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Weekend Discussion: Where Does Lake House Go From Here?

by Karen Goff — June 3, 2016 at 4:15 pm 45 Comments

New Lake House

It’s been a week since the Reston Association Board voted to move $430,000 from its Operating Fund to use towards unexpectedly large expenses incurred by renovations at the Tetra/Lake House property.

RA purchased the building for $2.6 million in summer 2015 in order to fend off feared commercial development and add a community space.

A variety of things led to the overrun, including the previous tenant opting not to rent back for 2016 and rehab costs that came in much higher than expected, RA officials said.

But the reality is the cost gap is large and RA officials are not going to abandon the project. In fact, RA CEO Cate Fulkerson says the association needs to get Tetra/Lake House ready for business in order to start making money at the 3,000-square foot building on the shores of Lake Newport.

RA will begin after school care programs at Tetra/Lake House in the fall, and plans to rent it for events, meetings and parties. RA expects to eventually bring in more than $100,000 annually from those things.

But that does not mean the expenses will stop. The renovations, which have been somewhat scaled down as costs climbed, are not done. And at the May 26 RA Board meeting, representatives of the Lake House working group showed the board an elaborate landscaping and parking lot renovation idea that would cost a not-yet-identified amount should RA go forward with it in the future.

What should happen now? Should RA look for proffer and sponsor funding to pay for future costs? Should it cut their losses and sell the building? Should it charge non-RA members higher rates for rentals?

Do you think RA members will end up paying more than a few dollars in their annual assessments because of the deficit? Do you have any money-making or money-saving ideas?

Chat in the comments and have an nice weekend.

  • Kid Ding

    Convert it into subsidized housing.

    • John Farrell

      Great idea, it would drive Rick absolutely crazy.

      Unfortunately, it would require a rezoning.

      • Mike M

        What part did you not get? “Kid” or “Ding?”
        Also see Lake House Strong’s post!

      • Lake Anne Fan

        Was it actually former RA Prez Rick on the lake across from Tetra and RA Pres Knuiving who dreamed up the Tetra deal??

        • John Farrell

          Yup

          Can you say self dealing scaremongering, boys and girls?

  • North Point Entrepreneur

    open a convenience store and restaurant

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Some ideas:
    * a small lakeside lunch spot + convenience store – or a small restaurant – with rooms to rent for events
    * a B&B with rental rooms
    * some rooms to rent for events and others set up for people to rent as small business spots for the day/week/month/year
    * boat rentals like on Lake Anne across the street (hey, it’s a different lake) and canoeing/kayaking *lessons* in the summer
    * low daytime and weekend morning/late Sunday rental rates for locals for small meetings/gatherings
    * higher rates for parties & events with lots of food/messes/music
    * host regular social gatherings for various age groups and interests on off-nights with a small cover charge, some of which goes to food/drinks and some of which goes to cover costs
    * hold First Aid/CPR, knitting/crocheting/sewing, Tai Chi, yoga, and other classes there for which you’d get paid a bit per head for the space

  • Wings!!

    If I recall correctly, someone already suggested the property should be turned into a Hooters. After the mess RA made with this, that dosent sound like such a bad idea now does it?

    • John Farrell

      It is zoned for a restaurant!

    • RoadApples

      $ easily solved for LakeHouse subsidies : request a voluntary meals tax amongst all that fall in the boundaries of the RA fiefdom!

    • Mike M

      And we though he was the idjit. Little did we know.

  • Reston.All.Grown.Up

    Now, I am beginning to equate Lake House with Restonnow.com

    • Karen Goff

      I am not following you.

  • restonrealist

    It would be great if they moved some of RA’s offices into the Tetra building to save on rent. However I am sure RA has a long term lease on its current space so it may not be possible.
    This is problem will only continue to grow. The revenue projections will never be met and it will be a money pit for decades to come.
    The past RA board chair who championed this terrible investment then had the bright idea to ask RA to give IPAR $65,000. Way to go!!

    • John Farrell

      Knueven’s tenure on the Board looks worse with every passing day.

