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Op-Ed: Summing Up RA’s Tetra Deal

by RestonNow.com — May 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm 96 Comments

This is an op-ed by Reston resident Terry Maynard. It does not represent the opinion of Reston Now.

As the end of the Tetra referendum period approaches, I thought it useful to summarize the key reasons why RA members should not pay $2.65 million to buy this property. I hope it encourages you who have not yet voted to decide to dig around in your old RA mail (digital or postal) and submit your ballot with a “NO” vote.

1. No further development of the property will be permitted. The alleged compelling reason for buying Tetra is to prevent development there. The fact is that almost every square foot of the Tetra property is protected from further development by multiple layers of legal, regulatory, and plan restrictions.

In contrast, Reston National Golf Course is protected from development only by plan language, not a law. The difference is between what’s prevented by law at Tetra and what’s preferred in the plan at RNGC.Maynard chart

For the Tetra property, the most important of legal restriction is the state’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which calls for water bodies and the first 100′ of perennial waterfront areas (like Lake Newport) to be protected from development.

(The attached map of the Tetra property shows the area protected by this law and other restrictions.) The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality says:

“The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and regulations require that a vegetated buffer no less than 100 feet wide be located adjacent to and landward of all tidal shores, (etc.) … These features, including the 100-foot buffer, comprise the Resource Protection Area (RPA) … Generally, vegetation in the 100-foot buffer must be preserved on lots that include an RPA, and established where it does not exist. “

For more on RPA legalities as applied to the Tetra property, read this RestonNow op-ed from a local land use attorney who explains in detail that there is no possibility of lakeshore development there.

Second, there are legal flood plain and spillway protections on the property that, except for a patch next to the Tetra building, similarly preclude development along the lakefront and down around the dam to the stream below.

Third, an RA easement covers most of the property beyond the RPA for its parking lot, access roads, and the pathways beside them as shown on the map. Moreover, if a developer wanted to build on the Tetra property, its proposal would have to be approved by RA’s Design Review Board, including inputs from neighboring “affected parties.”

For all practical purposes, nothing can be built there without RA Board approval.

A fourth, thin added layer of protection — like that which protects the golf course — will be provided by the new Reston Master Plan when it’s approved by the Board of Supervisors this June. The new plan changes the area’s designation from a “convenience center” to remain “as built.”

Trying to peel that legal, regulatory, and political onion would almost certainly be impossible. Yet even RA ownership of the property would not guarantee the property will remain green space as the Board’s stunning decision to swap an acre of our hardwood forest (to become a parking garage) for a roadside drainage ditch illustrates.

2. The sales price and related RA financial assumptions are outrageous. The RA Board’s sales contract with Tetra calls for it to pay $2.65 million (Article 2, p. 2) for a property that RA’s appraiser says is worth $1.3 million as built, assuming it’s in good condition (p. 22). The County puts the fair market value of the property at $1.2 million in its latest real estate tax assessment. The additional $1.3-$1.5 million in the appraisal comes from assuming additional offices are there — that cannot be built!

Both the RA appraisal and the County assessment assume the property is in good condition. It is not.

The RA-sponsored property condition report put the cost of repairs at $257,000, cutting the fair market value of the property as built to about $1 million at the outside, not $2.65 million.

So how bad is the building’s condition? The property appraisal, which focuses on “comps” rather than condition, states the building has had “atypical” repair and maintenance expenses in recent years, including pest control. It also has a “musty odor” (p.11) in the conference room. Last year’s repair and maintenance expenses exceeded $9,200 ($2.95/SF) (p. 20).

RA’s Criterium Engineering property condition report paints a worse picture. Photos in the report appendices show extensive water damage in the main conference room (#34), the HVAC room (#36), leaking windows (#42), and water damage around light fixtures and a hardwired smoke alarm in the utility room (#64), all suggesting extensive long-term water damage. Besides damage to insulation, drywall, and framing that may require replacement, the photos indicate possible fire hazards requiring rewiring. Many photos of the exterior also show rotted — and probably infested–wood in the trusses, columns, siding, railings, and other wood elements.

Fixing all this will cost more than the $275,000 Tetra has limited itself to repair by last week’s sales contract amendment, an RA Board concession that leaves RA members to pick up the difference.

On the revenue side of the ledger, the RA Board Fact Sheet (p. 6) points to an $82,000-plus yearly net operating income the property will allegedly generate after the Tetra lease expires. In contrast, the appraisal suggests the Tetra building as an occupied office space would generate a net operating income of less than $62,000/year. (See p. 21.) What justifies RA’s higher income forecast?

