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Pony Barn Group Peeved by RA’s Stop Work Order

by Karen Goff — August 3, 2016 at 11:30 am 15 Comments

Pony BarnReston Association’s Pony Barn Working Group has spent about two years brainstorming ideas to transform the small recreational area off of Triple Crown Road.

Money has been allocated by RA, an engineering firm has been working on concepts and the site plan was estimated to have been submitted to Fairfax County this summer.

That is, until the working group recently got the call to stop.

In late June, RA CEO Cate Fulkerson told representatives of the Pony Barn group, as well as principals working on renovations for RA’s Central Services Facility to stop work until an independent review of the Lake House project could be conducted.

RA purchased the Lake House for $2.6 million in July of 2015 with plans to renovate and repurpose the former Reston Visitors Center into a building for community use. The renovations are complete — but came in at $430,000 over estimates. RA has formed a citizens group to hire an auditing firm to determine exactly what went wrong. That review, which will cost the association more money, is expected to be done this fall.

But that is not sitting well with the Pony Barn volunteers, who says stopping their own project “sends the wrong message.”

“Our members are very disillusioned,” Triple Crown resident and Pony Barn group member Renette Oklekwicz told the board at the RA Board meeting last week. “I have heard some say ‘I don’t trust RA. Are there any surprises here? They are never going to let us finish this project.’ ”

The Pony Barn project itself morphed from a $30,000 upgrade (for a new roof and flooring for the picnic pavilion) to a $350,000 overhaul, though RA approved $350,000 last year — before any major work started. 

The Pony Barn area — which once held an actual Pony Barn — is currently a picnic pavilion and a swing set. What the Pony Barn Working Group envisions in its final plan: a playground accessible for people with disabilities, a tot lot, a paved pathway, a historical information kiosk, cooking grills and a deck to overlook a butterfly garden.

In February, it hired Christopher Consultants to do a site plan.

Civil engineers are in the middle of stormwater management planning for the site — and they need to get paid, said working group member Marianne Zawitz.

“They are in middle of doing very complicated and detailed planning and [now] can’t move forward,” she told the board, which voted Thursday to release the money for stormwater planning.

Otherwise, the project remains stalled and the working group remains peeved.

“We have been working for two years,” said Oklekwicz. “We have been persistent and very patient. … and not a single ting has been done to the park. It is extraordinary we we are still at it.

“It’s a slow process. but we don’t believe that this hold is warranted any longer,” she said. “As far as we see, RA has the means and the Lake House overage has been covered. Quite honestly, the Lake House issue should not be our issue. We should not be punished for what happened there. That is how we feel. We have done nothing to warrant this hold.”

  • cRAzy

    If you can’t see an order of magnitude increase in projected Pony Barn costs as an “issue,” you shouldn’t be working on this project.

  • John Higgins

    The working group’s pique is understandable. Yes, it is frustrating to put in a large amount of volunteer time and energy only to see the effort stalled. I hope the group will continue to recognize that their work is appreciated.
    It may be little consolation, but the “hold” might, in fact, save the project. The reason for the hold was RA’s recognition that there are likely to be flaws in the capital planning process. The $350,000 estimate is dangerously close to the threshold for approval-by-referendum should this renovation be determined to be beyond simple repair and replacement. What Lake House taught is the importance of getting the numbers right before charging ahead. That’s not the working group’s responsibility, but it should be high on its agenda to protect against having the project come crashing down.

  • Mike M

    “The Pony Barn project itself morphed from a $30,000 upgrade (for a new roof and flooring for the picnic pavilion) to a $350,000 overhaul, . . .”

    Is there an echo in here?

    What is the benefit of this pony barn project again?

  • Ming the Merciless

    Memo from Fulkerson to PBWG:

    “So sorry, but there was so much heat over the other embarrassingly stupid, overpriced, and unnecessary project that we had to suspend work on your embarrassingly stupid, overpriced, and unnecessary project. I’m sure you understand. As soon as we find a way to spin this fiasco properly, and find some imaginary cost offsets where we invent some unnecessary expenditures and then cancel them, then everyone will calm down and you’ll be back in business.”

    • King of BS

      If you disagree with the pony barn fiasco I think we all understand. However, if you issue fake statements or twist the truth It’s hard for us, the opposition, to be taken seriously. In any case you should back up your comment with proper sources.

      The four up votes seem to show that you have the backing of some, hopefully it’s not just your satire that they show appreciation for.

      Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good ground for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.

      • Ming the Merciless

        There was nothing fake in my statement.

        Tetra and the Pony Barn are both embarrassingly stupid, overpriced, and unnecessary projects. A waste of RA member money. My money, your money, our money.

        The RA has tried to put positive spin both fiascos, and clearly expects the membership to forget about them eventually.

        The RA has invented fake cost offsets, as if not wasting our money on other unnecessary efforts somehow compensates for and excuses wasting our money on Tetra.

        The only satirical aspect was the idea that Fulkerson would speak these actual truths.

        The RA has repeatedly lied to us and wasted our money. How do you expect “the opposition” to succeed if it is afraid to voice these obvious truths? The more you attempt to soft-soap these truths, the more you help the RA board, who want the credulous animals to think they had good intentions and simply made a few innocent mistakes.

  • Ed Cacciapaglia

    I wonder how many people in the Pony Barn Working Group supported the Tetra Lake House boondoggle. I live near the Pony Barn and I can’t see spending big bucks on it. Perhaps a better idea is to sell the lot to a builder and recoup some of our losses from the Tetra disaster,

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Turn it into a dog park. South Reston needs one of those.

    • Greg

      Certainly more dogs than ponies in Reston.

  • Rational Reston

    “I don’t trust RA”

    More and more people state this. Now can we start voting with this in mind?

    • Ming the Merciless

      The board is counting on running unopposed and the membership forgetting the Board’s responsibility for Tetra and Pony Barn.

      • cRAzy

        . . . and CSF rehab and open space giveaway in Town Center North–and probably more.

  • james dean

    i appreciate all of the hard work & long hours by the pony barn group, the lake house group, etc…but that doesnt mean that ra & its members should go from spending $30k for some needed pony barn renovations to $350k for a complete revisioning of the pony barn facility….ra & some ra members need to remember that ra monies are not their personal funds…if people living near the pony barn want a $350k complete revisioning, they, their clusters & neighbors should pay for it & or raise the funds to do so.

  • Egg McMuffin

    Look at the language choice here. Use of “peeved”, “morphed” – not exactly impartial reporting here from someone who wanted the memorial garden that the residents opposed.
    The residents here on the south end of Reston can definitely use some nicer facilities for recreation. There were several great ideas for using the space near the Pony Barn and across the street. A significant facelift for the area is not a bad investment in keeping the entire Reston area attractive.

    • Karen Goff

      What makes you think I wanted the memorial garden? I never wrote or said anything implying that was my personal opinion. And the working group is indeed peeved and the project has indeed morphed. Those are not loaded words. They are facts.

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