Reston National Owners Won’t Pursue Appeal with VA Supreme Court

by Karen Goff March 4, 2016 at 2:35 pm 12 Comments

Golfers at tourney at Reston National/Credit: Jay SzlamowiczThe owners of Reston National Golf Course have decided not to pursue the appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court in regards to the December lower court ruling on the 166-acre course’s land use designation.

This week marked the 90-day deadline for owner RN Golf Management to decide whether to continue with the appeal of the 2015 ruling that said RN Golf would have to file a formal plan with Fairfax County in order to pursue redevelopment of the course.

“While RN Golf may choose to pursue available redevelopment options in the future, and thus thus letter is not intended to waive any and all rights it may have to do so, I am writing to let you know RN Golf has decided not to continue with its appeal in these cases,” Scott Helsel, an attorney representing RN Golf, wrote in a letter Friday to the clerk of the Virginia Supreme Court. “Accordingly, RN Golf will not be filing a petition for appeal.”

RN Golf said in December it would appeal the ruling that it needs a zoning change in order to redevelop the public golf course as anything but open or recreational space.

The letter caps more than a year of legal filings on the continuing quest to get a definitive answer on the golf course’s zoning or future zoning, as well as continuing efforts in the fight for Reston’s open space.

The story goes back to 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.

In January 2015, the county Board of Zoning Appeals held a lengthy hearing, in which it heard from the owners’ attorneys as well as Reston Association attorneys a representatives and members of advocacy group Rescue Reston.

In April, 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.

Photo: Reston National Golf Course/file photo


  • Terry Maynard

    Well done by RA, Rescue Reston, and Fairfax County! The threat of overdeveloping open space has been reduced to near nothing. On top of the County’s revamping Reston’s Plan to ensure there is no question about the preservation of our two golf courses as open space, this is a great win for Reston.

  • John Farrell

    It’s a good thing that Northwestern Mutual and its attorneys chose not to waste the resources of RA, Reston Rescue and Fairfax County who would have had to defend Judge Devine’s opinion in any appeal.

    A special shout out to Laura Gory of the County Attorney’s office who made the winning argument to Judge Devine.

  • Greg

    What’s to prevent a similar redevelopment effort at other golf course?

    • Terry Maynard

      When the Reston Master Plan was updated last year, amendments covering BOTH golf courses virtually eliminates any possibility of them being anything but open space, including golf courses, parks, etc. They won’t become residential or commercial developments until at least some future point when the Plan is updated again–which I don’t think will happen.

  • Richard

    That’s great news. Looks like I can end my boycott of Reston National now.

  • Like the developers at Lake Anne this group came to a
    realization that it made no sense in the current and foreseeable markets in
    Reston. We are now looking at some3-4000 apartments being built or recently occupied within walking distance of the two metro stops. And that will not spur a magical boom across all of Reston. This is especially true with the coming slashing of federal spending.

    At some distant point the golf course proposal will come
    back unlike the overdone Lake Anne proposal. The proposal would have been
    magical for the LA community lowering home owner fees dramatically and spurring lots of
    development. But it was not financially feasible…and will not be for a long
    time to come.

    • Terry Maynard

      Mr. Gilley–This was NOT an economic decision by the current owner; the owner simply saw the judicial writing on the wall. If they thought the could overturn the Appeals Court decision, they would have proceeded because they now don’t have another chance (the appeal deadline has passed). They have foregone the opportunity to EVER build apartments there by failing to appeal. They can’t even sell it to someone else with the expectation that it could be developed because they (a) failed to appeal and (b) the current ruling against the owner–any owner–stands against them.
      Moreover, the likelihood of the current RNGC owner or any future owner trying to turn RNGC into apartments (or some other development) is made all the more the remote by the fact that the County changed the language in the Reston Master Plan last year to do everything in its power to ensure that the golf course would remain open space.
      I am willing to bet that there won’t even be an attempt to make the run to overturn the plan and the current court ruling in my lifetime. (OK, I’m in my 70s, but maybe I’ll live as long as Bob Simon–who is no doubt smiling somewhere today.)
      That said, I agree that the LA proposal was a step (or many) too far by the County that led to its failure.

      • Mr. Maynard, I do believe that Rescue Reston did a great job opposing this proposal. But if there were unlimited economic prospects for this property then the owners would have pushed harder and spent more. However, with all the over development currently under way and the prospects of a coming economic slowdown and certainly a drop in government spending on the horizon it did not make any sense for the investors to invest further at this time.
        However, if we do have another boom time…which may happen some day then who ever the owners are will be back with an idea.
        But those of us living here in Reston now will not face that within the next decade or two. But eventually aggressive development will return some day…but not soon.

        • John Farrell

          Mr. Gilley

          Based on the sellers who have engaged me to represent them, developer interest in buying Reston land with development/redevelopment potential continues unabated.

          One seller recently received 9 different offers.

          The product to be built has changed from high-rise residential or office to other building types but developer/buyer demand continues to be fairly strong.

          • It seems that commercial property is doing well in the
            Reston area at this time partially in anticipation of the Silver Line being
            completed but the vacancy rates in Fairfax County are very high. And economists
            will tell us that federal spending is certain to slow significantly soon-maybe
            a sharp cut as the nation faces a $20+ trillion shortfall in federal funds.

            And I would think for the developers of the large Lake Anne project having
            spent hundreds of thousands of dollars just dropped it and walked away might be
            a signal of things coming. And RN owners
            might have seen the same future and decided to not waste money on something. And
            JBG has not moved ahead with the redevelopment of the Fairway Apartments. And
            the 20 story building the county approved for 1760 Reston Parkway is on indefinite
            hold now as are apartments approved for the Oracle property. So while I do not favor the redoing of RN
            properties I would guess that economics played a role for the case legally was not
            that clear. But good for all Reston RN
            is not going to be developed any time in the near or midrange future.

  • Jean Murphy

    This such wonderful news. I am so grateful to Rescue Reston, Reston Association and Fairfax County for fighting for this. I admit to having become quite cynical about the power of developers to get whatever they wanted in Fairfax County. I am so happy to be proved wrong – at least for now!

  • Zuzuspetals

    Thank God.


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