News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, May 29, 2009

Breaking: Referendum Required for Awesome Brown's Chapel Park Rec Center, Now Just Apparently an 'Idea'

TajMahal.jpg.jpegSomeone call the 2024 Summer Games organizing committee: It turns out the Reston Association will have to have a fun referendum, after all, to transfer land in Brown's Chapel Park and allow the construction of the proposed $65 million rec center there.

In a statement to members of the Board of Directors of the Reston Association and the community, Reston Association President Robin Smyers said if the association conveyed any community common property to another entity, then members would have to approve the conveyance in a referendum.

That determination came after Reston Association’s General Counsel Kenneth R. Chadwick was asked to review the association’s governing documents and other relevant materials to determine if RA leased or transferred land to another entity for a potential indoor recreational facility.
In her prepared remarks at Thursday's RA Board meeting, Smyers said the proposed rec center, which has already been the subject of nearly a year's worth of meetings between the RA and RCC and already has a name and some fancy architectural sketches, is just "an idea."
Welcome to the regular May 2009 meeting of the Board of Directors. We have a busy agenda tonight so I will keep my remarks focused on one topic—-the IDEA of an indoor recreational facility.

Let me state very clearly that while there has been much talk about decisions already made and the location a foregone conclusion—that is NOT accurate. We have many ideas and you will hear and see the history of the concepts of additional indoor facilities, some stand-alone RA initiatives, and how we arrived to the point of working with RCC, when you attend one of the meetings in your district. The dates are posted on our Web site. They will be announced in the local papers and through our e notices system. You can sign up for that on our website as well. I encourage you to do so, not just for these updates for regular information from RA.

There have been many questions about the process should the community input determine that we would move forward with any plans for a year-round facility. One of the major questions is whether a referendum by Reston Association would be necessary should the plans involve the conveyance of RA common area property for use as a site for an indoor recreational facility.

Any time we consider any method of conveyance of RA common property the research would have to been done, whether it was leasing, selling, donating, etc. At last week’s RCC Finance Committee I was criticized by many in the audience for saying I was not at liberty at the time to comment on the referendum question. What many in our community do not understand is the process we must go through as a board and our fiduciary responsibilities representing the Association.

The Board requested our General Counsel, Ken Chadwick, to thoroughly review our governing documents, and any other applicable documents, as they relate to conveyance of Reston Association common area property, with no consideration on specific locations, but under the concept of moving forward working with RCC on a joint effort. Mr. Chadwick has completed his review. This is the first time we as a Board are meeting in public since we received counsel’s findings. At this time we are able to make this announcement to our community members. In summary, he found that a referendum would be required if RA sought to convey any common area property to any other entity, including RCC.

I say again that no decisions about a facility, location, or programs have been made. Neither of the individual boards has even voted on whether we will move forward on this joint concept. This process will take both organizations well in to this fall as to our joint partnership, then in to 2010 before we are able to make a decision to take any concept facility to referenda. Ultimately it is expected to be 2011 before we will be able to go to any vote, where everyone will have the opportunity to participate. We have heard from many in our community, but want to make sure there are many opportunities for as much participation and input as possible.

Thank you.
Just an "idea." That's kind of like that time on Dallas when TV's delightful Patrick Duffy was told the entire previous season was just a dream.


  1. If Robin was concerned with fiduciary responsibility (her justification for seeking legal counsel on rather a referendum was required to convey Browns Chapel Park to RCC) than she would not be looking for ways to transfer an asset, such as a 22 acre piece of prime real estate, out of Reston Associationin the first place. Her fiduciary responsibility is to the members of the association, not to the RCC (Fairfax County). Her fiduciary responsibility should cause her to stop authorizing our money to be spent on legal expenses, land planners and projects manager on an “idea”.

  2. I'm no big fan of this idea to scrap the park, but I have to beg to differ with you, edy.

    Robin is an elected official with a lot of latitude because of her position. Whether or not RA/RCC moves forward with this project, Robin and company still need to know what's legal and what's not. That is, if it should turn out that the majority really do want the new facility built at Brown's Chapel and operated by the county, then Robin has a responsibility to make sure that the property is properly deeded over to the county.

    Again, I'm not for the recreation center and will vote against it, if it comes right down to that. However, I do see the logic in the way in which RA/RCC leadership is approaching this.

  3. I can see the logic in it was necessary get a legal opinion before speaking to whether a referendum was required. (The error there was even suggestion that there was an alternative before receiving said opinion). I also see the logic in looking into and discussing many different options if there is a NEED to change the status quo. Indeed, that is what we do as a family. But I do NOT see the logic in spending $92,000 researching an idea that will change the status quo before we find out whether it needs to be changed.

    Money doesn't grow on trees. Not even at Brown's Chapel.

