Op-Ed: Tetra Price is a Fair Price

by RestonNow.com May 1, 2015 at 3:00 pm 146 Comments

Tetra buildingThis is an op-ed by Reston Association Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Director Eve Thompson, who also is a Realtor. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

As I’ve talked with members regarding the proposed purchase of the Tetra property, one of the questions most often asked is “Why is there a difference between the assessment and the sale price?” Below is a detailed answer to that question. If you have other questions about the referendum, the property, want to see more detailed information, or want to cast your ballot, please visit the Tetra property page.

Assessed values are normally not used to establish negotiated sale prices for commercial property. It is the other way around — negotiated sale prices for commercial sale property are used to determine assessed values. This is so because the definition of fair market value is:

“The most probable price which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, with the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby:

  1. Buyer and seller are typically motivated;
  2. Both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their own best interests;
  3. A reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market”

For example, the purchase price of the Reston National Golf Course in 2005 was $5,009,819 for the property. It was assessed at the time for $3,492,500. The assessed value did not dictate the sale price. It is extremely unlikely that the owner of the Reston National Golf Course would now be willing to sell the golf course for its current assessed value of $972,380.

If it is the policy of Reston Association to never purchase additional common area at more than its assessed value, it will not only never be able to purchase the Tetra property — it will also never be able to purchase the golf course.

Assessed values are based on recent sale prices of “similar” property. It is done through a mass appraisal process (thousands of properties valued at once) which does not involve the detailed study performed in an individual appraisal. It is common for commercial real estate sales prices to far exceed assessed County assessed values, as shown on the below chart.

EVE CHART1As I’ve mentioned before, I fully support this decision to purchase the Tetra property and urge you, my neighbors, to join me in voting yes.

  • JoeInReston

    My thoughts:

    – The op-ed is written at too high a level, particularly compared with the other op-eds.
    – Thompson didn’t address any of her opponent’s concerns.
    – Thompson sole argument was that an appraisal can be priced higher than an assessment. No arguments were made to support the current appraisal price.

  • Stop the Insanity

    Hi Eve, thanks for sharing some actual facts about real estate and the well written opinion. Probably the best written one yet.

    I feel there are 3 different camps in this discussion. There is the RA side with the “buy it at any cost” opinion. The development group with the opinion “let free market reign” to allow the property to be developed. Finally there is a middle group that I believe would like the property to remain as unchanged as possible but some development isn’t necessarily bad if it were to happen. This group includes people that just don’t want to pay that much to protect a tiny piece of property.

    You provided a description of how FMV is determined. Here are my responses:

    1. Buyer and seller are typically motivated;
    RA seems willing to buy this property at any price. It doesn’t appear they negotiated at all.

    2. Both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their own best interests;
    RA has not provided timely or complete information to the RA membership about the proposed purchase prior to the referendum.

    3. A reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market”
    As far as I know this property has had limited exposure to the market and the parties that did look decided to not pursue the purchase.

    I don’t have experience in commercial real estate but I tried looking for a reasonably equivalent property in Reston. It is hard to do since there aren’t many stand alone business properties that aren’t in village centers. The one really close option, after considering some small trade-offs, most recently sold in 2004 for 1.6 million. Similar property, similar last sale date, different last sale price (TETRA was half), and similar tax assessment rates. My comparison property has increased more rapidly most likely due to a currently operating successful business.

    In less than an hour I was able to find a reasonable comparison property that somehow the assessment by RA wasn’t able to find.

    Taking all that into consideration I believe that the TETRA property is worth 2 million after repairs.

    That is why I voted NO.

    • ItsNotMyMoney

      Well there is also the other group who realize that although Reston really likes trees, money doesn’t grow on them, and we don’t have the money to buy the property. Therefore, even if it is worth that amount of money, we don’t have it and we shouldn’t put ourselves in debt at the tune of double the marketable value just to have it.

      • JCSuperstar

        So, for all the so-called tree preservers, what’s a tree in Reston worth specifically?
        $10,000, $100,000, $500,000, or $10, $5… $72?

        • John Farrell

          There is a manual published by an arborists or forestry association that is used to estimate values for trees by species, diameter at breast height and condition.

  • LeftPolitico

    Yes, the sales price may frequently be above the assessed value. But the sales price should be a price arrived at through negotiation. For Tetra, there is no evidence that RA went through a fair negotiation process in order to come up with the lowest price that could be obtained. Instead, the evidence seems to have shown that RA agreed to the first price that the Tetra owner proposed.

    • JohnBT

      What is a “fair” negotiation? Did the seller take advantage by refusing to lower his price? He does have the only one of “its” kind, he does have a bit of an advantage but if the seller wants to sell and the buyer wants to buy– I’m not sure what else there is to say about it, except this is why those involved in a transaction get appraisals– to verify that the price is in the ballpark.

      You can fight about the basis of the appraisal all you want but the company used is a professional organization that adheres to a professional standard. Vote no or vote yes but lets stop acting like some act of gross incompetence or deception is taking place.

      • Ed Cacciapaglia

        “…some act of gross incompetence or deception is taking place.”.John, that’s exactly what some of us critical thinkers are led to believe, i.e the lack of disclosure and the lack of a 2nd appraisal gives the odor of a backroom deal. That in turn leads to distrust in the community. A lot of us are unwilling to support “my RA right or wrong” and are voting NO.

        • JCSuperstar

          Led to believe how? What specifics, besides the 2nd appraisal?

          • JoeInReston

            How about the RA instruction to the appraiser to assume that restaurant uses are permitted?

      • John Farrell


  • JCSuperstar

    While I am not in favor of Reston Association intervening with member dollars, this is a well laid out opinion.

    • RAmember2

      …and everyone has got one.
      But what are the facts?

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Ms. Thompson, in general, you make your money by keeping transaction prices as high as possible. It is little wonder, then, that you are advocating the $2,600,000 price as a reasonable price. In you line of business, the larger the sale price, the larger the commission.

    As a dues paying member — the guy who has to foot the bill for this purchase — I must disagree. The price seems unusually high to me. Unfortunately, the extent of my argument for me is simply that it feels like an excessive price.