The key to answering that question lies in RA’s $122,000 annual “potential” net revenue forecast (RA Fact Sheet, p. 4) that drives up its net income projection. Yet RA has provided no details on its revenue assumptions regarding capacity usage rates, comparable rents, the operating cost elements, or usage restrictions due to its location in a residential area. Questions regarding this supposed revenue stream have been numerous, diverse, and all remain unanswered by RA.

Given the $2.65 million loan on the property, RA member assessment fee hikes well beyond inflation (an average of 21 percent higher Reston 2020 estimates over 20 years) will be needed to offset the negative net cash flow from the property for two decades at least. Reston 2020 puts those losses near $2 million over the next two decades even using RA’s unsupported revenue assumptions.

3. There is no compelling need to buy the property. The key RA driver for the purchase is the irrational, Board-driven fear that a new building will be built there. I, and others, have shown the extreme improbability if not impossibility of that happening. Irrational fear usually leads to irrational and ultimately bad decisions, such as buying a property in poor condition at two and one-half times its fair market value.

A second RA argument is preserving the continuity with RA green space east and west of the Tetra property. RA owns the easement on virtually every foot of the Tetra property connecting its Brown’s Chapel and Lake Newport tennis courts properties. The band of green space will remain green space whether or not RA owns it.

The final argument is that RA can use the Tetra building for meetings and programs for demand that is otherwise not met. A look at RA’s facility scheduling calendar shows its spaces are little used. RA says its children’s summer programs are oversubscribed. Assuming RA’s assertion is true, it is unclear why meeting 10 weeks of excess summer demand per year is worth $2.65 million when RA may rent RCC, Fairfax County Park, and other facilities when needed.

All in all, despite RA fear mongering, there is little justification for buying the Tetra property, much less at two and one-half times its fair market value as built. A purchase could make sense at about a $1 million price point — its fair market value –but RA members were not given that referendum option.

In these circumstances, I strongly urge you to VOTE “NO” if you haven’t done so already. Thank you for your time to read this.

  • John Higgins

    It seems to me that a Yes or No vote depends on a member’s value judgment. Two parts to that: 1. Is RA ownership of the property in the better interests of our members than an alternative use by a private party? If the answer is “no”, consideration stops there. If ‘yes”, what is the acceptable price point at which the member shifts to “no”? (If the purchase price were $5 million, we would not be having this discussion.)

    As I see it, this is a $3.65 million purchase.

    The seller will receive $2.65 million. The RA will have expended somewhere around $100,000 in costs for referendum, legal fees, appraisal, and engineering. The RA believes it will cost about $250,000 to perform renovations to meet proposed program use. Finally, the proposal envisages applying $650,000 of developer contributions to sustain cash flow in the first couple of years. That $650k doesn’t reduce the price or costs, it simply explains where it comes from. And where is that? It’s from whatever other uses the RA would otherwise would make of that contribution.

    The expected revenue generated by this new asset is, of necessity, a pretty rough estimate. But it was made in good faith by a competent staff. The only elements I think have been made thin are the alternative uses of developer contributions and the amount of cash RA will have to put aside each year for major repairs and renovations down the road. By my yardstick, this purchase will cost about $10 per year per member. If the RA can reduce that amount through program (usage) fees or other efficiencies in their budget process, what’s not to like? We shall see.

    • Annie Garnett

      Value judgement is exactly the way to put it. For me it is totally worth it. To preserve the open space, to have control of the open space, to be able to use it the way we as member want to be used is a good thing.

      I can tell you one thing, I’ll be glad when this is over because I’m sick of seeing it on this website!

      • restonresident

        To many of us $10 is pocket change. The real issue is the $630 plus in RA fees that homeowners pay regardless of the value of their property.
        Consider a retired person on a fixed income who has owned a home in Reston for many years. They pay ever increasing tolls, Fairfax County property taxes, small district 5 property taxes for RCC and perhaps additional cluster fees.
        All these fees and taxes add up to more than a monthly retirement check and that is why we need to stop RA from wasting our money on “nice to have” versus “essential” projects.
        Giving the Tetra developer a windfall profit of nearly $2m in about 10 years is absurd.

        • east297

          Amen!!! Well said!

        • Reston Watcher

          Actually by this logic we should be pushing as much development as possible in order to lower assessments. So really we should encourage the development of RNGC because it would bring in a couple of million in assessment revenues.

