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Narrow Margin Moves Tetra Purchase Forward

by Karen Goff — May 12, 2015 at 9:00 am 57 Comments

Tetra buildingThere was both a high turnout and a narrow margin of passage in the Reston Association referendum to purchase the Tetra building.

The referendum passed, RA announced Monday night, and the association will now move forward to close on the purchase by late July.

According to RA’s official vote tally, 5,676 ballots were returned out of a possible 17,511 eligible households. There were 2,926 votes in favor of the purchase (52.9 percent). That’s just 323 votes more than the 2,603 that cast a “no” vote. There were 147 abstentions, which did not count in the vote tally.

The nearly 33-percent turnout was actually quite large for a RA vote. For instance, in the 2015 board elections that wrapped up in March, ballot returns were between 15 and 20 percent, depending on district.

RA will now move forward to secure a $2.7 million loan for the property and organize a committee to get member input and envision a transformation of the 33-year-old building.

The 3,128-square-foot building and its 3.47 acres housed Reston’s Visitor’s Center for 20 years. Since 2003, it has been office space for Tetra Partners, a commercial real estate firm that purchased the building for $750,000.

RA plans to repurpose the building  for community and event space and a lakefront park.

Part of the refurbishment will be paid by developer Comstock, which will contribute $650,000, and by the seller, Tetra Partners, which will pay $275,000 for new roofing, HVAC system and other repairs.

The property off of Baron Cameron Avenue sits in between Lake Newport Tennis and Brown’s Chapel Park and will give RA 98 acres of contiguous space.

The referendum capped a contentious couple of months, where RA faced vocal opposition to the purchase. Opponents objected to the purchase price, which was more than double the $1.2 million recent Fairfax County tax assessment. They also questioned RA’s information that commercial development would happen if RA did not make the purchase.

RA Chief Financial Officer Robert Wood said Monday the association talked to three banks about loan terms. The most favorable terms came from Access National, which is offering RA a loan of $2.7 million with an interest rate of 3.35 percent locked in for 10 years, at which time RA would most likely refinance.

The task force will be made up of one resident from each of RA’s districts (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks, Hunters Woods/Dogwood, South Lakes and North Point); three residents of the neighborhoods adjacent to the property; and a member from each of RA’s advisory committees.

RA estimates that it will create revenue of more than $100,000 annually from event and meeting rentals, as well as after-camp and after-school child care programs.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    The easiest way to deal with this is to hit’em where it hurts: the pocketbook.

    I say, Let’s hold a Dues Strike! Let’s all withhold payment of our dues. Who’s with me?

    • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

      I’m with you Chuck. I have floated that idea before.

    • Paulette Lincoln-Baker

      I agree!

      • Not happy but not a dummy

        Enjoy that lein on your home!

        • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

          A lien on a property really iisn’t a big deal unless you are going to sell.

        • Chuck Morningwood

          And if we can get hundreds to strike, RA might be inclined to back down.

  • Ricky Spanish

    Roughly $320,000 annually in mortgage payments, minus $100,000 annually from event and meeting rentals leaves $220,000 to be made up from RA residents… This does not include any O&M costs for the property. This has been covered ground already.. but one does like to beat the dead horse.

    • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

      They will never get 100K from event/meeting rentals. Would you want to have a wedding reception there?

      • Sally P

        The site is beautiful- have you been there? You could have a service at Browns Chapel and walk over to a room looking over the lake!

        • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

          Yes. I have been there. No one will want to have a wedding there. Its preposterous.

          • JCSuperstar

            BO, a lien is a legal judgment, and any legal judgments get reported to the credit bureaus. This type of action could have a huge impact on credit score, ability to re-fi, etc.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            A lien is not the same as a judgement.

          • JCSuperstar

            I believe they are. And in VA, the HOA can foreclose on the property.