    So, I’m going with my gut on this one. My vote is No.



      I am very much against the Tetra purchase and am a vocal critic of many of the decisions of RA & the Board of Directors. That being said, Ms. Thompson’s occupation as a real estate agent is not relevant .

      • Chuck Morningwood

        Not relevant? Maybe she isn’t working on commission on this transaction, but she’s in the real estate business and this is a real estate transaction. How could that not be relevant?

    • JCSuperstar

      I’m sorry, did I miss something? Were there brokers involved in this proposed purchase? No. What a horrible slam to so many who choose real estate as their profession.

    • Rational Reston

      “A rising tide lifts all boats”

  • John Farrell

    A 20% difference between sales price and assessed value, a la RNG, is not unusual.

    A 216% difference, a la Tetra?

    Never seen it or heard of it in 31 years of practice.

    • Sam S

      Land use and real estate sales are two very different things Mr. Farrell.

      • John Farrell


        I’ve closed more commercial real estate transactions, handled more commercial real estate valuations cases and read more appraisals than anyone posting on this issue.

        But good try.

        • Sam S

          Gee I wonder why RA didn’t engage you since you’re so fantastic?

          Honestly Mr. Farrell the posts you’ve made using your actual name have mostly revealed that you’re an overbearing bully, I hate to think of what you’ve posted under fake names.

          • John Farrell

            Maybe ’cause I ran against them?

            Unlike you, I don’t post under fake names.

            Engaging in anonymous ad hominem attacks is really courageous.

          • JCSuperstar

            Please explain — ” ’cause I against them ”

          • Ming the Merciless

            In point of fact we would have been well-served if the RA had engaged someone skeptical of the purchase like John Farrell. But no, we only get one opinion that supports the bizarre determination of the Board to squander our money.

            And by the way, disagreeing with you on the basis of superior knowledge and experience does not constitute bullying.

          • Cluster Tycoon

            I suggest leaving the heavy lifting to those who are experts in gravity and resort back to “mining radio and other active elements on distant moons” which appears to be one of your core strengths. Have a nice flight and the back should be better in two years or so (before you arrive)

          • Ming the Merciless

            Your efforts are weak and clumsy.

            Ming suggests leaving the snark to those who are experts.

        • JCSuperstar

          So, in your professional opinion, what is the Fair Market Value of Reston National Golf Course?

          • John Farrell

            Haven’t examined the issue yet.

            I’d need to see an income statement which is not publicly available.

          • JCSuperstar


  • Reston Member

    Here’s an unanswered question. Why did the current owners, presumably a successful going concern, allow the place to fall apart? If it is really worth millions of dollars, why isn’t it a shining example of a first rate property?

    • Greg

      Good question. Answer anyone?

      • JCSuperstar

        Uhhh. A third party Engineering Firm states in their study:

        Overall, site improvements are in good to fair condition compared to other developments of similar age and use. (See Section 3.2)

        The building is in good to fair condition compared to other structures of similar age and use. (See Section 3.3)

        Overall, mechanical electrical and plumbing systems are in good to fair condition, and are adequate for support of the property’s current use. (See Section 3.4)

        Interior fit-out and other building systems are generally in average condition, and are for their current use. (See Sections 3.5 – 3.7)

        In our opinion, property management and maintenance activity have been good to fair. We observed several deferred maintenance items including asphalt parking lot pavement, roof shingles, exposed trusses, and HVAC equipment.


        Please see Section 6.0 for definitions of Immediate, Short-Term and Long-Term cost categories, excluded items, and cost estimating methodology. Exhibit B, a summary table of our Opinion of Probable Cost of all recommended Capital Repair/Replacement Budgets is inserted following this section.


        We did not observe any portions of the property which exhibit significant unsafe conditions or code violations. Also, we did not
        observe any components of the property that have failed or have conditions which may result in critical failures within the next year.

        Short-term, Years 1

        We observed several portions of the property which have significant physical deficiencies. Our opinion of the probable (first year) cost to repair or replace these priority items is $144,364.

        Long-term Years 2 – 10

        We anticipate that three site improvements and/or building systems will require significant capital investments for repair or replacement over the specified time period. Our opinion of probable cost aggregated over years 2-10 is $100,100. (in current dollars.) When inflated at an annual interest rate of 3.0%, the out-year costs total to $113,046.


  • Irwin Flashman

    This is another attempt by RA to cloud the issue at hand – the price set to be paid in the purchase and sale contract. The assessed value and the appraised value of the property taken “as is”, without the potential to construct a restaurant, in the 2015 appraisal are not that far apart. The appraisal offers two numbers for the property “as is” using two different methods. The Sales Comparison Approach yields $1.45 million; the Income Approach gives $1.09 million. Both are reasonably comparable to the 2014 Assessed value of $1.248 million. Combining the two approaches, the appraiser came up with $1.3 million as the value “as is”.

    The essential difference between the oft quoted appraised value of $2.65 million and these other values comes about because the 2015 appraisal further assumes “that restaurant uses are permitted…” (see, page 2 of the cover letter from the appraiser dated February 4, 2015 to RA attorney John McBride). This assumption comes about because of the “client instruction that restaurant uses are permitted.” (See, page 1, paragraph 1 of the same letter.) The value assigned to the restaurant use is $1.35 million, which added to the $1.3 million yields the magic $2.65 million, just slightly lower than the value stated in the appraisal to be the lowest acceptable price to the seller.

    However, the likelihood of there being a permitted restaurant use is, in my judgment and that of John Farrell (see, Op-Ed: Good People Straying from the ‘Reston Way’, in RestonNow.com, April 22, 2015), so remote that it should not have been taken into account by an appraiser without the specific direction of the client (RA).
    Thus, the basic reason for the difference between the appraised value and the assessed value in the case of the Tetra property is the “client instruction that restaurant uses are permitted” and the seller decision (announced in the appraisal) not to consider any less than $2.7 million. In other words, by RA insisting that the restaurant use be included, it was able to claim that it could reach the seller’s minimum price based on the appraisal.

