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Simon to RA Board: 'Grow Up' and Borrow

Reston founder says Reston Association should find the money to get indoor tennis facility built.

Indoor tennis has been off the table for Reston Association this year, but it has been on the mind of Reston founder Robert E. Simon recently.

The 98-year-old Simon spoke to the RA Board of Directors as part of the public comment session at the board's regular meeting last week. 

Simon praised the board for being more sensible than past groups, but urged them to borrow money to give Reston Association members an indoor tennis facility.

"Covered tennis and covered swimming are things we should have had for a long time and haven't because of damned fool ways with money," Simon said. "You are not obligated to have a [money] reserve at all. All I can say with great passion is let's get on with this thing and use our borrowing capacity to get the things that the citizens want."

After much research, debate and discussion in 2010 and 2011 about a proposed indoor tennis facility at Lake Newport, the RA board voted in December to not put the issue to referendum in 2012.

The timing to push forward in an economic downturn when there are existing RA recreational facilities that need money and attention was one major reason for killing the issue, at least temporarily.

The five-court facility was projected to cost $3.8 million to build, and one projection had RA borrowing 100 percent of the money - but covering costs rather quickly through USTA fees and lessons.

Putting it to referendum alone would cost RA $75,000. Many citizens have spoken out for and against the issue.

In December, the RA board also voted to direct staff to actively seek opportunities, including potential public-partnerships, in the future.  

Simon told the board Thursday it is "un-American" not to have debt.

"I think you all will make some sense, which your previous boards have not done," he said. "I appeal you to be sensible. You are Americans! It is un-American not to have debt."

"I am optimistic you all can make sense for the first time," Simon said. "I am looking at each one of you and will follow your vote on this kind of thing."

Simon said the board should spend - not just on tennis but on improving existing facilities.

"Several pools in need of repair," he said. "I walk on paths that are a disgrace. Don't look at the budget. Look at what needs to be done and do it. Banks will lend you the money."

"Grow up," he added. "That's what I have to say."