          • ItsNotMyMoney

            Not sure which logic system you are using to jump to that conclusion. Using your logic system one could also conclude that whenever you go to the store you should buy anything on sale, regardless of whether you need it or not. Even if you have to borrow money to do so.
            RNGC has open space, preserving RNGC preserves open space. The Tetra property preserves nothing. It adds 3 acres of some kind of space to 93 acres of ALREADY contiguous open space. Tetra does not add anything worthy of purchase.

            I can only assume the RA board really is trying to benefit the membership, however I think they are blinded to opposing views. To net the 650,000 instead of add the 650,000 is a blindside. To imply that these 3 acres create 96 acres of open space is a blindside. To imply that we need additional facilities is a blindside.

          • JCSuperstar

            These last 3 months have shown — No RA Board would even attempt, or have the stamina, for another referendum to purchase the RNGC at the price required.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            Sure they would, They will do whatever they want to do. They know participation is low and that their groupies (Hartke et al) are enough for any quorum requirement. It is quite the predicament. Lets protest by not paying our dues. Screw them.

          • Ming the Merciless

            They know they can put a lien on your property. Pay me now or pay me later…

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            So if enough of us pay later, instead of now, maybe they will get the message. It also could affect borrowing power. RA is getting a loan based on income. If a trend surfaces of members not paying, it could throw off the numbers.

          • Ming the Merciless

            I am sure the borrowing power also reflects the fact that they already own a lot of property. I have been unable to determine what, in fact, the RA owns right now. I didn’t even know they owned that empty lot they traded away (so much for “open space” then). Is there a list of RA property somewhere?

          • JCSuperstar

            Just look at the Reston Master Plan Phase II maps.

          • JCSuperstar

            I think this board and future boards have heard from the community. Stop, and let the market prevail.

          • Ming the Merciless

            If I were them I’d be hoping for a referendum on the RNGC to make people forget about the Tetra fiasco (and it is a fiasco regardless of the outcome).

          • JCSuperstar

            On paper, makes sense. But, given the price tag of RNGC — no way. Can you see that number on a referendum — LOL.

          • Ming the Merciless

            From the RA perspective, an RNGC referendum that loses is as good as one that wins. If they lose, they can say, “oh well we tried, and by the way, that shows we were right about Tetra, too.”

          • JCSuperstar

            It would require a lot of political will. I think this exercise has taught the board(s) a lot.

          • Ming the Merciless

            whenever you go to the store you should buy anything on sale, regardless of whether you need it or not.

            Ming has learned to maintain a discreet silence when his Empress does this.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Development lowers assessments? When has that ever happened?

      • 30yearsinreston

        That is immaterial – the point is that it is over priced and does not NEED to be purchased (except by the owner)

        • JCSuperstar

          Developers have the resources and the ability — a much better proposition.

          • RAmember2

            Resources–yes.
            Ability–probably not.
            Interest–???? How many resources is trying worth?

      • Ming the Merciless

        By the exact same logic… the RA should purchase every property that goes on sale in Reston, no matter what the price.

        • JCSuperstar

          RNGC would likely be the biggest — if it were approved by the Members. Which is unlikely, in my opinion.

      • Stop the Insanity

        RA has easements in place for the parking lot and access road, making development of those areas impossible. So this isn’t about 3.5 acres of space but 0.5 acres, in the area of the existing structure. There is a limited number of possible development plans that would be applicable that small location.

        RA has been throwing numbers around but they can’t seem to decide how they want to attribute the money. RA has acquired a $650 K proffer but even Ken Knueven admitted that there are no restriction on the use of the money, it doesn’t need to be used for TETRA. But RA has decided to assign it that way. In some locations they use it to “reduce” the purchase price but in others they are using it for “greening” improvements to the property. News-flash; it’s just one pot of money and they can’t spend it twice. The fact they are assigning it multiple ways is a deliberate attempt to mislead the RA membership.

        Finally there is a question of where would money be best spent. Many of the people voting yes want to protect green space. A good goal and one I support to a point. Once again, the question of TETRA is over 0.5 acres of property. But making the purchase will limit the resources RA has to do other things. Perhaps if the TETRA purchase goes through, they won’t be able to put up a fight on the RNGC, 166 acres.

        Protect 0.5 acres, lose 166 acres. Dumb move RA.

        • JCSuperstar

          Just so you know — the existing easements only give RA access to their paths and some parking — RA has zero control over the land and what can be done with it.

          Also, the development plans for the new building aren’t even near the easements.

          Lastly, these easements will easily convey with the new owner, wishing to build, as allowed.