      • LakeNewportLady

        Curious what he thinks of what is going on since he was the biggest proponent of it

      • Ed Abbott

        Just so you know, he is now on the DRB.

    • Greg

      He (Knueven) is the same one who supported the current Taj Mahal RA HQ space (which is under a long-term lease and includes far more space than RA will ever need)..

      • John Higgins

        For the sake of accuracy, note that the RA’s lease for the current Hqs began in November 2009. Ken Knueven did not join the board until May 2010. The lease was signed almost a year before his first election.

        • Greg

          Knueven supported leasing from the (almost bankrupt?) absentee owner prior to his time on the RA board including during several meetings at the old RA HQ. He discussed his employment with a high-performing organization (Microsoft was it?) and asserted that relationship would benefit the new HQ acquisition process.

          • John Higgins

            Thanks for the clarification, Greg.

  • John Farrell

    Why does the RA Board and CEO feel compelled to be in such a rush to throw good money after bad?

    If the building is weather tight, stop all further activity until the causes of this fiasco and the individuals responsible are identified and forced to accept consequences commensurate with the degree of misfeasance involve in these overruns and misrepresentations.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Absolutely correct!

      We should not let the same people who made bad, costly decisions make more bad, costly decisions. One sure way to throw good money after bad is to let the same damn fools continue to make more damn fool decisions.

  • John Farrell

    How about renting the place out to a frozen yogurt shop.

    • Mike M

      . . or a book store. Yea! (Joking)

  • John Higgins

    There is a somewhat obscure provision in Virginia law (Sec. 55-510.2) that says: The board of directors shall establish a reasonable, effective, and free method, appropriate to the size and nature of the association, for lot owners to communicate among themselves and with the board of directors regarding any matter concerning the association.

    I think RA should become a sponsor of Reston Now to meet this responsibility. As far as I can see this is the only existing mechanism that meets the “among themselves” prong.

    And it would also be helpful if the directors gags would be removed so that they can join this dialogue. We elect them as individuals, based in part on their espoused philosophies and vision of good governance. I’d like to hear from them when important issues are being discussed. At a minimum, it would confirm that they believe in engagement, as painful as that might be at times.

    • Greg

      What gags? I’ve read RA board member comments here before (including on this very topic last year).

  • Lake House Strong

    Monday: heroine injections
    Tuesday: esol
    Wednesday: soup pantry
    Thursday: bicycle Co op
    Friday: LGBT workshop
    Saturday: density planning committee
    Sunday: $omething for the Lord (gode$$)

    • Mike M

      Lake House Strong, you made me laugh for five minutes! This is beautiful. Catches the mania in a nutshell.

    • Why do you bother?

      “Monday: heroine injections”

      Even the smallest heroine wouldn’t fit into a syringe – especially if she’s wearing a costume…

  • Max

    Charge for parking. If can work at the town center it can work for North point.

    • Digital not so much

      Gold studded parking meters and appropriately dressed meter maids would catch any violators very quickly

  • Guest

    The only way to prevent adding to our losses in perpetuity is to TEAR DOWN THOSE WALLS. Demo the building and make it nature area. It will never make money. No RA facility ever has made enough money to cover its programming costs, much less its full costs. Otherwise, it will continue to be a sinkhole for repairs and our assessment fees until it literally falls apart a decade or so from now and is condemned.

  • John Higgins

    While suggesting ideas that will never be implemented, add this one. Use the facility for activities that are core to an HOA. We cluster dwellers look to our individual HOAs for trash removal, landscaping, tree work, leaf removal, snow removal and roadway maintenance. Many contract for bookkeeping and collection services. Essentially the same service, supported by hundreds of individual contracts with a range of pricing. I estimate more than $5 million per year is spent by clusters for these services. The RA could negotiate umbrella contracts with significant savings given the power of the consolidated volume. The Lake House could be the services center out of which this centralized service is offered. Five percent of the business ($250,000+) per year, paid by the vendors, not the clusters, would pay for staffing and operation of Lake House. Extend the offerings to things we all seek as individuals: home improvement, maintenance, electrical and plumbing services. Knowing that the contractors have been vetted and understand the restrictions of our covenants, this could be the first stop when looking for that work. An RA version of Angie’s List.
    Imagine, HOA services that are relevant to all of us. And, in time, actually producing a profit to offset other RA costs.

