Autumn on Lake Audobon

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Fairfax County is litigating with RA about Town Center North title issues.

The May 26th RA Board draft meeting agenda shows the following item: 

Item K.    9:30 pm       Executive Session – Consultation with Legal Counsel to discuss County’s Pending Litigation to Remove Title Issue on Reston Town Center North Property                            

The specific nature of the County's litigation, possibly a law suit, against RA and the status of the litigation--"pending" could mean the County has taken legal action, intends to take legal action, or that RA is preparing for the County to take action.   Hopefully, some details will emerge from both the litigants. 

So far as we know, there are two "title issues" in the deed transferring this area in 1974:
  • One is the provision in the deed requiring that Town Center North have 10 acres of public open and natural space.
  • The other is the deed requirement that the entire area is subject to RA governance, including design review and covenants.  
We described these issues in an earlier post, including a report and letter to Supervisor Hudgins about the issues.  

Here is the summary of that report: 
Summary:   In1974, Gulf-Reston deeded a ten-acre plot in Reston Town Center North (RTCN) to the County for the expressed purpose of retaining it for recreational and natural purposes for at least 99 years.  This deed and a separate deed for the remaining40 acres in Town Center North both included clauses that stating that the provisions of the Reston Deed—its covenants, design processes and guidelines, assessment fees, etc.—applied to the entire 50-acre area.
The County subsequently fragmented the original ten acres deeded for recreational and natural purposes—which originally had a long “hockey stick” shape extending roughly  from Baron Cameron and Town Center Parkway to the site of Reston Regional Library—and spread it around Town Center North. The County now faces the challenge of restructuring most of the area’s 50 acres as part of its re-alignment of the RTCN area property with INOVA, which now owns more than one-third of the property there.  Despite the deed’s directive, the County’s proposed development concept calls for only a 2.5acre “Town Green”—one-quarter the space deeded to the County for the expressed purpose of natural and recreational activities.
Last summer, RA entered into discussions with the County on RTCN.  At an August 2015 Special Board of Directors meeting to discuss this and the other 1974 land transfer, the Board resolved to have its counsel work with the County “in a manner which preserves and/or enhances natural open space within Reston.”  RA officials assert that they intend to insure that all the ten acres of RTCN are so preserved. They expect the County to continue to own those 10 acres while RA programs its use.
Unfortunately, the County’s RTCN redevelopment concept proposal fails to meet virtually every key County legal requirement, policy guideline, and community recommendation for the sizing of natural/recreational space in RTCN.
  • The proposal provides about one-quarter of the land now lawfully deeded for that purpose.
  • It is similarly less than one-quarter of the guideline laid out in the Board-approved FCPA Urban Parks Framework that calls for eleven acres of park space in RTCN—and cited in the new Reston Master Plan for that district.
  •  And it is about one-seventh of the 17 acres of land needed to meet the County’s park facilities standards for the number of people conservatively expected to live there.
  • It is even one-half to one-third the size of the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force’s recommendation that RTCN should have a centrally located 5-7 acre Town Green as “a centerpiece around which the rest of TCN may be oriented and creates the potential of a powerful north-south visual and physical connection from the Town Center Metro Station.”
In the end, Reston may end up with 10 acres of natural and recreation space in RTCN, but certainly not in one large Town Green. In fact, the Town Green is extremely unlikely to be more than eight acres in size due to the fact that about two of the fragmented ten acres of natural space will almost certainly remain as open space. Under any reasonable circumstance, the Town Green should not be less than six acres in size.  And the County has the option to add public park space and facilities to its deeded obligation if it wishes to give more reality to its park policy guidelines, especially so in light of the substantial shortfall of park space in Reston Town Center.  In light of the numerous steps in moving forward toward implementing the RTCN plan, it is important that the specifics of the size, location, and design of the Town Green be resolved now to insure protection of property that is Reston’s legal responsibility to protect.
The community deserves a central park worthy of its late founder, Bob Simon.
Apparently the County believes it does not have to comply with the provisions of the 1974 deed, and it is (or will soon be) taking legal action against RA to assert its independent authority over the TCN area.  If nothing else has made it clear, this move by the County shows in stark terms how determined it is to drive up density to generate more tax revenues at the expense of just about anything else--and probably in places well beyond Reston.

The County move is beyond disgraceful.  It is disgusting.  We worry that this will add substantially to RA legal expense and, ultimately, Restonians' assessment fees.  Nonetheless, if that is the case, it is imperative that RA fight this County legal action until it wins.  Otherwise, Bob Simon's vision means nothing. 


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