          • Stop the Insanity

            Good to know, thanks. Do you know how much of the parking is covered?

          • JCSuperstar

            Just the existing asphalt pathways (which would easily convey) and parking along the tennis courts (no-brainer).

          • RAmember2

            Over half the property. LOOK AT THE MAP IN THIS ARTICLE!

          • JCSuperstar

            The easements are for trail access and car access to tennis courts. Those would easily convey. And RA must continue to maintain them, even better.

          • RAmember2

            Wrong. They would only “convey” if RA allowed them to convey. And they cover over half the property.

          • JCSuperstar

            RA does not own the property subject to the access easements, and cannot control what happens with the property.

          • Terry Maynard

            The map in the article shows the area covered by RA’s easement outlined in red. It is over half the property area. The rest is covered by Chessy preservation and/or stormwater drainage laws.

          • Stop the Insanity

            Hi Terry, it looks like you and JC have a disagreement about what is covered by the easements. The map above is credited to you. What was the information source you used to create the map? Also can you provide to JC and the rest of us an explanation of what an easement is, whose “owns” it and if it conveys with a sale. Thanks.

          • Terry Maynard

            The underlying map is the “final plat” shown in the RA appraisal (https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2015%20NEWS%20RELEASE%20FILES/2015%20Appriasal%20of%2011450%20Baron%20Cameron%20Avenue.pdf, p. 46 of the PDF).
            That is a large-scale plat reduced to the size of a page. I “blew it up” to see where the various restrictions were on it. The blue stormwater and red RA easement lines reflect my tracing of those areas as best I could using the drawing tools available in MS Word.
            The RPA information came from the County’s mapping system, specifically the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act map, cell 17-2–which is the Tetra property area. (Start here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/gis/DMV/Default.aspx) I copied as carefully as I could the RPA boundary for the Tetra property area onto the same underlying “final plat” map in green with stripes.
            I validated my mapping with another person.
            That’s how I created the map.

          • Ming the Merciless

            You don’t think the presence of those paths and parking significantly constrains what can be done with the land?

          • JCSuperstar

            Absolutely not. We all have easements, all around our properties. These easements, as an argument, are very weak.

            A new owner at Lake Newport would obviously accept the existing path easements (perhaps tweak if needed), and the parking for the tennis players – absolutely.

            The existing paths are freebies to the new owner — getting people walkable access to her/his restaurant location — all maintained by RA. What’s not to like — a win-win.

            The existing development plans are very far away from these unobtrusive easements.

          • Ming the Merciless

            They can’t build a building across those paths, so the paths keep them more or less within the footprint of the existing building (and there are other constraints on expansion of that).

          • JCSuperstar

            Again, you and I will agree to disagree.

            The existing development plans allow for the new building. The easements don’t even get near the new building.

            The only dispute here regarding the new building is the RPA. For me, that is, and will never be an issue. A few “experts” here throw up their “valid” arguments, but they do so to make sure the uniformed here believe it will never be developed.

            It will, it is allowed, and I am looking forward to seeing it happen.

            Please Sire, do not vaporize the messenger.

          • Ming the Merciless

            The main point is that the easements provide a form of control, in that any new owner could not eliminate them or build on top of them.

          • JCSuperstar

            Sure they could. Purely a negotiation matter. Easements are changed/adjusted every hour in the county. It’s an annuity maker for land use attorneys everywhere.

            And again, the existing plats show the new building very far away from the closest pathway easement.

          • RAmember2

            It is a negotiation matter. And RA would be one of the negotiators whether it owns the property or just the easement. Give the record, RA might still give it away (like the Lake Anne forest) or it might not. But owning it won’t change that.

          • JCSuperstar

            I think the point being made above is the easements have zero impact with any new purchaser wanting to develop.

            The new owner would probably allow them as they provide paths to the building as well as parking spaces — that would have to be maintained by RA.

          • RAmember2

            “Allow them?” RA owns the easement–non-exclusive parking and pathways thingy. A new owner won’t be able to change that.

    • Reston Realist

      At $3.65MM (your price), $2.65MM (RA’s steal of a deal!), or even Maynard’s “$1 million price point” above, why should RA members pay anything for something they don’t NEED to buy.

      *They don’t NEED to buy it to stop further development (RA Reason #1).

      *They don’t NEED to buy to add facility space (if you believe Maynard) and/or could rent space for a fraction of the cost (RA Reason #2).

      *They don’t NEED to buy it to sustain continuous green space between RA’s two parcels because they control the easement that links the two and no one can put anything there (Reason #3).