    • Mike M

      Please! No more roles for RA. Why do Ls always want more government even in the wake of the clear demonstration that government cannot do what we currently ask. When it comes to government, more is not better!

      • John Higgins

        Mike, in the past I’ve ignored your occasional mistaken assumptions and conclusions, in large part out of respect for our common heritage and the possibility of a common gene pool. I tolerate many insults, but being called an L is behind the pale. You are out of my will.

    • Greg

      ARCH tried to get RA to do that some years ago. I guess it didn’t work out?

    • Tammi Petrine

      John Higgins… As usual a thoughtful post. Thank you for your reference to an HOA. RA is an HOA. Home Owners Association. RA has had serious mission creep in the last two decades. RA’s mission is not to provide everything for all people. RE: Tetra, RA is NOT a childcare entity nor an event rental facility. Every facility and amenity costs huge money in perpetuity that the community should not be asked to fund. Staff and boards, past and present, have conscripted all of the members into continuing costs that do not benefit most. This must stop. Discipline must prevail. Decisions MUST be slowed down so members can give opinions and information. The board admits that they need help but then 6 members vote to fund huge price overruns with no documentation or investigation AFTER the very concerns voiced by oponents of the purchase of this property have come true. This is business as usual.. warp speed ahead with important questions unasked and unanswered. There is a clear disconnect between words and actions. A review of the May 26 RA bd meeting tape clearly shows this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijujUAzO1DA

      That said, someone looking to start a wonderful business should take your idea of organizing cluster management, maintenance, common area landscaping and plowing. Genius concept in my opinion.

      • Overrunhell

        I watched the board meeting. What surprised me was how many board members decided to go down the proverbial path by saying ” I was for it..before I was against it.”

        Director, Ray Wedell, was the worst… he came across as a self aggrandizing blowhard who appears to believe he knows what the community wants. Hell, his own organization, Rescue Reston, endorsed the Tetra purchase. How hypocritical!

  • Greg

    Stop all work now and sell the building.

  • DemandJustice

    Sell the Lake House in order to cut our losses. Seize the assets of the existing board who deceived us and recover those losses.

  • east297

    Dear, dear….another RA boondoggle! Assessments $1000.00 SOON!!!

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Maybe we can move the dog park there. The Longwood Grove people would be happy about that. The water dogs would be happy because they would have a water space. Dues payers would be happy because we wouldn’t have to pay upkeep on the structure.

    • cRAzy

      Sure, just as soon as we tear down the Tetra building and put in a pet enclosure. All for it!

  • thebratwurstking

    Echoing some of the (serious) comments. RA has no expertise in after school care programs. It doesn’t serve the community at large and will never make money, only lose more. Neither will any of the other proposed rental ideas. There are plenty of professional organizations providing those.

    So instead of spending more on this, how about saving money instead. Move RA headquarters into that building. Whatever lease was signed, can most likely be renegotiated, just not with the current, ridiculously ineffective and grossly overpriced legal counsel currently contracted (see verbal (and broken) contract with former owners). Hire a competent and more affordable law firm.

    Establish an external annual audit to stop the ongoing waste. Create and stick to a balanced budget (=cost cannot exceed revenue) and freeze any additional raises of our fees unless absolutely necessary.

    Clearly clarify the mission and role of RA. They are supposed to work for us and not finance various pet projects from special interest.

    In 2001, our fee was $375.00, you all know what it is now. Despite the increase in new residents (plus many to be expected due to ongoing new developments) and subsequent additional revenue, services have not increased but cut (see new pool schedules).

    So stop the waste, start the savings. Most importantly, start serving us!

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