News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, April 27, 2015

Parklets and Price Cuts: Tetra Referendum Continues Amid Developments, YouTube Videos

With less than two weeks left to vote on whether to allow the Reston Association to purchase its former visitors center, there's been a flurry of v. v. exciting developments. Turns out the visitor's center won't just be used as a cash-generating rental space for that neighbor you don't know very well's second wedding! Instead, the property will be refashioned to serve as Reston's first lakefront park -- or at least "parklet," so as not to let too many non-paying hoi polloi litter the pristine lakefront spillway with their coolers and boom boxes. Check out this proposed layout:

Personally, it's hard for us to visualize without photorealistic renderings featuring moody alienated people, but this configuration gets rid of a bunch of the existing parking, creates a lakefront "parklet," and leaves room for a "potential passive recreation area" (as opposed to this web log, which qualifies under RA land use regulations as a passive-aggressive recreation area), a "potential active recreation area" (maybe they can recreate the skull-crackin' playground from the original visitor's center) and a "potential rain garden area," which can apparently be used as "an educational opportunity" (rain is wet).

The idea of a lakefront park (or parklet) is a smart one -- it's frankly somewhat shocking that this was never considered as part of the original plans for any of Reston's plastic fantastic manmade lakes. To us, that's a big selling point that maybe should have been emphasized more strongly from the get-go. They're not making any more lakefront, unless of course someone decides to turn Reston National into a giant water park.

The other big news is that the property owner has agreed to try to salvage the deal pay for the many many building repairs identified in the building inspection. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

Tetra Partners has reached an agreement with Reston Association to perform $275,000 in repairs to the building on Lake Newport that RA seeks to purchase.

The two sides reached an agreement on Friday. The money will be held in escrow until Tetra repairs or replaces the HVAC system, roof, windows, paving and other items,according to the contract addendum.
So time for some math. Take the original asking price of $2.65 million, deduct $275,000 for the repairs, $650,000 for the developer proffer, and a year lease-back from the current owner of $100,096 (which isn't bad for musty office space), and the ACTUAL RETAIL PRICE is... $1.6 million. Suddenly we're a lot closer to the ballpark of the county assessment for the property.

No truth to the rumor that this was the reaction to the news at RA headquarters:

Price Is Wrong
And there's more!

• The $650,000 developer proffer is coming from Comstock. Comstock apparently said it specifically wanted the money to go towards this property instead of, say, vowels for its apartment building.

• Quorum for the referendum has already been met, so the super secret strategy of not voting to avoid reaching a quorum is no longer in play.

• Love debating the finer points of referenda, but hate reading? Now you can watch this exciting YouTubes video about the purchase:

Or, if you have more time on your hands, you can watch the hour-long video of the community meeting held last week:

And here's a contrarian take on that meeting.

But wait, there's more! Enjoy some video of John Farrell and Terry Maynard, two of the most prominent opponents of the purchase, on the "Reston Impact" cable teevee show.

And, in case you're not yet tired of links, here's one to an op-ed by RA Vice President Michael Sanio.

The community meeting video linked above had a whopping 16 views as of Monday, so perhaps this issue isn't quite captivating the breathless attention of Restonians writ large beyond a few extremely prolific commenters and some fellow anonymous and not-anonymous "web loggers." That's too bad, because $2.65/$1.6 million is nothing to sneeze at, and we're all going to foot the bill.

Voting closes a week from Friday, on May 8.



  2. Wow! I like your math too, but RA Treasurer-forever John Higgins says the actual cost is $3.65 million, what with repairs and the legal ability to put that $650K anywhere, not just Tetra.

    Just cuts some programs and the assessment increases won't be too bad, he says.

    Whom should I believe???

    1. Oh, Restonian, where were you when I was doing my tax return?

      I like you math, Inconveniently, it's wrong. First, ignore the (up to) $275,000 Tetra will pay for certain repairs. That comes from their pocket after RA has written a check for $2.65. It doesn't reduce the purchase price a dime.

      The $650,000 from Comstock is not being donated for this purchase. It is being given to RA for whatever use RA wishes to make of it. By having this money, RA will not have to draw down investments or drain their bank account, but it does not reduce the purchase price or any other expenses RA will pay out. Analogy: using retirement savings to pay tuition - the cost of tuition does not go down, you are simply changing how you use the resources you have available.

      The full cost of acquiring the Tetra property is $3 million. (Purchase price, plus renovations, plus expenses in bringing this proposal to a vote.) If the RA diverts this $650k to supplement cash flow with the Tetra property, it forgoes other uses of that money and for that reason I consider it a cost of the acquisition.

      Some folks have suggested that owning Tetra will add $5 per year to the assessment. There are significant questions raised in the engineering report and les than full provision has been made for putting aside each year monies needed for future repair and replacement. I estimate that's another $5 per year. So, will our assessment go up $10? It doesn't have to be so. The RA ended 2014 with a surplus of $913,000. That's more than $40 per member. I believe they have the ability to absorb any ongoing cost of owning the Tetra property. But that's between you and your RA director.


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