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Op-Ed: I Voted ‘Yes’ on Tetra, You Should Too

by RestonNow.com April 27, 2015 at 2:30 pm 29 Comments

Michael Sanio/Credit: David Madison for RAThis is an op-ed from Reston Association At-Large Director Michael Sanio. It does not reflect the views of Reston Now.

I voted yes in the Tetra referendum for the following three reasons:

1) The 3.5 acres Tetra Property next to Lake Newport and the former Reston Visitors Center provides a wonderful space for children’s activities, summer camps, even family weddings and gatherings.  Tetra will complement Brown’s Chapel, the Pony Barn and other Reston amenities.

2) In later years, cost for the property are estimated to increase member assessments no more than $5 per year.

3) Reston’s ownership of the Tetra Property will add to open space.  Open space that is constantly under pressure from development, especially given the approved development at Lake Anne.

One of the comments I often hear when I speak to friends and neighbors is – the Tetra Property is already protected and can not be developed further. A restaurant can not be built on the site. The existing Fairfax County Resource Protection Act – RPA will prevent further development.

In fact, the existing regulations, and decisions of Fairfax County will allow further, development including a restaurant that can expand over the lake.

This can get technical and legal, so lets get started. Here are the facts:

First, the county RPA maps are guides only. The actual areas included within an RPA are subject to field verification and study by qualified professionals.

Second, there are certain exceptions (where the RPA restrictions do not apply), exemptions (where the regulations themselves provide the ability for certain development activities), limited exceptions for certain zoned development, and waivers (where it is unfair and unproductive to enforce RPA restrictions). The task of analyzing a particular property’s situation is both complicated and fact-specific.

Generally speaking, RPA regulations are intended to restrict the manner in which property is developed or redeveloped, rather than completely precluding such development or redevelopment.

This avoids unconstitutional regulatory takings of property without compensation.

It makes a difference that Lake Newport is a manmade lake which was originally designed to accommodate lakefront development. This is not a situation of a natural waterway where manmade development encroaches and diminishes the natural functioning of the waterway. This distinction makes a difference.

Development of the Tetra Property is permitted through the PRC zoning, development plan and proffers, all approved by the Board of Supervisors in RZ 79-C-032. This approval clearly allows for the development of a restaurant and a sales information center. This background makes a difference in the application of RPA regulations.

The Tetra rezoning and its final site plan (which was deemed to be in conformance with the zoning), were approved prior to the enactment of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act Ordinance Amendments by Fairfax County. This makes a difference.

The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has determined that the proposed restaurant footprint extending over the lake (as shown on the approved site plan) will not encroach into the flood plain and that the man-made lake was designed to accommodate such lakefront development. This makes a difference.

The Board of Supervisors Policy treatment of approved and pending plans of development with regard to the local Fairfax County Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance provisions provides a number of exceptions which can be applied to the Lake Newport Property.

“All developments shall comply with the provisions of the Amended Ordinance to the extent possible, provided such compliance does not preclude fulfillment of any proffered condition.”

The proffers specifically allow the additional restaurant footprint, which is shown on the approved site plan.”

“All development shall comply with the provisions of the Amended Ordinance to the extent possible, provided such compliance does not result in the reduction of density, floor area ratio, or the relocation of structures or facilities, all as shown on the plan of development.”

The approved plan of development shows the current building footprint and the additional restaurant footprint which extends onto the lake. There are no height limitations in this zoning approval. ”

“Any plat, plan or building permit submitted pursuant to a proffered rezoning application or District rezoning application approved prior to July 1, 1993″ is excepted from the RPA regulations. Rezoning RZ-79-C-032 is both a proffered and P District rezoning application, which was approved prior to July 1, 1993.”

For more information on this, including a letter from county staff, I invite you to review the materials on our website.

We are making important decisions for our children, and our community. We want to carefully consider the financial implications, and the long term benefits. I urge you to carefully review the facts, and make your voice heard.

As I said, I voted yes. As an interested member of the community, I urge you to vote too. The referendum runs through May 8.

  • MJay

    According to this op-ed, our dues will eventually go up by “no more than” $5 per year. Has the RA Board considered cutting back on other expenses to reduce this number? My concern is that $5 here, $2 there… It all adds up for a community where our primary HOA dues are approaching $700 on top of the cluster dues that many of us already pay.

    • Ming the Merciless

      We’re going to pay way too much for something, but who cares because it is spread out over a lot of people and over a long time! Yaaay, easy payment plans! That’s the kind of thoroughly responsible attitude that you like to see in your homeowner’s association.

      Also, the supposed “low cost” is beside the point. This is not something the RA should be doing at all, at any price.

    • JoeInReston

      There has been mention of making the dues more ‘progressive’ – squeezing more juice from the higher valued properties and reducing the squeeze on the lessor valued properties.

      (This post is not intended as an endorsement of the mention)

  • Wings!!

    “provides a wonderful space for children’s activities, summer camps, even family weddings and gatherings.” Yawn. Lets build a Hooters on the lake and get some Tuesday Night Trivia and pony buckets of coors light!

  • LakeNewportGuy

    Isn’t this all a moot point. My understanding is that to get the quorum on any referendum it’s some minuscule number of votes relative to the voting population, which they already got.

    • Ming the Merciless

      The referendum has to pass as well as get a quorum so it is not moot.
      A quorum has been reached – therefore it is important to vote NO.