      Buying the property whether it costs members $10 per year or $1 per year (or $100 per year) is an act of stupidity, plain and simple. I’m not sure getting it gratis would be worth the price because, as you say, there is about another $1 million dollars in member costs.

      But then again, politicians have been spending other peoples’ money for millennia without much concern. Why should this be any different?

  • Russell Reston

    Your excellent op-ed will be headache or legal nightmare for RA from now.

    1. After reading your op-ed, can a YES vote be retracted and/or changed to NO ?

    2. If it can’t and RA “win” the referendum, can the YES outcome be nullified because voting members were not fully informed or were misled by RA BOD/staff in favor of pros but hiding cons for $ 2.65 M adventure ?

    RA attempted to unload accountability to members. Instead, it could end up carrying
    twice the liability after the hidden truth were revealed.

    • Reston Watcher

      Actually Russell I was thinking I was going to contact RA to see if I could change my vote to YES!

      • Russell Reston

        Before you actually contact RA to change your NO vote, please think that:
        ……When people go to wars, both friends and foes have no love for the traitors.
        ……When people play politics, the right parties don’t like swingers falling to the wrong parties.

        Before you actually change your vote, hope you can see “For your eyes only” that:
        —–In the jungle, the hunters sometimes forget they are hunted.
        ……In Reston, you are the watcher(II) forgetting you are being watched ….. just by one eye.
        Russell

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I’m all for RA adding this property to its inventory. If RA can purchase the property at a reasonable price, I’m with them. The correct price, for me, is less than $1.5m. Until RA is able to negotiate to that point, my answer is “No”.

    Maybe if the owner continues to pay taxes and upkeep on a vacant building for a few more years, they’ll see the wisdom in selling the property to RA at a price closer to assessment than to fantasy.

  • Reston Watcher

    Can we sue you if your really lengthy analysis is incorrect? You are so sure of yourself and yet keep yourself from any kind of public accountability. It’s so much nicer that way isn’t it?

    You accuse the RA Board of lacking transparency then you mail out post cards, create a website and a hateful video all done anonymously, while the RA Board has given the membership all the documents they have-unless you are suggesting that they are deliberately hiding or obfuscating the facts; and if that is your argument I would have to ask “Why?” Why would they? What the hell is in it for them?

    I think Mr. Maynard you are against everything. I now regret that I have previously trolled the supporters of this effort. The ballot may win or it may fail but I think Mr. Higgins actually said it best. It’s a value question, if you value the open space vote yes, if you don’t vote no. Stop attacking the staff and the RA Board that put the option before the community.

    • RAmember2

      And who are you, Reston Watcher? At least Mr. Maynard puts his name on his posts and comments. Pretty cowardly for a person allegedly “tired of cowardly trolls.”

      • Annie Garnett

        Am I to assume your name is RAMember2?

        • RAmember2

          You may assume whatever you like.

          • Annie Garnett

            I think I shall assume you are tool. Have a lovely day!

          • RAmember2

            Back at ya!

      • Reston Watcher

        RAmember2 – This poster is actually RestonWatcherII, but posting using my screen name of Reston Watcher. He/she apparently took exception to my comments on Eve Thompson’s eo-ed, and created an account to pose as me. She’s made a number of rude, insulting and off-topic posts with my screen name while expressing opinions contrary to mine.

        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.

        • RAmember2

          Mox nix.

    • Reston Realist

      Get a grip!

      And don’t even go there about transparency. RA has told us so little, it might as well have told us nothing.

      –Did RA tell you about its intent to make this deal a year ahead of its public disclosure so we could have this discussion before a referendum? No.

      –Did RA tell you about the Chesapeake Bay laws? No.

      –Did RA delay by more than a month the release of the appraisal (that is, until the referendum proposal was approved) so that no one could see all the assumptions and flaws in it that justified the huge price? Yes.

      –Did the RA Board have all its substantive discussion about the referendum proposal in Executive Session rather than open session? Yes.

      If that’s transparency and open government, we all might as well move to Moscow or Beijing. Those that don’t think or don’t care to study the issue would still vote for it.

  • Ray Wedell
  • MJay

    With all the angst and distrust of the RA board going on in some circles–particularly with it being exacerbated by the Tetra issue–is it feasible to organize a petition drive among the members to disband RA and cede the property/facilities to the county? This might have a more meaningful impact than some pedestrian anonymous twitter accounts, blogs, and videos. Although I think we have a homeowners association that has gotten a bit too big for its britches, perhaps a more plausible endeavor would be to set up a referendum to change the bylaws such that RA is effectively out of the real estate business (perhaps basing any purchases on assessments and other factors such that we avoid another Tetra scenario), and we can instead can focus solely on maintaining the common areas, facilities, DRB.

