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Rescue Reston Readying for New Battle Over Golf Course

by Karen Goff — January 2, 2015 at 11:00 am 1,298 21 Comments

Rescue Reston flyerOpponents of rezoning and redevelopment at Reston National Golf Course are gearing up for another round.

After 18 months of relative quiet, RN Golf (a subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual) is again preparing for a Fairfax County’s Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on reclassifying the 166-acre public golf course as something other than open recreational space.

The hearing is Jan. 21 at 9 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center.

Rescue Reston, the grassroots group formed when the golf course rezoning issue first came up in the summer of 2012, is hard at work rallying opposition to rezoning.

On its website, the group has a countdown clock to the number of days, hours and minutes to the BZA hearing. It has distributed Christmas-themed flyers portraying Northwestern Mutual as both the ghost of Christmas past and Scrooge, as well as the developers of “Pottersville” — the darker, drunker alternate reality of Jimmy Stewart’s Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life.

“Northwestern Mutual has launched the most serious attack on the heritage of Reston we have witnessed in the 37 years we have lived here,” Reston Rescue founder John Pinkman wrote to golf course-area neighbors recently.

“If this destruction of open space and the concept of the planned community is allowed to proceed, the door will be open for extreme change in neighborhoods throughout Reston. NWM HAS NO COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY; except that is, to make as much profit as they can and then leave.”

To generate community support for the upcoming BZA Hearing, Rescue Reston has planned a Rally to Save open space for Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. at Langston Hughes Middle School. The group hopes as many residents as possible will attend the Jan. 21 hearing to show their support.

The group held rallies back in 2012, when RN Golf first filed the appeal with the county after an original inquiry came back that the course was zoned open space and to change it, the owners could have to go through the rezoning process.

RN Golf has asked for the appeal because it wants to be able to rezone without going through the process.

The BZA hearing was postponed about a half dozen times in 2012 and 2013 before RN Golf deferred it indefinitely in July 2013.

Since then, the Reston Master Plan Comprehensive Amendment, approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2014, states the two Reston golf courses should remain as community assets in the face of nearby development.

Both Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Reston Association have spoken in opposition to the rezoning.

RA says it would even consider purchasing the land to prevent development.

“It is RA’s stance that these golf courses are integral to the active lifestyle of its members,”  RA president Ken Knueven said in November when the new hearing date was announced.

Photo: Rescue Reston flyer/Courtesy Rescue Reston

  • Rational Reston

    I like Reston National and I’ve played the course, not enough though (not enough time). I’m afraid the Reston National issue is analogous to the Barnes and Noble issue. While Restonians like the idea of the amenity, they do not put enough money into it to make it viable.

    Much like bookstores, golf courses around the country are closing. Thinking about it, I notice a lack of golfers on the course over the last few years, golfers in carts used to regularly need to cross Soapstone and now I rarely see them.

    I’d like the course to remain, but I understand the business need to try and make the property economically viable. It would help if Rescue Reston could promote alternatives to help find solutions.

    • Constance (Connie) Hartke

      Rescue Reston has it from very reliable sources that the golf course is quite profitable.

      • Adrian Havill

        Very, very profitable. And I see golf carts crossing Soapstone everytime I’m on that road which is at least once a day.

        • Rational Reston

          I’m on Soapstone multiple times a day, too. I don’t stop for golf carts nearly as much as I used to.

          • Constance (Connie) Hartke

            It is winter :-}

          • Rational Reston

            No kidding. This refers to the high seasons of spring/summer.

      • Rational Reston

        While it may be profitable today, if they’re doing their homework (I’m assuming an ideal situation here) they need to be looking at the long term viability. If their trends are down and the overall industry is down, they need to look at options. Though if they are quite profitable, maybe Rescue Reston ought to find other golf course operators/owners to testify, or offer to buy it.

      • Dexter Scott

        I am skeptical that any amount of golf could possibly equal the profit they’d realize from redeveloping it into high rises.

    • MarkR307

      they can always sell the land if the golf course is no longer profitable. and in fact maybe they will. They’re just trying to get it re-zoned, so that it can be sold for more money.

    • Reston Golfer

      RR, I get to differ. The course still has players our there (I’m one of them), just not as many as there once were (golf rounds annually in the U.S. are down).
      While the course is in fine shape, the clubhouse clearly could use a face lift. Given the the very strong socioeconomic demographic in N. VA and quite a few golfers, if they made it nicer they’d get more play. But let’s not forget that open space is more important than folks slicing their drives and three-putting.

      • Rational Reston

        That was my point is that the number of golfers at Reston National are noticeably down. Sure there are golfers out there, but the numbers are less as you say it’s a national trend, much like bookstores. In order for it to remain a course, it would need viable options, as you’ve suggested, to bring in more profits.

