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Reston National Owners Ask Again for Zoning Appeal

by Karen Goff — November 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm 51 Comments

Reston National Golf CourseThe quest to possibly redevelop Reston National Golf Course may be taking shape again.

The attorney representing RN Golf Management, which owns the public golf course, has asked the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals to put the issue back on a meeting agenda.

The BZA hearing would likely take place in January or February as it is required under state rules to do so within 90 days of attorney Frank McDermott’s request.

The county last heard from the golf course owners in July of 2013, when they asked that the same appeal be deferred indefinitely. That ended — or at least subsided — about a year of discussion on the matter.

RN Golf, a subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual Insurance, asked the county in the spring of 2012 for clarification on the course’s status. Even though it was commercial/open space, could it be considered residential? RN Golf said at the time that the course was zoned residential, and therefore it could be built as such.

Fairfax County responded that the course is open recreational space, and if the owners wanted something different, they needed to seek a rezoning.

While the appeal was scheduled for hearing several times in 2012 and 2013, it was deferred indefinitely in July 2013.

However, the issue of potentially losing 166 acres of green space sparked a grassroots organization, Rescue Reston, as well as a stance on the issue by Reston Association, which is opposed to the golf course being redeveloped.

RA said Friday it remains opposed to the golf course land being redeveloped for residential use.

“It is RA’s stance that these golf courses are integral to the active lifestyle of its members and furthers the Reston lifestyle ‘live, work, play and get involved,’ ” said RA president Ken Knueven. 

RA says is also willing to consider a purchase of the golf course in order to keep Reston a golf course community. 

Rescue Reston president Connie Hartke says the group is ready to resume the fight for open space.

“We are prepared to respond,” she said. “We have money in the bank. We will fight to make sure it remains zoned as open space.”

Since the last time the golf course issue was active, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved Phase I of the Reston Master Plan Special Study, which guides development around the transit centers.

The county is now deep into the Phase II process of the comprehensive plan amendment. The working draft of the Phase II guidelines, which will update plans for neighborhoods and village centers, has several areas in which it speaks of Reston’s commitment to open space and recreational areas.

The Phase II strawman text states that both Reston National and Hidden Creek Golf Courses “are planned for private recreation use, more specifically to remain as golf courses.”

Meanwhile, the county earlier this year called for public land use proposals for Phase II. Fairfax Hunt Club, for example, inquired about changing zoning from recreational to residential. RN Golf did not file a land use proposal at that time.

Reston National has been golf course space since it was built in 1970. RN Golf purchased the course in 2005 for $5 million, county records show.

McDermott, the attorney for RN Golf, did not return calls from Reston Now.

Photo: Golfers at Reston National/file photo

  • Mike M

    Great idea. We don’t have enough of a traffic mess on Sunrise Valley yet. We need total gridlock!

    • John James

      So true..Sunrise Valley one of the busiest stretches..for rush hour.

  • MeganH

    There’s very little they could actually build in around the existing sea of homes, kind of ridiculous.

    • Constance (Connie) Hartke

      Some of the folks who live around the golf course, INVESTED in their homes relying on the golf course views, and also invest with Northwestern Mutual (majority owner of RNGC) have written to the CEO and never gotten the courtesy of a reply. Yet, here is the quote from the about section of the NWM website: “We’ll help you achieve a lifetime of financial security and we’ll do it unlike anyone else. We’ll help you develop a comprehensive financial plan . . . We don’t have shareholders or report to Wall Street, so we focus on doing what’s right for you.”

      • Adrian Havill

        Go Connie go!

      • Dexter Scott

        Why, the nerve of those dirty golf course owners, wanting to do whatever they want with their own property! Don’t they know that everyone around them owns it, too, and has veto power over what the so-called legal owners do with it?

        • Mike M

          Well, wait a minute. There are zoning laws to which we must abide. And the owners would surely want access to the public roads which are already overcrowded. So, I can’t just sell my house to someone who wants to raze it and create a sewerage treatment plant to make a buck, now can I?

          • Dexter Scott

            So… um… rezoning is exactly what they’re asking for.

