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Votes

Clusters Unite?

Just because Ric Curl packed up his Ridge Heights pool bubble and left Reston, doesn't mean Frank Pheilmeier is ready to relax on his backyard deck enjoying his bubble-free view.

Just because Ric Curl packed up his Ridge Heights pool bubble and left Reston, doesn't mean Frank Pheilmeier is ready to relax on his backyard deck enjoying his bubble-free view.

As president of the West Cove Cluster, Pheilmeier led the charge that ultimately resulted in a bubble-less Ridge Heights pool and a Reston youth swim team without a local all-weather home.

Now Pheilmeier is teaming up with another concerned cluster president, Michael Kogan. While Pheilmeier successfully fought against the renewal of a contract to operate the now locally-infamous Ridge Heights bubble, Kogan had been lobbying hard to stymie Reston Association's (RA) proposal to enclose four of the six tennis courts at the Lake Newport tennis facility.

Kogan says that as a result of the battle over indoor tennis, he feels "bitten by RA." "We feel that the RA board has lost its focus and haven't read their bylaws," Kogan explained. "They seem to be catering to special interest groups."

In a letter dated Aug. 5 sent to more than 100 cluster presidents in Reston, Pheilmeier and Kogan made their frustration with RA clear and expressed an interest in forming an organization that would "make sure the RA board gets back on track."

“They seem to have forgotten that RA is a Home Owners Association, not a recreational cooperative,” they wrote, adding that the board, time and again, seems to ignore the covenants that were enacted to “conserve and protect the value of our property.”

Kogan and Pheilmeier argued that their respective run-ins with RA had showed them that the RA board, in their opinions, had ignored “the requests of individual members and clusters and forge ahead with their own agenda.”

The letter charged that RA was “dominated by special interest activists,” and their involvement was a threat to property owners."

As a result of the letter, Pheilmeier and Kogan will oversee a meeting of interested cluster representatives.

RA EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT Jerry Volloy said he was aware of the proposed cluster alliance. Volloy insisted that whatever the issue is, RA residents have ample opportunity to provide feedback and voice their concerns. By involving neighbors near the Lake Newport facility, Volloy said the latest proposal is acceptable to many of the neighbors, if not Kogan. But Volloy recognized that no matter the issue, the board would never be able to satisfy all residents.

"It bothers me that some of our members are not pleased with some of the actions that the board has taken, of course," said Volloy. "With all of these issues, the board considered what was best for the greater good of the community."

The West Cove leader said there was "substantial interest," and he expects as much as 25 percent of the recipients to show up for a Sept. 22 organizational meeting. "From there," Pheilmeier said, "We will see if we have enough interest and support to move forward and build an organization that will be an asset to the community."

Pheilmeier is up front about his own personal concerns that led him write the letter. "Quite simply, we want to protect the property values and quality of life in each neighborhood and do it in a fashion where community interests are heard but not at the expense of an individual community," he said. "When issues threaten one community and establishes a precedent."

Pheilmeier insists that his desire to build a network of cluster heads is a result of an accumulation of events in the past year, not just his personal battle with the Ridge Heights bubble or Kogan's tennis troubles. Pheilmeier pointed to West Market's battle with the Reston Community Center over a skatepark and the ongoing attempt to convert the United Christian Parish church into a 200-student Montessori School.

"The commonality is that individual clusters that were impacted by proposals or events have difficulty struggling alone," Pheilmeier said, speaking from experience. "There is no common adversary. This isn't a get the RA situation or an oppose the RCC initiative. We don't see enemies here. We are not against progress just against capricious decision making."

BOTH KOGAN AND PHEILMEIER stressed that they are not trying to ambush RA or any other local group, they just want their collective voices heard, they said.

"We need more compromise and less of an adversarial relationship," Pheilmeier said. "We can run around and yell and scream at each other and write letters to the editor or we can sit down and talk to one another."

Kogan said it is important that those who feel left out of the process to feel like they have a say in any given issue. This potential organization, he said, could give power back to the 132 clusters in Reston. "When you speak alone, the board just kind of smiles at you and goes on its merry way," Kogan said. We don't want to have an antagonistic relationship. We want our voice heard, that's all."

Volloy objected to Kogan's characterization of the board. "The point that they are trying to make, as I see it, is that the board is not listening to their concerns," Volloy said. "I have not found that at all to be true, just the opposite in fact. It is unfair to characterize this board as not listening to the concerns of the community. It's an unfair indictment of this board."

Pheilmeier went on to say that the oft-used "NIMBY" [Not in My Backyard] argument will not work. Some bubble-proponents tried to pin that label on him during the back-and-forth of the bubble debate. "Issues need to be addressed on their merits and with facts."