A Carved Out Town Center

A Carved Out Town Center

While Reston Town Center residents live in the symbolic heart of Reston, they are not part of the Reston Association.

Each year Laurie Eytel, a 10-year Reston resident, is happy to pay $425 to the Reston Association (RA). After all, the RA provides countless amenities, from the many pools and tennis courts to the nature center to summer camp programs to the miles of maintained nature paths.

“I think it’s a really good deal,” she said.

These services are shining examples of what makes Reston a celebrated community that has often been recognized nationally.

Yet, there is a growing group of Reston residents that indirectly benefit from RA services without having to pay RA fees. Then again this same group is excluded from RA governance — barred from participating in the policy outcomes of their own broader community. In addition, these Reston residents represent one of the community’s most renowned areas.

Who are they?

They are the residential property owners in the Reston Town Center district, which is governed by the Reston Town Center Association (RTCA), an entity entirely separate from RA. Currently, the district includes 24 commercial office and retail properties and 10 residential communities. Legum & Norman Inc. is the community management company employed to run the RTCA.

ABOUT 15 YEARS AGO, events transpired that made this district separate from the governing boundaries of the Reston Association.

Early developers of Reston Town Center wanted final say over covenant regulations to ensure they could easily sell their residential units. “The wording of the governing documents raised questions whether that was possible,” said Ray Leonhard, RA’s deputy chief of staff and chief financial officer.

At the time, the RA Board considered such a leniency, but it could not stretch the strict language of the governing documents to do so. “From there it all fell apart,” said Leonhard.

So, the developers decided not to be part of Reston Association and in 1987 they created what became the RTCA, a non-stock, nonprofit corporation governed by a nine-member board of directors.

Originally planned for 2,100 residential properties, the Reston Town Center district today has more than 2,400 residential properties.

If these residential properties were part of RA now, said Leonhard, RA would increase its revenues yearly by an estimated $1 million, which is about one-tenth of the total RA budget. Not included in these figures is the large, mixed-use development under construction in the Reston Town Center, called Midtown. This site will include two 21-story towers and offer 1,000 residential units.

Barbara Rovin, Legum & Norman’s community manager at Reston Town Center, said that RTCA charges each building an assessment fee based on the developed gross square footage of the building and the surrounding land of the building, which is then passed on to residents in some form. Rovin refused to say what those fees are or provide a range of fees that residents end up paying. So, it’s unknown whether the typical RA assessment fee of $425 is more or less than the RTCA fee paid by its residents.

For Eytel, who can’t understand why Reston Town Center residents weren’t included under RA’s covenant, there seems to be a governing divide in Reston incongruent to the values of a close community.

“My bone of contention is that it’s not equitable. We pay for the trails and other amenities, and their home values are increased by the surrounding area,” Eytel said. “Everyone in Reston ought to pay the same [homeowner’s association] fee.”

If these residents are interested in RA’s recreational facilities and amenities, however, they are able to purchase a recreation membership. Leonhard said that RA receives about $150,000 from recreation memberships from all non-residents. Because the payments are not divided by residence, he did not know how many people from the Reston Town Center district decide to purchase it.

According to Leonhard, the RA has never formally talked with representatives from RTCA to discuss those residents coming under the RA fold. “Obviously, we’d be open to those discussions, but we don’t know if there is enough support to merit that.”