          • Mike M

            Yes, and I think the process should deny it. Change the rules for one entity? There are laws regulating what you can do to maximize profits. Again, to use an extreme to make the point – you are not allowed to employ slave labor to maximize your profit. To use a famous legal precedent, if you are a logging company you can’t clog up navigable waterways to maximize your profit. Same thing with developing in a an area where the public infrastructure will attenuate demand on public infrastructure. Too many regulations? We might agree on that, in general terms. But some order is essential. You wouldn’t want to live in a world without any rules. I think the owners also benefited from the same zoning laws that were there from their beginning. I think that zoning in an area as densely populated as this makes sense.

          • Dexter Scott

            Slavery, anarchy… good grief, talk about wild exaggeration.

            They want to sell their property for a profit. There is nothing discreditable about it. Nor is it inherently absurd to think that an open space right next to a metro stop should be rezoned for increased density.

          • Mike M

            Says you. Are the roads not yet crowded enough? Do property owners have a right to plant a big requirement on already limited public infrastructure. I don’t think so. Good grief? I don’t think I could have been any clearer in my rationale for the examples I used.

          • Dexter Scott

            Yes they have a right to develop their property. Whether they are allowed to exercise that right remains to be seen.

            What was clear from your examples is the high level of hysteria the issue generates.

          • Mike M

            I’m sorry. I guess the roads aren’t overcrowded yet. Their rights to develop are governed by the rules in place. My point is the county shouldn’t change the rules to which we all abide simply to satisfy the interests of one developer when everyone else will be negatively affected. Not sure I could be any clearer.

          • Adrian Havill

            They don’t actually. The home owners who surround the golf course have brochures that says they’ll always have that golf course view, Any change will trigger a massive class action civil suit.

          • Dexter Scott

            Oh and I am sure those brochures are legally binding on the owners of the golf course. /sarc

          • Adrian Havill

            Yes they are and have proved so many times in the past.

          • Dexter Scott

            The analogy fails. That the North Point developer’s brochure was enforced on the North Point developer does not mean that homeowner association brochures will be enforced on the owner of the golf course. Did the owner of the golf course ever issue a brochure saying they would never, never, never redevelop it?

            Plus we should note that the developer was not prevented from putting a B&N into the Spectrum. They simply had to pay money to the party they supposedly injured. If the golf course is redeveloped, it is by no means unthinkable that they will have to pay off the local homeowners in some way.

          • johnson

            I don’t think you really want to live in Reston do you? Sounds like you want to live in Crystal City.
            Yes, Northwestern is entitled to sell their property for a profit. Just the same as us all. I will hopefully sell my house for a profit but it will be sold as a house to remain as a house. Northwestern can sell their property for a profit but as a golf course to remain as a golf course.

            Maybe move to Crystal City and take your clubs on the Silver line for a round of golf?

          • Dexter Scott

            What I want is beside the point. The development of high rises around the metro stop was baked in the cake when the metro stop was built. It’s only a matter of time.

          • Adrian Havill

            Wrong. There are dozens of Metro stops where you get of the train and see zero high rise buildings. Start with Falls Church.

          • Dexter Scott

            Are any of them near a cluster of existing high-rises akin to Reston Town Center? No. Try again.

          • johnson

            …even outside of the “baked in the cake” zone?

          • Dexter Scott

            Pretty much. I expect to see high rises eventually near Lake Anne and more of them along Reston Parkway.

          • Adrian Havill

            The avatar says volumes.

          • John Farrell

            No that’s not what they’re asking for.

            The Zoning Administrator told them they would have file for a rezoning. Northwestern doesn’t want to. If they did, they would have asked for a Comprehensive Plan Amendment during the Phase II process. They didn’t.

            Northwestern’s claim is that they already have the zoning to redevelop as residential.

            They don’t want to go through the zoning process.

          • Dexter Scott

            Says right up top they are asking for it to be rezoned.

          • John Farrell

            Dexter, a rezoning goes to the Board of Supervisors not the BZA.

            Karen made a mistake in the first sentence.

          • Karen Goff

            What I am saying is they are appealing the zoning with the BZA. Yes, then a rezoning would be decided by the BOS. But yes I see what you are saying – they do not believe they need to rezone. They (RN GOLF) believes they have the zoning.

        • JS

          The land would have been worth much more than $5 million if it was unencumbed.

      • MeganH

        It’s absurd, of course the homes were sold with a “view” and you paid a premium for it as well. Lots of lawsuits in the making if they attempt to push this..we’ve joined the RescueReston group as well.

  • Reston Southie

    I could think of better things that a golf course which is a environmental waste land.

