Sweating Over Cooling

Sweating Over Cooling

Lake Anne residents raise concern over air-conditioning system ahead of summer.

Lake Anne resident Roger Brown is concerned that the air-conditioning system that supplies relief to the people in surrounding neighborhoods could fail him and his neighbors this summer.

In 2005 Lake Anne residents decided to stay with the current system, which uses the lake as a source of cooling water. The entire system is in the lake, and therefore invisible. "It’s visually attractive because there is no outside equipment, but, the problem is, it doesn’t work really well," said Brown. He added that he and his neighbors decided to stay with the system, RELAC, under guarantees from the operating firm, Aqua Virginia, that improvements would be made. More specific, the company would provide cooling towers that would help the current system be more effective. "We were assured in meetings they would get cooling towers," said Brown. He raised his concern in front of Reston Association director for Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Robin Smyers, at the summer’s first RA district meeting on June 5.

"I would like to see RA put some pressure on Aqua Virginia," said Brown.

"It’s not in our yard," said Smyers. She said two years ago RA’s design review board asked Aqua Virginia to specify where the cooling towers would go and how much noise they would make. They never answered.

ONE OF THE MAIN concerns with the system is that in a dry and hot summer the lake’s water level may dip beyond the system’s operable level. Lake Anne resident Fran Lovaas raised the issue, noting that the neighboring golf course draws water from the lake for its use. "Two years ago the lake was so low RELAC stopped working," said Lovaas. With little rainfall in May, Lovaas is concerned the same might happen this summer.

Brown has been left unsatisfied by the company’s response to his questions. He said Aqua Virginia is a part of a huge national company, and their representatives do not provide the hands-on maintenance and response that used to be provided to the system’s users.

Lovaas’s neighbor Gayle Maisel said residents are held responsible when water pipes break. "If water pipes break on your line you pay for digging and repair. It’s thousands of dollars," said Maisel. Her husband, Philip Maisel, asked if Aqua Virginia is involved in the ongoing discussions on Lake Anne revitalization. If so, the company may find incentive to upgrade its facilities in order to accommodate any new development in the area. "Development also involves utilities," said Philip Maisel. "Days are numbered for RELAC if they’re not participating." He added that the water that is recycled back into the lake after it helps cool households is hot, causing the lake’s temperature to rise to 84 degrees. Smyers said that to her knowledge there had not been mention of any new utility facilities in the revitalization discussions.

Mary Buff said she is concerned about the lake’s water quality, especially through any new development that may occur during the neighborhood’s revitalization process.

NOT UNUSUAL for a Lake Anne meeting, a variety of issues were discussed, including revitalization efforts. Smyers said language for the neighborhood’s comprehensive plan had not been finalized yet. However, she warned, "If we don’t do something soon, something is going to fail here. We have to do something to ensure people will want to live, work and play here 20, 30, years from now."

Gayle Maisel asked whether RA addressed the issue of road improvements, especially Wiehle Avenue, in light of what future development may come to Lake Anne and nearby areas. "Wiehle Avenue is backed up from the Toll Road to Baron Cameron [Avenue] without metro and without 2,000 additional units" that may come to the area through revitalization. Smyers said that there are a number of local groups conveying those issues to county and state officials, and that RA’s Transportation Advisory Committee is involved in all of those groups. She added that RA has sent a letter to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors advocating for an elevated track option through Tysons Corner because Reston needs the metro. "We need metro here," said Smyers.

"If we don’t have the subway, we will fail," said resident Alexander Burke.

SMYERS SAID Friends of Reston have committed to break ground on the Nature House in the fall of this year. The group is $400,000 short of raising the $1.5 million needed for the facility. Smyers said RA would join fund-raising efforts and would go after some of the local businesses to donate funds toward the non-profit education center.

As far as future RA headquarters is concerned, Smyers said the association should have a plan in place within nine months. "We hope to come back in late fall, early spring next year, with a real plan and ask for your approval or disapproval," she said. She also reminded those who attended the meeting to offer suggestions and feedback for the biennial budget. She said RA is in the process of developing the 2008-09 budget and that public hearings will be held in the fall.

About 60 people attended the meeting. Although the turnout was pretty high, Reston founder and Lake Anne resident Bob Simon found himself concerned that there was a lack of young people in the audience. "There was nobody here under 43," he said.