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Rescue Reston Rallies for April BZA Decision

by Karen Goff — March 23, 2015 at 1:00 pm 48 Comments

Rescue Reston spells out "NO" in front of Northwestern Mutual/Courtesy Rescue Reston

The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals will make its decision on the possible future of Reston National Golf Course on April 15, so open space advocacy group Rescue Reston is organizing for the decision — and whatever may come next.

About 50 group members met in front of Reston’s Northwestern Mutual Insurance offices on Sunrise Valley Drive on Sunday to spell out the word “no.” Northwestern Mutual is the parent company of Reston National Golf Management, which is appealing a 2012 county zoning decision that the course is open/recreational space and altering the planned use of the 166-acre golf course at Sunrise Valley and Colts Neck Roads would require a comprehensive plan amendment.

The BZA heard about seven hours of appeal testimony at a hearing on Jan. 21. The hearing included lots of details about zoning filings and Planned Residential Community (PRC) documents, including many details on how and when the original 1971 zoning documents were located since 2012.

RNGC attorney Frank McDermott maintained at the hearing the recently located documents are not official county records with official government stamps, so they are not valid.

Rescue Reston President Connie Hartke said at Sunday’s rally that if the BZA rules in favor of the Fairfax County Zoning Administrator, it will be “three strikes and [Northwestern mutual] should accept the word ‘NO,’ meaning no to residential development of the 166-acre recreational space across the street from where they stood. ”

“It’s time they got the message,” said Hartke.

Local leaders at the rally included Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) and Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Rescue Reston leaders said in an email to group members last week that the losing side “has 30 days after the decision to petition for appeal to the Circuit Court.” That could tie the case up in for many more months, even more than a year.

“Rescue Reston needs to continue to be involved in the legal process to provide the voice of all who support the open space that makes Reston unique,” said Rescue Reston. “We have until April 1 to submit more documentation for the BZA to consider. [Attorney] Randy Greehan will be present on April 15 to represent us. Whichever side wins, we fully expect the process to continue through appeals.”

Rescue Reston spells out “NO” in front of Northwestern Mutual/Courtesy Rescue Reston

  • Cluster Tycoon

    The spelling is wrong. It’s NO not NC. Geez

    • Margaret P

      We couldn’t stand on the car. Perhaps next time you could get involved and make it perfect to your specifications. If you look closely there was yellow tape connecting the O over the car.

      • Ming the Merciless

        You guys couldn’t move a few feet over to make the O without standing on the car? Too incompetent to make the letter O… amazing!

        • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

          I’m sure the Kumbaya movement had a profound impact on the developers.

          • JCSuperstar

            We’ve all seen examples of successful grass roots efforts. But, this effort, “if you’re willing to accept it Mr. Phelps,” will take a lot of attorney resources and backing.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            Right, so RA will spend hundreds of thousands on outside legal counsel. I personally think (as a Realtor) that some 900K townhouses/patio style homes would sell great in that location and would “drag everything else up” in value. But, that being said, I also know that RA prefers poor people and low income housing over people w/ money and market rate development.

          • JCSuperstar

            Well, I don’t think that’s the argument BO. It appears the people that live there already live in expensive, some $900K, homes. Instead, they (Rescue Reston) want to protect the open area. RA’s legal arguments are the same.

            My point, if the development plans say it’s residential, there is going to be a long fight to prove otherwise. In my opinion, an existing development plan is a tough battle, so, are those folks ready? Unless RA owns the property, development is coming.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            They claim they want to protect the open area, and I am sure that is part of their “purpose”. But, it is also about the money. Those whose homes are directly fronting on or backing to the golf course fear that their homes will lose value. That is also part of the argument, whether they admit it or not. If you own in a golf course cluster, but are on the “wrong” side of the street, with no view, its not as much of an issue.

            I don’t think RA should or could buy the property. Understanding that appraisals and assessments are arbitrary, does anyone know what the value of that 166 acres is?

          • JCSuperstar

            I’m sure it’s a pretty large number. But, from what I read, Rescue Reston and RA say they will fight to protect and preserve the open area; to the point of purchasing it.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            Typical RA. They are in over their heads . I don’t see how they could justify that purchase. It will not directly benefit anyone who does not live in that neighborhood.

