As the battle for open space in Reston heads towards the Virginia Supreme Court, a group of homeowners whose properties overlook Reston National Golf Course may be preparing for a lawsuit of their own.
The attorneys for the owners of RN Golf, the owner of Reston National Golf Course, have filed a notice that they plan to appeal the Fairfax County Circuit Court decision from last year that granted the motion for summary judgment and vacated the Board of Zoning Appeals decision that said the golf course owners could redevelop without getting a comprehensive plan amendment, which could ease the path to redevelopment of the public course.
RN Golf, a subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual Insurance, has until this week to to appeal the latest court order, says Rescue Reston, the citizens advocacy group that is fighting to maintain the golf course as permanent, open space in Reston.
Meanwhile, residents of Golf Course Square appeared at last week’s RA Board of Directors’ meeting to ask the board for its assistance in taking filmed depositions of some of the cluster’s original homeowners.
“Since 2012, our cluster has been discussing legal action we can take separate and apart from the zoning case [heading for] the Virginia Supreme Court,” said Golf Course Square resident Wilfred Hearn. “Our case is broader. The open space [is protected by] covenants and deeds. We have discussed our legal rights with an attorney.”
Hearn said the clusters has located four witnesses who either worked for Reston developer Gulf Reston (in the 1960s and 70s) or bought a house from Gulf Reston.
“The witnesses said the original developer intended the golf course would be permanent and sold houses around the golf course on that basis,” Hearn told the RA Board. “Prospective buyers were told the golf course would always be permanent and bought houses on basis that the golf course would be permanent. These witnesses have direct knowledge of the events between 1964 and ’68 in our cluster, including the building the buying and selling of our homes that surround the golf course.”
Hearn says the cluster leadership wants to petition the circuit court to for an order to take the depositions of the witnesses “to perpetuate their testimony for later use in court.”
“If we don’t take it now, we risk losing testimony,” she said. “The witnesses are in their 70s and 80s. We have no idea when the case will be filed. It might be too late.”
Golf Course Square is requesting RA pay for the depositions. Hearn did not say how much the depositions will cost. RA noted their request but had no immediate answer.
The Reston National case has been in the news since 2012, when the owners asked the county whether the course could be considered zoned residential. The Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning Staff said no, the land is open and recreational space and a change would require rezoning.
After many delays by RN Golf, the county Board of Zoning Appeals held a lengthy hearing in January 2015. In April 2015, the BZA returned its ruling that said the owners could redevelop without getting a comprehensive amendment, which could ease the path to redevelopment of the land.
Rescue Reston, RA and Fairfax County all filed appeals of that ruling in Fairfax County Circuit Court, and in November. Circuit Court Judge Michael Devine then granted the motion for summary judgment and vacated the Board of Zoning Appeals decision from earlier in 2015.
That decision means golf course owners RN Golf Management would have to file a formal plan with Fairfax County in order to pursue redevelopment of the course. No formal plans have been filed.
If the case is accepted for review by the higher court it likely will not be heard until at least fall of 2016.