Friday’s decision by a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge to vacate last spring’s Board of Zoning Appeals decision means a setback for potential developers — and a small victory for open space proponents.
That does not mean the 166-acre public golf course will automatically remain open space forever. However, the decision does make it more difficult for developers to come in with a new plan.
Plus, Friday’s development may wind up in higher court eventually.
Judge Michael Devine on Friday granted the motion for summary judgment filed by lawyers for Rescue Reston, Reston Association and other parties concerned about Reston’s open space. He also vacated the Board of Zoning Appeals decision from earlier in 2015.
This means that golf course owners RN Golf Management would have to file a formal plan with Fairfax County in order to pursue redevelopment of the course.
The motion was filed last spring after the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals ruled, after a complicated and lengthy BZA hearing and the ruling that RN Golf would not need a comprehensive plan amendment to plan residential development on acreage.
Devine said RN Golf had based its case on a letter from the county zoning administrator, which the court in effect found was merely an advisory opinion and was not appealable.
The issue dates back to 2012, when RN Golf asked Fairfax County if the course at Sunrise Valley and Colts Neck Road could be considered residential. Fairfax County Planning and Zoning said no, it’s open and recreational space. After several postponements, RN Golf filed an appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
John McBride, RA’s land counsel, said the ruling is significant because any redevelopment of the course must now be preceded by the filing of specific plans with the county, which will then be compared with the “Development Plans” approved in 1971. The 1971 plans were the main focus of the five-hour BZA hearing in January.
“These plans are in the county zoning files and clearly limit use of the land to a golf course, open space and driving range,” RA says. “Any change to these approved plans will require amendment approval by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The golf course owner had sought to avoid this requirement for a plan amendment by seeking by-right use status for a number of residential and other uses.”
So that means that RN Golf, which has never shown plans for what it would like to develop at the course, will now have more hoops to jump through should it want to build a residential neighborhood.
“The association is pleased with the circuit court’s ruling,” said RA CEO Cate Fulkerson. “Now, if pursued by the owner of the golf course, any proposed redevelopment of the golf course property or any portion thereof will have to go through the proper county and community review process.”
Rescue Reston President Connie Hartke says her group, formed in response to the original filing in 2012, will continue to be vigilant against development.
“While we have won this round, the fight is not over and RN Golf still has other options available to it including appealing today’s ruling or attempting to amend the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan,” Hartke said on Friday. “We must remain prepared to continue the fight so long as RN Golf remains committed to its attempts to destroy our community’s valuable open space.