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Hudgins Joins RA, Citizen Groups in Opposing Golf Course Development

by Karen Goff — November 17, 2014 at 9:30 am 26 Comments

Reston National Golf CourseAs the owners of Reston National Golf Course prepare for a Board of Zoning Appeals hearing, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins says she continues to support the Fairfax County Zoning Administrator’s determination that Reston National Golf Course is open recreational space.

That’s the same stance Hudgins, along with Reston Association, the Reston Citizens Association and Rescue Reston had two years ago, the last time golf course owners RN Golf tried to appeal the zoning determination.

RN Golf never actually got its case to the Board of Zoning Appeals. While it was on the docket and postponed several times in 2012 and 2013, it was deferred indefinitely in summer 2013.

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, the company cited complicated Plan Residential Community rules written in 1970 and 1993 as options for the 166-acre space being deemed residential.

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

Hudgins said in a statement on Friday that any redevelopment of the property for uses other than a golf course or open space would require an amendment to the Reston Master Plan, which is part of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, approval of a Development Plan Amendment and approval of a PRC plan from the Board of Supervisors. 

That’s a lot of hoops to jump through, especially since the Board of Supervisors earlier this year approved Phase I of the changes to the Reston Master Plan with the golf course space firmly remaining as one.

The county is well into Phase II of the updated comprehensive plan amendment, which will guide future development neighborhoods and village centers. Phase II 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.

“This is an interesting time for the owners of RN, which includes the majority owner Northwestern Mutual, to again take up this battle,” Rescue Reston’s board said on Friday. “Reston is in the midst of Phase II of its Master Plan revision, and though it is only a guideline, text has been specifically added regarding the two golf courses that are an integral part of Reston.”

Rescue Reston is a citizens group organized in reaction to the original zoning appeal in 2012. Many of its most vocal members are homeowners whose properties back to the green, rolling hills fairways of the golf course. They would like them to remain that way.

Rescue Reston, which held rallies and fundraisers last time around, says it will announce its new plan of action later this week.

The Board of Zoning Appeals hearing would likely take place in January or February.

RA also says it remains opposed to the golf course land being redeveloped for residential use. President Ken Knueven also said RA is willing to consider a purchase of the golf course in order to keep Reston a golf course community.

The golf course last sold in 2005, for $5 million.

While RA takes in revenues of more than $16 million annually, it spends nearly that much in operating expenses and has large expenses in maintaining aging community amenities such as the pools and tennis courts. It would remain to be seen whether RA could afford to purchase, operate and maintain the golf course without a large rise in assessments or borrowing money.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    She might be opposed to it but when push comes to shove, what is she prepared to do about it?

  • Scott H

    “It would remain to be seen whether RA
    could afford to purchase, operate and maintain the golf course without a
    large rise in assessments or borrowing money.”

    Reston National is a business right? The value of that business is dictated by it’s profitability of it’s business and assets. The only way assessments should have to rise is if RA overpaid for it.
    Zoned as “open space” the value of the land is lower than it otherwise would be. RN purchased the property for $5M zoned as Open Space. They are now trying to get it rezoned for development which will skyrocket the price of the land and deliver a healthy profit.
    Generally speaking, I think free people should be able to do what they want with their land. However, I am opposed to this action due to concern over infrastructure. The roads and infrastructure of South Reston were not built to accommodate the traffic another 1000+ homes would bring. If, we assume for a second, that RN is allowed to sell the land or develop it as residential, any agreement should require substantial infrastructure upgrades paid for by RN/the developer since their windfall would be generated instantaneously and artificially by an administrative action of government and not by the market. I’m not sure it’s even technically possible, but if they want to develop the land, they should have to include a plan to address impacts to local infrastructure. The Metro has spurred vertical growth around Wiehle station, RTC, and there is planned mixed-use vertical development planned at the Reston International Center. Adding more than a 1000 residential units in S Reston to this development will turn the area into a congestion nightmare.

    • Reston Southie

      There is another option here– the owners could work with a developer to do a small development and then put the remainder of the land into some kind of protected status, like a land conservancy that was deeded over to RA. It’s stupid to think that you can simply STOP redevelopment of this parcel FOREVER. Another BOS might be more inclined towards development.

      If you allowed them to do some in between measure at least you’d be sure to have the remaining land as open space. Maybe you could get the developer to do proffers like the recreation facility that will likely go in at Barron Cameron Park- or indoor tennis or other much needed amenities. It’s foolish to think that you can simply demand that it not happen. You may be able to forestall development for a while but not forever and there’s no way that RA can buy the land without increasing dues.

      • Scott H

        “there’s no way that RA can buy the land without increasing dues.”
        That is simply not true. Financing can be obtained and a price paid that is justified by the revenues of the Golf Course facility such that profits cover the note.
        Now, I don’t think RA should be in the golf business (or any business) but doing so should only be done if it fiscally makes sense to the RA membership.

