Meet the RA Board Candidates: John Bowman

by RestonNow.com March 3, 2016 at 1:00 pm 20 Comments

John Bowman/Credit: RAReston Now is running Q-and-As with the 2016 candidates of Reston Association’s Board of Directors. Voting opens March 7. Today’s chat is with John Bowman, who is seeking an At-Large spot.

Reston Now: What makes you want to serve on the RA Board?

John Bowman: I view the opportunity to participate on the RA Board of Directors as a naturalprogression from my previous community service efforts.

I have been a Reston resident since 1985 and have followed a typical member behavior of progressing from: 1) not really being aware of issues that impact the RA community due to career and family focus; 2) to having awareness only to the amount of increases in the RA assessment; and 3) finally to having a sense of community responsibility the desire to give back.

My desire to give back to the community was aroused first by land use issues impacting south Reston and grew as I immersed myself into the county and state processes by which land use is controlled. I found that the average RA member who might have interest in an issue is ill-equipped to meaningfully influence land use outcomes.

Initially we: 1) lack subject matter and procedural knowledge; and 2) become aware of an issue too late in the process. I have joked that most members only become aware of issues that might impact them when the bulldozer shows up

This understanding led me to participate in the South Reston Park & Ride Neighbors, the Reston Citizens Association, the Fairfax County Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force, and, most importantly, the RA Transportation Advisory Committee — which is now the Multimodal Transportation Advisory Committee.

My primary focus has been: 1) to be an early warning system to my RA friends and neighbors for issues on which they may choose to engage; and 2) to influence the RA Board to more effectively advocate for member interests beyond the boundaries of Reston.

RN: What is the biggest issue facing RA right now and do you have an idea to improve it?

JB: Providing member services within reasonable cost/benefit parameters. Reston is fundamentally fully developed. Opportunities for growth will be directly aligned with redevelopment. While growing Reston Association’s membership by the addition of new/redeveloped properties is a worthy endeavor, it is not a given.

RA needs to ensure that the services provided to members actually align with both: 1) member preferences; and 2) member willingness to fund such services. I do not believe all services are static, but need annual reevaluation for relevance in order minimize assessment increases, i.e., RA must live within its means and not assume that assessment increases are the “go to” solution for all new member service ideas.

RN: How can RA members better understand what the board does and how can they be better involved in improving our community?

JB: Community engagement is, and always will be, a challenge for the RA. As noted earlier, RA members tend to be fully engaged in their career growth and family development. As such, the most effective way for the typical RA member to understand the Board activities is to communicate with their RA Board representatives and follow the RA website.

I believe it is the responsibility of RA Board members: 1) to initiate outreach to RA members; and 2) to provide efficient and useful responses to member concerns/requests.

When I ran for RA Board of Directors in 2008, I challenged the Association to improve its website in order to provide members a truly reliable information source. While no website is perfect, I am happy to say there has been significant improvement.

RN: Some of the criticism of RA recently is wasteful spending, lack of transparency and rising assessments. What can be done to improve or at least improve perceptions of all of these things?

JB: As I stated earlier, most RA members’ perception of the Association is a direct reaction to both: 1) the amount of the assessment; and 2) the size of the most recent assessment increase. While the RA BOD is empowered to raise the annual assessment within the cap defined in the governing documents, this should not be the default solution to unconstrained expenses and costs.

There are many ideas for RA services that, from an academic perspective, have merit, but may not align with how members would desire the BoD to use the assessment revenue. Two examples are the Tetra purchase and the Lake Anne land swap.

Entering into land transactions, e.g. Tetra, that lack overwhelming member support — it received a bare minimum majority approval — due to questionable values and that create long term financial obligations for the members needs to be scrutinized more closely than seems to have been done in the past. It was clear at the time that the Board was rushing into a purchase many members felt was terribly overpriced. In addition, the Board had not adequately considered how it could be used (i.e., the need of a special committee to come up with practical plans after the purchase).

