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Op-Ed: What is the Cost of RA Not Buying Tetra?

by RestonNow.com — April 24, 2015 at 2:00 pm 41 Comments

Tetra buildingThis is an op-ed from Reston Dave Williams. It does not reflect the views of Reston Now.

What is the cost of RA NOT buying the Tetra property?

It seems that most Restonians are in favor of RA buying the Tetra property, but are concerned that the price may be too high.

Viewing this purchase in the context of a commercial purchase is, in my view, the wrong perspective.

Rather, the purchase should be viewed from the perspective of value in the context of residential Reston. This is a unique, perhaps one-time, opportunity to purchase wonderful waterfront property located between Reston-owned spaces and in the heart of a number of residential communities.

If RA does not purchase this property, one can be certain that at some point it will be developed commercially to its maximum commercial value — perhaps repeatedly over the years. Commercial development in the heart of a residential area will have a tremendously negative impact on the value and quality of residential Reston.

Viewing this purchase from a commercial investment point of view, I believe, misses the point. Part of the point of the purchase is in fact to prevent commercial development. Of course the owner wants to sell for its maximum commercial potential value. RA wants to use the property but also to prevent such commercial development. However, to expect to be able to purchase the property at a non-commercial value is unrealistic. And it makes it difficult to negotiate with the owner when the purchaser’s bottom line is (rightfully so in this case) publicly available.

We moved to Reston over 20 years ago. We did not move here for its commercial value. We moved here because of its residential value. We moved here because of the woods, the open spaces, the trails, the wildlife and the beautiful peaceful lakes.

For us, RA is primarily in the business of assuring excellent residential quality. If the primary purpose of RA was commercial development, then we should cut down all the trees and fill the open spaces with high rises and commercial development.

Failure to purchase this property would be a huge mistake. If RA cannot purchase the property and has no control over its development and use, years from now, as this property is developed Restonians will look back with regret and say “I can’t believe we let this opportunity slip away.”

Please vote YES to purchase the Tetra property!

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

  • Sandy Bridges

    Dave,
    thank you, thank you, thank you for stating what I’ve been thinking for these past weeks! It’s the cost of NOT buying it now that we should be weighing–well said!

    • MJay

      “It’s the cost of NOT buying it now that we should be weighing”
      I’ll think about that in December/January when I pay my RA dues, and will think about it again when my RA dues near and then pass the $700 threshold.

      • Reston Realist

        If you follow Maynard’s logic (as JCSuperstar does so meticulously), you’ll understand that your annual fees will go up by more than $400 over the next 20 years at 3% inflation and the Tetra purchase will add another $80 to that increase.
        Yes, we’ll be well beyond the $1,000 per year threshold by then.

        • JCSuperstar

          Hey don’t bring me into this. And you obviously didn’t even read his analysis.

          Mr. Maynard’s nonsensical analysis states it will cost the homeowner a GRAND TOTAL of $83.56 over 20 years. An average of $4/yr.

          His simplistic view is not mine.

          • Ming the Merciless

            I’d rather have a latte at Starbucks once a year for 20 years than own Tetra.

        • Rodney Dangerfield

          That isn’t accurate … what Maynard has said (which still ignores that fact that RA will own the property and building free and clear after those 20 years) is that the cash flow will add about $80 total over those 20 years (about $4 a year, on average).

  • John Farrell

    Fearmongering is not a justification for overspending other peoples money.

    The property cannot be further developed. The zoning administrator has ruled their can be no further office developed on the property. Read the letter posted on the RA website.

    The RPA and floodplain will require Board of Supervisors approval of an RPA exception and possibly a floodplain special exception.

    Even if both of them were granted, a restaurant would require a PRC plan approval from the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Then a site plan would have to be approved.

    That ain’t happening.

    Given the cost to fix the exising building now set at over $500,000, the property isn’t worth what the current owner paid for it.

    • JCSuperstar

      I believe Mr. Looney would disagree with you, given the opportunity. You and I are on the same side regarding the referendum, but I disagree with regard to your opinion regarding its development.

      • JCSuperstar

        And it appears Mr. Looney is getting busier and busier.

        • JCSuperstar

          Again, the good news is you and I agree to vote NO. But, I totally disagree with you regarding the redevelopment potential of that parcel.

      • John Farrell

        Read the letter from Barbara Byron. Further, the current owner is quoted in the 2015 Appraisal saying the same thing.

        • JCSuperstar

          I did, and as I read it she approves it plain and simple in 2001 and again in 2003 in response to who? Mr. Looney. Right there on the RA website..

          Yes, she does highlight the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) and I believe that is your point. But, you know as well as I, there are plenty of exceptions available. The Tetra plans were in place well before Chesapeake Bay Act.

