Op-Ed: Thanksgiving and Empathy in Reston

by RestonNow.com November 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm 27 Comments

Lake Anne Fellowship House This is an Op-Ed by Connie Hartke of Reston Citizens Association. Have something to say? Send us a letter at [email protected].

This is the week Americans are expected to especially count our blessings.

It is a time for family. For some, their community is their family. Several of us at RCA have gotten to know residents at Lake Anne Fellowship House (LAFH), the senior, low-income apartments that went through turmoil recently due to proposed redevelopment.

This has taken a recent good turn of events — more news to come on that soon, we expect. The cultural subgroups that live there have united into a vibrant community with the goal of ensuring that no one will lose their home. Those who were “safe” united with those who were threatened, creating community. Empathy was the catalyst.

Empathy. Merriam-Webster defines this as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.”

While counting your blessings this Thanksgiving, please take a few moments to imagine you are a senior who has lived at LAFH for 10+ years after living as a contributing Restonian for 30+ years. You are told that your home may not be the permanent place that you had expected. Putting aside other thoughts, can you fathom how you would feel if you were faced with this situation? Empathize.

Now imagine for a moment that you purchased a home on Reston National Golf Course. Picture your view changing from rolling greens surrounded by edge habitat to anything else. I say “anything” because many like to speculate how the land could change to this or that … I ask you to EMPATHIZE.  Take five minutes to imagine this is YOU. Personally.

RCA, along with Reston Association and Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, supports our Fairfax County Zoning Administrator’s determination that the privately owned 166 acres of Reston National Golf Course is zoned as permanent open recreational space. Developers coming in to Reston need to hear one message loud and clear — respect our Reston Master Plan.

On Thanksgiving, I will take a few moments to think about the folks at LAFH and hope for continued blessings for them. I will be thankful for our County Planning staff who added wording to the Master Plan to strengthen the place of both of our Reston golf courses. I will be grateful for the army of volunteers who live in this special place called Reston.

Please read Rescue Reston volunteer Ray Wedell’s stirring call to action regarding Reston’s latest recreational open space crisis.

Lake Anne Fellowship House/File Photo

  • Captain Howdy

    It’s like Reston’s Central Park. Actually, I wish it was a park instead of a golf course since I don’t play. Fairfax County should buy it for a park.

    • Constance (Connie) Hartke

      One battle at a time. Right now we need to focus on making the owner (Northwestern Mutual) respect its zoning (open recreational space).

      • Laura Calacci

        I’m all for being empathetic but Connie’s plea rings hollow this Thanksgiving. Be thankful you have a home. There are more serious issues we all face than the potential loss of your view of a golf course. Be empathetic to those who may be homeless, or sick, or lonely this time of year. But to ask others to feel sorry for you because the golf course may be redeveloped? Seems self serving to me.

        • Kathy Kaplan

          Really, Laura, that’s the best pro-developer rant you can manage? Connie doesn’t live on the golf course.

          • Laura Calacci


            Hardly a pro developer rant. Just seems kind of gross on Thanksgiving eve to ask for empathy for people who may lose their view of the golf course. There is nothing so eternal as change. People bought their townhomes or homes, not the land/property abutting them. Stuff happens. Life goes on.

        • John Pinkman

          With all due respect, has anyone ever made a promise to you for over 40 years and t said “well we’ve change change our mind .”
          Any action that changes the core values and effects the reasons that people choose to live in Reston should be everyone’s concern. That is the very definition of the term community.

          • Laura Calacci


            DId someone make you a promise? Who?

          • John Pinkman

            Like you said you “don’t care one way or the other,” sad.

          • Jonah

            Promises are what zoning is all about. Don’t like zoning? Plenty of places in the Deep South without it, right next to the trailer park.

          • Adam Petersen

            I don’t want the course turned into a bunch of dwellings either but zoning is not a promise. Zoning is a guideline for the property is to be used. Things are rezoned all the time. Developers have teams of engineers and lawyers that only work on getting things rezoned. It all comes down to the decision of the county.

          • John Farrell

            Rezonings do happen all the time.

            The problem with Northwestern Mutual is they don’t want to go through the rezoning process. They claim the right to redevelop that land without going through that process.

          • Reality Check

            Show me where a similar rezoning has occurred. The $5 million price (2005) reflects the market’s view of the likelyhood of the land being used as anything other than a golf course.

          • Adrian Havill

            I liked Laura more when she was ranting about Ebola.

        • BBurns

          I don’t live on the golf course or play golf. But it’s more than a golf course. It’s also wildlife habitat (and remember seeing a National Wildlife Federation certification at one point) – and a place where families walk, and kids and their dogs play. It’s also important environmentally, and could have an adverse effect on Snakeden and Audubon if developed.

          • Laura Calacci

            Please understand. I really don’t care one way or the other. I do believe in Personal Property Rights and believe the owner has the right to develop the property IF they can jump all the hurdles put before them.

