We're down to the final days of the referendum determining whether residents in the neighborhoods around Lake Anne will continue to be required to use RELAC, Reston's awesome jet-age lake-powered cooling system. It follows a similar referendum in 2005, which failed narrowly.
For the referendum to pass, a two-thirds majority of affected homeowners will have to vote "yes." If it succeeds, RELAC will continue to be an option, but homeowners will get to choose whether they want to use the system without a doctor's note, a little like the way we used to get permission to bring in AC units in college. The quorum details were at first a bit vague, given that the Reston Association sent out a clarification that the quorum requires two-thirds of only the members who cast votes, not all 343 households who received ballots earlier this month. The RA has a fun fact sheet if you're into such things.
The Reston Citizens Association has come out in favor of the referendum.
Sridhar Ganesan, President of RCA stated: “While clearly many people around Lake Anne still like and want RELAC because it seems to serve their purposes, it is also clear that a number of people have not been happy with the system, the costs and other burdens that they feel it imposes on them. RELAC is a system as old as the Lake Anne community. Not only would the investment in that system have been fully paid for, today’s technologies have surely far surpassed RELAC's. Many of us on the RCA Board as well as members sympathize and feel that after all these decades of using and paying for the operation of that system, those that would like to opt out of RELAC and pursue other alternatives should have the Choice to do so."...Meanwhile, John Lovaas says in a column that an RA Board member is actively encouraging residents to vote "no" on the referendum.
If the referendum passes then everyone will get a fair choice. It is a matter of fairness in allowing choice in the important area of comfort. This will require that 2/3 of those voting will agree to choice for RELAC 's involuntary subscribers by voting yes. Vote yes even if YOU are happy with your summer cooling. Consider your neighbor across the street/lake/cul-de-sac who may not have the same experience.
Mass exodus from RELAC is highly unlikely as conversion costs are a major factor, but to imprison anyone in a system that does not work for them is ... well, unkind. Kindness and fairness is crucial to maintaining the fabric of our community. Forcing bondage to an antiquated monopoly is not kind, fair or necessary.
In addition to singing the praises of the aging RELAC and arguing with homeowners favoring change, the Board member has even resorted to what I would call fear tactics, by suggesting that if the referendum were approved and some homes convert to conventional air conditioning, the electricity serving the area may be overwhelmed. In one of many emails, the Board member said, “I have a concern our 50 year old junction line will not handle the load.” There is no such problem.The unnamed board member is well within their rights to voice their opinion, just as others are well within theirs to argue that the system doesn't work for them, if by "work" you mean "cools the house to under 80 degrees on a hot summer day."
In fact, Dominion supplies more than adequate power and would be delighted to sell even more electricity around Lake Anne if it were needed. When asked, Dominion, in fact, said as much.
Free From 15 posted some of the arguments against making a change that may have convinced voters to maintain the status quo in the 2005 referendum. "Sadly, their dire predictions about costs came true because their opposition destroyed the chance for competition, which we believe is the only realistic way to lower costs for everyone," the site argues.
Deadline for ballots is 5pm this Friday. While most of the households impacted by the decision likely voted as soon as uniformed federal agents delivered the ballots to their homes, it might not be a bad idea to check the stack of Reston-related mail piling up in your sunken living room, the end.