The Reston Homeowners Association has voted to assume ownership of Reston's two southern lakes from the community's developer, over the objections of some community members who contend that the dams on the lakes are unsafe.
The vote last week appears to end a year-long debate over whether the homeowners association, which is controlled by the developer, was being forced to assume responsibility for the lakes before all necessary steps had been taken to ensure that the dams were safe and sound.
The 4-0 vote of the association's board was in large part made possible by three recent promises by the developer, Reston Land Corp., a subsidiary of the Mobil Oil Corp.
Two weeks ago, Reston Land pledged to pay for any improvements that might be required by the state and agreed to deposit $107,000 in an escrow account.
Last week, it agreed to pay any claims that may be made against the association should the dams break before they are certified by the state.
All four homeowner representatives on RHOA's board voted in favor of the ownership proposal. Reston Land's board representatives abstained.
"All of the concerns [the homeowners] have had also passed through my mind in the last few weeks," homeowner representative Clive Blackwell said just before the vote. "But I think all of them have been addressed by Reston Land and that is why I am going to support it."
Though the developer's promises apparently calmed fears on the board, a number of Reston residents argued at the meeting that the association should not accept the dams until they are certified by the state.
Jeanine Byl, president of the 47-unit Washington Plaza Cluster Association, said her group opposed transfer of ownership at this time.
Homeowners association president Judi Ushio defended her approval of the transfer, noting that a series of engineering studies commissioned by Reston Land, the association and Fairfax County did not bear out opponents' fears.
She also denied rumors that she and the other homeowner representatives on the board were being manipulated by Reston Land to accept the dams before they are licensed by the state.
"Reston Land isn't going to be our sugar daddy here much longer," Ushio said. "Everybody bad-mouths the developer but at the same time seems to want them to stay around taking care of things forever. RHOA was set up to take responsibility for these community-owned amenities, and it's time RHOA took over the dams."
The actual transfer may not occur for some time because the state circuit court must hold a public hearing within the next six months to determine whether the homeowners association is financially able to accept ownership of the lakes.