For members of Reston Association's Board of Directors, the question of where to relocate RA's offices is a simple one. Reston's homeowners association can either continue to pay rising rent costs or it can save its members almost $2 million over 15 years by purchasing its own headquarters.
The board voted unanimously Thursday night to seek purchase of a $4.8 million headquarters. RA must vacate its current home, located at 1930 Isaac Newton Sq, when its lease expires in August 2006.
"If we don't buy and we don't buy soon, then in 15 years from now, I hope to live somewhere else because people are not going to be happy with us," said John Higgins, the RA board's treasurer.
Higgins estimated that if RA bought a 20,000-square-foot office building in Reston, it would save $97,000 by the end of the first year, $1 million at the end of 10 years, and $2 million at the end of 15 years. In all, he said, the savings would outweigh the initial cost of purchasing the new headquarters.
"The numbers indicate this is a no-brainer," he said.
BUT BEFORE RA can move forward with its plans to purchase a new headquarters, it must first get the approval of its members in a referendum.
At next month's RA board meeting, the directors will vote on the wording of the referendum question, which will be mailed out to residents and will require a 10 percent turnout and a simple majority in order to pass.
Board members said they are optimistic the referendum will pass.
"I think the case is easily made this will benefit our members," said RA Director Vicky Wingert (at large).
The key to gaining the public's support, board members said, is to underscore the long-term savings that would be generated by buying rather than renting.
"If we buy a property, we are going to save you money," said RA Director Barbara Aaron (Hunters Woods/Dogwood).
ONE POTENTIAL hurdle RA might face in its effort to purchase new office space is that the availability of viable 20,000-square-foot commercial real estate is difficult to come by in Reston.
But by starting as soon as possible, the organization can find the best possible spot at the best possible price, said Aaron, who is a real estate broker.
"Timing is everything in real estate," she said.
RA, which represents 21,000 Reston homeowners, has grappled with the headquarters issue for the last several months. It arose in a discussion about proposed changes to RA's governing documents and Rick Beyer, the board's president, decided detailed information was needed before a decision could be made on the issue.
So Beyer formed a committee to investigate the costs and benefits of renting versus buying a new building. Last Thursday, Higgins presented the results of the committee's investigation.
"The whole point of looking at this is to save our members money," said Ray Leonhard, RA's chief financial officer.