          • Jim Kirby

            With all due respect, Mr. Bojangler, you have no idea what you are taking about. This whole thing is about preserving open space. And why should that surprise anyone who knows anything at all about Reston? That is what we do! Because we love our open space! That is why people bought their homes along the golf course, to be next to open space. And they did so with the expectation the space would remain open…and in the process they paid a premium for the privilege. But this effort is not just a fight to protect the property rights of a few hundred home owners living along a golf course. This is an effort to preserve open space for all of us. I do not live on a golf course, nor do I live on a lake. But almost every day, I find myself running, walking, biking, or skiing by one. It’s great, not only for me but for many, many others. Open space really does bring joy to peoples lives. I even enjoy driving by Reston National. And finally, Mr. Bojangles, I have to say that if we were to follow your line of thinking to its logical conclusion, this would be our course of action: After building a slew of luxury town homes on the golf course, we drain the lakes and plunk down as many mega-mansions as will possibly fit. Just as you put it, our efforts would “drag everything else up in value.” And that’s what it is all about. Right?

          • Jim Kirby

            Of course you think that way, Mr Bojangler. As a greedy realtor, your only interest in this issue is how you personally will benefit financially. And your comments regarding RA’s preferences are so far off the mark, I am not even sure how to respond, other than to say you should really consider taking your head out of your ass.

          • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

            Oh, so now its the greedy Realtors and greedy developers. Everyone is greedy but you. Above, you mention the people who bought their homes along the golf course who “paid a premium” and having the EXPECTATION that the property would remain open. Well, sorry, but what about Northwestern Mutual’s property rights? They actually own the golf course. Don’t their rights matter? Anyone who buys any property, anywhere, should know that adjacent undeveloped land may be developed . No where, was anyone “promised” that the golf course would always be a golf course.

        • Mike M

          You think maybe they are ignoring certain large obstacles in their planning?

          • JCSuperstar

            God bless Ms. Hartke, but this appears to be a South Reston NIMBY group, concerned about their backyard views.

          • Jim Kirby

            Hardly a NIMBY issue. Mr. Superstar. I do not live on the golf course, nor does Ms. Hartke. but as active Reston residents, we run, walk, bike, and ski by and through the open space that is Reston National. And yes, the people who purchased homes along the golf course did so with the expectation the open space would be there forever…and they paid a premium for those views.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Yeah, it’s totally obvious why we should all care about the residents of the golf course and their greedy desire to maximize their property values.

          • Jim Kirby

            No one asked you to care, Mr. Ming (or do you go by Merciless?). Why bother? You strike me as the kind of person who does not care about anything. So do us all a favorite and sign off.

          • Ming the Merciless

            I care about many things, but not about the opinions of people like you who are too dumb to spell two-letter words.

          • Jim Kirby

            So this is cyber bullying. Interesting. I have read about it but first time witnessing it. So pray tell Mr. Merciless, is this how you get your kicks? I’m curious, do you spend a lot of your time on line bullying? If so, how very sad.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Uh huh. You come in here and attack me, but I’m bullying you? Nice try, clown.

          • Jim Kirby

            There you go again. Have mercy on us all, Bozo…I mean Mingo…and stop bullying.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Jimmy, if you address a comment to me then I am certainly going to respond to you as I have every right to do. If you are truly lackwitted enough to believe this constitutes bullying, then it is no wonder you have trouble spelling simple words. If you don’t like what I say to you, then stop talking to me. But rest assured that your inane efforts to bully me into silence by accusing me of bullying are as doomed to failure as your pathetic efforts to make fifteen people stand in a circle.

          • Jim Kirby

            So let’s recap, Mingo. In this forum, you have called people idiots. You have called people dumb. You have called people incompetent. And you called me a clown. Not once did you even attempt to make an intelligent point. Case closed.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Jimmy, it is not my fault you are too incompetent and too lacking in leadership skills to cause a small group of people to stand in a circle. The evidence of your shortcomings is there for all to see, whether I say anything about them or not. If you were any kind of a man you’d resolve to do better next time, instead of wasting your time whining about your hurt feelings.

            I don’t find it at all surprising that the basis for your lackluster “artistic” career involves pushing a single button, because it is clear that logical thought and the use of devices with lots of buttons – like computer keyboards – is really beyond you.

