Reston Association Covenants Staff Seeking Ways To Better Attend To Thousands of Requests

by Dave Emke October 26, 2017 at 4:00 pm 13 Comments

During its meeting last week (video), Reston’s Design Review Board heard a presentation about the large number of covenants requests Reston Association staff handles, and how they can be better handled in the future.

Cate Fulkerson, RA’s CEO, and Anna Varone, RA’s director of covenants administration, informed the panel of RA’s plans to add a post-project approval inspector position to help make sure approved requests are being checked into in a timely manner.

“After you all have made decisions on an application, within a six-month time period, staff is supposed to go and inspect to make sure that what is [to be] done is actually being done,” Fulkerson told DRB members. “A lot of the issues that we have after the fact, after you’ve made a decision — it could be 18 months, it could be two years, it could be 10 years, it could be 20 years after the fact — is that applicants have put things in on a property that is not what you approved.”

At its September meeting, the RA Board of Directors approved the new position as part of the second draft of the 2018 budget. The position is estimated to add $55,885 (salary and benefits) to the budget, which would have a $2.65 impact on the assessment rate.

Decisions about budget items have not been finalized, as the full 2018-2019 budget is slated to be approved by the board in November. Public hearings on the budget are planned for Thursday and Monday nights.

Fulkerson said the new position would just be the latest in a number of changes being made within the covenants administration department as well to help tackle the large volume of inspections that need to be done. These include the digitalization of property files and internal reorganization that has helped the department direct more focus on ensuring “quality interactions” when dealing with members, Fulkerson said.

“[We want] to prevent from going to court, prevent from putting a lien on somebody’s home,” Fulkerson said. “We would much rather have a conversation and get them to understand the important of following the guidelines.”

According to information provided by Varone, the covenants administration department had handled as of Sept. 20 more than 7,900 cases this year. These included more than 5,800 covenants violations, of which about 35 percent were design violations. The department currently has six employees who are primarily responsible for handling inspections, complaints and applications.

Varone and Fulkerson both said the number of cases is increasing year-to-year and the staff is having a hard time keeping pace.

“[Our ability to] meet the expectations of the members is slowing down, because we’re getting way too much volume,” Varone said. “Based on the Deed, we’re supposed to provide approval or a decision … within 30 days. Based on the volume and backup that we have, we’re teetering on not being able to meet that 30 days.”

Fulkerson requested a work session with the Design Review Board prior to its November meeting to discuss how processes could be addressed to help staff better handle the large number of requests it receives.

“This is a partnership,” she said. “I want to collaborate with you all to put those changes in place, because it affects the way we do these meetings going forward.”

Fulkerson said the discussion would include, among other topics, whether DRB’s four different types of meetings can be consolidated to help speed up the process.

The DRB agreed to schedule the work session for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14.

  • Reston Realist

    Can’t wait to hear why DRB is evil from the exact same people who don’t want Reston to change. Make up your minds. And stop being hypocrites.

    • Mike M

      So, if we don’t want our front door to be painted “pumpkin orange” then we should embrace massive development without any corresponding infrastructure?

  • Mike M

    “The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”
    ―Oscar Wilde

    Fewer rules, less need for enforcement.
    —-Mike M

    • Just sane

      For everything that is to be done these days we must first have a meeting, and here is how it works: people come together, constantly come together, and they all wait for one another to turn up so that the others will tell them how it is, and if it doesn’t get said, never mind, everyone has had their say. It may very well be that all the talkers who are having their say have understood little of the matter in question, but still we believe that if we accumulate all that misunderstanding something like understanding will leap forth at the end of the day. Thus there are people today who travel from one meeting to the next and who are sustained by the confidence that something is really happening, that they’ve actually done something; whereas, at bottom, they’ve merely ducked out of work, seeking in chatter a place to build a nest for their helplessness—a helplessness, it is true, that they will never understand.

      • Mike M

        What you have described is the embodiment or the cause of most of the inefficiency in the world today. It is the business model in much of government, not-for-profits, and NGAs. Business have to constantly watch to rub this sort of emergent behavior out wherever possible. It is a constant burden like weeds.

    • Ray Wedell

      The entire process needs complete overhaul. If your goal is to have covenants enforcement and focus that operates in the best interests of the community, you will never get it under the current system. Nobody wants to hear about that type of reform….those involved in the system take huge offense at even the slightest suggestion that things need to change, and the “attack the attacker” strategies begin.

      Their answer is, and always will be: we need to hire more people. It is the standard bureaucratic answer; give more money and staff to the least efficient operations, and reward the inefficient with “more power.” Any thought that we need drastic changes to the way business is conducted will never, ever be considered. And people’s performance will continue to be judged by how many hours they put into their job, as if there is some sort of nobility in working yourself and your staff into the ground rather than owning up to the need for change (change opens the door to the possibility that someone else comes in to run things; can’t have that).

      But I have no doubt that the RA response will be to hire more people, and maybe even create another department. While we are at it, add another “working group” or maybe even another formal committee. Growing the empire is a strategy that has been used for years; it is their fail-safe answer to most everything. So it will happen again.

  • Donald

    Have to agree. Six people handling 7,900 cases.


    • John Higgins

      I must be missing something. Those 7,900 “cases” were through September. Annualize it and we find more than 10,000 for the year. One for every two members? One violation for every four members? I think I need to understand what a “case” is. Even beer comes 24 to the case.

  • Umust B Kidding

    As is RA’s standing decades long practice, the answer to any problem is to make RA larger and more expensive.

    Is there something wrong with loosening the DRB regs to reduce the need for inspections?

    • Why do you bother?

      WHAT??? Weaken the cookie-cutter conformity that defines a ‘planned community’? Consider my pearls clutched!

  • Greg

    omeone can’t count or the list is wrong. There are more than six advisors — 12 — twice as many as being reported:


    Who’s telling the truth?


  • One LibIknow

    How are we supposed to take Fulkerson seriously? She is a total failure, a liar, and most likely a thief. She must be fired for the Board and RA as a whole to be taken seriously.

  • Space__jockey

    It is time we put forth a proposal to eliminate the DRB and end this nonsense. Every house that is sold in reston get some sort of nonsense violation that a buyer uses to reduce the price of the home in a concession from the seller. What does that do to our property values? Anyone? If you think the answer is they go up then you are a happy renter that never had to buy a home. The value proposition is not there and our right to property is being infringed on. It high time for this to end.


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