          • Stop the Insanity

            JC, actually with the kind of lien that RA can place they can’t foreclose. I think the lien that RA has can prevent transfer of the title/dead. There are liens that can lead to foreclosure. The real problem is the penalty/fees that RA has in place for late payment. I think it is 1% a month but might be more.

          • JCSuperstar

            Got ya. Well, I am a defender of fighting for what is right, but I do believe people should know all the facts and potential repercussions too. That’s me being pragmatic.

          • Greg

            RA can generally affect a property title in two ways:

            It can place a lien for unpaid assessments against a property subject to the RA deed by docketing a judgment in circuit court, filing an actual lien based on a court-obtain judgment, or both. RA’s instruments and the law allow it to foreclose on the lien if it wishes and may do so judicially or non judicially. The judgment exists for 20 years and can be renewed. Liens run with the land until removed. Judgments are either reported or transcribed to credit bureaus.

            Such a lien clouds a property’s title and is usually cleared before the property is conveyed.

            RA can, after proper due process, place a notice of claimed covenant violation on a property by filing the notice at the courthouse. This is not a title-encumbering instrument, and it will not generally hinder property conveyance. The purpose of the notice, of course, is to remedy the violation and bring the property into compliance with whatever covenant(s) were violated.

          • Stop the Insanity

            Greg, thanks for the additional information.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            Well, believe what you want, but you are wrong.

          • JCSuperstar

            OK BO, I was nicely saying I believe otherwise. You must be upset, I’ll let others give their thoughts on this.

        • freestylergbb

          We don’t have to own it for it to be beautiful. It’s lovely now and it’s protected. Who knows what will happen at the hands of RA and what will happen to our dues.

          • Greg

            Assessments will surely increase. They have every year, by far more than the rate of inflation, and that’s all before this debacle gets into the budget.

    • meh

      I bet O&M alone will eat up any profit this place makes on rentals. I bet they didn’t bother to factor in the price of security, isolated community buildings need some form of a security system to keep bored teenagers from causing mischief.

    • ImSoSmart

      I’m afraid your math is quite a bit off. You assume we are borrowing 2.65 million. The 2,650,000 less the 650,000 Comstock proffer less the 275,000 owner repairs less the 100,096 lease back generates a net purchase of $1,624,904, It’s as simple as that. We don’t have to borrow all that was allowed in the referendum. It was a no-brainer to vote YES.
      Gee, I wonder sometimes.

      • guest

        Think there will be a rent-back now that owner is dead?
        Think that Comstock BLVD new RA members will cost RA nothing?
        No-brainer is right. Ha! Beginning of a money pit for RA commences with this unneccessary purchase.

      • Stop the Insanity

        Actually since the proffer could be used for any project “assigning” it to the deal is dishonest. It could have been used for pool repair, playground improvement, trail maintenance, etc. Also the lease back is paid in installments so interest has to be paid on the borrowed money while waiting for the next payment. There are bound to be additional repairs to the building that aren’t covered by the repairs that TETRA offered. Finally, RA wants to make many changes to the landscaping and building which they never provided an estimate of the cost for that work, not that I have seen anyway. That will probably run into the 400K to 500K range. So really, this wasn’t a smart deal.

        • ImSoSmart

          yeah yeah yeah… that fact is we were told the amount was net, so it’s only going to be a 1.6 million loan for a property worth 2.65. Why would we borrow the full amount? sheesh.

          • Stop the Insanity

            Why don’t you call RA and tell them to walk into the closing with check for 1.6 million when TETRA is expecting 2.65 million. That will be one way to kill this bad deal. RA to my knowledge hasn’t received any money yet from the Comstock proffer. Even if they do receive it by July there are likely to be some limits on how that money can be spent. I doubt making a down payment on the property will be acceptable. Same thing for the rent back funds, RA won’t have access to that money until after closing, then only on a periodic basis. RA is going to have to borrow 2.65 million for the closing, maybe 2.6 million if they break into the pink piggy bank where they keep their petty cash. So using fuzzy accounting, sure the price was 1.6 million, but it is going to cost the RA membership 2.65 million, likely more after improvements to the grounds, repairs, and re-purposing the structure.

