Frank Pfeilmeier called the governing documents referendum a contract that the community is making with the Reston Association.
“This is a contract that will last at least 20 years,” said Pfeilmeier, who is president of the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners.
Last Wednesday, Aug. 24, Reston Association representatives met with members of ARCH at the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne to discuss the proposed revisions of the governing documents, which will be voted on by RA members in October.
The governing documents codify the rules and regulations that govern RA. They haven’t been changed for more than 20 years. RA has argued that the documents need to be revised to secure the future financial viability of Reston.
While RA has worked to update the documents for the last two years, about 16 ARCH members have spent 1,000 hours in 18 meetings to complete an 80-page report investigating the changes to the documents. A summary of that report was provided at the meeting and the full report can be found on ARCH’s website, www.restonarch.com.
“ARCH is taking this very seriously,” said Pfeilmeier at the meeting, which drew about 60 people.
The meeting was moderated by ARCH member Robert Goudie, who lives in Reston Town Center and is therefore not a member of RA. “It’s one of the reasons folks thought I’d be a good moderator,” Goudie said.
DURING THE TWO-HOUR MEETING, Goudie took questions from the audience to be answered by RA President Jennifer Blackwell, RA CEO Milton Matthews and Bob Diamond, the attorney from Reed Smith LLC hired last summer to assist RA in drafting the new documents.
“We are very much in an input mode,” Blackwell said to the audience early on. “We want to hear what you want in these documents.” In an opening statement, Blackwell justified the elimination of the cap, a potentially divisive change made in the proposed documents. “The cap is broken. If it is maintained we will not be able to maintain the services that Reston is accustomed to,” she said.
Several questions from the audience concerned the cap. Rock Brown, an ARCH board member, asked if the cap would still be a problem if it were maxed out in coming years. According to RA estimates, the assessment will exceed the cap in 2007 keeping everything equal. However, for Blackwell, that wasn’t the issue. “We’re not looking to 2007 or 2008, we’re trying to look forward 20 or 25 years from now,” she said. “We would like to incorporate things that we’re not even thinking about now.”
Robert E. Simon, founder of Reston, who attended the meeting, said the RA board shot itself in the foot back in 1984 when it implemented the cap. He noted that the state and the county governments don’t have a cap, so he wondered why RA should.
Yet several people expressed opinions against eliminating the cap.
Blackwell reminded them that the board had agreed to an alternate cap that may be added to the documents if the board feels the elimination of the cap could doom the referendum. The alternative cap maintains a cap but ties it to the Employment Cost Index or an increase of 5 percent, whichever is greater.
OTHER PEOPLE at the meeting were concerned that the proposed documents drastically change the relationship of RA and the clusters.
“It is not the intent of the board to change how the Reston Association interacts with the clusters,” said Diamond. “What is the intent of the board is to make clear, make explicit the relationship that exists.”
Another issue relating to clusters was liability insurance. The proposed documents will require that clusters have a certain level of liability insurance.
“So will RA be getting into the business of telling clusters the level of insurance they will need?” Goudie said, summarizing a question from the audience. Blackwell and Diamond responded, telling the audience that the requirement protected RA members and cluster members alike.
Despite attempts by the RA representatives to alleviate concerns, several people were still worried about the changes.
“What’s bothering a lot of people is not you or your intentions, but that this language doesn’t provide many limitations to your authority,” said Matt Egan, who has lived in Reston nearly 30 years.
George Kain, who has lived in Reston 28 years, is still undecided about the documents. “The problem is, I want to see what the final document really says,” Kain said. “I’m hoping they clear up all the ambiguities and good intentions and then I’ll take a look at the final version and make a decision.”