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Skate Park Heats Up

West Market and RCC clash over potential site.

The Reston Community Center came out swinging Monday night in defense of its proposal to build a skate park in Reston. It was the board's first official response to concerns neighbors in the West Market community have expressed about the potential YMCA site location and it came during its monthly board meeting at Hunters Woods center.

Ruth Overton, chairman of the RCC board, said the board could no longer remain on the sidelines while representatives from the West Market neighborhood continued to argue against a skateboard park behind the Y. "The board decided there were too many inaccuracies and misrepresentations in their presentation at last month's [RCC Board of Governors] meeting," Overton said. "We felt an obligation and duty to correct the public record. [West Market] can take it or leave it."

Marianne Alciati, RCC board member and chairman of the center's long-range planning committee, informed West Market that its request to delay the public hearing process was denied. "We remain concerned about the inaccuracies and misunderstandings included in the West Market rationale for a delay of community input," Alciati said, reading from a prepared text. "Postponing the opportunity for community comment on the skate park concept would preclude the board from hearing the voice of Reston."

West Market representatives were unhappy with the board's actions. "Frankly I am astonished at some of the things they said last night," said Robert Goudie, a skate park opponent and West Market resident. "I stand by what was contained in our Sept. 9 presentation."

<b>FUNDING FOR THE PROPOSED</b> skate park has generated the most intense debate to date. The RCC claims that $800,000 is allocated within RCC reserve funds to cover, among other things, the site plan, architecture, engineering and construction. According to the RCC's own study, 80 percent of the skate park's users will come from outside special tax district 5.

In Monday's board meeting, board treasurer Terry Smith dismissed West Market's assertion that a RCC-funded skate park will result in an increased tax burden to Small Tax District 5. "Funds for capital construction have already been allocated within the RCC Managed Reserve Structure," Smith said. "The concept study analysis projects a positive cash flow starting in the first year. Thus, a skate park is anticipated to provide a revenue return to Small District 5."

The tax equity issue has been a chief complaint, of late, of West Market representatives and others, including LINK director and longtime Reston activist Karl Ingebritsen. "The thing I find most remarkable is that 80 percent or more of the patrons — the young people — will come from outside the tax district," said Ingebritsen, who said he believes the any skate park should be county funded. "The whole concept struck me as being totally out bounds and an inappropriate use of funds. It looks like they were trying to dump the surplus."

Ingebritsen is not the only opponent to the YMCA site that doesn't hail from the neighboring West Market community. Last week, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce issued a resolution supporting the use of surplus small district tax funds for the maintenance, operations and programming of existing RCC facilities. More significantly, the chamber said it opposed "the use of any surplus funds generated by the properties within Small Tax District 5 for additional expansions by RCC."

Overton said she was surprised by the chamber's actions. "We respect their opinion, but I think it's important to note that the chamber does not speak for all Reston businesses," Overton said. "Out of their 1,800 members, only 300 of them have a Reston address."

Ingebritsen maintained that RCC, for which he says he has been a longtime supporter, should be required to hold a referendum, as the Reston Association is doing for Southgate, for the residents of the special tax district. "Everybody who is affected should get a say."

<b>IN RECENT WEEKS</b>, concerned West Market residents have blanketed local Reston newspapers with letters to the editor and a paid-television program run on Reston Community Television that questioned usefulness of the $20,000 concept study conducted by Bay Area Economics.

The RCC's concept study for a skate park in Reston was prepared for the RCC by Bay Area Economics and was a result of many months of community dialogue, site visits and research of similar skate parks around the country, said RCC Executive Director Dennis Kern, defending the study.

The RCC board dismissed mounting criticism that the RCC's decision was already in the bag and the BAE study is the final word on the skate park issue. "We are asking the community to help us identify additional issues and concerns that must be considered if we, as a board representing the entire Reston community, are to move forward with this initiative," Marianne Alciati said at Monday's board meeting. "We recognize that a more detailed and potentially more expansive plan would need to be put in place before we even break ground."

Kern echoed Alciati's comments: "Both sites are open. This hearing is pre-decisional and we keep telling West Market this."

During Monday's board meeting, RCC reiterated that, while the board prefers the YMCA-site, the Lake Fairfax site, discussed in the BAE study, is still "on the table."

"I'm more interested in the fact that the concerns we have raised about the Lake Fairfax process have apparently been persuasive," said Goudie. "I am delighted to hear Lake Fairfax is back in the mix. It's high time to consider other alternatives as well."

Many in the community, including many skaters, are anxious for a resolution to the skate park issue, said Kern. Bob Conklin agrees. Conklin, the director of the Reston YMCA doesn't understand the arguments emanating from his center's West Market neighbors. Conklin said he is worried that Reston will be left without a skate park. "We are in the fourth quarter and I think we will know where we stand within a month. Unfortunately, if it doesn't get done, I believe there won't be a skate park," said Conklin. "My fear is that we will have no skate park in Reston because eventually I think RCC will just have to move on, they can only fight so many battles."

Overton said that there is some truth to Conklin's fear. "If Lake Fairfax ended up as the only choice, it may be better than no choice," said the RCC board chairman. "Of course, we would have to rethink the entire process, but I don't think we would give up."

<b>HAVE YOUR SAY</b>

The public is invited to attend and participate in a public hearing on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Lake Anne Community Center at 1609A Washington Plaza. To speak at the hearing, reserve a speaking time in advance by calling 703-476-4500 during business hours, or sign up to speak upon arrival at the hearing. Already, nearly 70 people have signed up to speak about the proposal.