          • John Farrell

            I don’t have a golf course view but its continuation is vital to my experience of South Reston as a birder, walker and formerly as a jogger. But that’ll probably be attacked as exclusive self interest also.

            Reston National is South Reston’s Central Park. Well said Connie.

          • Mike M

            So, Laura, please clarify. Unlimited traffic on limited road congestion on limited infrastructure is oK by you?

    • John Farrell

      Anyone who has seen the condition of the FCPA facilities in Reston as compared to RA maintained facilities would never want the County to acquire any more property in Reston.

  • Dexter Scott

    The Reston Master Plan calls for a lot more high-rises and greatly increased density. Are you OK with that, so long as none of them are on the golf course? Or do we only Respect the Master Plan when it aligns with our personal wishes?

    • Terry Maynard

      Actually, Dexter, I am OK with that–as long as the high-rise residential and office buildings are within an easy walk of the Silver Line stations. There are flaws in that part of the plan (like the total absence of new COUNTY parks for the residents and workers there), but, yes, more density around the stations will enliven and diversify our great planned community–just as Bob Simon intended a half-century ago. (And, yes, I disagree with Mr. Simon as often on specifics–too much of this here, too little of that there–but his vision of our planned community–including the 5, yes, 5 golf courses originally–was and is fantastic!)

      And please have a great Thanksgiving–empathetic or not.

  • RestonRick

    Northwestern Mutual purchased 166 acres of zoned open space (Reston National Golf Course) for 5 million dollars. In the Reston Master Plan the golf courses (we have two) were zoned to be permanent open space. If Northwestern Mutual is successful in their rezoning (their position is that it is already zoned residential) they will reap an incredible windfall from their investment. The very reason that Reston is such a desirable place to live is that the community was created and had been protected it’s open space. It is important that the Fairfax County, its lawmakers, and its residents stand united against Northwestern Mutual’s naked attempt to cheat the system. Northwestern Mutual is simply a bad neighbor who is bad for Reston and we need to send them packing. For those who agree please discuss with your families and neighbors and take ACTION!. Contact Fairfax County Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins [email protected], phone: 703-478-0283. Contact Virginia State Senator Janet, Sen [email protected], (703) 709-8283. Commit to attending the the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing January 21 in Fairfax – see http://www.rescuereston.org/events/. You can also support the efforts of Rescue Reston http://www.rescuereston.org/. Together we can make a difference and protect our community and it is up to us to protect our community.

    • John Farrell

      Senator Howell, though no doubt supportive of the Zoning Administrator’s decision, has almost nothing to do with the BZA.

      It would be a far better use of Restonians’ time to contact Board Chair Sharon Bulova and the other Supervisors to make sure that they defend the Zoning Administrator all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court.

      • RestonRick

        Thank you for your comment. I found Board Chair Sharon Bulova Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/SharonBulova. I would urge those that wish to protect Reston from Northwestern Mutual’s desire to pave over our communities green space that is clearly zoned permanent open space a shout out on Facebook. Like minded individuals can also tweet using the #restonstrong. Working together we can make a difference!

  • Dexter Scott

    The cultural subgroups that live there have united into a vibrant community with the goal of ensuring that no one will lose their home. Those who were “safe” united with those who were threatened, creating community. Empathy was the catalyst.

    That’s all great, and stuff. Hugs all around. Sad puppies are now happy puppies. Baby Jesus is no longer crying.

    Alas, LAFH is still economically unviable. The building will inevitably decline due to inability to pay for maintenance, and in due course it will go bankrupt.

    But… let’s focus on… feeeeeeelings, whoa whoa whoa, feeeeeeelings….

  • Constance (Connie) Hartke

    A quick note to those who speak without knowing facts: “It’s easy to park in front of our laptops or hunch over our smartphones to engage with strangers in real-time. Social media has created a “now” environment. An environment ruled by hashtags, anonymous bullies, and a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.” – from askmen.com blog on critical thinking.

  • Adam Petersen

    I completely understand having empathy for the elderly that live there and may have nowhere else to go but LAFH is losing money every month. Something has to happen cause eventually the money runs out and then every tenant will no longer have a place to live.

    • Terry Maynard

      Adam & Dexter–

      The Fellowship Foundation that runs LAFH has finally focused in on the issues surrounding the physical and financial inadequacies of LAFH and is working with the residents, the county, VOICE, HUD, and others to explore options on what they can do to renovate or re-build the place into a healthy, modern senior low-income residential facility. There are many, highly complex federal, state, and local programs that may work individually or together and FSF needs to figure out what works best for LAFH.

      FSF wasted a lot of time with the venal Cafritz/NOVUS initiative, but they now are working on real solutions–and those will take some time. And, yes, they are sort of “on the clock” to get things done although a few temporary financial fixes exist to give them more time.

      Happy Thanksgiving


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