    • Annie Garnett

      I’m curious MJay-I’m not apposed to reevaluating the powers granted our association but I wonder, would let the RNGC fall as it may? This is a legitimate question, no snark, I’m curious as to your thoughts.

      • JCSuperstar

        RNGC, would still belong to Northwestern, still subject to the same county determinations that are likely going to allow it to be developed.

        This is Mr. Farrell’s turf, so I suggest you ask him with regard to RNGC.

        With regard to Reston becoming a town. A referendum to incorporate Reston failed in 1980 by a 2–1 margin; however, the proposal was resurrected in 2005 by the Reston Citizens Association.

        http://mars.gmu.edu/dspace/bitstream/1920/1867/1/534_02_01a.pdf

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/09/AR2005070901297.html

        • Ming the Merciless

          The Restowntards constantly insisted that town status would restrain development. Because town governments have never been captured by developers. Because the town of Herndon has completely stopped all efforts at development.

          • JCSuperstar

            You make a good point. In the long run, it does not change the relationship with investors, developers, and in most instances the county.

      • MJay

        Hi Annie… I think development of RNGC, without major road improvements, would be a disaster for Soapstone, South Lakes, and Sunrise Valley among others. As such, concerted efforts to protect that corner of Reston in some capacity, whether it is smart development or maintaining the golf course, is needed. But what can the RA as a homeowners association do? Purchasing the entire thing doesn’t sound feasible unless we are willing to let our dues go up exponentially (and perhaps get fleeced in the process). My thought on reducing RA’s ability to purchase property likely wouldn’t have much sway in that regard. RA would still have the easements, though, so that serves as some protection in getting a seat at the table.
        I know there was a posting about the power of the DRB, but having served on a cluster board for a good amount of time, I’m not sure I would put my faith in the DRB. The county also doesn’t stoke much faith either, but overall, taking the teeth out of RA’s ability to purchase property would neither help or hurt the RNGC process.

    • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

      MJay,

      I think RA should be disbanded and just have everything fold into the county. Many years ago, there was a difference between Reston and Herndon or Sterling. It was nicer looking and it was much cleaner. Not anymore. There is virtually no distinction now. Reston is filthy and the Board refuses to do anything about the garbage in the streets. Instead, they make silly rules (electronic cigarettes), give our money away to their pet projects which we already pay taxes for (South Lakes turf field), and obsess over the english ivy and garlic mustard growing in the woods. These efforts are futile, as ivy covers every tree in the woods behind my townhouse. And they spend money on big printed banners showing the volunteers where to meet to dig out said invasive species. The poorly supervised employees walk over trash instead of picking it up. The RA trucks idle for hours while employees are outside the vehicles. They love to hire consulting firms to do silly studies, to print magazines that no one reads, and award themselves with bonuses on top of their salaries. They have a communications “staff”. They do not know the meaning of austerity. I know the Board is all volunteer but Cate Fulkerson was awarded a bonus after only a few months on the job as our leader. The employees have big salaries, 401K matches, and great benefits. They are in so far over their heads and they refuse to acknowledge it. They are downright hostile to the poor RELAC customers who want modern A/C.

      But, God forbid you want to change a 30 yr old light fixture on your back deck.
      DISBAND RA…an idea whose time has come.
      I believe in the interim, we should practice civil disobedience and refuse to pay our dues. Let them put liens on our property. Flood RA with doctor’s notes for waivers on the RELAC issue. Defy them to challenge the doctor’s note.

      Sorry for being so wordy, but I have HAD it.

    • Secret Observers

      Children will be dancing “The Price Is Wrong” and Rose Revolution is coming to Reston Spring :))

  • uplands

    Question – why did Reston(RA) at one time not want this property – they sold it right? And now they want it back for a lot of money? It’s built on the edge of the Lake Newport dam – not a good idea to put holes in the dam by building new footings, pilings, or whatever. I say not no, but heck no.

    • Annie Garnett

      I called RA staff yesterday and was told that Reston Association never owned the property.

      • Terry Maynard

        I’ll confirm that. RA has not owned the Tetra property–nor should it ever.

      • Karen Goff

        We have confirmed in several stories that RA never owned the property.

  • uplands

    How much to purchase Tall Oaks and move all the Reston (RA) operations over there?

