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Referendum vote to remove AC mandate for Lake Anne area homes set for March

Townhomes in Reston’s Waterview cluster are among the Lake Anne residences served by RELAC (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Over 600 Lake Anne area residents served by the now-defunct Reston Lake Anne Air-conditioning Corporation (RELAC) may soon be responsible for installing their own air-conditioning units.

After historically requiring certain residences to utilize RELAC, Reston Association’s Board of Directors will hold a referendum vote next month to change its restrictive covenant to accommodate other cooling services and options.

RELAC announced in December that it will no longer provide cooling services, starting this year. The company cited increasing electrical costs and challenges with securing a $400,000 loan to install a new chiller.

RA’s current deed states that no individual AC units of any type are allowed in any residential clusters where central air conditioning service are available to the lot line.

The association is not responsible for the efforts of RELAC, which is regulated by the State Corporation Commission.

“Our Board of Directors determined that a referendum is the first step available to Reston Association to provide affected members with an opportunity to decide in advance of the approaching summer heat whether or not to have individual air conditioning units,” Cara O’Donnell, a spokesperson for RA, wrote in a statement.

At a Jan. 25 board meeting, RA board president John Farrell emphasized that RA does not “own, control, or regulate” RELAC. Due to its restrictive covenant, homes in six clusters covering 601 residences can’t use AC independent of RELAC unless a member is medically excused to do so under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Members expressed frustration on the issue at the meeting. Some pleaded with RA to consider offering RELAC one year of life support to allow clusters and condominium associations to determine next steps.

“We are all left with just an enormous task at our feet at the 11th hour before summer starts. I’m very concerned about my fellow community members and their health and welfare,” Restonian Susan Giesse said.

Jeff Crowe, a resident of the Waterview Cluster, questioned the need for a referendum vote when RA’s covenant appears to only apply to residential clusters where central AC service is available to the lot line.

“The obvious question is, ‘why should a vote have to pass at all?'” Crowe said. “The covenant only applies if air conditioning service is available to the lot line. Affected members have been notified that such service will not be. Is Reston prepared to guarantee that air conditioning service will be available to the lot line for all affected members for the forthcoming cooling season? For how many years after?”

As RA prepares for the vote, some members have coalesced to form a co-op that would manage water service for the 2024 cooling season. Simon McKeown, a Hickory Cluster resident and chair of the co-op’s steering committee, signed a memorandum of understanding on Dec. 28 with RELAC to create the foundation for the co-op structure, according to Patch.

If the referendum passes, RA’s covenants department will work with members to limit delays as AC applications make their way through the design review process.

Members of the Design Review Board will also work with each cluster to help establish cluster standards for HVAC systems.

“An established cluster standard for HVAC, will aid each individual member in having a good point of reference for HVAC installations and make the application process (if applicable) more simplified,” RA said.

Some members can seek a temporary health exemption to install individual air conditioning units in their homes.

Public hearings on the referendum vote are slated for Feb. 5 and Feb. 12. On Feb. 13, ballots will be mailed to voting members, who must return the ballots by March 8. Results of the referendum will be announced at a special meeting of the board of directors on March 13.

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