    • GB

      I agree that a golf course isn’t the same as the natural forest this land might be without human interference. But that isn’t the alternative. If Reston National sells to a developer it will be turned into some combo of apartments, townhouses, roads and parking lots.

    • John Farrell

      Hyperbole much?

      Love Canal was an environmental wasteland.

      Times Beach, Missouri was an environmental wasteland.

      Chernobyl is an environmental wasteland.

      Reston National isn’t.

      • Reston Southie

        You should become familiar with the chemicals used to support those greens. There’s nothing friendly about the golf course except for the natural wooded buffers. The run off from that golf course is poison to the environment. You’re lying to yourself if you think otherwise.

        I say let them develop a small part and put the rest into a land conservancy that makes it dedicated open space that isn’t a chemical cesspool.

        • John Farrell

          They don’t use dioxin or uranium.

        • Mike M

          So now the developers are using an environmental argument! Beautiful! I’ve not seen that one before! I expected “workforce housing,” or “affordable housing,” or broadening the tax base. Magnificent. Do you lefties out there see how you are manipulated with your own junk?

    • buckley

      I thought that at one time too. But Reston National is a certified wildlife habitat (or was?), and is not your typical golf course. Plus take a look at this youtube video: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6mxV7w71J4c

      • Reston Southie

        There’s no way– the buffered wooded area are great but the greens can’t be maintained without huge chemical support.

        http://www.beachapedia.org/Golf_Courses:_Friend_or_Foe%3F

        • Bud

          Nonsense! Golf course chemical use is highly regulated. If the course were replaced with homes, homeowners would use more chemicals on lawns that the course uses currently.

  • clambj

    The RA purchase of the golf course would be the ideal outcome. It would be nice to have that as an amenity such as Herndon Centenial.

  • Tammi Petrine

    Thanks to Rescue Reston, Reston Association and our supervisor, Catherine Hudgins for their 100% support of keeping our Reston golf courses in tact. Our community is a planned community where these resources were always considered permanent. Northwestern Mutual Insurance Co. has the mistaken idea that it can dismantle our community at will. Go somewhere else with your bullying tactics and leave Reston forever. Restonians will never agree to your greedy, harmful plans to take away our precious open space.

    • Robert Mowbray

      But it is okay to allow Lake Anne developers to take away a valuable forested ecosystem?

      • Reston Resident

        Buddy– let it go already. Sometimes trade offs are necessary.

      • Reston Southie

        If you’re so hot for the environment why in the hell do you want a golf course?! They’re totally toxic– these folks for totally full of BS– they aren’t for the environment-they’re for the golf course view that they paid for.If they were for the environment they’d be against the golf course.

      • Tammi Petrine

        To Robert Mowbray,
        NO NO NO, it was definitely NOT OK for LA developers to take away our precious LA Grove for an unnecessary, ugly parking garage. I testified against it and fought it and continue to object most strenuously. People have no clue how awful our LA iconic plaza will look without the beautiful tree backdrop. The ecosystem there will be lost forever. Terrible.

        • Laura Calacci

          the ecosystem there is already lost due to garbage and loitering in the very near proximity.

    • MeganH

      Let’s hope it’s enough..willing to do more support for RescueReston if needed.

    • John Farrell

      Supervisor Hudgins has made clear she opposes Northwestern’s appeal..

      The real issue is whether Sharon Bulova and the other 8 Supervisors are committed to fighting Northwestern all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court or will they throw Reston under the bus as soon as the going gets tough?

      • Mike M

        There is a pattern with unpopular development in Fairfax County. The local Supervisor “opposes” while their colleagues endorse. I think they all view it as a win-win. I think it’s been called log-rolling. It is this sort of issue that voters should think about when they pull the levers. Leave your National politics at the door. Locally, these are the issues that matter. Voters shouldn’t let Hudgins off the hook for anything less than effectiveness. She can mouth “opposition” all she likes. But I think the current BOS never saw development they didn’t like for reasons that may never be transparent to the rest of us. Look how handsomely Gerry Connoly was rewarded.

  • buckley

    Tammi, Hudgins has never said she supported keeping the golf course, green space and wildlife habitat intact. She said in the past at a rally that she “supports the process” and that she supports the BZA decision. Therefore, if the BZA decision changes, she has left it open to change her mind. She has often been pro development.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    Lets be honest and not pretend we are fighting for the environment. If we really cared about the environment Reston would look a lot different.

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