  • JCSuperstar

    Do know, the community, in the past, has allowed the RA Board to seek additional property.

    The successful 2006 Referendum gave the Board of Directors the authority to purchase or build, rather that continue to lease, a headquarters building at a cost not to exceed $4,800,000 as adjusted by the percent change in average price per square foot in commercial office space market in Reston, Virginia, from Jan. 1, 2005 through date of purchase of the property.

    Unfortunately, the $4.8M was too low a threshold to succeed, they needed at least $15,000,000.

    • Terry Maynard

      . . . and the company seeking $15MM went bankrupt.

      You can only push greed so far.

      • JCSuperstar

        Boy, you are just anti business in any form. Was just making the point the Reston members have passed spending referendums for far larger amounts.

        Your high horse is definitely in the clouds sir.

    • John Higgins

      Minor correction. The $4.8 million was not too low to succeed. It was too low to acquire the type and size office space desired by key RA leaders at the time. Facing loss of the Isaac Newton lease, RA surveyed available (less than Class A) space and determined that a purchase was feasible. It would not have been as spacious or comfortable as the current Hqs, but it would have been a sound investment – even if RA had to lease supplemental space. The decision to not use the purchase authority can be debated, but recall that it was based on substantial research and considerably more modest goals.

  • JCSuperstar

    BO, this was back in 2006, when they were at Isaac Newton Square.

    Just saying — the community, then, accepted the referendum (it passed) to purchase/build a new HQ. (no more than $4.8M)

  • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

    Our heritage?

  • BB

    Here’s another viewpoint than Mr. Maynard’s, from Restonian.

    http://www.restonian.org/2015/04/parklets-and-price-cuts-tetra.html

  • BB

    Terry, your op-ed is an opinion piece (hence it being an op-ed, right?), rather than a factual summary. In other words, it’s your point of view – which is fine, of course.

    http://www.restonian.org/2015/04/parklets-and-price-cuts-tetra.html – discusses cost and comes to the opposite conclusion (which I happen to agree with).

    • Terry Maynard

      Thanks, BB. Since you’ve mentioned it twice in consecutive comments, I’ll respond briefly.

      First, John Higgins, RA’s Treasurer for a decade or more, puts the real cost at $3.65 million in one of the initial comments on this post–although he still thinks its worth it. He thinks it will add about $10 per year to our assessment fees (I calculated less). Given his expertise and experience, I’d say that’s more than an opinion.

      Second, virtually everything that it is in my post is from the documents RA provides or state and county official sources. My opinion, actually my analytical judgment, is based on reviewing all those information resources in some depth. I’d welcome alternative information and analysis that contradicts my analysis.

      • John Higgins

        I missed the mark in my posting, which was intended to do nothing more than identify the actual cost of the Tetra property purchase. I did not intend to imply that I think RA’s acquisition is worth the $3.65 million cost. I made a stray comment that an added $10 (possibly less) to assessments is not a deal-breaker IF you conclude that RA’s purchase will prevent commercial development that the community would find obnoxious. Personally, that’s not my view. Perhaps I am myopic, but I don’t see the potential for a big box store, or otherwise out-of-place commercial use of that property. If it were purchased for a medical practice, a child care center, or a high-end restaurant, the community might be better off than would be the case with RA making it a another facility and part-time private party venue.
        Tetra Partners have long been responsible corporate citizens. I don’t think they devised a scheme to take advantage of our community. It appears that they unsuccessfully attempted (twice) to sell this property to restaurants. The record does not show what other attempts they made to market it. They named a price and put on a great poker face. That’s how their price entered the picture.
        What is the value of this property? We may never know. By definition, market value is the amount agreed to by a willing buyer and willing seller, where neither part is COMPELLED to act. By casting the question in terms of the awful alternatives, members may feel compelled to approve the purchase. Some will feel strongly about preventing any commercial use, and the cost does not bother them. Fine. So, if the referendum passes and if the RA board then decides to execute the final purchase contract, we will know the price ($2.65 million), the cost $3.65 million, but I will not feel we settled the “value” question. Perhaps that’s simply academic.
        I won’t bore readers with my calculation of the $10 assessment bump, but if anyone would like a private exchange to hear about it, I can be reached at [email protected].

        • Terry Maynard

          John–Thank you for your always balanced view. I think I interpreted your original post correctly, but it’s great to have this clarification and amplification.

          I only wish you (& especially current RA Board members) would address the key issue: Beyond the planning and zoning situation, how significant is the risk that the place would be developed further at all because of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, stormwater regulations (notwithstanding the political “parting of the waters” next to the Tetra building), and even RA easements on the property? My assessment as detailed in my op-ed is that the risk is remote, if not zero.

