Op-Ed: Will Reston’s Master Plan Be Respected?

by RestonNow.com April 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm 11 Comments

Connie Hartke of Rescue Reston at Jan. 21, 2015 BZA hearingThis is an op-ed from Connie Hartke, president of Rescue Reston. It does not represent Reston Now’s opinion.

On Wednesday, the company that manages our Reston National Golf Course (RNGC) and many other courses will celebrate the “vast economical, environmental, health and charitable impact the game has in America.” Wednesday, April 15 happens to be National Golf Day.

Ironically, it is also the day that Reston awaits the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) decision on the technical merits of the claim that the current owners of RNGC can sidestep the normal process to develop its 166 acres of open space into residential housing.

It is a fact that Northwestern Mutual invested slightly more than $5 million in 2005 in order to become the majority owner of these 166 acres in the heart of Reston. Had anyone imagined this land could be developed, it would have had a far greater price tag.

This property owner is not being hurt by its small investment in one of the most profitable golf courses in the D.C. metropolitan area. When asked at the hearing how financially viable the golf course is,” the owner’s attorney answered “…economically very viable.”

We hope the BZA will also consider the property rights of the 1,000-plus homeowners and businesses who border this Audubon Certified Sanctuary golf course, not just the interests of its owners, RN Golf and Northwestern Mutual.

Here are a few examples of Reston businesses and organizations that rely on the recreational amenity of Reston National Golf Course (text taken from marketing materials/websites):

Westin Reston Heights
The Westin Reston Heights is located just steps from Reston National Golf Course, one of Northern Virginia’s favorite courses. Designed by the legendary Ed Ault and proudly managed by Virginia-based Billy Casper Golf, Reston National is a great place to learn, practice, and play golf.

Home to the Mid-Atlantic’s best Nike Golf Learning Center, the golfer development programs at Reston National are among the nation’s best. A 150-seat, covered outdoor patio is the ideal setting for golf outings and golf events in Reston. Conveniently located in the heart of Reston, just off the Dulles Toll Road midway between Dulles Airport and the Washington Beltway, and right across the street from The Westin Reston Heights, Reston National is easily accessible from anywhere in the greater Washington D.C. area.

Sheraton Reston Hotel
“We’re the only hotel in Reston to have a golf course in our backyard! Sheraton Reston Hotel is located just steps from Reston National Golf Course, one of Northern Virginia’s favorite courses.

11800 Sunrise Valley Drive [International Center]
“…11800 Sunrise Valley Drive is a 15-story building providing stunning views of the Reston National Golf Course and a prominent top of building signage opportunity visible from the Dulles Toll Road.”

South Lakes High School Golf Teams
“The Reston National Golf Course is the home course for our high school golf teams.”

Tens of thousands of Reston residents rely upon the open space that defines Reston. Our No. 10 ranking in the 2014 Money Magazine’s “best places to live” lists the “range of lakes, pools, shopping areas, golf courses, and more” that make Reston unique.

Owning this “very viable” golf course is not hurting the property rights of RN Golf Management. The property rights of well over 1,000 homeowners bordering the course would be severely damaged by development.

Radiating out from that will be the damage to other residential and business owners. Reston’s transportation and school networks would become untenable by this UNPLANNED development in what has been a hallmark planned community.

In an April 14, 1981 interview, Jim Todd who was president of Mobil Land Corporation talks about Reston’s Master Plan. An excerpt from the GMU Archives Northern Virginia oral history project, Collection #C0030:

“I think one of the interesting things throughout the whole thing is that everybody from Bob Simon right through the Mobil acquisition made a commitment to the original master plan as the base of Reston. That has never changed. It has been modified, which it was always designed to do, but the basic master plan has never been … No developer has come in and tried to throw it out.”

Until now.

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Photo: Connie Hartke of Rescue Reston testifies at Jan. 21 BZA hearing

  • Heh

    Good thing she’s not asking, “do these pants make me look fat?”

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Sorry, Connie, but the Master Plan wil only be respected if the wrath of Restonians outweighs the campaign money of the company. This is not likely since there are so many supervisors without a real stake in the future of Reston.

    If you’re rally interested in preserving the golf course, I would suggest pursuing incorporation as a municipality instead of a observation of a master plan.

    • John Farrell


  • edgyone

    So Western Mutual paid 5 million for 166 acre golf course that can’t be developed and RA wants to pay 2.7 million for 3.5 acre property that can’t be developed. The irony is too much for me.

    • JCSuperstar

      It points out that in today’s market, existing development plans give developers the opportunity to push their property rights to the max The ultimate decider in each of these, if there is a fight, is the Supervisors. I doubt they would get in the way of “progress.” Both parcels are ripe, and I say let free enterprise do what’s best.

      • Chuck Morningwood

        But “do what’s best for whom?” That’s the question.

        • JCSuperstar

          I believe developers have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholder/owners, so they will obviously do everything to maximize the dollar value of any property — per their rights.
          I do this as an individual homeowner, and hope you do to.

          I also believe developers have become sensitive to the needs of the community and neighborhoods they are in (or are entering.) More and more of them recognize they need to be sensitive to the community. Yup, this part is hard to mandate/enforce. But, I believe it is improving.

          Maximize ROI, while minimizing impact.

  • Wings!

    I don’t know about the Master Plan, but I think that Reston needs a Hooters. #HootersForReston

    • JCSuperstar

      Keep it going. I agree.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Can it truly be considered a Master Plan if it doesn’t have Hooters in it?

  • Humbug Me Not

    Northwestern Mutual and Lerner will forever be synonymous with greed and contempt for the owners unfortunate enough to have bought around RNGC in my book.


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