Chipperson September 17, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Simon rules - get out there and drop truth bombs on the RA board
John Farrell September 17, 2012 at 11:15 AM
There is no need to borrow, yet, if the RA Board would get the Recreational Proffers given by developers in other parts of this County. Between the Comstock project, Fairways & the 23 story building, RA could have over a $1.9 million - half the cost of an indoor tennis facility. And maybe a site atop one of the parking garages. The solution is not for RA to hire another full time employee but rather for the RA Board to meet with the proponents of these projects, in public session, as soon as the application is filed and make their expectations know to them and our Supervisor well before the Planning Commission hearing. That's how it's done in the rest of the County. It's past time for RA to get its due from developers for its members.
Robert Pew September 17, 2012 at 11:59 AM
Shouldn't Fairfax County be responsible for some recreation facilities in Reston? There will be tons of people outside of Reston using the facility and they should help pay for it. Where is the Park Service?
John Farrell September 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM
There is very little County Park Authority land within RA boundaries. What facilities that do exist can and are taken over by teams and organizations from outside Reston where the NIMBYs prevent the recreational facilities being built. RA and RCC facilities can be used by folks from outside Reston. They pay a slightly higher price for each visit.
Robert Pew September 17, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Your first sentence says it all. Why must the facility be built in RA boundaries? There is nothing to prevent outside organizations from reserving all the courts if RA builds it.
Diane Lewis September 17, 2012 at 01:34 PM
As a resident of the community being threatened with development in the open space behind our homes, this strikes me as rather low on the priority list for RA. Let us preserve what we can all share and benefit from instead of trying to serve an exclusive group of users. Tree canopies and open space provide fresh air and habitat for beneficial creatures like bees, butterflies, and birds. Try living without these species and see what happens.
Gloria September 17, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Mr. Simon needs to retire. Americans and debt caused this economic downturn. Let's live within our means and serve as many MEMBERS as we can.
John Lovaas September 17, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Well said, Diane. Reston Association funds, borrowed or otherwise, should go to projects that are equally accessible to all. Indoor tennis with 3 or 4 pay to play courts at Lake Newport does not fill the bill, so to speak. Pathway cleanup and enhancement , for example, will. I like tennis but cannot think of a lower priority than indoor courts.
Skip Endale September 17, 2012 at 03:43 PM
The T party is who refuses to grow up. That is why we lost credibility as a nation.
John Farrell September 17, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Actually, RA facilities are reserved for RA members. Outside groups cannot take over an RA facility. Outsiders can use RA facilities when they are accompanied by an RA member as at one of RA's pools or tennis courts. Otherwise, if its not County facility, renting the entire facility to an outside group would transform the facility into a "commercial recreational facility" and require the approval of a special permit or special exception through the zoning process. This is how the neighbors forced the Solitar dome to be removed from the Ridge Heights pool. So long as the facility is principally serving RA membership, with some ancillary outside use as at our pools and tennis courts, the facility is considered a community recreational facility and needs no zoning action by the Board of Supervisors of Board of Zoning Appeals.
Chipperson September 17, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Skipper - dumbocrats are the reason for the debt crisis not fiscally responsible tea party members.
lea September 17, 2012 at 05:55 PM
History repeating itself? How many indoor tennis facilities have already failed? How many tennis players are there in Reston. There are beautiful new (very expensive, I'm sure) tennis courts next to my house that are empty virtually ALL the time! Are there 500 serious players in Reston? I really doubt it. And how many would actually pay to play indoors?
Maggie September 17, 2012 at 07:28 PM
How many tennis courts do we need in Reston, let alone covered ones? I know Bob loves tennis, but I hardly think this is high on the priority list.
Denise September 17, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I'd like to know the percentage of Restonians who feel they will use indoor tennis courts and pools. I have a strong feeling it's a very small percent overall. And it doesn't seem right to take on additional debt to serve that small group when there are other upgrades that demand funds and that many more Restonians use (pathways). Also, I don't understand the reasoning behind why Fairfax County can't build rec centers in Reston. If it's because they don't have land here, why can't we work out something with them about the land that we were going to make available for this purpose anyway? We pay the same taxes as all the other towns and cities (in Fairfax Cty) and we shouldn't be excluded from having the same benefits that other county residents have.
Frank Sogandares September 17, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Lets make it a commercial rec fac... with a 50mx25y competition, all-year pool. Teams pay $$ to rent these all year, and there aren't enough to rent.
John G September 17, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Agreed...this man seems to be even more rapidly detached over the last few months of what is happening to Reston - he cashed out big (his right), yet weighs in on items on which he'll never have to cope with...huge buildings going up, more debt, etc...why anyone gives this crafty codger a disproportionate amount of attention is beyond me. We thank him for his original vision, but his best years are over - the word of "Bob" is not the word of God of Reston - yet it is treated as such.
John Farrell September 17, 2012 at 11:51 PM