    • JCSuperstar

      So, M. Flashman.

      Given the assessed value of the Reston National Golf Course, what is the spending limit, your “Authority” will allow Reston Association for purchasing same?

      We’re all waiting with bated breath, to hear from you and your colleagues: Mr. Farrell and Mr. Maynard.

      • RAmember2

        You’re the one with bait on your breath.

        • JCSuperstar

          Still waiting.

        • JCSuperstar


      • John Farrell

        I asked Ken Knueven and Cate Fulkerson for the borrowing limit of RA at the first “community” meeting at Aldrin in early March and I’m still waiting for an answer.

        As I responded below, 16 hours ago, the FMV of RGN is dependent on the net income. Since that information is private, any number would be purely speculative.

        • JCSuperstar

          Perhaps it doesn’t matter. As I understand, the 2015 assessed value of the Reston Golf Course is around $1M. We know it was last sold for much more than that.

          So I ask, and I suspect the Reston Board will need to know, what is the FMV of the golf course now, and in the not-to-distant future?

          And, as importantly, how much are Mr. Flashman, Mr. Maynard, and Mr. Farrell going to allow the Reston Board to spend to purchase the golf course?

          This is important to know, as I believe the only way to avoid the inevitable redevelopment of the property — would be to take ownership.

          So, I ask again. What is the budget threshold placed on the Reston Membership by you guys?

          We’re all patiently waiting.


          • Reston Watcher

            According to the county tax records, the total 2015 assessment for the 165+ acres that make up the Golf Course is over $4.5 million. That’s not nearly “about $1M.”

            The entire golf course was sold to the current owners in 2005 for $5
            million, which was $1.4 million less than its assessed value that year
            of $6.4 million.

            The Reston Golf Course is composed of three land parcels, all owned by RN Golf Management LLC, that are assessed separately.

            The parcel with the address of 11875 Sunrise Valley Dr (Blk 4A Sec 42, map number 0174 11 0004A, about 48 acres) has a 2015 assessment of $1.367 million.

            The parcel with the address of 2018 Soapstone Dr. (Blk 4 Sec 52, map number 0262 05 0004, about 81 aces) has a 2015 assessment $2.211 million.

            The third parcel (Blk 8 Sec 44, map number 0262 02 0008, about 36 acres) is located on the east side of Soapstone and does not have a street address recorded in the county tax records. Its 2015 assessed value is $972,380

            The Sunrise Valley parcel includes a building. The other parcels do not.

            The tax valuation of the three properties has varied widely over the last 15 years. Most of the variation has been in the value of the building, but the land value has also had some wide swings.

            In 2011, the building value dropped from $3.3 million to $257,740, a drop of over $3 million in value. Then this year it dropped from $300,030 to just $65,740.

            Here are the combined assessed values of the three parcels going back to 2000.





































































          • JCSuperstar

            I think everyone agrees. But, I still ask: What is the FMV of the Golf Course? Mr. Maynard said it best — 8000 homes on 166 acres. What’s the SWAG?

    • JoeInReston

      Irwin Flashman writes: ‘This assumption comes about because of the “client instruction that restaurant uses are permitted.’

      Am I understanding this right… The idea to appraise the Tetra property with the potential to construct a restaurant was not determined by the appraiser as part of the appraisal process but by the RA as a underlying assumption in appraising the property?

      If so, this would seem scandalous to me. Is it a typical part of the property buying process for a client to mandate underlying assumptions like that?

      • Irwin Flashman

        Your are correct in your understanding. Please go the 2015 Appraisal on the Reston website and look at the cover letter from the appraiser. That is from where the quote is taken.

        • JCSuperstar

          It absolutely amazes me, there are people who just don’t believe the facts and “just know” because of their supposed expertise.


          • Irwin Flashman

            I have read through the documents you cited as part of your reply. Most rely on or seek determinations made by the Zoning Administrator, who has no jurisdiction over the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act or the County Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance and the corresponding areas set up as Resource Protection Areas or RPAs. In all of the correspondence you cited there is not one mention of the RPA around Lake Newport or how construction may be undertaken in such area. Your references are totally inapposite and do not address the issue of the Ordinance’s prohibition against construction in an RPA. Please take a look at the reference to John Farrell’s excellent Op-Ed on the matter, which I cite in my first intervention on this Op-Ed.
            By the way, is there a reason you do not post under your real name?

          • JCSuperstar

            You are looking at the language in a way that benefits your argument.

            At the end of the day, exceptions rule, when it comes to RPAs. They are guidelines. This county has had a fantastic record in giving exceptions (as provided in the Ordinance itself), especially to properties built well before the Act, along with existing development plans that dictate the owners rights.

            How’s that county staff working for you so far Mr. Flashman?


          • John Farrell

            True, because if anyone who bothers to look at last sentence of the carryover paragraph on page 2 of Barbara Byron’s March 27, 2003 letter to Looney will see that there can be no expansion of the office space beyond the existing building.

            That ruling was never appealed and is thus “a thing decided and not subject to further review.”

            Further the 2015 Appraisal, on page 12 , quotes the current owner as acknowledging that there can be no additional office space on the property.

            So it’s strange that the 2015 Appraisal attributes $1.3 million of the $2.6 million of value to the construction of 6,000 additional square feet of office space when, according to Ms. Byron and the current owner, that additional office space can never happen.

          • JCSuperstar

            Mr. Farrell, I am just going to have to disagree with you, so I suspect that’s where we’ll have to leave this one.

            I still view the documents, and statements, and determinations, and timeframes and existing development plans involving County Staff differently. Especially in this developer friendly climate, here in Reston. I believe Mr. Looney will have a field day with this one.

            As you can probably tell so far, I lean a lot towards the owners and developers, and I’m happy to say they are finally getting their say. The County Staff, the BZA, and even the BOS are very pro-development right now. The next 22 miles of Metro line are dictating that behavior now.

