The Reston Association board voted 5-3 at a meeting last week to sign on to a $600,000 grant application to install signs at three major intersections near Lake Anne.
The grant will require RA to maintain the signs once they are installed, estimated by RA staff to cost about $9,000 a year — more if depreciation is included.
The board’s motion agreed to pay for maintenance costs not to exceed $10,000 annually. Board members were divided on the motion’s passage because of estimated maintenance costs, the grant’s scope and several questions left unanswered.
“I’m not even sure why we’re involved. This is a Lake Anne project,” said Director Robert Poppe (At Large), who voted against the motion.
A leading group for Lake Anne revitalization, the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation, decided at a meeting last month to pursue the grant to help people find their way to Lake Anne Village Center. But to secure the grant, the group needed RA to sign on to help implement the project and provide future maintenance and upkeep.
The application, to be submitted to Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority, will ask for funding to build signs at three intersections: Village Drive and Baron Cameron Avenue, Wiehle and Baron Cameron Avenues, and Reston Parkway and Baron Cameron Avenue.
The idea for the grant application borrows from the Gateways Study, commissioned by RA to help residents and visitors better find their way around Reston.
The grant’s funding for the three intersections, also called nodes, calls for 12 sign installations at each, a total of 36 installations. The application requests $200,000 for each node, which pays for the signs, design, land grading, landscaping and lighting.
After reviewing the proposed nodes, however, RA staff estimated that all three nodes could only support a total of 12 sign installations. RA staff then estimated that maintenance for 12 installations would cost about $9,000.
BOARD MEMBERS who approved the motion saw the grant as an opportunity too good to pass up.
“What we’re saying is that if someone is willing to give us $600,000 of assets, that we’re willing to maintain it for $9,000 a year,” said Director Doug Bushée (North Point), who voted in favor of the motion along with President Jennifer Blackwell and directors Robin Smyers (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks), Rick Beyer (At Large) and Tim McMahon (Apartment Owners’ Designate).
But during the discussion, several issues were raised that couldn’t be answered. Ray Leonhard, RA’s chief financial officer, asked who would own and insure the signs. While it seemed that RA would have to do these things, no one had any clear answers.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us, but I think there’s a couple of concerns we don’t have an answer for,” said Leonhard.
Joe Stowers, who attended the meeting as a representative of RCRC, had not drafted the application, and couldn’t answer some of the more technical questions. He did emphasize the importance of the project to the Lake Anne area.
It was also noted that the sign designs would have to undergo the association’s Design Review Board. “The Reston Association would be involved in the design process, so it wouldn’t be stuck with unrealistic maintenance costs,” said Stowers, who added that some time down the road other shopping centers in Reston might be interested in investing in similar projects.
But some board members had problems with the motion and decided to vote against it.
Like Poppe, Barbara Aaron, director of the Hunters Woods district, thought the grant proposal was too localized. “What about all the entrances to Reston?” she said.
In addition to the scope of the grant, cost was also an issue.
“I’m not sure this is an appropriate expense for Reston Association,” said Director Joe Leighton (South Lakes). He said that he thinks the project could run into unforeseen costs in the future.
Despite these issues, the remainder of the board approved the motion — with a ceiling on annual maintenance spending — because, according to Stowers, RCRC may be running out of time to submit the grant application.
RCRC hopes that the three intersections will serve as a demonstration project that could be duplicated in other parts of Reston.
If the entire signage project was ever completed, which includes a total of eight nodes and 15 points (a minimum of one sign), annual maintenance costs would exceed an estimated $80,000, according to RA.