I was a member of the RA Parks and Planning Advisory Committee which produced the recommendation to convert the 6 Lake Newport Courts into 5 indoor courts. During our deliberations, we worked with a survey that said 2,500 RA members would use a facility. After we voted on that recommendation, I heard Larry Butler estimate that 1,200 people would use an indoor tennis facility. That's when I decided to oppose the Lake Newport conversion. It was just too small a customer base to justify asking the other 57,000 members of RA to borrow $4 million. No doubt there is a base of 800 RA members who would actually use an indoor facility. If such a facility can be incorporated into the redevelopment areas around one of the Metro Stations with proffer money, we can probably fund the operating expenses without a huge burden on the rest of the RA membership. But add the debt service onto that burden and indoor tennis becomes inequitable. The same analysis applies to an indoor pool. The number of potential users is greater but the construction and debt service would also be much higher. It too can be financed with proffer money and located in the bottom floor of an office building near the Metro station.
John Farrell September 18, 2012 at 12:10 AM
The cost of the properly zoned land alone makes this alternative impractical.
John Farrell September 18, 2012 at 12:17 AM
We have a rec center in Reston at Hunter Woods Shopping Center. What's different is that in Reston we pay for it with an extra $.05 on our real estate tax rate. McLean also pays a surcharge for their rec center. All the other centers in Fairfax County, like OakMar & South Run, are funded out of the County General Fund. That's not fair.
Keri Panatier September 18, 2012 at 12:57 AM
We too have tennis courts on Barton Hill that are almost always empty - they were just resurfaced this past year - but still most days they stand empty. Is this really what Reston needs? I would like to see a complete survey of how many courts are available and how often they are really used before spending money for covered/lighted courts.
Tammi Petrine September 18, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Perfect location for County to build Indoor Tennis Courts; park on NW corner of FFX Co. Parkway and Fox Mill Road. The county counts this as a RESTON park, if you can believe that! Baseball fields there are empty in the winter. Plenty of parking. If this facility will "make" money as proponents suggest, let the County build it and use the profits to help pay for the Silver Line vs. the DTR users...
Bill Bouie September 18, 2012 at 02:37 PM
John, we have a Community Center, not a Rec Center that is funded by the Small Tax District. The rate is $.047 per $1,000 of assessed value of your home. So if your home is assessed at $500,000, you are paying $235 to the Small Tax District (Reston Community Center). Also, the Park Authority Rec Centers, Oak Marr, South Run, Spring Hill, Cub Run, etc. are not funded out of the County's General Fund. They are Profit Centers, supported by the Park Authority's Revenue Fund which receives no General Fund contribution for operation or maintenance. I just want to make sure that the facts are straight. Bill Bouie Chairman Fairfax County Park Authority
John Farrell September 18, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Bill Congratulations on your forthcoming re-election to the Reston Community Center Board. Chair of the Park Authority and member of the RCC Board, too. So much responsibility for just one guy. It must be daunting. For most taxpayers and users of the centers, the variance between a "community center" and a "recreation center" is a distinction without a difference. When the Park Authority recreation centers run a deficit, the shortfall is made up by the General Fund, yes? The debt service for those buildings is paid out of the General Fund, no? That General Fund includes the taxes paid by Restonians, yes? The bonds to build those centers are backed by the full faith and credit of Fairfax County and count against the County bond limit imposed by Wall Street so that bonds issued for those recreation centers crowd out bonds to build schools to reduce the gross overcrowding in Reston's schools, no? Meanwhile, RCC is funded by a surtax paid by Restonians alone. The bonds are paid off by Restonians alone. And the discount for the services Restonians receive versus the fees paid by others is deminimus. So Restonians get to pay for RCC and the recreation centers. And we get to pay practically the same fees at RCC as non-Restonians. Isn't that just swell. I understood that, at one time, RCC had a $4 million surplus. Whatever happened to that?
DGeorge September 18, 2012 at 11:35 PM
What we need is an indoor Curling facility. It is high time that the Reston Curling team had a place to practice, complete with bleachers for the fans to watch the competitions. We have turned our backs on this sport long enough.
The Analyst September 19, 2012 at 07:08 PM
When it comes to using other peoples time and money, **other peoples, not their own ** developers like Simon are very, very generous.. ....but don't you dare touch one of their penney's - they'll sick Cathy Hudgins on you.
DGeorge September 19, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Also what we need is a Velodrome. Just think of all the people that have to ride their bicycles out in the weather all winter long. How about all the deprived Scotts people that have nowhere to toss their Cabers except out in the snow. A combination indoor Curling, Velo and Caber tossing facility is what we should be building.
Reston Timer September 21, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I began to think I was one of the few who thought or thinks the same about Mr. Simon and I also agree with John G too... respect Mr. Simon for what he started and a vision that he seems to have forgotten. I remember in a RA Parks and Planning Committee meeting when there was a lively discussion going on concerning the [dis]merits of the indoor tennis facility when Mr. Simon blurted out "Why do we keep discussing this over and over....we just tell the people what will be done and then do...don't ask just do..." Needless to say I was taken back when all that Reston stands for is serving the members/residents for their interests and having them participate in processes affecting their futures. Dictate??? I don't think so...

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