            It won’t change for some time, and I truly think Reston will benefit (I know, some are just itching to reply on that one).
            The Reston Convenience Centers are all subject to redevelopment, and I understand there are already feelers out on two others. So we’ll see.
            I tell you what, if a restaurant goes in a Lake Newport — you owe me a dinner. If not, I owe you one at your favorite.

          • John Farrell

            But your views have to be based on some facts and so far . . . .

            Mark is a protege of sorts but even he would defer, I’m fairly sure.

          • JCSuperstar

            I’m reviewing the documents provided by Reston association between Looney and the County. I am also reading the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance., and specifically, the July, 2005 Revisions.

            As you know (as demonstrated by the Reston National fight), there will always be a number of land use attorneys looking at the same thing and interpreting them entirely differently.

            I’m a betting man, I see this one as a sure bet.

            Speaking of which, I’ve got to get back to the Derby. Mint Julep awaits.


          • John Farrell

            Remember, if Mark thought he could overturn Byron’s determination he would have appealed.

            And didn’t.

            Thus, locking in her rulings.

          • JCSuperstar

            No, the issue at the time, and the real fight, was over the 4 story 22,000 square foot Office Building to be built directly on the parking lot.

            That’s when the fight ended, as they needed to regroup. The determination for the existing development plan was not the issue at the time.

            Look at the development depictions — see the huge building in the background?


            That’s what everyone was fighting.

            Back to the Derby.


          • JCSuperstar

            I’ve never know Mark to walk away from a good opportunity. He’s one of the best in the field (no offense), and so are his protégés and colleagues.

          • JCSuperstar
    • 30yearsinReston

      I knew the “appraisal” was rigged

  • RAmember2

    Does ANY realtor in Reston think the $2.6MM price is too high?

    No Thompson, Hartke, Wedell, for sure.

    I’m looking for one honest broker.

    • Constance (Connie) Hartke

      I’ve talked with several commercial Realtors and not one has flinched at the price.

      • John Farrell


      • Reston Watcher

        You need to talk to potential buyers, not Realtors (who almost always represent sellers).

        • JCSuperstar

          Say what?

          • Reston Watcher

            In the residential market, most real estate agents are seller’s agents. They’re paid a commission out of the sellers proceeds from the sale, and their fiduciary duty lies with the seller to get the seller the best price they legally and ethically can. When two agents participate in the sale, one who lists the property and one who brings the buyer to the property, they are still usually the seller’s agents and split the commission from the seller’s proceeds.

            If a buyer uses a buyer’s agent, which is rare, they are responsible for paying that agent themselves out of their own pocket, and the seller’s agent gets the full commission from the seller. Using a buyer’s agent costs the buyer more because the fee for the buyer’s agent is on top of the full commission to the seller’s agent.

            If a buyer’s agent were to be paid a commission on the seller’s proceeds, it would be a conflict of interest, as their duty to the buyer would be to get the lowest price, but their own income would benefit from a higher price.

            So most real estate agents want to see higher sales prices across the market, because then the sellers make more and the agents make higher commissions. Inflated prices are the real estate agent’s friend. Real estate bubbles are even better for them.

            The commercial market is different, because the buyers tend to be more knowledgeable about the market and have their own experts to advise them. But the commercial agents are still usually the seller’s agents, so the higher prices go in the market, the happier they are.

          • JCSuperstar

            I’m sure you’re kidding — “So most real estate agents want to see higher sales prices across the market, because then the sellers make more and the agents make higher commissions. Inflated prices are the real estate agent’s friend. Real estate bubbles are even better for them.”

          • Reston Watcher

            Not kidding. Check other sources.

          • Reston Watcher

            Though I could have said, “Real estate bubbles are even better for them, until the bubble bursts.”

          • Reston Watcher

            And do note that I said that agents want to get the best price that they **legally and ethically** can. All the agents I’ve personally known have been honest people who worked to help both buyers and sellers. But as the subprime fiasco showed, there are also many who will sell people overpriced properties with loans they can’t afford.


            Reston Watcher,

            Sorry to say, but you have NO CLUE what you are talking about.

          • Reston Watcher

            I don’t know as much about agent’s obligations as I thought when I joined this part of the conversation. I’ve learned. But regarding the subprime mess, yeah, I do. The shenanigans pulled throughout the market to get people into houses and loans they couldn’t afford are well documented.

            None of this, though, has anything to do with the nonsense in Ms. Thompson’s op-ed piece. She didn’t answer the question she said she would, and her numbers are just flat wrong.


            The only shenanigans involved were pulled by the buyers. If a buyer wants to buy, and a lender will make the loan, then we sell the property. Your gripe should be with the buyers themselves and the government policies on lending, not the individual lender or real estate agent.


            Not true either. When the bubble burst and the market was full of short sales, we made great money sellling the short sale properties once we understood the process.

          • JCSuperstar

            I would put my blame on the BANKS, not real estate agents. That’s what the facts show.

            Were you asleep for a few years?

          • JCSuperstar



            Your facts are not correct. Buyers agents are not at all rare, in fact pretty much all residential sales are now done through a sellers agent and a buyers agent.


          Realtors represent sellers and buyers. Listing agents represent the seller, buyers agents represent buyers.

          • Reston Watcher

            You’re right. I overstated the fiduciary duty of the agent a buyer uses to the seller.

            But the conflict is still there, since the agent is paid by the seller. Almost all agents do like higher priced markets. And when the agent the buyer uses is also the listing agent for a house the buyer is interested in (dual agency), the conflict is even stronger. I don’t know if dual agency is legal in Virginia. True buyer’s agents, paid by the buyer, are rare in the residential market.

            Here’s a question I don’t know the answer to. If a buyer is working with an agent (but not paying the agent), and that agent learns from another agent that a seller is motivated by something like a divorce to perhaps accept a lower price, is the agent required (not allowed, but required) to tell the buyer?