        • Jim Kirby

          So jaded that you are missing the point…amazing!

          • Ming the Merciless

            If these idiots can’t even organize themselves to spell a two-letter word correctly, it bodes ill for their desire to organize opposition to development of the golf course.

          • JCSuperstar

            Jim, let me try to help out here a bit. Do you speak for Rescue Reston, or for yourself? If you can answer for Rescue Reston, the name implies all of Reston, is that true? Or, is the organization only focused the open area associated with the golf course?

          • Jim Kirby

            I speak for preserving the open space that is Reston National. It’s really that simple, JC. No hidden agenda or silly monikers for me. I am all about preserving the character of Reston that brought us all here to begin with. As much as you and a few others want to make this argument about greedy homeowners, it is really about a greedy insurance company whose only interest in this community is making money, and in the process, robbing the rest of us of the open space that makes Reston so special.

          • JCSuperstar

            Thanks Jim. So you and Rescue Reston are rescuing the golf course, not Reston, from threats to open spaces. You see how that looks.

          • Jim Kirby

            That is your interpretation, JC, not mine. I told you where I stand on the issue. You can believe what you want to believe. It does not really matter to me.

          • JCSuperstar

            Yes, Jim, you have certainly stated where you and Rescue Reston stand. It’s a shame you (and RR) are only focused on the golf course, while open areas in all of Reston are threatened.

          • Jim Kirby

            I stated where I stand on the issue of Reston National and that is all. I do not speak for Rescue Reston.

          • JCSuperstar

            So Jim, you want to protect just the open space that affects you.

            Open space, elsewhere in Reston, is some other group’s problem.

            Do you and Rescue Reston see how this looks?

            What are your thoughts regarding Reston Association purchasing the property as a matter of last resort?

    • Jim Kirby

      Obviously you are someone with no imagination. Geez. Let me guess…an engineer?

      • Cluster Tycoon

        Wow you putting down half of Reston over an obvious mistake I pointed out.

        As for your dream of the perfect neighborhood how would you like it if someone continously trespassed on your property, deposited dog void, burnt tire marks into your lawn etc etc incl unreported crimes…

        So if you really want to be the friendly neighbor as you claim perhaps start treating people with respect regardless of occupation and corporate identity. Now take care and take care of each other.

        • Jim Kirby

          I am not puting down half of Reston, Mr. Tycoon, only you for your snarky remark. Keep your snide comments to yourself, and people will treat you in a friendly way.

  • JCSuperstar

    A noble cause for sure. Admirable. But, who is going to pay for this long fight? Cooley/Looney/McDermott have access to unending resources (dollars, time). Developers can leverage existing development plans all over Reston with almost unfettered access. We’re seeing it everywhere.

  • JCSuperstar

    Curiously, where’s the support of that vocal group promoting environmental stewardship and sustainable development. They were very distraught over an acre of land years ago. They’re not being very vocal over 166 acres now. That says something.

  • novatom

    Sorry to be cynical about it but methinks the decision has already been made and no amount of opposition will stop it. Money talks. Always has, always will.

  • MJay

    There’s something that just isn’t clicking with me in regard to the Rescue Reston/RA mission here… I always viewed protection of “open space” as parks, woods, trees, etc. I never envisioned protests to protect a golf course in the same vein as what I believe to be the traditional sense of open space. Obviously, a golf course is open and I have no qualms with a group trying to preserve a public golf course, but it’s not like a nature preserve (or even nature). Perhaps this is why I am basically apathetic to the whole thing. It seems like tying “open space” to a golf course (even a public one) adjacent to expensive homes is somewhat disingenuous. It’s the epitome of first-world problems. My bigger concern is that if development occurs, will the developer/county work to increase capacity on South Lakes, Soapstone, Sunrise Valley, etc? Still, good on them for being active, even if little-old me doesn’t get it.

    • JCSuperstar

      You’re zeroing in on the issue. As I see it, this is a legal decision, to be made by the BZA, to determine whether the existing development plans allow residential development or not. This argument will require resources and legal horsepower. It may be a long fight through the courts.

      As I said, the efforts of Rescue Reston are admirable; grass roots endeavors are wonderful examples of people getting involved. But, who is going to pay for this fight? Who is bringing the legal horsepower to the table? Yes, a large group can have a big impact politically, and that’s where this might end up.