  • Donna Lannes-robuck

    16 years ago, we bought our beautiful townhouse.on a golf course..it was a must have for us. We thought we were safe buying our town home in the first planned community in the United States. Even though we can’t afford to play on Reston National..cause the greed mongers raised their rates to $90 dollars a round, we still enjoy looking our our window to see the course and the green space and beauty that surrounds us. The thought that everything that I had faith in this planned community is a sham…disgusts me. I don’t want to look out my window and see condominiums in my backyard. This is not what we pay Reston dues and our association dues for. So for all you people..who may live in another portion of Reston and think this doesn’t affect you..don’t be naive. For those of you living on Lake Anne, Thoreau or Audobon…I pity the day..that some greed monger wants to change the plans again…dry up the lake that you paid to live on all of these years and turn it into a Walmart. There is a principle involved here..we bought in a planned community, if we change these plans, what is to say that your neighborhood isn’t next. Help keep Reston true as much as possible to the plans that brought us here,

  • A

    Even a park would be nice…I agree with Donna, there is no going back if Northwestern Mutual wins this. I agree that RA does not do enough to keep certain parts of Reston viable. That being said, they are allies in this fight and I’m glad we have some political weight on our side. I will be at that hearing.

    • Greg

      It’s not so much RA’s issue as it is the county’s. RA can assert a position as a landowner, and enforce any applicable covenants, but it really can’t do much more than that. If Reston were a town or city, things would be different for the RA equivalent town or city government, and the county would then have less, or no, influence and the challenge of the other county-provided services including fire, police and schools among others, becomes more the issue. The town issue has come up and died recently, but perhaps this is a more compelling issue to support town or city conversion?

      • Dexter Scott

        You’re fooling yourself if you think being a town or city would stop redevelopment of the golf course. It would make it even more likely — the town government would be drooling over the prospect of a larger tax base and more voters.

  • It Ain’t Easy Staying Green

    If you want to block development, you need to be able to provide a better offer to the owner. RA has no power/authority to fight this fight on behalf of its members. The Board of Directors can take a stand, but like any other landowner around here who wants to control what is built next door, RA or the homeowners around the Golf Course need to ante up the $$ to give the property owners an alternative that makes economic sense to them. The only hope is at Fairfax County P&Z and even they must be responsive to what is good for the County residents as a whole, not just those living next door.

  • Greg

    I am sorry we are having to endure this again. However, it’s not the first time the Reston area has been through this. In the beginning, and from those of us who grew up in the hinterlands of western Fairfax County, the Crippen family was, to use another’s words, approached by a “greed monger” for their land, some of which is now in what is called Reston. Then the Virginia Gentleman property was surrounded, and eventually most of it vanished into what is now the Fannie Mae estate. More recently the Fairfax Hunt has been driven (ironically so, perhaps?) out of town, and there’s been lots of talk and money spent regarding repurposing (paving over?) Baron Cameron park for indoor tennis, brilliant field illumination, and a rather expensive RA rec center. And, of course, we all know what’s happening at the Spectrum, albeit well-planned and well-noticed.

    With the exception of Spectrum, which will soon commence changing, none of those properties are as they were. So, while I doubt that Lake Anne will ever be drained and developed, the golf course is much more likely to follow what’s happened before, especially once the next real-estate boom gets going. Fight it now, and fight it hard, but be civil, logical, and legally strong in the fight. After all, there may be a by-right development covenant running with the property.

  • 40 year Reston Resident

    I read these comments with shock; does anyone believe in zoning and the law??? This was zoned OPEN SPACE when Reston was formed. IF Reston’s open space is all built upon, habitation anywhere in Reston will degrade and all of our properties will become much less valuable as our community becomes less attractive and overcrowded.

    Who cares what a greedy corp wants; it cannot simply take and profit when the founding provision of Reston forbids it. The sneaky creeps tried to “lose” the docs proving the open space dictum but copies of the legal docs supporting keeping the golf course open space in perpetuity were found in an obscure archive and presented to county officials.

    All Reston residents need to stand behind Rescue Reston as this valiant group battles a creepy corperate raider in its illegal effort. There is NO DO OVER if our community does not present a united front on this issue. Big money is at stake. Reston has already been presented with a no choice urban corridor flanking the Dulles Toll Way. WE simply can NOT and should not allow any more density in a decreed open space area.

    Please share with your Reston neighbors; this is a critical line in the sand for everyone who loves Reston.

  • susanne

    If they do develop the land, please do it tastefully…no more cookie cutter, thanks!

  • Sergie A. Albino

    We at Rolling Hills Golf Club in Central Florida are fighting the same fight against greedy developers! We are with you in spirit! Stay steadfast and continue the good fight to rescue your community! – Serg

    http://rescuerollinghills.org/

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