The Reston association struggles to win friends with an offer to help finance an investment project
The Reston Association presented several major capital projects to Reston’s friends (FOR) last week in hopes of enlisting the association as a fundraiser, but the proposal didn’t go as planned.
RA staff argued joint board meeting Thursday (August 19) that he could use FOR’s help to cover the costs of three projects: a Brown’s Chapel event barn, a Walker Nature Center treehouse and an inclusive playground similar to that of Clemyjontri Park to McLean – each with an estimated cost of over a million dollars.
However, both the RA and FOR boards of directors have expressed hesitation and even frustration with the call, citing a lack of member feedback, COVID-related sensitivities and an ongoing budget crisis.
“For any type of fundraising campaign, 80% of the community should want it,” said FOR President Carol Nahorniak. “I’m concerned about the cost… Looking at that price, we always know it will cost more. There are some things that I’m not comfortable with.
RA director Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza said she had only heard of the event barn before the meeting with FOR, calling it “embarrassing” that the board did was not made aware of the other projects earlier.
RA interim CEO Larry Butler downplayed the importance of the speech, saying it was all just “brainstorming” based on examples of potential major capital projects from staff.
This is not the first time that RA has sought assistance from FOR to finance a major capital project. The completion of the House of Nature at the Walker Nature Center in 2019 is the result of a fundraising campaign which raised $ 1.5 million for design and construction.
However, FOR has not been involved in a major capital project since then.
Instead, FOR typically helps the Reston Association with a multitude of small projects, causes, and programs each year.
The association made its own funding requests during the meeting, submit a list with items such as children’s camp and tennis scholarships, habitat restoration upgrades, and an environmental film series.
The largest dollar demand was nearly $ 11,000 to help members struggling to pay their annual RA dues, which may increase further.
Accepting all the requests would cost RA just over $ 84,000. The two councils will discuss their top priorities on the list at a later date.
However, there may not be much of an appetite right now for RA and FOR to collaborate on bigger projects.
Board members said during the meeting that concerns about the pandemic remain on many minds. Other factors driving the lack of engagement include the potential increase in valuation due to increased operating expenses, higher priority capital projects, and the need to hire a new CEO.
Of the three projects proposed by RA staff as potential ideas for collaboration, the Event Barn aroused particular consternation.
According to FOR constitutive documents, the organization is not permitted to help fund a project that would generate income – which is exactly the barn’s intention of the event.
Nahorniak noted that all capital projects take longer, cost more, and elicit more intense reactions than expected.
“Reston’s friends stay away from the controversy,” Nahorniak said. “I don’t want to be involved in a project that might embarrass anyone.”