      • John Higgins

        ISS, a number of people have cited a net purchase price of $1.6 million. That seems to have been believed, but it is wrong. Send me an email and I will be happy to provide the real numbers – all of them – from the referendum fact sheet. RA told us that the net purchase price was, indeed, $2.65 million. They also told us that, after applying the $650,000 Comstock contribution and all expected revenue, owning ang operating this property will result in a $249,677 loss over the first 5.5 years. And about $100,000 per year after that. [email protected]. If I convince you that you have been misled, you buy me coffee. If you convince me it cost $1.6 million, I’ll buy you the golf course.

        • ImSoSmart

          Well, those numbers are right from Ken Kneuven’s response on “Tetra Owner Agrees to $275K in Building Repairs” story on April, 24. So unless you are implying there is some trickery involved, I’ll be happy to take that golf course off your hands. We have to base our decisions on something, and what better than the truth from the horses mouth.

          • John Higgins

            ISS,
            I have great respect for Mr. Kneuven and the countless hours he has given, making Reston a better place. Trickery is the very last thing one should impute to his statement. Another explanation, the one I buy, is simple error. In this case, the horse that should be listened to is the official fact sheet provided each voting member with their ballot. I urge you to write to me. I will keep your email confidential. Or, create a non-identifable address. I can smell rosted Colombian beans now.

  • WhoIsJohnGalt

    Whelp, my dues are going to go up for something that anyone with a lick of common sense voted against.

  • JCSuperstar

    I think this Tetra matter is over. RA fought the existing development plans by purchasing.

    The bigger news is what else was announced yesterday:

    “While the BZA did not provide a “blank check” to the landowner in its decision on April 15, 2015, it also did not confirm that the three development plans later found by county staff in the zoning archives are, in fact, the approved development plans. As such, RA will be appealing the BZA decision. The primary purpose of appealing the BZA decision to the Circuit Court is to have the court confirm that these are the official approved development plans which, until and unless amended, govern the use and development of the golf course, as well as the residences surrounding it. These development plans clearly show golf course and open space uses.”

    http://www.reston.org/AboutRestonAssociation/NewsfromRA/RAReleases/TabId/835/ArtMID/2835/ArticleID/411/Board-Votes-to-Approve-Appeal-of-BZA-Golf-Course-Decision.aspx

    • james dean

      thats more misinformation…there were no development plans for Tetra…Tetra partners had been trying to sell tetra for yrs…no one else was interested in purchasing the tetra property….Tetra partners even approached RA 4-5 yrs ago w/much lower price…but that RA board & CEO weren’t interested…now this RA board & CEO spend who only knows how much money to get a “yes” vote…& then just barely able to get a yes vote w/less than 53%…hopefully RA members will remember this bad decision & waste of our money along other bad decisions like the Lake Anne land swap, lack of independent RA board ethics committee, etc & start voting for more responsive & responsible RA leadership

      • JCSuperstar

        Focus on the RNGC.

    • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

      JC,

      So what does this acutally mean, in layman’s terms? Redevelopment goes forward, or not? Or still to soon to tell?

      • JCSuperstar

        In my opinion, the BZA set the tone. This will be a hard fight, and yes, the Circuit Court could overrule. Regardless, you have to see if there is community will to take the fight further up the line. I believe the political will of the BOS will ultimately have to be tested.

  • Samatha

    Here’s an idea, what if those of us that voted NO now focused on making sure this thing is successful so that the location out performs the estimated revenues so that it doesn’t ever impact our dues?

    It’s done, it wasn’t what some of us wanted but I think that efforts to undermine success going forward are only going to hurt us, lets not forget we will pay for failure. Some idiot said to look for a legal challenge from the opposition- well if that happens we’re doomed. Who’s money do you think gets spent to fight a challenge?