  4. I may be showing my age and my poor taste in TV but I love the Dallas reference.

    So three thoughts:

    First, do you have your counsel look into whether you need to do a referendum if you are not looking to avoid one? I guess that we should just be grateful that Robin's legal team couldn't find a way.

    Second, it's just an idea and one of many ideas however read the following from the March 9 minutes of RCC's Board meeting. It said:

    Carol Ann reported that the RCC/RA Task
    Force received information from Urban Planning. She stated that there are several permits that need to be obtained. She described the conversation with RA Board Chair, Milton Matthews and Larry Butler, as being productive and involving a variety of options RCC representatives, herself, Bill Bouie and Leila Gordon, would like the site engineer to pursue to revise the way the building and parking are located on the Brown’s Chapel RA property. The suggestions were made to eliminate all of the current Brown’s Chapel property elements (ball fields, picnic pavilion, and outdoor basketball and volleyball courts) to accommodate the size building desired on that property without going onto the adjacent property. The site engineer was also asked to put half of the planned parking underground, as this was estimated in the current draft of the B/D study. The expectation is that the firm will prepare a revised assessment by late March for the group to review and bring back to the respective Boards.
    This was a very involved dream (I mean idea). I presume that Robin can produce the recommendations to the site engineers for all of the other places she had ideas about. Otherwise her claims look suspicious.

    Third, can someone stop Robin having ideas because they cost us a lot of money and wasted time.

  5. Now that Robin has failed in her attempt to avoid a referendum, it's vital to reiterate that friends of the current Browns Chapel park can prevail against this proposal if they convince as many RA households as possible to NOT VOTE.

    RA's quorum requirements require at least 5193 households to vote.

    Every "no" vote cast helps the "yes" party, the proponents of Browns Chapel's destruction, to meet that threshold.

    Simple answer:

    Save Brown's Chapel - DON'T VOTE!

    Yes, it's contrary to everything you learned in high school civics but it's the sure way to defeat this proposal.


  6. Defeating the referendum on Brown's Chapel park is a very temporary victory. RA have shown their hand in terms of intentions ann attitude. I would like to see a campaign/referendum to prevent any destruction/change to green, open space in Reston period.
    Can we take away RA's ability to do this in the future - ever?

  7. Anonymous at 7:51AM this morning suggesting opponents to the rec center should not vote as a way to defeat this initiative is not only wrong, it's disingenuous. Why would anyone intentionally disenfranchise themselves on any issue as important to Reston's environment and fiscal well being under any circumstances?

    Since one has no control over how many other people vote, not voting is giving others the opportunity to make a decision, even if a 30% quorum is required. On something as large as this--with strong proponents and opponents--not voting your opposition is almost sure NOT to prevent a quorum and still assure approval.

    On the other hand, given the two-thirds majority required for passage, your negative vote neutralizes two affirmative votes. That is an extremely difficult hurdle for proponents to climb given the apparent scope of opposition (including my own).

    We can not abstain from voting and hope for the same result as occurred with the RA HQ initiative--both a failure of the quorum and a failure to achieve the 2/3s majority required. If this proposal comes to a referendum, VOTE--AND VOTE "NO!"

    We really have to stop this fiduciary folly, costly tax expense, and destruction of our natural areas and parks. This referendum is our opportunity to drive home our concerns about the RA Board's behavior.

  8. The RA covenants already do a pretty good job of protecting the open space so long as its officials aren't scheming on ways to evade and invalidate them.

    Any further protecttion would require the same referendum approval as the 17,000 square foot monstrosity now being proposed, with all of the problems attendant thereto.

    Let's just vote out the schlubs who conjured this nightmare; and the Snake Den fiasco; the office bldg fantasy; and get rid of Mullen who can't seem to be candid and honest with his members.

    Oh and I agree

    Save Browns Chapel = Don't vote

  9. Well, Anonymous, before you start codifying any stricture limiting the reduction/destruction of greenspaces, you should be reminded that your house was once a greenspace. If Reston hadn't allowed the reduction/destruction of that greenspace, you wouldn't have a home. Somehow, though, I just don't see you giving your property back to RA to be added back to our reserve of greenspace.

    If we didn't allow any reduction or destruction of greenspaces, then most of the Brown's Chapel park wouldn't exist because that was mostly wooded before it became a park. If we didn't allow any reduction or destruction of greenspaces, there would be no Reston Hospital or Reston Town Center because this was typical "old growth" Northern Virginia forest before they began developing this area in the 80's and 90's. And more recently, without the destruction of some greenspace, there would be no RCC facility over by Stonegate.

    I'm not saying we should pave it all over, but the notion that we can't modify the greenspaces is just neither practical nor pragmatic. Just because you've got yours, doesn't mean that progress stops.