          FYI: My guesstimate of the fee bump was lower than yours over 20 years (although more cost info has been added), but higher in the shorter term as all that repair, replacement, renovate, etc., work was going on notwithstanding the Comstock proffer and Tetra contribution.

          Thanks again for all you’ve done for RA & Restonians.

    • John Higgins

      BB, Restonian is generally sharp in reporting reliable info, but they missed the boat badly here. The purchase priced ($2.65 million) is not reduced by the current owner’s commitment to spend up to $275k for repairs. When this property goes to settlement, RA will write a check for $2.65m. Now, if Tetra had not agreed to these repairs, RA might have been able to negotiate the price down, but then would have to lay out the money for the reapers. Either way, the price is $2.65m.

      Restonian then subtracts from the price the rent to be paid by Tetra, $100k. But wait, that’s only part of the picture. There are costs to being a landlord. Using the data in the referendum fact sheet, the RA will lay out $137,873 for the first twelve months it is the landlord. (That includes paying down some of the principal of the loan.) In short, the $100k rent not only doesn’t reduce the price, it doesn’t even cover the costs incurred by RA.

      This is not intended to argue for or against the purchase, just to set the record straight if cost is a factor in your decision.

      • JCSuperstar

        A lot of ways to look at this Mr. Higgins.

        In the end (related to this action) —

        RA sends out: $2.650,000
        RA takes in: $1,025,000

        Not bad for treating a couple of owner/developers as the enemy. They’ll have to do a lot more of this kind of thing with developers going forward.

        JC

        • John Higgins

          JC,
          Yes there are a lot of ways to look at this. I truly respect the conclusion of many that this is money well spent. I just wish they had a clearer picture of how much money that is. Your cash in/out statement sounds appealing, but it does not match the facts.

          Cash out:
          $2.65 million to Tetra
          $250,000 proposes to spend on renovations
          $100,000 (more or less) for legal, appraisal, engineering, and referendum
          Total out $3 million

          Cash in (related to Tetra):
          $100,000 rent, minus $130,000 to operate the facility during rental period
          Total in: minus $30,000

          The cost of repairs being done by current owner do not reduce the purchase price.
          Analogy: a car dealer is asking $20,0000 for a used car. You point out that its fender is mangled. Dealer says, I will fix it at my expense ($2,000) and you pay me the full asking price. How much did the car cost you?

          The developer contribution is not contingent on purchasing this property. If, in fact, that money is is to be spent as part of this purchase, another referendum would be required.

          Another analogy: Uncle Lou gives you $20,000 to use however you wish. Rather than use it on home repairs, family medical expenses, or a luxury vacation, you use it to buy the car. Does that make the price of the car Zero? Of course not. You get the car you want (and perhaps need), but you have some explaining to do to the spouse and children.

          I took the time for this reply beause I am happy to put my name to sharing factual information In this forum….your post suggests I inadevertantly (or otherwise) confused fact with viewpoint. It became a matter of reputation to respond. Nonetheless, I look forward to your perspectives onus sues in the future.

          • JCSuperstar

            edited

          • JCSuperstar

            Lastly, your dealership and Uncle Lou analogy are typical of the supposed “experts” here. You decide to paint an analogy with predetermined assumptions that the majority of uninformed here just accept.

            You are deciding to avoid certain Full Cost Accounting items to make your point even stronger. edited

          • Terry Maynard

            Good grief, JC, Mr. Higgins was the RA Treasurer & Board member for more than a decade. The man knows exactly what he is talking about.

            And you don’t.

  • Reston Member

    Vote NO.

  • Delsin Rowe

    Did you know you have to be a property owner to vote on this referendum? I thought we were past property ownership for voting rights. I have lived in Reston for over four years. On a second thought, do you really own property in Reston or use it as the RA sees fit? After the massive storm that knocked out power for most for days, and destroyed my deck; we had a difficult time getting permission to rebuild it!

    • JCSuperstar

      That’s what the deed states.

  • Crazyville

    Here’s how people measured the value of the commenters on this article using Disqus’ count of # of comments divided by # of upvotes. RestonNow readers may find it useful in separating the wheat from the chaff in these discussions.

  • Crazyville

    Here are the scores of people who have commented on this article, that is, how many upvotes they got per comment. Seems to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    • Reston Realist

      By my calculation, the average score was 1.03. If you scored less than half of that, you probably ought to give up writing here.

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