            In the old days (before buyer brokerage was common here), the old saying was “everyone works for the seller”, since the seller paid the commission. Once buyer brokerage came into common practice, as it is now, the seller still pays, but it is disclosed that the buyers agent works for and represents the buyers interests. So now, if I know the seller is divorcing and wants a quick sale, I can of course tell the buyer what the situation is. The listing agent may or may not disclose the reason the house is being sold. And in regards to Eve’s profession not being relevant in the tetra decision, I’d add this. Realtors or real estate agents, do not make the market. We interpret trends. In a more typical example, say a home is listed for 500K. And as a buyers agent, I think my buyer will pay full price. But I also think they may get it for 475K. The difference in the commission on a 475K sale & an 500K sale is only 750.00. Agents want what is best for their clients and 750 dollars isn’t enough to make a difference. Does that make sense? Any other agents out there disagree ?

        • Reston Watcher

          Wow- this is like talking to myself!

      • Reston Watcher

        Connie everyone knows that you and your husband are dirty greedy real estate professionals, so therefor everything you say is suspect.

      • Reston Watcher

        Connie –

        Someone decided to respond to my posts by creating an account with the same display name and being rude to other posters. I’m sorry he/she made you a target.

        You can tell the difference between me and the fake by hovering over the poster’s name and looking at the link (or just following the link to the poster’s Disqus page). The fake shows up as RestonWatcherII.

        Again, I’m sorry someone decided to take out their anger at me on you.


      I am a residential real estate agent. I do not do commercial transactions. I am against the purchase. That being said, I feel that the property is “encumbered” by RA & the ever controversial design review board, and the parking lot/chesapeake bay issues. Anyone who would want to buy it, knows how difficult it would be to work with RA, and what the other issues are. I believe the seller knows this and has known this all along. So therefore, I believe RA is the only prospective buyer. Let the seller list the property on the open market (for a 6 or 12 month period) with a broker of his choosing for the price we are paying. If no other offers come in, what would that tell you?

      • JCSuperstar

        What happens if someone buys it?


          Then they buy it. Or if RA still wants to engage in the process they could offer more money or different terms as a true negotiation. But if no one else steps forward to buy, it tells us that the price is too high. My main points here are that any property is worth what someone is willing to pay. and that I don’t believe there are any other buyers interested in this property.

          • JCSuperstar

            Fair enough. I just believe differently, two of the other convenience centers are being looked at as well. In addition, the development now underway in that area of Baron Cameron (Lake Anne, St. Johns Woods, Charter Oak, Fairway, Tall Oaks, etc.) is driving interested parties in all directions around there.

            I also expect Lerner to get underway at the North Point Village Center.

      • RAmember2

        Thank you.

  • Janie Timmerman

    It was great to see RA out at the Farmers Market. I was able to cast my vote right there in the affirmative. Rescue Reston was there to, I’m really glad to see Reston Rescue standing with RA on this issue. The chance to add to our open space won’t happen again. I hope everyone votes Yes, if not for us then for our children.

    • SofaKing

      Vote Yes : it’s for the childrens. (And the whales). If you hate children and want to kill all the whales, then vote No.

  • 30yearsinReston

    Another RA Board member who has no issues with spending others hard earned money

  • JCSuperstar

    Wow, I come in from mowing the lawn, planting some spring flowers, having a couple beers, getting ready for the Derby — and you people are still here. God, get a life, it’s gorgeous out. Go for a walk, head to RTC, Lake Anne, trespass at the Tetra property (sorry, just had to). Seriously.

  • JCSuperstar

    Way to go American Pharoah!

  • Reston Watcher

    I’ve watched the discussion of the Tetra property purchase since its beginning. It’s
    been very frustrating to watch, because the proponents of the purchase have responded to valid questions with silence, opinions put forth as facts, misstatements, both directly and by omission, and lots of red herrings.

    Eve Thompson’s opinion piece and the comments on it from supporters of the purchase contain good examples of all of these.

    The silence, of course, is that the piece does not directly address the specific
    reasons why the Tetra property sale price would be higher than the assessed price, even though that’s the question it purports to answer. The entire piece, by avoiding the question it says it will answer, is just another misstatement by omission.

    Ms. Thompson gave 10 examples of sales prices that were higher than assessed taxable value, going back to 2003. As she says, though, mass assessments for
    tax purposes do not include the “detailed study” necessary to value an individual property, so it’s not clear that any of her examples are comparable to the Tetra property. She could have as easily given ten examples of properties that sold well below their assessed values. Sometimes sales prices are higher than assessed tax values, sometimes lower. Neither situation for one property can support a higher price for another without a “detailed study” of both. Knowing that sales prices are often higher than assessed values does not tell us “Why is there a difference between the assessment and the sale price?” for this particular property.

    When a property sells for a higher price than its assessed value, it’s usually because the actual attributes and condition of the property, when examined by the buyer, merit a higher price. When a property sells for less than the assessed value, it’s usually because the property is in worse shape than an assessment based on averages, not “detailed study,” would reflect The actual attributes and condition of the Tetra property (age, easements, restrictions on construction and needed repairs) all suggest that the property should sell for less than its assessed price. The only assumption that adds to the assessed value of the Tetra property is the possibility of a buyer increasing the size of the building, an assumption that is, at best, questionable. The reasonableness of this assumption is not addressed at all in the appraisal report that RA purchased.

    For a red herring, see Ms. Thompson’s statement that “If it is the policy of Reston Association to never purchase additional common area at more than its assessed value, it will not only never be able to purchase the Tetra property — it will also never be able to purchase the golf course.”

    No one has suggested that RA not ever purchase a property at more than its assessed value. What has been suggested is that RA not purchase an unneeded property at an outrageously and unjustifiably inflated price.

    In a comment, JohnBT says of the appraisal that “the company used is a professional organization that adheres to a professional standard.”

    Just because the appraisers say they adhered to a professional standard does not mean they did.

    It certainly appears that in this case they did not. Here’s why.

    The Appraisal Institute (AI) makes its Standards of Valuation Practice (the Standards) available online at http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/assets/1/29/SVP_effect_01-01-15.pdf.

    Within the Standards, section SR A-1(b) requires that the valuer “not commit a substantial error of omission or commission that significantly affects the assignment results…” when making an appraisal.