          • John Farrell

            But the portion of the plans for the restaurant were rescinded by Terrabrook before the Ches Bay Statute and Ordinance were adopted and would be subject to the RPA.

            Further, her letter says application of floodplain remains an open issue.

            She also says a PRC plan would need to be approved.

            As a zoning official, her letter would not address the Ches Bay Ordinance as it is separate from the zoning ordinance.

          • JCSuperstar

            You and I will have to agree to disagree on this. But, the betting man that I am says Looney has this one in hand too.

          • John Farrell

            Except the restaurants that have looked at the question appear to have agreed with me.

          • JCSuperstar

            Pure conjecture on your part. Could have been the downturn in real estate and I don’t know — the worst recession since the great depression.

          • John Farrell

            The absence of RPA exceptions is not conjecture.

            Appraisal reports the exposure to the restaurants and their reaction.

    • BBurns

      BZA can and does overrule the administrators.

      • John Farrell

        Only rarely

        And I’ve won cases in front of the BZA.

        But the appeal has to filed in 30 days. Tetra didn’t. Therefore, the ruling is a “thing decided and not subject to further review.”

    • Secret Observers

      John… absolutely and respectfully agree.

      “Commercial development in the heart of a residential area will have a tremendously negative impact on the value and quality of residential. …..”
      …. Wild Wild West or Avatar ? Will Commercial development in the 21st century in Lake Newport, Reston, state of Virginia, United States of America be required to pass tons of rules, regulations, laws, town hall meetings and …. DRB (Design Review Board) ?

      “Part of the point of the purchase is in fact to prevent commercial development”. …so RA has to rush before the owner changes mind and decides to sell for $270 Millions and …..” years from now, Restonians will look back” and appreciate RA BOD, staff … and Mr. Williams for the debt only $2.7+ Millions. Sounds too good to be true ! Their and Mr. Williams names should be recorded in pink ….or grey history book of Reston ???

  • Reston Realist

    At what price point does “the cost of NOT buying” this property exceed even the most ridiculous fears and hopes of some in Reston? Is it $10 million, $25 million, maybe $100 million? I think we should all know what that price point is and maybe RA can tell us.

    • Ming the Merciless

      For people who live near Tetra, like Dave Williams, no price is too high to pay — when using Other People’s Money.

      • Reston Realist

        Not another Newport NIMBY!

  • Ming the Merciless

    If RA does not purchase this property, one can be certain that at some point it will be developed commercially

    I am not certain of that at all.

    And I don’t regard it as a bad thing if it happens.

    And if it were a bad thing, I would not regard it as a thing that all of Reston has to do anything about. Only a few owners on Lake Newport are affected. If they want the property denied to development, they and only they should pay to do so.

    And if all of Reston were going to do something about it, it should not do so at the grossly excessive price that the RA irresponsibly wishes to pay.

    That is why I voted NO on the Tetra purchase.

  • restonresident

    Dave Williams,
    With due respect you are missing the whole point.
    The problem is that the purchase price is not the commercial value! We want RA to pay the market price not an inflated asking price supported by only one appraisal and a flawed one at best.
    Its like going into by a car with a sticker price of say $30k when you can negotiate it down to $25k and then paying $40K.

    • JCSuperstar

      Obviously you’ve never been in a commercial real estate transaction before. LOL

  • BBurns

    Your op-ed is so well put, thank you. It’s reminds me of the golf course (including old field fringe habitat so rare and important for wildlife). Developers are salivating to chew Reston up and spit it out into major money-making development, or re-sell at even higher prices. Is there one chance out of 25, 50, 100 that wouldn’t happen? Maybe. I just wouldn’t want to risk it.

    • Ken Knueven

      As you have probably read or heard by now, the seller of the Old Visitors Center property has agreed to pay $275,000 for repairs to the property.

      In addition, we have a developer proffer of $650,000 to be paid up front at time of closing, and,

      In addition, the seller wishes to lease back for 6 months for the sum of $100,096, with an option to execute another 6 months (at same lease amount) if possible…

      We are now at a net purchase of @ $1.6M
      (assuming just one lease-back period).

      But what’s important here, and I’m so happy to see so many people understanding this — it isn’t about the cost — it’s about the OPPOTUNITY COST of not taking advantage of this rare opportunity.

      It is unlikely the Members will ever have the opportunity in the future to add this parcel to our Natural Resources Portfolio for $1.6 M (or less, as we’re not done yet). One thing we know, more density (more people) is a given in Reston. The impact to our open spaces is going to be real unless we take great strides in protecting them.

      Know this as well, the Visitors Center will be sold, that is a 100% given. So, it is important for ALL of the Members to take total control of this parcel, just as we are doing with regard to the Reston National Golf Course, or any other open land parcel in jeopardy.

