Reston Association referendum to repeal central cooling system requirement fails

Townhomes in Reston’s Waterview cluster are among the Lake Anne residences served by RELAC (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The air-conditioning system that has long served many homes in Reston’s Lake Anne area will still be required for 343 homes after a referendum failed to pass.

Only 165 of the 343 residents who received a ballot from Reston Association voted to revoke a provision of RA’s covenants that required those living within specific residential clusters to use the Reston Lake Anne Air-Conditioning Corporation’s (RELAC) cooling services.

The referendum needed 229 votes — a two-thirds majority — to succeed, RA board president John Farrell said when announcing the results at a special meeting last night (Wednesday).

RELAC announced in December that it will cease providing services after 2023. The State Corporation Commission-governed utility served 625 residential and commercial properties, though condominiums weren’t included in the referendum since they’re outside the lot line.

In response to RELAC’s suspension of service, Reston Association launched the referendum vote to repeal a portion of Reston’s deed that currently prohibits individual AC units in residential clusters where central air-conditioning service is available to the lot line.

At last night’s special board of directors meeting, Farrell noted that a “substantial number of people” did not take part in the referendum. Only 89 members voted against repealing or revoking the provision in question.

At the special meeting, some members said they’ve been left with no other viable options as temperatures begin to warm up.

A community-driven effort to re-establish RELAC under a co-op structure is currently underway. But some members said the future viability of that option is unclear.

“RELAC as it stands right now is in very poor shape,” said local resident Max Goodman, noting that a lack of funds continue to be a problem for the new co-op structure.

Farrell emphasized that RA has no direct involvement in RELAC, either in its original form or the new co-op. He directed Goodman and others to take their questions to RELAC, adding that the co-op told RA that it plans to begin operating this spring.

Similar referendums to revoke the RELAC requirement failed to pass in 2015 and 2008.

Residents of the clusters required to use RELAC can obtain a medical exemption from RA’s covenants committee if they have a medical need. They must apply for the exemption before submitting any application for an HVAC system to the Design Review Board, RA says.

“Properties without an approved medical exemption will not be permitted to install exterior HVAC systems,” RA said.

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