    • JoeInReston

      It is very important to continue to speak up about the merits (or lack thereof) of the purchase . Noting the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of cost and revenue forecasts as they come (or fail to come) to fruition will help:
      a) make for a more informed community
      b) hold leaders accountable for their success or mistakes.

    • Reston Realist

      I would say the obligation to make the Tetra purchase a success is on those who voted for it, including every last member of the RA Board of Directors and the RA staff.

    • Greg

      Not a bad idea, but we’ve been there before. Many times. Pool and tennis used to be optional services that were not part of the RA assessment. Now they are because they lost money (which they still do, but it’s much harder to argue to kill them when the costs for rarely frequented facilities that are open as few as 2 months of the year are buried in the budget and included in the assessment).

      The RA HQ has far more space and far richer furnishings and finishes than needed or were discussed in the few open forums RA had on the topic. The members present at those meetings argued against such a posh and large facility in such an out-of-the-way place. If I recall correctly, the building owner was in bankruptcy at the time the costly lease was negotiated and was saved by the RA’s lease. Its conference center sits empty most of the time it’s not being used by the RA.

      The nature house is underused as is Brown’s Chapel and the Glade room. RA seriously discussed participating in a huge $100 million indoor rec center some years ago. Indoor tennis and covered pools, keep coming up as did the Boce court. Always new and more but never use, repair, or, especially, repurpose what we have.

      Guess what? All of the RA board members and managers who are responsible for these costly things are long gone but for Kate. The good news is that Kate’s assured us that her focus now will be to ensure that Tetra’s expenses (all of them from acquisition, renovation, and O&M) are minimized so as to not affect our assessments. She’s the CEO; it’s her job.

    • Rational Reston

      Part of me agrees with you, because now we’re ALL going to be saddled with this white elephant.

      Another part of me wants this to be the worst case scenario so this will expose RA processes and policies and misplaced ‘Reston principles’ for the farce that they are.

    • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

      That is the equivalent of asking conservatives to support Obamacare. Its not that we want it to fail. Its that we KNEW that it would, we told them so, and now it is happening. No one wanted to hear that state after state is shutting down their Obamacare exchanges and that hundreds of millions have been wasted. But alas, that is what is happening. This TETRA purchase will be an ongoing disaster for the next several years as it comes to fruition. So, do I HOPE that it fails,,,,,,,no not really. But I know that it will and all we will be able to do is say “I told you so”….

  • Wings!!

    Could have been a Hooters.
    #HootersForReston

    • Stop the Insanity

      Well Wings!!, sorry you didn’t get your Hooters. But during peak wedding season we should rent the facility, fill it up with hot college girls in orange hot pants, get wings delivered from Jimmy’s Old Town, and blast music late into the night. It would be the next best thing.

      • Wings!!

        Yeah that sounds good. Lets do that.
        #HootersForReston

  • freestylergbb

    So what’s the next move? And by that I mean, surely this loan-in-order-to-purchase can be challenged on other grounds. A referendum does not necessarily sanction this misguided and otherwise misdirected maneuver.

    • Polly P

      Yes- please waste more of our money by engaging in a legal battle! That’s such a smart move.

      • freestylergbb

        Ever heard of strategic planning? You don’t need lawyers. You need to be smart and organized and harness powers and influence beyond online commentary.

    • Greg

      The best move? Form a coalition and solicit financially conservative candidates from each RA district. Throw the current bums out, get elected and clean house. It’s a challenge since the RA board seats are staggered, the directors usually are elected because they favor/oppose this or that project (it’s an unpaid gig with a big time and meeting burden), and it’s a three-year term. Then that board could divest and unravel, and otherwise reign in the RA.

      Redo the Reston governing instruments to, among other things, ad valorem assess all RA properties; limit RA’s authority to parks and recreation things; get it out of, and prevent it from engaging in, planning and development; and severely limit what it can spend, how much it can increase assessments and require it to frequently assess the value of all its assets and close those that are costly and underused (pools) and increase those that are inexpensive to create and maintain and highly desired (garden plots, for example — some of which have two-year waiting lists).