Likewise, land swaps, such as the now-defunct Lake Anne land exchange between RA and the developer, do not seem to have balanced preserving RA’s natural areas with reasonable value received. We need to ensure that value received on behalf of RA Members is commensurate to value given away.

I will advocate for more careful analysis before major commitments — avoiding rushed purchases that lack critical examination and fully known costs.

RN: This is an important time for Reston’s growth as several large residential developments are in the works, and most of the residents will be RA members. What can the board do in the next few years to adequately prepare to serve thousands more people? Will having more members stress RA services?

JB: The challenge for RA with future development is more comprehensive than just the new members. As new and redevelopment projects come to fruition in the greater Reston area – not just the RA properties, there will be significant strain on all elements of the public infrastructure and services.

Most of these elements – e.g. transportation, water, sewer, etc., are outside the direct control of RA. Therefore, the RA Board must ensure positive relationships exist with the owners of public infrastructure and services to influence positive outcomes to continue the “Reston” quality of life we cherish. These relationships will be not only with governmental agencies (i.e. Fairfax County, State of VA, etc.), but also our fellow community groups (e.g. Reston Town Center Association, Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, etc.)

More specific to services that RA can control, significant numbers of new RA members will definitely stress RA services. The maintenance and repair of our existing facilities is a critical concern that needs a well-defined plan that gains support of the RA membership. This plan should exercise discipline to fund and limit use of the maintenance and repair fund to maintaining existing facilities.

Funding maintenance and repair requirements based upon new member assessments feels too Ponzi-like, requiring never ending addition of new members for ongoing funding. Additionally, future RA members whose membership results from their residence in new and redevelopment projects may be unwilling to accept full assessment rates, as their development most likely, in order to be attractive in the greater real estate market, will need to provide many of the same recreational services.

See previous Q-and-As with Dannielle LaRosa (North Point), April Tan (At-Large) and Sherri Hebert (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks).

Photo of John Bowman courtesy of RA

  • JohnGaltMasterPlanner

    RA must live within its means and not assume that assessment increases are the “go to” solution for all new member service ideas.

    This guy! I like this guy. He’s got my vote

    • JoeInReston

      Here is another quote I liked:

      “Entering into land transactions, e.g. Tetra, that lack overwhelming member support — it received a bare minimum majority approval — due to questionable values and that create long term financial obligations for the members needs to be scrutinized more closely than seems to have been done in the past. It was clear at the time that the Board was rushing into a purchase many members felt was terribly overpriced. In addition, the Board had not adequately considered how it could be used (i.e., the need of a special committee to come up with practical plans after the purchase)”

      • meh

        Yup, it was kind of a “we have to buy it to see if we can use it”

      • http://skimccormick.com

        For practical purposes Tera should have become the boathouse for an excellent water park, instead the community is now facing a decrease in home values and an increase in body weight.

        Spoons up.

  • Jillian Morris

    Mr. Bowman would you support a land swap as a part of the redevelopment of the Tall Oaks Village Center so that we can add another exit to Wiehle Ave as supported by 2020’s Tammie Patrine?

    • John Farrell

      Because of the vertical and horizontal curves on Wiehle near TOVC that severely restrict the sight distance for cars trying to make that turn, VDOT will never allow an exit onto Wiehle from TOVC.

      This point has been made repeatedly by private sector and public sector traffic engineers.

      It’s possible that traffic at the Wiehle/North Shore could be improved by the addition of a right turn lane to westbound North Shore and the extension of a left turn lane for people from the neighborhoods off of North Shore trying to get south to the Toll Road.

      That improvement would not require a land swap but the dedication by RA of a small sliver of land to the County to allow the developer to build the right turn lane.

      It would cost RA nothing and improve traffic flow for the neighborhood.

      • Jillian Morris

        That’s not what 2020/Tammie Patrine said– they said do a swap to allow for an exit only on to Wiehle Ave. I saw it on Youtube.

        • John Farrell

          Tammie is not a civil engineer.

