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In Denying Covenants Appeal on Boat Length, RA Board Says It Must Follow Deed

by Dave Emke — July 31, 2017 at 2:45 pm 16 Comments

Adrian Hollands knew “Orca,” the 20-foot pontoon boat he bought from his Lake Chapel Lane neighbor, is longer than what is allowed on Reston’s lakes per the Reston Deed.

His covenants appeal that was brought before the Reston Association Board of Directors last week (video) failed after a lengthy discussion that delved into conversation about how closely the Board should adhere to the Deed.

“The Deed was written so many years ago that every now and again, we should probably be looking through the Deed and saying, ‘What doesn’t make sense anymore?'” Board President Sherri Hebert said. “[But] it’s not as easy as just taking a vote to change our Deed and change those rules. It’s a pretty complicated process.”

CEO Cate Fulkerson said that in 2003, the section of the Deed regarding boats was considered in advance of the referendum to amend the Deed, which took place in 2006.

“As opposed to eliminating this particular covenant, it was actually strengthened to include the width of the boats,” Fulkerson said. “That was considered and put to community comment.”

Section VI.2(b)(9) of the Reston Deed states that “[e]xcept for emergencies or Association authorized maintenance, no boats greater than eighteen feet in overall length and ten feet in overall width and no boats powered by or equipped with internal combustion engines shall be allowed on the lakes.”

In 2008, seven property owners whose boats were longer than 18 feet were issued nontransferable grandfather exemptions. When Hollands purchased “Orca” from his neighbor, the Covenants Committee said, the exemption for that boat was invalidated.

Hollands, who said the cost of modifying the boat for compliance would be more than $5,000, provided the Board with 36 signed petitions from Lake Audubon neighbors who had no issue with his boat being 20 feet in length. Hollands said while no one seems sure why the Deed sets the limit at 18 feet, he has heard it comes from 18-foot townhouse widths on Lake Anne.

“Suffice it to say that I don’t know how Reston Association or RHOA at the time came up with this rule,” Hollands said in a written comment provided to the Board, “but as with many rules, laws and regulations, they are well intended but not necessarily the right course of action.”

RA member Irwin Flashman addressed the Board and said he feared that if it begins picking and choosing which parts of the Deed to follow and to ignore based on convenience, it would lose all credibility and legal standing.

“If you fail to enforce your covenants, you risk the next time you go to court, having the court say, ‘Oh, but you don’t enforce it yourself and you’re asking the court to do that?” he said. “It would undercut the Reston Association’s authority and this Board’s authority.”

Each Board director spoke on the issue, most agreeing that while Hollands’ plight is unfortunate and he made good points, it is important to abide by the rules set in the Deed and not become a “court.”

“I hate this, because it’s a dumb, arbitrary number,” said At-Large Director Eric Carr. “[But] it would take us down a slippery slope, where when somebody doesn’t want to enforce something, they’re going to say ‘You chose not to enforce this in the past because you thought it was dumb.'”

At-Large Director Ray Wedell, however, said what should be of the most importance to everybody is to “adhere [to] common sense and what’s in the best interest in the community.”

“To say that somehow we have to be the guardians of this strict rule written 50-some-odd years ago on each and every issue or else … is opening us up to incredible bureaucracy,” he said. “I think we use the Deed as a crutch to never do anything sometimes.”

The covenants appeal was denied by a vote of 8-1, with Wedell casting the lone dissenting vote.

“I’m proud to be the one,” he said at the conclusion of the vote.

The Board took legal counsel in executive session to further discuss the process of considering changes to the Deed.

Image via Reston Association

  • Greg

    And the blue barrels and the rusted pontoons are just so Pantone perfect, aren’t they?

  • RestonAssurance

    What does one put into the blue barrels?

    • TheKingJAK

      Chum.

      • RestonAssurance

        That’s a lot of chum!

  • Patrick Ohara

    we should be talking about slowing down developers.Also protecting our open spaces,Traffic,and population density,as well as housing for low income residents…..Not about a stupid boat! Reston as you know it is changing!,and not for the better so the real story should be “What are Reston residents Willing to fight for?”…thank you

    • Nope

      If you want Reston to remain Reston, then enforcing “stupid” covenant rules on boats is just as much a part of that as stopping “overdevelopment”.

    • Greg

      You are barking up the wrong tree, pal.

      All of Reston’s open spaces are protected. There are acres and acres of them including more than 55 miles of paths. All protected; none threatened.

      “[P]rotecting our [t]raffic? Please!

      Population density? Perhaps you’ve forgotten that Reston was always planned with a dense urban core. Modeled after Manhattan by Reston’s esteemed founder, Robert Simon, who was, after all from Manhattan and sold Carnegie Hall to start Reston. Also, the Reston Town Center is not a part, in any way, of Reston. Never was; still isn’t. And this, too, is all Bob Simon’s work.

      Reston has more low-income housing than anywhere else in Fairfax County with hundreds more units on the way. Put the next batch in Great Falls (where the sewer intake was would be a good starting location). Moreover, that’s a county function, not that of Reston.

      • TheKingJAK

        I like your final idea, but the obvious issue is that our original “Urban core” has breached its banks and begun to creep into every crevice it can find throughout the community.

  • Nope

    At-Large Director Ray Wedell, however, said what should be of the most
    importance to everybody is to “adhere [to] common sense and what’s in
    the best interest in the community.”

    Stopping people from owning stupidly large boats meets both those criteria, Ray. If you don’t want to enforce the rules that everyone voluntarily agreed to when they bought a place in Reston, then you don’t belong on the Board and you should resign immediately.

  • I’d Rather Post As A Guest

    LOL !
    …and to think the RA Board is worried about losing its “credibility” over a 20 foot pontoon boat after the financial disaster known as the Lake House.
    And where was the “common sense in the best interest of the community” when that vote was taken …hmm? A pox on all your houses!

    • RestonAssurance

      The “common sense in the best interest of the community” is applied to the most egregious of items. Two extra feet on a pontoon > the barren Lake House.

      • Eric Carr

        To be fair, the board that approved Tetra is not this board. Seven of our 9 members were not on that board. Speaking personally, I pushed for the Tetra review, led the review process, and now am on the board so that I can ensure that something like Tetra never happens again. Please judge the current board by its current actions, and please don’t hold Tetra against us. We are trying to clean up the mess.

        • Greg

          Thank you for your efforts. I have two suggestions and requests:
          1. Fire Cate Fulkerson
          2. Sell the Tetra property.,

  • Philippe Chiappe

    Mon Dieu, this means I cannot drive my 20′ F1 powerboat on Lake Anne… I am

    désolée, mes amis!

    • 30yearsinreston

      Merde!
      I feel your pain

  • Captain Ahab

    I dont understand the motivation behind the request and response, if its just seven boats that were grandfathered in its hardly worth modifying the deed. Why this was even raised to the board could be another story in itself but only privied to those on the Reston dinner party circuit.

    Off course this bureaucratic nonsense costs RA. My guess those in a position of power really get a tickle out of this.

    If Orca is on sale again, perhaps $1??? Maybe a pirate will find it floating near the storm drain and hijack?
    Has anyone seen Moby Dick?

    To be continued…

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