      Defending open space is also admirable, but, at the end of the day, developers have an upper hand when the existing development plan says commercial/residential. Hence, there will be a nice restaurant/office at Lake Newport, some beautiful low-rise/townhomes placed nicely around the golf course, and a much larger St Johns Woods. It’s just happening folks.

    • Jim Kirby

      You are correct, Mjay, that a golf course is not traditional open space, but it is open space nonetheless, with many of the traditional attributes: open views, trees, wildlife, and walking trails. And many Reston residents use the golf course as such. So it is not disingenuous to refer to the golf course as open space. Spring is just around the corner, so I challenge you to take a walk on one of the many RA pathways that run along and through the golf course, and experience the beauty of the open space for yourself. Perhaps then it will “click” with you. You will also see that the “expensive homes,” as you call them, are actually moderately priced townhouses that have been there for 20 to 30 years.

      • MJay

        I use the trails quite a bit and find them quite peaceful (I also don’t mind swinging the golf clubs every so often). But other trails in Reston, especially that part of town, also cut through clusters and various developments. Why would a developer destroy the trails? Trails are not necessarily contrary to development. So instead of a large green glob of golf course abutting the trails, we get buildings. I doubt developers are going to plop large, drab communist blocks over the golf course and completely annihilate any semblance of nature (like the golf course). So again, your condescension aside, what’s the big deal and why should I care? Why not fight for a say in how the property is developed? Why not focus on road improvements, negotiations over an easement, guarantee of a certain amount of trees and trails? Or does it come back around full circle to the fact that the homeowners simply want to have a golf course view, and have consequently hijacked the “open space” mantra to convince others that this is in their best interests as well?

        • Jim Kirby

          Mjay, I guess there is no persuading some one who refers to Reston National as “a green blob” that there is inherent value in open space. Good luck with your fight for road improvements.

          • MJay

            Sorry… I should have said “manicured” green glob, with sand and flags. Animals not welcome on said green or sand. Regardless of the mission, I do hope others in Rescue Reston have more tact are less condescending, and at least carry a semblance of credibility; if you are indicative of the mindset and behavior of the protesters, it will be very difficult to sustain or attract dedicated people to the cause, because, really, who wants to deal with elitist snobbery?

  • clambj

    Jeez, so much back and forth and no one really addresses the issue. Here it is in a nutshell as I see it.
    Reston National golf course was built in 1970. At the time it was zoned as open space. About 15 years ago Billy Casper Golf bought it, knowing fully well that it is zoned as open space. Residents have an easement to use the paths throughout the course (as signs clearly indicate). Fast forward 10 years, the Silver Line is coming to town and will be conveniently located within walking distance. Land owners and developers near by, including across the street, are have a great time building or restructuring their lots to cash in on the new commercial opportunities. Billy Casper’s parent company wants to to get in on the action. Unfortunately, their lot is still zoned as open space, as it was when they bought the property. They want to change the zoning so they can cash in. People who bought the neighboring property under the belief that the land would remain as open space are upset. People in Reston who want to preserve the existing open space so that developers can’t just come in and develop it all are also concerned. A zoning fight is currently under way. That’s it.
    I don’t understand all the name calling here. I completely understand both sides, but from my point of view it is important to fight to preserve our open space in Reston because when it is gone it’s gone. I also like having a public golf course within a few minutes of my house so there’s that.
    I also think that Northwestern’s contention that it was zoned as residential is absurd as was their attorney’s contention that residents who use the paths throughout the course are trespassing. Hopefully the BZA will see through the BS.

    • JCSuperstar

      Not true!! They (Northwestern) are not trying to get the property rezoned. They argue the existing development plan says it is residential. County staff argues that’s not the case, and if they (Northwestern) want to change it, they will have to go through the tedious rezoning amendment process. Northwestern’s attorneys are saying they are in the right as there is no “officially stamped” document stating otherwise.

      The 15th will determine who has the stronger proof. Ms. Hartke is probably right, no matter what the decision, it’s probably going to be appealed through the courts.

      This is the issue all over Reston, existing development plans show much higher density is allowed. St. Johns Woods, Tall Oaks, The Lake Newport Tetra Property, Fairway, etc., etc.

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