  • YL

    1. Hooters jokes aside, I honestly don’t see the problem with a nice restaurant in this location

    2. How is a no-negotiation deal ever a good idea?

    • JoeInReston

      Personally, I think some kind of small quiet upscale restaurant with a nice view would fit nicely, but you can’t control what kind of business acquires that property, assuming a business would be interested.

    • 30yearsinReston

      If it benefits a few

  • vdiv

    1) Don’t have kids, don’t care about yours.
    2) Yeah right! You pay for all of it if it’s so low.
    3) That was an easy fix, don’t overbuild Lake Anne or the rest in the first place!

  • Ray Wedell

    Wow….. a knowledgeable essay posting an accurate piece on Tetra? A piece refuting the many scare tactics, and extinguishing all the diversionary heat generated in the past few weeks? Good work, Mr. Sanio. As you know, I consider a “yes” vote on Tetra to be a “no brainer.” That is, for those who value our open spaces, quality of life, and want to leave a better place for those who follow us in the future. Thanks, again.

    • RAmember2

      Well, Ray, you have no brains, so vote yes.

      • Ray Wedell

        Quite the mature response.

  • Jennifer Bates

    Thank you Mr. Sanio for your thoughtful piece and for your service to the community. I think not buying this property would be shortsighted. As Reston grows we will need to accommodate more residents in our recreational facilities, when will we ever get another opportunity to add to our open space.

    I for one think a lake front park for use by everyone would be wonderful and I’m voting YES. I encourage my neighbors to do so as well.

    • Ray Wedell

      I agree, Jennifer.

  • Robert Mowbray

    Isn’t the main purpose of Lake Newport, and all lakes in Reston, stormwater management, not the accomodation of lakefront development? If so, the lake exists to help protect the Bay from pollution and sedimentation.

    • 30yearsinReston

      Reston Lakes and Lake Fairfax were dredged and built to manage storm water
      That was one of the conditions that were required to approve the original development

  • Mason

    Would you consider a boat ramp and/or RA paddle boat rentals with the addition of the new facility?

  • South_Reston_Rocks

    1) I think the cost of this transaction is too high by 50 to 80 percent.
    2) i would get more use out of a restaurant with deck and view on the lake than any of the proposed uses for the building.
    3) Open and undeveloped spaces is one of things that brought me to Reston. But I fail to see what makes this plot of land so special.
    I am voting No.

  • 30yearsinReston

    If Lake Newport was built for the benefit of Lakeside Property Owners
    Let them pay for it, if the can get a mortgage

  • 30yearsinReston

    Glad to see Mr Sanio is not worried about the estimated $5 a year contribution to benefit a few priveliged land owners
    Can he please make my contribution as well

  • Ray Wedell

    Once again, great post Mike. The facts speak loud and clear. If you value open spaces in Reston and care to maintain the life style we have protected for 50 years, you HAVE to vote “yes” on this. https://nysr2.wordpress.com/2015/04/27/why-a-yes-vote-on-the-tetra-referendum-is-a-no-brainer/

    • MJay

      That’s a little over the top, isn’t it? I use the trails and outdoor amenities quite a bit, and don’t see how this expenditure will stave off altering the Reston lifestyle. I respect your opinion and passion, but come on, you make it sound like the end is near if we don’t spend all this money on this one single piece of property. You can only cry “wolf” so many times before people begin to tune out. Besides, the one thing you “HAVE” to do as a board is be responsible in expending the members’ money and building upon the reserve fund.

    • RAmember2

      I see you not only sell real estate, you also sell fear on your personal blog.

      • JCSuperstar

        Is there a problem with one’s occupation being in real estate? What is your point? So many here going after the integrity of their neighbors.

        At the end of the day the issue here is managing risk. Risk of development versus not being developed.

        If you are not opposed to development, (as the majority appear to be regarding Tall Oaks,) vote NO. If you see the risk, and wish to protect the parcel vote YES.

        Risk carries cost. On both sides of the discussion.

  • JCSuperstar

    Excellent points Mr. Sanio.
    Development of this property is inevitable, and I look forward to that taking place. Many here actually look forward to a beautiful restaurant finding its way to such a venue.

  • Ed Cacciapaglia

    Interesting how some think any purchase to prevent development that apparently won’t happen anyways is good idea at any price. I, too, oppose over development and I support Rescue Reston’s objective to keep the Golf Course from becoming a series of high rise building, BUT the area where the Tetra building resides will never be a large scale commercial development. I voted NO, because I believe that RA Board has behaved irresponsibly in this proposed acquisition. If RA had come to the Homeowners with a $1.3 Million proposal along with 2 appraisals done at the true fair market value I probably would be in support, but this proposed purchase smells of a backroom deal. And I wonder which RA director who hasn’t written in favor of this boondoggle will post an op ed tomorrow.

    One parting query: Do any of the members of the RA Board stand obtain any personal financial gain from the acquisition of this property?

    • Ray Wedell

      Hi Ed,
      I had a detailed piece ready to post. I am an RA Director. I was informed that my reference to playing “Russian Roulette” with developers on this land was inappropriate and promoting suicide. I don’t like people taking liberties with op-eds and feeding back partials and sound bites. So I respectfully did not post, rather than be censored into a sanitized piece. You know how to find me. I will gladly send to you.

      I have absolutely no personal financial gain from the acquisition of this property. Thanks for your interest in this important issue.

  • Ray Wedell

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