    SR A-2(b)(g) requires that the valuer must ascertain “any special assumptions necessary in the appraisal…”

    The Standards define a “special assumption” as “An assumption, directly applicable to a specific Service, which, if found to be false, could alter the opinions or conclusions in an appraisal or review.”

    For the Tetra property to have the value the appraisal assigned, it would have to be built out with the additional 6,000 plus square feet. Because the section of the property where the new construction would take place is in a Chesapeake Bay Resource Protection Area (RPA), any such additional construction would require the granting of an exception. (Any previously approved plans predate the enactment of the Chesapeake Bay ordinance and have long since expired. References to them by purchase supporters are more red herrings.)

    If an exception could not be obtained, the construction could not take place, and the appraised value would be altered. Assuming that an exception could be obtained is therefor a “special assumption” as defined by the AI.

    The appraisal report noted that the property was in an RPA, but did not mention the need for an exception, or discuss the likelihood that one could be obtained.

    While it could perhaps be argued that the valuers considered the need for an exception as part of their analysis and decided that it would be easily obtained, and so didn’t include it in their report, section SR C-2(a)(xvi) of the Standard requires that the valuer’s written appraisal report must “clearly and conspicuously state all special assumptions and hypothetical conditions; and that their use might have affected the valuer’s opinion(s) and conclusion(s).” The report did not state that an exception would be required for the additional space to be constructed nor that failure to obtain an exception would alter the value.

    So the appraisal does not meet one of the Appraisal Institute’s Standards of Valuation Practice [SR C-2(a)(xvi)] and possibly two more [SR A-1(b) and SR A-2(b)].

    The Appraisal Institute enforces its standards through a peer review process that is initiated by referrals of appraisal reports that others consider questionable. The results of the reviews are confidential, though any enforcement actions AI takes may be public.

    Should anyone like to submit the Tetra appraisal to AI for review, the process can be initiated here: http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/professional-practice/ethics-and-standards/enforcement-procedures-statistics-and-published-disciplinary-actions/.

    In her piece, Ms. Thompson refers to the “fair market value” of the property. The appraisal report did not determine a “fair market value.” The phrase is antiquated, and no tax or valuation professional uses it because it is far beyond the scope of any valuer to determine if a given market or price is in some way “fair.” As the subprime mortgage crisis that lead to the 2007 recession showed, many practices by lenders, brokers, buyers and sellers can distort market prices and lead to markets that can be considered “unfair.”

    Calling the estimated fee simple market value from the appraisal a “fair” value goes way beyond what the appraised price is. Ms. Thompson should know this, so it’s “fair” to assume she used this unprofessional but heavily loaded term to try to give the appraisal price greater credibility than it deserves.

    Irwin Flashman asked another poster why they used an assumed name. I use an assumed name because I live in Reston and am subject to RA rules and enforcement. My experience has been that many (but certainly not all) RA employees and board members are incompetent, act capriciously, either through ignorance or malice, and can be petty. I do not want my expression of an opinion to bring on some form of retaliation from a system that provides very little in the way of recourse or due process. As I’ve mentioned before, RA’s response to having a decision questioned often boils down to “If you think we’re wrong you can go broke suing us.”

    • Ming the Merciless

      This should be an op ed all by itself!

      • Russell Reston

        Absolutely agree ! Among the best and truth revealing op-eds comparing to RA op-eds doing “damage control”.

        CAVEAT EMPTOR: Buyer beware.

        A dance with realtors can be “Dance with the stars”, or “Dirty Dancing”, or
        “Dance with wolves” … or “Last dance” before working …. tail off to pay off real estate debt (mortgage).

        DON’T kiss or “read the realtors’ lips”. DO watch their body languages or non-verbal communication. :))

    • JCSuperstar

      Given the assessed value of the golf course is $4,550,810, what is the FMV?
      I know I sound like a broken record, but, it is relevant.

    • JoeInReston

      Reston Watcher writes:

      “If an exception could not be obtained, the construction could not take place, and the appraised value would be altered. Assuming that an exception could be obtained is therefor a “special assumption” as defined by the AI.

      The appraisal report noted that the property was in an RPA, but did not mention the need for an exception, or discuss the likelihood that one could be obtained”

      Irwin Flashman comment answers something you call into question in this post. The RA told the appraisals to assume that restaurant uses are permitted on the property. First paragraph on the appraisal cover letter:

      “Pursuant to your request, we have appraised the above-referenced property. The purpose of this appraisal is to estimate the “as is” fee simple market value of the subject assuming by client instruction that restaurant uses are permitted”

      This obviously does not rebut your point but reinforces it.

    • Secret Observers

      “RA employees and board members are incompetent, act capriciously, either through ignorance or malice, and can be petty”.

      Their glory days are over. They are being watched “secretly”. The departure of “King” Milton Mathews is an example.

  • Reston Watcher

    Here’s an example of a direct misrepresentation in Ms. Thompson’s article, to add to the problems I pointed out in my earlier comment.

    She uses the purchase of the Reston Golf Course in 2005 as an example of a purchase price being substantially higher than a property’s assessed value. But she’s wrong.

    She says “the purchase price of the Reston National Golf Course in 2005 was
    $5,009,819 for the property. It was assessed at the time for $3,492,500.”

    County tax records show that In 2005, the assessed value of the three parcels that make up the 165+ acres of the golf course, for which the buyer paid $5 million, was $6,439,500. Not $3,492,500.

    So the purchase price was more than $1.4 million less than the assessed value, not $2.5 million more as she said.

    $3,492,500 was the assessed value of just the parcel at 11875 Sunrise Valley–the 48-acre parcel with the building on it.

    She also says that the current assessed value is $972,380. County tax records show that the 2015 assessed value for the golf course is $4,550,810.

    $972,380 is the assessed value of just the smallest of the three parcels (36 acres), which is located on the east side of Soapstone Drive.

    What she said about the 2005 sale was off by over $2.9 million, and the sales price was less than the assessment, not more. What she said about the current assessment was off by over $3.5 million.