      If you haven’t voted yet and, do so by the 8th of May.

      If you want to speak with me or anyone on the Board, just ask. I’ll meet with you, your neighbors, your cluster, your board anytime, anywhere.

      The voting has been fast and furious so far, you can go to the web site and see after two weeks we’re already over 2500 votes. Quorum was reached early on.

      Thanks for your time,
      Ken

  • Sally Parker

    Where is Rescue Reston in all this? I can’t believe that they aren’t leading the charge in this effort! Or do we have to wait until someone is trying to develop the property before we take action?! Come on RR what are your thoughts on this?!

    • Rational Reston

      RR is laser focused on the golf course in their own backyards.

  • William S
    • Ken Knueven

      Thanks for highlighting William…
      Ken

  • Ed Cacciapaglia

    Pile on the propaganda. The cost of not buying it is…………..NOTHING!

    • Ken Knueven

      Sometimes, taking no action is the most expensive option of all.

      You can easily research what is fact. Home values are directly related to the amount of open spaces (natural areas, parks, ball fields, sports facilities) available to them. The latest Reston surveys point out the primary reason people choose to buy in Reston is the protected, open spaces.

      Doing nothing — short sells the future for you, your children and your children’s children.

      As the famous historian says… “Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing…If there is one eternal truth of politics, it is that there are always a dozen good reasons for doing nothing.”

      • Ed Cacciapaglia

        If this is approved at the current price, the cost of overpaying will be financial burden on RA’s homeowners in the form for years to come. The problem isn’t the idea. The problem is the appearance that RA has made an awful deal by failing to negotiate a reasonable price, especially when there apparently are no other parties interested in buying this proiperty.

  • Ken Knueven

    As you have probably read or heard by now, the seller of the Old Visitors Center property has agreed to pay $275,000 for repairs to the property.

    In addition, we have a developer proffer of $650,000 to be paid up front at time of closing, and,
    In addition, the seller wishes to lease back for 6 months for the sum of $100,096, with an option to execute another 6 months (at same lease amount) if possible…

    Assuming just one lease back payment, we are at a net purchase of @ $1.6M.

    But what’s important here, and I’m so happy to see so many people understanding this isn’t about the cost — it’s about the opportunity cost of not taking advantage of this rare opportunity.
    It is unlikely the Members will ever have the opportunity in the future to add this parcel to our Natural Resources Portfolio for $1.6 M (or less, as we’re not done yet).
    Know this, the property will be sold. It is important for all the Members to take total control of this parcel, jus as we are doing with regard to the Reston National Golf Course, or any other open land parcel in jeopardy.
    If you haven’t voted yet and, do so by the 8th of May. If you want to speak with me or anyone on the Board, just ask. I’ll meet with you, your neighbors, your cluster, your board anytime. The voting has been fast and furious so far, you can go to the web site and see after two weeks we’re already over 2500 votes. Quorum was reached early on.

    • Stop the Insanity

      So now it seems you are resorting to outright lying and deception to pass this agreement. Per a statement from an RA representative the developer pro-offer is not contingent on the sale of the TETRA property. Also I believe the TETRA rent back is for the entire time period not per month.

      if I am incorrect, I apologize. Please direct us to a location with the clarifying statement.

      If I am correct, I expect an apology and public correction.

  • Ken Knueven

    Mr. Williams,

    Thank you for a wonderfully written piece. You make one superb point, which is so true for all of us (Reston Members):

    “We did not move here for its commercial value. We moved here because of its residential value. We moved here because of the woods, the open spaces, the trails, the wildlife and the beautiful peaceful lakes.”

    This is why we need to continue to defend parcels like the Old Visitors Center as well as the Golf Course.

    Ken Knueven
    Board of Directors

  • Mason

    Seems to me that if Reston Association buys this property that there should be a public boat ramp. I think that would be something that would make this investment pay off for all Restonians.

  • 30yearsinReston

    “If RA does not purchase this property, one can be certain that at some
    point it will be developed commercially to its maximum commercial value —
    perhaps repeatedly over the years”.

    Great another prognostic reading the property future

    Not if it subject to floods
    Not if is subject to Chesapeake Bay ordinances
    Not if no one wants to buy it

    The only certainty is that ALL reston homeowners will be subject to a excessive bill that they will not benefit from
    The only certainty is that rates will go up while community amenities like aging, decrepit pools will be allowed to deteriorate

    is that enough “certainties’ for you. I have more if you need them

  • 30yearsinReston

    Is it correct that Mr Dave Williams owns property close by the fancy real estate trailer ?
    If so, why doesn’t he and the HOA buy this derelict from the current owner ?
    Could it be that no bank will execute a mortgage based on this appraisal and collateral ?

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