Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Friday, May 8, 2015

Reston residents vote on buying old visitors center for twice assessed value, Washington Post, May 7, 2015

May 7 at 9:29 PM
As development ratchets up in Reston around Lake Anne Plaza and Metro’s new Silver Line, the community’s homeowners association wants to snap up and preserve several lakeside acres before a developer buys the property.
But the purchase price is causing some Restonians heartburn and suspicion as the homeowners association is ready to pay $2.65 million for a property assessed by Fairfax County at $1.25 million. Concerned that the value of the land continues to decline, opponents of the sale have set up an anti-purchase Web site and created a satirical attack video, even as the issue has been put to a vote of the planned community’s nearly 18,000 property owners, with the referendum ending Friday evening.
"Municipalities are doing everything they can to add and protect their open spaces. It’s central to a healthy community,” said former Reston Association board president Ken Knueven, a supporter of the plan. “It’s the number one reason people move here, for all of the natural open spaces.”
The association obtained its own appraisal in February, which assessed the site’s value “as is” at $1.3 million. But if someone built a restaurant there, the appraisers calculated, that would add another $1.35 million in value, for a total market value of $2.65 million. That became the agreed sales price, conditioned on approval by Reston’s homeowners.
Many of those homeowners are resisting, fiercely. They say the property is environmentally protected by being in a Chesapeake Bay watershed, that the association already owns a chunk of the land through easements already on the property, that no one wants to build a restaurant there, and that the price is, well, too high.
“They say they’re preserving something,” said resident Paul Gayter, “but they don’t appear to want Restonians to know what that something is.”
Activist Terry Maynard said the association kept the homeowners in the dark on the deal until it was already negotiated with Bill Lauer, the property’s owner and a longtime Reston developer, who died suddenly Tuesday. Maynard said another building couldn’t be built because of environmental restrictions, and “there is a price for that property, and it’s about $1 million.”
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