          • Jillian Morris

            Oh! I’m so sorry- I didn’t realize you were in the profession. My apologizes.

        • Tammi Petrine

          Jillian, my point about Tall Oaks VC and Neighborhood is that there needs to be improved access to the area.
          #1. Due to uptick in traffic due to Metro, Wiehle is now a jammed N/S axis. The TO residents living east of Wiehle often have to wait 20 min. in AM to exit their neighborhood using N. Shore Dr. Dangerous and unacceptable.
          #2. JAG adding considerable population to TOVC would further exacerbate already critical road capacity. To make TOVC and TO neighborhood function successfully, we need more/better access.

          Perhaps Mr. Farrell is correct. But I have confidence that in other locals, similar problems with these conditions have been solved. Perhaps we need both an improved intersection and a new Wiehle exit/entrance. A reduced Wiehle speed limit in that area may also be required.

          The point is that TO can be a vibrant, successful VC if it is planned correctly with infrastructure to support it. Adding more residents without more traffic capacity will doom both development and neighborhood.

          The idea that Reston can continue to function WITHOUT improved infrastructure when experiencing huge density changes is a policy that will crush us all. Collectively we must all lobby hard to reverse this destructive FFX Co. trend. Hope that helps.

          • Jillian Morris

            So, you and 2020 are in favor of a land swap. Thank you for clarifying. I agree that sometimes we have to make hard choices in order to meet ALL the communities needs. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. It’s hard to lose trees but in some cases that might make sense.

    • John Bowman

      Jillian: Land use actions, in general, require careful and deliberate Board consideration. As desirable as any perceived solution might appear, multiple creative solutions should always be considered; However, while I believe sitting directors should acknowledge the merits and challenges of any proposed solution, they should only support solutions based upon conviction that we have thoroughly evaluated all reasonably concrete proposals and found one to be the best net benefit to the RA and its members. That benefit could result from factors in any combination of financial, environmental, quality of life, etc…

      Particular to Tall Oaks Village center, I understand and appreciate the concern of Tall Oaks residents pertaining to traffic movement out of your neighborhood. While the proposed solution you ask about has promise – it has serious hurdles to gain VDOT support/approval – if at all. I think there is considerable room for RA, JAG and the county to pursue further discussion about the best traffic solutions associated with this project; As such, there is not yet a basis to form an opinion on any single proposal as the “final” solution; the details of all possible alternatives to improve the traffic flow at Tall Oaks Village Center need to be evaluated against each other, not in series.

  • cRAzy

    Hmmmmm . . . this guy sounds like a plant. He sounds entirely too logical, too practical, too common sense to serve on the hallucinating RA Board.
    Still, he sounds like the kind of guy I’ll vote for even if he has trouble coping with the rest of the delusional, self-serving Board members.

    • Sally Forth

      cRAzy… Hope you don’t mean ALL of the RA Board are delusional and self-serving… There are a couple of gems there including La Rosa who is also up for reelection and an environmental advocate from Hunters Woods. I also like Bowman’s experience and answers above and think that he would be a huge asset to the board because he has planning experience. No sitting RA director has that. For that alone, he has my vote!

      • The rest is LSD

        April Tan is the one to contend with.

      • NamingNames

        Hi Tammie- how are you doing!

        • Tammi Petrine


  • RestonianNow

    Am I the only one who has difficulty in navigating the Reston Association website these days trying to find committee meeting dates and profiles of RA Board members.

    • John Higgins

      No, you are not alone. I had been increasingly frustrated by navigation difficulty. At times I gave up trying to find pages I had visited before. In my case, the problem was my use of an iPad. When I turned to my Windows PC, it was as if I was at an entirely different site…I could quickly find almost everything I wanted.

    • cRAzy

      The RA website is an absolute abomination. It is extremely difficult to find anything by clicking through it (at least 3 clicks to get to anything) and the search engine is absolutely useless for finding what you want despite the dozens, hundreds of “hits”.


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