RA HQ Referendum A Go

RA HQ Referendum A Go

Public hearing set for Nov. 18 to discuss new Reston Association headquarters building.

Homeowners in Reston will soon receive a referendum question, asking whether the Reston Association can have the authority to look into buying or building a headquarters building.

The language in the question was the subject of debate and fine-tuning during the RA meeting Thursday night, as the board wanted the referendum question to be as close to perfect as possible.

“The Board Administration Committee has recommended that the ballots go out in early December and to come back in by January,” said Rick Beyer, RA president.

The RA first approved a referendum schedule, with a public hearing to be held Nov. 8 for residents to comment on the need for a new building and the best way to pursue all possible options.

The RA’s current office building at Isaac Newton Square is leased through 2006 and the board is considering either building or purchasing new offices at a cost of approximately $4.8 million, as suggested by the RA’s Fiscal Committee.

“We’d like to have something very close to what we expect to send to residents,” said board member Roger Poppe.

The original language of the referendum question was of concern vice president Doug Bushée.

“The language could prohibit the association from looking at a new building and there aren’t a lot of 20,000 square foot buildings here,” he said.

THE ADJUSTMENT IN TAX assessment in the price of a pre-existing building can be taken into consideration before purchase, but a new building wouldn’t have a prior assessment, he said, which may limit the RA’s options when looking for a new home.

The tentatively set price range of $4.8 million “is a good estimate if we were to buy or build in today’s market,” said board member John Higgins. “We want to preserve buying power and measure property value inflation, which is itself measured by the average increase in assessment in commercial buildings,” he said.

“We want to keep the language of the referendum simple but not ambiguous,” Higgins said.

After the language had been debated and adjusted, the RA unanimously approved the question, which will be mailed to homeowners at the end of the month, following a BAC meeting on Nov. 8 and a public hearing Nov. 18, during which residents can comment on the language of the referendum and the proposed plans.

The RA also approved a referendum schedule which sets a date of Jan. 7 as the deadline to return the question and Jan. 27 to announce the results of the homeowner ballots on the referendum.

As approved Thursday, the referendum question states: “Per the recommendation of Reston Association’s Fiscal Committee, the Board of Directors unanimously recommends you Yes vote on the following question: I vote to give the RA Board of Directors the authority to purchase or build, rather that continue to lease, a headquarters building at a cost not to exceed $4,800,000 as adjusted by the percent change in average price per square foot in commercial office space market in Reston, Virginia, from Jan. 1, 2005 through date of purchase of the property.”

In order to be approved, 10 percent of homeowners have to respond to the question, and two-thirds of the responses have to be in favor of the referendum for the RA to move forward with the plan, said Cate Fulkerson, executive officer for member services.

ALSO AT THE MEETING, the RA heard from Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Gerry Connolly about the “state of the county.”

“Not to the exclusion of anything else, I’ve set six priorities for the county,” Connolly said, listing gang control as among the top concerns.

“We’ve got one of the lowest crime rates but also one of the lowest cop rates in terms of population,” he said, adding that low numbers should not provide a false sense of immunity.

“This is a community problem and we need to invest in a middle school after school programs to keep kids active and out of gangs. There are wonderful opportunities, if we take the chance,” he said.