      Keep in mind that there’s support from paid government (Hudgins and Plum) and a hard-core left-of-liberal pool of Reston socialists who want us all to live in Brutalist concrete boxes with RELAC a/c and with no changes to anything ever.

      • freestylergbb

        Other than disagreeing with the “hard-core-left-of-liberal pool ….” comment, you make good points . Dismantle and defuse the oligarchy. And I think you’d find many so-called liberal folks would agree with trimming RA’s fat and power.

        • Greg

          Sorry it there was too much hyperbole or sarcasm or both. Liberal or conservative, it’s time for change at RA, cutbacks and to learn to do more with less. I will do my part, but am not interested in an unpaid RA board seat. I’d rather advocate for town status, but looking west at Herndon or east to Vienna, I am not convinced either has merit, especially in the financial sense (other than making what is now the non-tax-deductible RA assessment a deductible tax).

          Put more broadly, we don’t need, and certainly can’t afford, RA, STD #5, Rec centers, and the county housing authority all tripping over each other to do what private, tax-paying entities do better for less.

  • JCSuperstar

    I’m sorry but your analogies are just not relevant. This one is just sad and not showing a “lick of common sense.”

    • Secret observers

      Homo sapiens’ (= wise man) brains are not commonly homogenous. When they are stimulated, their relevant senses and reactions are also not homogenous. They may think the winner or loser as “The good, The bad and The ugly” and may feel happy, sad or amused.

      Few may think physical acts (war, rape … ) against other’s will are not relevant to the violation of human rights. Many do feel the intellectual acts (politics, governance,,,,,) taking advantage or against other’s trust are relevant to the abuse of human rights.

      Many did not vote for Tetra even they feel LOVE for the relevant “green space” because they either feel BAD about the
      failed due process and lack of transparency or feel SAD about the relevant price. They did not want to be forced to pay or
      choose one of only two options for higher dues and debt. When they think about relevant future of Reston budget with $$$ Mil in debt, they worry their “dues are going up with Tetra”. They fear “this Tetra matter” is never over and RA will never stop raising dues to spend their $$$ for “relevant” “green space”.

      You voted NO to support the relevant “property rights” for restaurants and did not feel you were forced to choose
      one of only two options YES-NO. You condemned the protest’s right for a fair due process for a referendum with both
      pro-cons and/or more than two options or less spending. Now you “think this Tetra matter is over” and relevant $$$ for Tetra is no longer relevant to RA budget fighting for RNGC.

      It is sad to read relevant comment written to hide or to directly or indirectly support misuse or abuse of public trust or $$$.

      It is hypocrite to declare NO against an act but accept the relevant result.

      It is not gentle to offend any relevant woman during Mothers Day weekend just because of Tetra.

      It is risky to dare that Tetra protesters are no longer relevant to the future of Reston or RNGC.

      It is completely wrong to judge others’“sense” that they are not relevant as your “lick of common sense”. Be careful with your “lick of common sense” :))

  • Restonite

    I voted yes, and I’m glad I did. I live up the road from this property and visit frequently to walk my dog on the grounds. I think Reston can definitely rent out this space for events – it’s a beautiful location with ample parking. Rehearsal dinners, weddings, public meetings… it can definitely be a successful revenue generator if it’s marketed properly, and much better in a neighborhood like this than the alternatives. The newly revitalized Lake Anne will be right across the street – the last thing we needed on this site was another convenience center or another restaurant. This goes a long way to helping preserve our open spaces and providing a community benefit.

    • JoeInReston

      “I live up the road from this property”

  • JCSuperstar

    The silence is deafening from the three amigos, I wonder what’s brewing.

    It will be interesting to see if RA is going to be punished while there are some big battles coming if one is are anti-development. The biggest being the Reston National Golf Course, and then there’s St. Johns Woods and now this is heating up:

    https://sites.google.com/site/talloaksvillagecenterreston/home

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