    Since she gave values for two of the three parcels that make up the property, she’s clearly aware that it’s not just one parcel.

    Is she picking numbers just to make her case look better? Does she not know how to look up real estate values in the county tax records? Or does she just think no one else can, or that no one will notice that her numbers don’t make sense?

    For a listing of the tax assessments of the golf course going back to 2000, see my response below to a comment by JCSuperstar.

    • Greg

      Wow — and this woman, Eve, is a licensed professional in the RE industry? Alarming and disturbing.

    • JCSuperstar

      I still would like to know what the “expert” Three Amigos, here, think the FMV of Reston National Golf Course is given its latest assessment.

      • Reston Watcher

        Which assessment? The real county assessment of $4.5 million, or the bogus one of about $1 million that you and Ms. Thompson have been tossing around?

        John Farrell has replied to you twice now to say, correctly, that a market value of a going concern cannot be estimated from a property tax assessment. The books, which are not public, need to be examined, and the property needs to be inspected.

        • JCSuperstar

          No, I agree Ms. Thompson only looked at one parcel in the RN Management Portfolio.

          I am asking a real question that has gone unanswered for several days now.

          Given Reston Association will likely have to purchase the Golf Course to keep it from being developed — WHAT IS THE FMV, THE OWNER WILL ACCEPT, today and in the not-to-distant future?

          The 2015 assessed value is: $4,550,810

          What’s the FMV price?

          • JCSuperstar

            According to Mr. Maynard in his blog post:

            “That could be some 8,000 new homes and more than 20,000 added people living on its 166 acres”

            Well, 8,000 homes at an average sale price of say $200,000 is a lot of Member Dollars.


          • JCSuperstar

            Interfering with owner/developer property rights is, and will be, an expensive proposition.

            So, again, I say let the owners and developers do (within their rights) what they want to do — on these two properties, and others, that will be arriving in the queue.

            To me, I think we will all be more calm about things…

          • RAmember2

            Those will be APARTMENTS, not CONDOS or TOWNHOMES. There will be ONE owner–one vote, one assessment fee.

          • JCSuperstar

            You missed the point by a mile. The question is simple.

            RA has said it will defend the Reston National Golf Course — to the point of purchasing it.

            What is the Fair Market Value (FMV) of the property?

            The county assessment is $4,550,810.

            What is the price RA will have to pay?

            As Maynard says, 8000 homes (apartments, condos, and townhomes) on 166 acres. His claim, and I agree, is it is a $1 Billion plus endeavor, once fully developed.

            So, I ask again, what will RA have to offer to take control of the property to “protect, preserve” it?


          • Reston Watcher

            The value of a business is much more than just the value of the land and buildings. The golf course is a going concern…a business that has income and expenses. A market value can’t be estimated without understanding the business’ financial position. That’s why anyone buying a business asks to see the books.

            It could be that the value of the golf course land and building separately exceed the value of the golf course as a business. It could be that the ongoing business is more valuable than the separate land and building. Without seeing the books, there’s no way to tell.

            And, the value of the land is dependent on the ability of the owner to convert it to some other use. Until the development rights of the owner are settled, it will be very difficult to settle on an estimate of the market value of the land.

          • JCSuperstar

            We certainly see the land is headed down the development path.

            So, I’m asking a simple question, what is Northwestern willing top accept?

            The experts here seem to know, to the penny, what the real value of every property in Reston is. So, let’s hear it.

            8,000 homes on 166 acres. Just a SWAG, come on.

            What will RA’s offer be?

            Or, more importantly, what will the Three Amigos allow?


            I think the golf course is very, very, very, valuable to the developers. Perhaps hundreds of millions. Development is very different than just selling the property. The selling and financing of building lots, the contracts for putting roads in, engineering contracts etc. Its HUGE money. No way can RA afford it.

          • JCSuperstar

            Absolutely agree.

          • Reston Watcher

            Smartest statement of the pile.

          • Reston Realist

            As long as the apartment case is pending, the market price will be high (hundreds of $$MM), but when the court rules in the County’s favor (and against development), the FMV will drop back near the assessed value.

    • Reston Watcher

      TLTR– (too long to read) To be a good Troll you need to shorten it up! Come on man!

  • 30yearsinReston

    references and making comparisons to the Reston Golf Course ‘valuation” and Tetra proposal are meaningless and are just a red herring.
    If that and the “childrens future” is the only argument that the “YES” supporters have, then they have already lost the debate

    • JCSuperstar

      They are actually very related when it comes to Member Dollars. The Reston Association has stated they will purchase the golf course, if needed, to keep it from being developed (just like Tetra).

      The Members deserve to know what that price tag (FMV) for the Golf Couse looks like.

      the 2015 tax assessed value is: $4,550,810

      Care to take a swag at it?

      • RAmember2

        Actually, Ken Kneuven made that statement when he was President of the Board. The Board has made no such statement. And Kneuven will be gone within a couple of years. Then what?

    • Reston Watcher

      You don’t like kids?

      • Reston Realist

        Love mine; hate yours.

        • Reston Watcher

          You might like my kids, but maybe not my impersonator’s.

          You can tell the difference between me and the fake me by hovering over the poster’s name and looking at the link (or just following the link to the poster’s Disqus page). The fake shows up as RestonWatcherII.

    • Reston Watcher

      30years –

      The comment about kids was from my impersonator.

      You can tell the difference between me and the fake by hovering over the poster’s name and looking at the link (or just following the link to the poster’s Disqus page). The fake shows up as RestonWatcherII.

      Sadly, the “YES” supporters may lose the debate but win the referendum.

  • Rational Reston

    Yes, they CAN overpay, but SHOULD they overpay? What are they REALLY buying? And what are they really buying it for? There is still no just reasoning, and no “green space” and the “Reston Way” or “Reston Principles” are not reasons. They’ve vague concepts.

    There is no Reston need that this satisfies, other than the egos of a few.

    • Reston Watcher

      Egos? What does this statement mean?

    • Reston Watcher

      Sorry, Rational. The “Egos” comment is another one from my impersonator.

