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RA To Set Referendum Wording

The Reston Association will formulate the governing documents referendum question next week.

Next week, the Reston Association will develop the referendum question that asks members to approve or reject the changes they’ve made to the governing documents.

For almost two years, the board has sought to revise these documents, which codify the powers and rules that govern the homeowners association. The documents have not been updated since 1984.

The board will convene the special meeting on July 19 to discuss and decide how the referendum question will be posed to RA members. Residents vote on the referendum in October.

“It is going to be very important that [the board members] come up with a question that they are comfortable presenting to the members,” said Milton Matthews, executive vice president of RA.

Another challenge for the board is finalizing revisions to the governing documents that will garner the support needed for approval in the referendum. To pass, the referendum requires a 40 percent turnout of RA members and a two-thirds approval rate.

“What we are trying to accomplish are the right kinds of changes, ones that will help clusters and ones that will ensure the financial security for the future,” said Rick Beyer, an at-large member of the board.

Throughout the process, the board has emphasized that the final revisions have yet to be decided. Since the process is still open to discussion, the board has consistently called for community input and continues to do so. In the coming months, the board has scheduled informational sessions and public hearings to hear feedback from the community.

“The language is not set in stone at all,” Beyer said, “but we need to settle on language that will get us a ‘yesable’ referendum.”

TWO MAJOR DECISIONS in the current draft have been the board’s decision to eliminate the assessment cap and add a re-sale fee of $250 for people buying homes in Reston. The money raised from the re-sale fee would go directly to RA to offset future construction and maintenance projects.

The board unanimously approved the re-sale fee provision a few months ago in a working session, but they did not reach consensus for the elimination of the cap.

A board minority, including Beyer, opposed the elimination of the assessment cap, which prompted that an alternative be considered.

The backup alternative voted on by the board earlier maintains a modified cap. It would allow an assessment maximum increase of up to $500 for next year. Then, for subsequent years, the cap could be raised by either five percent or the percentage increase tied to an employment cost index, whichever is greater.

Because of the controversy over eliminating the cap, the board may revisit the two alternatives at the special meeting, and consider an option to include a separate question in the referendum that allows the voters to decide the issue.

“I think that will be the most difficult part of drafting the question,” said Jennifer Blackwell, president of the RA board. The board agrees, she said, that the current cap structure could jeopardize the financial security of RA and needs to be changed.

“There are so many key changes in these documents that we wouldn’t want any one decision to be the reason why these documents wouldn’t pass,” said Blackwell. She anticipates the board will discuss pulling out a separate question to handle this concern.

Beyer said that another important issue is going to be how the documents help clusters work with RA. “My objective is not to get one passed, but to get the right one for the community passed,” said Beyer, who originally ran for RA to revise the governing documents.