassador.”

        Good dog, Eve, good dog.

        • JCSuperstar

          Every company has an external communications policy. Especially now with social media.

      • fed up

        Care to address the appraisal, Ken?
        …nothing to see here, move along…

  • fed up

    Waterfront homeowners in Lake Newport ($1mil+++houses) have an extensive e-mail campaign in support of this purchase. It would enhance the value of their homes – so they are all for green space! What about the Restonians that can hardly afford the dues as they exist? Do they benefit from Lake Newport waterfront houses going up in value? Who benefits from this 2.6 million dollar purchase? Tetra (Bill Lauer) gets twice market value. Rich Lake Newport homeowners get guaranteed views. The rest of us pay for it.
    Vote NO and get your neighbors to do the same!

  • Humbug Me Not

    Northpointe is full of richer folks–we on the other side have more folks with fewer resources. So we stand to lose our open space and Reston buys more for the better-off. What’s wrong with this picture?

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