Reston Needs Town Status?

Reston Needs Town Status?

Association says some problems are beyond its power.

A Reston Association district meeting to inform residents about upcoming issues Tuesday, Oct. 17, turned into a lively discussion that mimicked the broader and ongoing discourse of Reston incorporating as a town.

In the last of four district meetings held over the past two weeks, several North Point residents complained that community problems voiced by its 60,000 residents are ignored in a county of 1 million.

“My concern is that we might be overwhelmed,” said Peter Hovis, after hearing residents level a series of complaints, many of which were outside RA’s control. “We have limited resources and limited authority.”

Hovis, who moved to Reston in 1995 hoping to live and work in the same place, said Reston’s future hinged on its ability to speak as one political voice. “Those entities that influence our quality of life, we have to hold them accountable,” he said.

It’s easier said than done, said Doug Bushée, North Point District Director, who hosted the meeting.

“From a Reston Association standpoint, we try to control what we have jurisdiction over,” said Bushée. “We are not a town. We are not a political entity recognized by the big jurisdictions that have a big impact on what we do.”

RA PRESIDENT Jennifer Blackwell told the crowd of about 30 people who gathered at Brown’s Chapel Park that RA is often forced to pass the buck because homeowners associations have limited, clearly defined powers. “A lot of things are the county’s prerogative,” said Blackwell.

“Apparently, a town would give us more power to do things,” said Mike Levrini, a 20-year Reston resident.

Others at the meeting, while disappointed in RA’s lack of power, did not support town status.

“I do not favor that,” said Jim Christy, a 14-year resident. “I’m not persuaded that the quality of life will be better than what we have now.” Christy said a town would lead to more taxes and another bureaucracy.

MANY RESIDENTS were vocal about the Association’s lack of progress finding a long-term headquarters. The lease for the current headquarters expires in 2009.

Bushée said that the Association will soon issue its second headquarters referendum in two years, prompting a resident to ask why a decision on a headquarters was taking so long.

In early 2005, residents voted in favor of a referendum that gave the Association authority to build or buy a new headquarters.

But the issue soon took a backseat to the prevailing effort to revise the governing documents, which were passed earlier this year in a referendum that cost more than $300,000.

Over the past 22 years, the Association has spent $6 million leasing a headquarters. The lease for the headquarters this year is expected to cost about $375,000, according to Ray Leonhard, the Association’s chief financial officer.

A second referendum pertaining to headquarters could cost as much as $40,000, said Bushée.

Additional details about a new headquarters were not released because the information is subject to executive privilege, said Blackwell.

THE ASSOCIATION ALSO drew fire for its management of the governing documents referendum. Christy criticized the amount of money the Association spent to influence the outcome. “Frankly, I was quite disappointed in how that issue was conducted,” said Christy.

Dawn Walker told Bushée she has been worried about the “inequitable enforcement of the covenants.”

“I moved into a single family home and I have never been more disgusted with Reston,” said Walker, arguing that too many covenant violations are not being enforced. She also said that the system relies on a “neighbor to rat on neighbors,” which is also becoming a problem.

The Association is trying to be more proactive in regards to covenants enforcement, said Milton Matthews, RA’s chief executive officer. “There are things that we can do better. We want to be a resource for you.”