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Reston Eyes $250 Fee For Buyers Of Homes

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By C. Woodrow Irvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2006

People buying a home in Reston and residents moving within the community would be charged a one-time $250 transfer fee under a proposal that will go before Reston voters next month.

Current Reston residents would get the $250 back after showing they were moving within the community, said officials of the Reston Association. The homeowners group is asking voters to approve revisions to the community's charter, including the transfer fee, for the first time in 22 years.

Officials said the annual homeowner dues, which this year are $437 for each property owner, would not be directly affected by the charter revisions because dues are set separately. On top of the dues, participating residents pay for pool and tennis passes.

Though Reston is part of Fairfax County, the planned community of about 60,000 people has a homeowners association that operates and maintains trails, pools, tennis courts, lakes, dams, ballfields, tot lots, picnic areas and open spaces. It also offers education and recreation programs and enforces covenants designed to protect property values.

The Reston Association is guided by the charter, which it calls governing documents. The revisions to the documents have been drafted over the last five years to reflect changes in Reston since 1984, such as the fact that the developer ended its control of the association.

The board of directors is scheduled to meet tonight to consider final language to be mailed to voters Feb. 13. Ballots are due back March 31. Two-thirds approval is needed, and at least 40 percent of homeowners must participate. The results will be announced April 11.

The $250 transfer fee would be used to offset annual dues and would support the upkeep of pools, tennis courts and other amenities, said Karen Monaghan, the association's communications director. The Reston Association spends about $11 million a year.

"The philosophy behind [the transfer fee] is that new members have not been contributing to the amenities over the years. It can be considered an investment," she said.

The board also is considering asking Reston homeowners to let the association raise the maximum amount that a property owner can be charged in a given year. This cap was set in 1984 so Reston residents would know how much they could be charged each year in dues, which the Reston Association calls an assessment.

When the board sets the dues every two years during budget discussions, the amount cannot exceed the cap. Under the proposal to increase it, the maximum assessment would stay at $461 this year. The cap generally could not rise by more than 4.5 percent a year, making it about $482 next year. But if the federal government's employment cost index exceeds 4.5 percent, then dues could go up by that amount. The index, which helps monitor inflation, has averaged about 3.9 percent a year recently.

Ray Leonhard, the Reston Association's chief financial officer, emphasized that the cap is not the amount that homeowners are required to pay annually. Instead, he said, it is the highest amount the association can charge in combined fees, including the annual dues and any special assessments, such as those that might be charged to repair damage from a natural disaster. Reston has never needed such a special fee.

In another proposed change to the charter, the number of residents required for a quorum in referendums would be lowered from 40 percent to 30 percent. A two-thirds majority still would be needed for approval. The lower participation requirement was in part a reflection of voter apathy in local elections, officials said.

Officials said most of the changes to the governing documents are minor and technical and are designed to bring the Reston Association into compliance with updated county, state and federal laws covering homeowners associations.

Tonight's 7 p.m. board meeting is at 1930 Isaac Newton Sq. For more information, go tohttp://www.reston.org/documents.


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