  10. Terry

    As Anon 7:51 acknowledged, it is counterintuitive to advocate that opponents not vote but it is not disenfranchising which would mean taking away the opponents vote. Choosing to abstain (not vote) is just as valid an exercise of the franchise as any other choice an RA homeowner can make. History has shown that such a choice is the most effective means to defeat this idea.

    RA Board elections are always very low participation affairs. All of the referenda in RA history have had low participation levels.

    The referendum to amend the governing documents had to have its deadline extended two or three times before enough votes were cast to meet the minimum "quorum" level.

    Further, I believe passage is only a simple majority, if 30% paricipate, not a 2/3 majority. If I'm wrong can someone cut and past the provision from the Governing Docs, please.

    I don't believe the proponents of this 17,000 sq. ft. Walmart of sweat can get 5193 RA homeowners to return a ballot to borrow $100 million.

    If the referendum won't happen until 2011 as Robin announced in her latest screed, then we have time to vote the proponents of this idea off the RA Board before it comes to a referendum. That and a recall off those proponents not up for election in 2011, which only requires 10% of the homeowners to get on the ballot, an achievable number, are the way to send this RA Board a message.

    I also agree with Anon 10:01

    Save Browns Chapel = Don' Vote

  11. Not voting just doesn't make logical sense. What if RA manages to get enough people to meet the quorum, and all the anti-rec-center residents have thrown out their ballots?

    By not voting, you are *counting* on their not being enough pro-center residents to meet the quorum. Can you honestly say that you are 100% sure that they won't have enough votes? It's an awfully big gamble to just throw your vote away in the hope that the other side *really* doesn't have enough votes.

  12. Wouldn't it be ironic if on the one issue that we all seem to be up in arms about that requires a referendum the RA was able to pull off a high turnout? I don't know...abstaining and counting on others to not show up sounds really risky.

  13. Anon 11:50 & South Lakes Mom

    Look at RA voting participation history, rarely have 5193 votes ever been cast in a RA vote on any issue.

    Imagine 2700 vote yes (less than 15% of all RA households) and 2500 vote no and it only takes a majority to impose the $100 million debt: Browns Chapel is lost. If instead the 2500 no votes had abstained, the referendum fails and Browns Chapel survives.

    If you oppose this insanity, do you really want to take the risk of helping those proponents (less than 15% of RA households) to satisfy the quorum minimum by voting?


  14. Anonymous Coward - it is both practical and pragmatic to draw a line and preserve the remaining green space. To suggest that it would not have made sense decades or years ago is idiotic. We are not living then, we live now. There is precious little green space left. I have two young boys and I want them to have parks to play in.

    By the way my house was never designated open space in the plans for reston, nor were most of the structures that you refer to. There was an amount of open space designated in the plans for Reston that place that I not only chose to live in but that I pay RA to preserve. I support the suggestion of removing those who are not doing their jobs from office.

  15. Anon 11:50 & SL MOM

    Abstaining in the RA referendum is even lower risk than might normally be the case since there will also have to be a referendum in Small Disrict #5.

    So, in the highly unlikely event that proponents of the 17,000 sq. ft. Walmart Health Club are able to find 5193 RA households to vote in favor of taking on $100 million in debt, there will still be the opportunity for the opponents to get out more votes for a straight up campaign on the RCC bond referendum.


  16. Robin Smyers at the RA Board meeting Friday night said, "Wait until the community finds out what's in store for the Dulles corridor." She was talking about the high-density development that will ensue as soon as the RCIG covenants are vacated.

    Don't know what the RCIG is?
    Don't know what vacated means? Maybe you better ask your RA board representative.

    Is it not part of Robin Smyers' job as president of the RA Board to communicate to the homeowners the nature of the changes that our County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins has planned for Reston??? I would think so.

  17. Some of the RA board members seem to be confused about the nature of their jobs. They are not little despots... they are our elected leaders, and their job is to work for the members of the community (even the ones who disagree with them!). If they can't do that, they should be recalled immediately.

  18. At the last RA Board meeting, Joe Leighton read a statement in support of retaining Reston's green spaces. Go Joe.

    RA Board meetings are televised on Channel 28.

    Any resident of Reston who doesn't watch the RA Board's monthly meeting is a fool. All the local papers have online editions. Big changes are coming Restonians, pay attention.

  19. RA could require members to cast their referendum vote in order to obtain pool/tennis passes. There are enough of us waiting in line that we could achieve a quorum in the span of just a week!

  20. No. RA covenants do not require members to vote. No court would require RA members to vote.

    RA has to follow the same procedures used in Board elections which require verification that only one vote is cast per household.

    Most passes are paid on line and mailed now. If that changed the rebellion would be massive.