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Votes

An Earful on RA Changes

Board disagrees with public's comments.

All of the Reston residents who spoke at a public hearing Monday night said they oppose many of the recommended changes to Reston Association’s governing documents.

RA is in the midst of a three-year process to update its governing documents for the first time in 20 years. Many of the proposed changes merely modernize the language, but some of the larger policy amendments are proving to be more contentious.

One of the proposed changes would be to allow Reston residents living in future housing along the industrial corridor to become RA members. These members, officially called Category D members, would have limited voting rights, would be exempt from RA covenants rules, and would have access to RA programs and facilities.

"Class D members get all the benefits and none of the grief," said Donn Dears, a former member of RA’s Board of Directors and a Republican activist.

With 10,800 housing units planned in the future development near the Dulles Toll Road, there could be as many as 20,000 new Reston residents, Dears said.

This influx of new residents, comprising a third of Reston’s current population, could overwhelm RA’s pools and other facilities, he said.

"Needless to say, this is a bonanza for developers who develop the industrial corridor," he said. "They will be able to advertise that buyers and renters can use RA’s pools, tennis courts, etc. when they promote their properties."

The thousands of new residents would create more traffic and put a strain on Reston’s infrastructure, said Reston resident Dan Kelly, addressing the RA board.

"I think you’re overly optimistic that you’re not going to create a quagmire of traffic and pedestrians," he said. "So much so that people who have been here 30 years won’t be able to get around."

The new category of members, who will probably be mostly apartment dwellers, will likely not fit into Reston’s culture — possibly leading to conflict between new and old residents down the road, said Reston resident Tom Hurney.

"It appears that a special class has been created and knowing human nature, you have to be very careful when doing that because the potential always exists for conflict," he said.

ANOTHER CONCERN voiced Monday night about the proposed changes to the governing documents is that an initiative to increase the maximum annual assessment from $430 to $496 would put too much of a burden on senior citizens and other Reston residents living on fixed incomes.

"Keep in mind that cluster residents pay annual assessments averaging around $1,000 to their respective clusters," said Vera Hannigan, also a former RA board member and Republican activist. "This is in addition to their annual RA assessments."

Hannigan, who lost to RA Director Robin Smyers (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks) in the most recent RA election, said she also opposes RA’s plan to change the index used to compute increases in the assessment cap because it also increase the financial burden on RA members.

"It simply takes more money out of the Reston residents pockets by raising the assessment cap," Hannigan said.

FOLLOWING THE PUBLIC hearing, several RA board members said the disproportionate number of residents complaining about the governing documents review should not be taken as representative of the community as a whole.

"People don’t come to a hearing like this to say it’s wonderful the way it is," said RA Director Barbara Aaron (Hunters Woods/Dogwood).

In response to the specific complaints about the proposed changes, the board members said there are legitimate reasons behind every amendment.

The new category of members, said Board Secretary Jennifer Blackwell (at large), is intended to sidestep what happened when Reston Town Center was built. Town Center residents are not RA members, depriving RA of millions of dollars in revenue.

"The objective of the Category D membership is to avoid the Town Center problem," she said.

Plus, the new Reston residents would not be required to join RA and would still be subject to covenants required by developers, Smyers said.

"This isn’t going to happen overnight," she said. "This could be 10 years down the road."

Regarding the assessment cap, said RA Executive Vice President Gerald Volloy, the proposed amendment is intended to account for the 1991 roll-in of a $50 user fee for RA’s pools. With the index change and the cap increase, RA would simply be gaining more flexibility to operate and generate revenue.

RA board members said they are planning a coordinated campaign to educate RA members about their reasoning behind proposing the changes to the governing documents. In order for the amendments to be implemented, two-thirds of a quorum — 40 percent of RA’s total members — must approve the changes in a mailed-out November referendum.

RA needs to stay positive, Blackwell said, and not try to find the downside to every proposed amendment to the documents.

"A lot of the community members who spoke tonight would just like to maintain the status quo," she said. "That’s not the way a community grows."