        • Adam Petersen

          You are not just buying a business. You are also purchasing the land. The current value of the land plus the cost of purchasing the business could mean it would never be profitable.

          • Scott H

            Once again, this is just wrong – Zoned as an OPEN SPACE, the value of the land is LESS than it would be if zoned as residential or commercial. That is the reason that RD is trying to get it approved for residential. Their $5M investment top buy the golf course would rise exponentially because of an artificial government action.
            The land is simply not worth that much TODAY. If restricted to a golf course, the value of the golf course is based on the land as zoned + profit potential of running a golf operation.

          • Reston Realist

            Like that crap pile of woods by Lake Anne? They got a lot of proffer money for that but the 2020 folks went nuts about it’s huge, enormous value. At least this land is attractive.

      • John Farrell

        Reston Southie, your proposal was done once already.

        In 1965.

        The townhouses around the course were allowed to be built in exchange for keeping the golf course as permanent open space.

        Northwestern is trying to undo that deal.

        • Um

          “Northwestern is trying to undo that deal.” — because it’s not 1965 any more and lots of things are different, including the presence of a metro stop?

          • John Farrell

            Other than Metro, which is more than a half-mile away from the RN clubhouse, what’s changed in South Reston sufficient to renege on the 1965 deal?

          • Um

            More than half a mile? LOL, what are you, a senior citizen with a walker? I live a mile and a half from the metro stop, and plenty of my neighbors (and me) walk to it every day.

            To any sane person (probably not you) the existence of a metro stop half a mile (yes, prime walking distance) from this property is a new fact that amply justifies changing the 1965 deal.

          • John Farrell

            The half-mile limit is the metric used in the Comprehesive Plan Amendment to suggest that redevelopment would be welcomed by the County.

            BTW you didn’t answer the question.

          • Mike M

            Um, they are absolutely trying to undue the deal.

        • Reston Realist

          I think we, (Reston) are fooling ourselves if we think that we can stop this. It may not happen this go around but sooner or later the need for tax revenue and the the big money interest of Northwestern will get their way. If we’re smart we’ll get in front of this to make sure it happens in a way we can live with rather than losing the ability influence the outcome.

          • Mike M

            Need for tax revenue. That is a discredited argument and even the developers shy away from it now. Development like this chews up more revenue than it delivers.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    I don’t claim to know anything or offer any solutions but it seems odd that RA would have a say what happens with the golf course and/or has any legal responsibility to bail out the home owners. To suggest or demand that RA buy the golf course is a crazy idea knowing that the association already has trouble maintaining their budgets despite the fact that new residents have been pouring in over the last five years and will do so at ever increasing numbers. Which brings me to the next point, that Reston would be better served if it fell under the jurisdiction of FFX County and/or became incorporated as a township. To better control the budget and directly oversee and manage zoning related issues, because that is where the funds are and that is where executive decisions are made. Respectively,

    • Reston Southie

      “New residents have been pouring in…” There’s been very little new construction in Reston that has added to the RA Membership. Remember that RTC does not pay RA dues– they get all the benefits of having a Reston address but don’t have to pay the freight.

      • Cluster Tycoon

        Just another reason why RA doesn’t make sense. Thanks for raising the issue.

    • John Farrell

      Actually, Reston’s been getting the short end of the stick from Fairfax County for decades.

      Examples:

      Reston has to pay for its Hunters Woods pool through the Small Tax District #5 (Reston only) tax surcharge. The OakMar pool was funded with County-wide funds.

      Look at the dilapidated condition of the County park facilities on South Lakes Drive and North Pointe (behind Home Depot).

      RA operating a golf course is well within its charter. Unlike the County operated golf courses at Burke Lake Park and Twin Lakes, Reston National operates at a healthy profit.

      If Reston were a town, we would still pay County taxes and then pay town taxes on top of that as in Vienna or Herndon.

      Better to be a city like Falls Church, Alexandria or Fairfax City and only pay city taxes.

      • Nah

        I go to the park behind Home Depot all the time. Doesn’t seem dilapidated to me.

        • John Farrell

          The rusted out semi-circular backstops that disqualify the fields from being used for regular Little League games is fine with you?

          The infield that is strewn with rocks and has no irrigation is ok?

          • Nah

            I see plenty of games being played on those fields.

            Toughen up, sissy.

    • Nah

      If we were under the jurisdiction of FFX County, the high rises would already be going up on that golf course. The County does not care about the likes and dislikes of Reston residents. They would see a golden opportunity to please developers and increase the tax base.

      • Mike M

        Road infrastructure not crowded enough for you?

  • OpenReston

    Try it..The current residents will sue the crap out of Northwestern.

  • Jack Reacher

    There’s really no major difference between today’s liberalism and its marxist, socialist, and communist ancestors.

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