News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, March 20, 2009

RA Headquarters Referendum: $15 million a small price to pay for extra filing space and Internet access

Hey, remember that time the Reston Association sent us a fancy "ballot" in the mail and whatnot, urging us to approve spending up to $15 million for a shiny new headquarters building from which a squad of trained flying Ebola-negative monkeys would be dispatched clutching DRB violations and pool passes in their talons? Well, along with taking the issue straight to the heart of the blogosphere, the RA has been holding meetings to answer questions about the referendum, including one earlier this week:

One of the biggest questions of the evening that many were interested in hearing about was why RA needs such a large amount of square footage.

RA President Robin Smyers said the association hired a real estate services firm to conduct a space analysis to help decide what amount of space is practical or necessary. She said the firm found that much of their current space is being "double used." For example, there are files filling up rooms meant for meetings, she said. Smyers said the current building is also maxed out in terms of infrastructure so they are not able to get a better Internet connection or update the space.
So the new building will apparently have some of those new fangled "filing cabinets" we keep hearing about, plus something a bit faster than the current 28.8k baud modem so people can update their Facebook status at near T1 speeds. Sweet! Unfortunately, those sticks in the mud at ARCH, who have the unmitigated gall to question something they ultimately will have to pay for, still aren't convinced.
Jerry Volloy, former CEO of RA and current president of the Association of Reston Clusters and Homeowners, said members of ARCH still do not think RA has made their case for the increased amount of space. He said using federal and private standards for the amount of space needed for employees, plus an additional 5,000 square feet would still result in RA only needing 20,000 square feet total, which is about the size of RA's current space.

Smyers said the space analysis determined they will need about 15,000 square feet more in order to have adequate meeting space for their board and committees, community use and space for growth. She said RA also needs more reception space for members, especially during times when many come in to pay for summer programs and assessments and long lines force them to move into other areas of the building.
Fortunately, Bob Simon was at the meeting and has, as they say in the movies, a plan.
Bob Simon said he called RA's landlord who told him that he would be willing to extend RA's lease at their current building. Simon said then RA could build in the redeveloped Lake Anne while they stay in the current space. "Let's go to Lake Anne, where we belong," he said. Smyers said the landlord has not offered RA the option to extend its lease, which ends next spring. She said they have been advised to move out of the building.
Advised by whom, exactly?
Simon and others also said they would like to know more about the firm RA is working with and what buildings they have looked at. Smyers said because of a confidentiality agreement RA is not allowed to disclose what properties are being considered. "It's not that we don't want to tell you," Smyers said. "We want to make sure the negotiations are confidential so that we can get the best deal for our members. As soon as we can let you know, we will."
Right after the ballots are counted at the check's in the mail. Right?

Anyhoo, two more public meetings are slated, one at 10am Saturday, the other at 7pm on Monday, assuming people can squeeze into that room full of files. If the referendum does not pass on the April 10 deadline, the RA will "likely lease a space in a different building."

We've got some room in our basement for those files if that helps.


  1. Hey, wait a minute. Isn't that 1.2 million for the former distillery LESS than the 15 million RA says it needs? Hmmm...what's the square footage? Does it come with or without file cabinets? I can donate a couple if that will sweeten the deal.

  2. Following the link to the Observer story, I have to ask...that statement from the RA about the lines out the door for, among other things, people paying their assessments??? Unless we're all living in an alternate reality like those folks stuck on that whacky island from "Lost", don't most residents pay their yearly assessment by mail or on-line, rather than in person? Has anyone actually SEEN this huddled mass of Restonian humanity squatting outside Isaac Newton Square? This is the most compelling reason the RA can come up with for why they need 15,000 more square feet than before?

  3. Re that "secret" RA real estate partner: It's Cresa Partners, and they will be at Monday night's RA presentation.

    And just to be sure your readers know: Cresa has an "exclusive" real estate arrangement with RA and, in what some might consider more than minor conflict of interest, it prepared the spaced "needs" study for RA.

    VOILA--You need to nearly double the size of your space!

  4. Is RA incapable of operating with any business acumen? Why didn't they negotiate to receive a significant percentage of the profits of this so-called "stream restoration" project? Wouldn't these profits have slimmed the cost of the new building they so desperately need?

    Rather than do this, RA gave away arguably its largest potential revenue generator outside of annual dues to Mr. Rolband for a mere pittance. Some estimates have Mr. Rolband's expected profits from the sale of the stream credits somewhere above $10 million, and RA is only slated to get roughly $75,000 ($1 per linear foot) from the deal. Mr. Rolband could not have done his project without the streams. Because of this simple fact, it appears RA had the upper hand in negotiations and failed to take advantage.

    Whether you are in favor of the stream restoration or not is not important. The least RA could have done was to secure a greater percentage of the profits from the deal, and relieve this potential burden on its citizens in the midst of this recession.

    Interestingly enough, this whole stream deal has come with a shiny new nature house. Has RA looked into moving in there? Seems like a perfect fit!

  5. Did we all get in the mail today the postcard from the RA with the breathless notice that by now you should have received your ballot and information about the RA headquarters referendum?

    That's $5,643 of our assessment, by my count, used/wasted for this reminder. I come to that figure by multiplying the number of households listed for Reston in the 2000 census (23,320) by what appears to be the cost, according to the USPS website, of a pre-sorted first class card (24.2 cents).

    Now, in the grand scheme of things $5,643 may not sound like a lot of money. But I can think of a lot better uses for it in Reston than this. It would be as if the U.S. Government had sent every registered voter in America a similar card last October reminding them "Election Day is November 4."

    By the way, $5,643 could also buy 29 four-drawer file cabinets at Office Depot to store some of that mountain of official paper under which the RA apparently finds itself buried.

  6. I'm increasingly irritated by the money being spent getting people to vote on this referendum the 'correct' way. I've already voted NO! But I continue to get the mailings, I see the signs posted everywhere for the meetings and urging people to vote, and now they're have meetings to justify their position. When they first sent the ballots and written justifications (factsheet) out, did they not mean for us to vote until they had worn us down to their position?

    And, the huddled mass of humanity is actually the people lined up to sign their kids up for camp. That really was a problem but only because RA was so technology deficient that they couldn't do it any other way. It floors me that they claim Reston is such an IT hotspot yet their own website is clunky and inept in taking care of basic revenue issues. If they had gotten on the ball on this, only those without on-line access would have been standing in line.

  7. You only got ONE postcard. I've received at least 3 since the election started. I'll bet there will be more to come since it doesn't look like we're close to the quorum.


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