      We agree. There hasn’t been a rational explanation for why RA wants to buy this.

      You can tell the difference between me and the fake one by hovering over the poster’s name and looking at the link. The fake shows up as RestonWatcherII.

  • JCSuperstar

    I think what all this says is the Reston Association should just not entertain “protecting, preserving” land that does not belong to them.

    The Members have stated as much.

    The market dictates what happens, not intervention with Member dollars. That’s a good thing.

    • JoeInReston

      Too broad a conclusion.

      Some might be more willing to purchase the property if the price was lower. Relatedly, some are concerned about the “Reston way” process not being followed.

      Some might be more willing to purchase the property if they felt a commercial entity could develop it.

      Some want cheaper dues.

      Ergo – some of the people who are against the purchase may be willing to buy land for protecting and preserving in the right circumstances.

      • JCSuperstar

        Not a broad conclusion at all. I think you missed the obvious point.

        Why would any RA Board, in their right mind, have the political will, to ever attempt to take on a referendum again — to take on debt, spend reserves, or both, to “protect, preserve” another property?

        It’s not worth the effort. And it’s not their place — the Members see this.

        Stick to the knitting, enough said.

        In the grand scheme of things, this has been a great exercise.


        • JoeInReston

          The RA board members could conclude that future property purchases are too politically difficult – doubtful, they certainly were not detoured from action after the Brown’s Chapel veto.

          “The Members have stated as much”

          But to my point, it not something the members have stated. Different members have stated different things.

          Hopefully next time, the RA board will be more open to the process, more concerned about costs, and more eager to address concerns.

          • JCSuperstar

            So, you believe the parcels (Tetra, Golf Course, etc.) are worth preserving? That is, RA Members taking ownership and control?

          • Reston Realist

            Watch for more land swaps like the acre of RA forest for a Baron Cameron gutter. Then the Board doesn’t need to listen to the little people.

            What would RA trade for RNGC????

      • Reston Watcher

        JoelnReston I think you like me are also a troll.

      • Reston Watcher

        Joe –

        I don’t think you’re a Troll.

        Someone decided to respond to my posts by creating an account with the same display name and being rude to other posters. I’m sorry he/she made you a target.

        You can tell the difference between me and the fake by hovering over the poster’s name and looking at the link (or just following the link to the poster’s Disqus page). The fake shows up as RestonWatcherII.

        I think you’re pretty much right on this one–some folks would be happy to have RA purchase land given the right conditions. Though I have to agree with JCSuperstar, in that the Tetra purchase is a bad idea, and the golf course purchase will either be unnecessary because it will turn out it can’t be developed, or way, way beyond RA finances, because it’s much too valuable to the developer.

        • JoeInReston

          Too funny. It just didn’t sound authentic, so I thought you were employing some kind of parody, mocking posters who to easily call others trolls. I guess that I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

    • Reston Watcher


  • Reston Watcher

    I think I’ll start watching the watcher.

  • Reston Watcher

    I think I owe you all an apology. I’ve been a troll, a very, very wordy troll. I’m going to try and change my ways. You know, the hiding behind fake names, but its so hard, ya know?! I mean if I used my name then well my agenda is clear, then people will stop listening! What will I do?! Darn, this is tough– to troll or not to troll.

    • JCSuperstar

      Reston Watcher, at the end of the day there are about 20 regulars that care to comment here on Reston Now. Most have aliases and most attempt civility. This isn’t you parents media anymore. It used to be the article you read was consumed in the context of other articles — not anymore.

      Also remember when reading someone’s comment — people feel first, and think second. Emotions come faster than the “rational” thoughts.

      • Reston Watcher

        JC – I hope you and others realize that someone has decided to impersonate me, even copying my eye avatar. I guess pointing out the bogus numbers touched a nerve.

        Apparently, he/she just can’t make a meaningful argument on the issues, so is trying to confuse folks and make it difficult for me to talk. Sort of a “nuclear option” for rudeness in commenting, like a three-year-old who repeats everything someone says.

        Anyway, you can tell the difference by hovering over the poster’s name and looking at the link at the bottom of the browser. The fake shows as RestonWatcherII.

        And I agree. It’s important to attempt civility, particularly since a lot of the nuance of a face-to-face conversation is lost online. I have a feeling that if all the regular commenters sat down together for a beer and some wings at our local Hooters by the lake, we’d have a great time.

        • JCSuperstar

          No worries… I’ll do the check. Thanks.

  • RAmember2
    • JCSuperstar

      Paul Gayter, and team, do fantatstic work. They aint cheap, so Mr. Maynard is determined. They hit the big issues, this is one of their best:


      • Terry Maynard

        Just so people aren’t misled by your comment here, I haven’t paid anyone to do or say anything on this or any other issue I have addressed in six years of working Reston issues.

        Do you understand?

        If you want to know what I think, see my “summing up” op-ed just published in RestonNow under my true name. https://www.restonnow.com/2015/05/04/op-ed-summing-up-ras-tetra-deal/ .

        I’m confident you will have something snarky, inaccurate, and quite probably misleading to say in the comments. Enjoy yourself.

    • Reston Watcher

      In my effort to be less Troll like I will add this comment. This is maybe funny, and most definitely snaky. Of course the team Gayter team comes by that so naturally, she’s almost a caricature of a cockney gutter-snipe! But I’m not sure they’ve been effective. I give this a 4.3 out of 10.

      • JCSuperstar

        It is a little over the top and misses the whole point of price consumption curves and income consumption curves.

        BUT, one can get away with it — just go to the video above regarding making easy points versus reality to the “Undecided Voters.”

        Reality says why pay $1,229 for a Mac, when you can get the same functionality for $300.

    • Reston Watcher

      Another poster has created an account with my display name and is making rude posts to other people. I’m sorry you received one of his or her posts.

      You can tell the difference between me and the fake by hovering over the poster’s name and looking at the link (or just following the link to the poster’s Disqus page). The fake shows up as RestonWatcherII.

      • Reston Watcher

        I think you are the duplicate!

  • JCSuperstar

    Reston’s “Undecided Voters”



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