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Op-Ed: The Road from Nowhere

by RestonNow.com December 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm 37 Comments

This is an op/ed submitted by Dennis Hays, president of the Reston Citizens Association. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.

Good governance requires a bond of trust between citizens and their elected and appointed officials.  This trust can best – in fact only – be achieved and maintained when citizens are confident officials have the community’s best interests at heart and all proposals and plans affecting the community are fully presented and discussed.

County officials are currently proposing to amend zoning ordinances to allow significantly more population density in Reston.  They make their case by stating such amendments are required to fulfill the vision of the Reston Master Plan.   More specifically, the Plan is the only justification given for proposals to add tens of thousands of new housing units without providing the basic infrastructure needed to support such growth. 

So, is the Plan by itself enough to satisfy the need for transparency and to engender trust?

County officials will tell you the Plan was developed by the “community” through an exhaustive series of meetings held over six years.  Sounds good, but the reality is something very different.  First, membership in the working group was heavily weighted toward developers and their attorneys.  Second, and equally troubling, the Plan has been amended after it was theoretically finalized, without community input.  The following is one example why this should be of concern to everyone who lives, works or plays in Reston.

In mid-2015, after community involvement had concluded, an unmarked line representing a new road mysteriously appeared on revised maps associated with the Master Plan (Staff Report, Appendix B page 60).  This new road would connect Isaac Newton Square and American Dream Way.  The stated purpose is to “construct or improve {a} local or collector street.”  What it actually does is cut through the full length of the fourth fairway and across the approach to the third green of the Hidden Creek Golf Course, thus destroying the integrity of Hidden Creek.   As several observers have pointed out – there is no such thing as a 16 hole golf course.

The placement of this road directly violates the letter and spirit of sections of the Comprehensive Plan rarely mentioned by County officials – the sections  which call for this area to perpetually be “open space, designated as a golf course.”   And open space and recreational areas – along with roads, bridges, schools and public safety – are among the issues ignored or shortchanged in the density proposals. 

So, where did this road come from?  No one knows–or will admit to knowing.  The Reston Association wrote to the County last January opposing this road and asking for an explanation of how it appeared.  Eleven months later they continue to wait for a response.

Perhaps this was a mistake, quickly corrected?  No, the road remains in the current edition of the Comprehensive Plan –  no longer in an appendix, but now promoted to the main body of the report (page 137).

Does the addition of this road have anything to do with the recent sale of Hidden Creek to a development company? One can only speculate. 

The County/citizen relationship is important enough to give the benefit of doubt as to how we got to this point.  But this can’t be ignored any longer.  County officials need to explain why this road appeared out of nowhere and why the County has refused to provide information on it, despite repeated requests.  Although it is late, it isn’t too late for the County to respond.  But there are only two possible explanations and courses of action:

First, the County acknowledges this was a mistake, perhaps just an overeager subordinate acting without proper review or authorization.  If so, the road needs to be immediately removed from the Plan.  Second, this was not a mistake and the County does want this road built and open space bulldozed.  In that case, the County needs to take ownership of the proposal and try to justify the multiple violations of its own rules and planning guidelines.

It’s a matter of trust.

  • Donald

    Mr. Hays,

    This matter was brought up many, many months ago — just search within Reston Now. At the time it was quite apparent this new road would make perfect sense if, and when, Hidden Creek would be sold to a new developer. Well…here we are.

    Donald

  • Tammi Petrine

    This phantom road is a flagrant abuse of the county finagling with our PRC!!! How convenient that Bob Simon is dead, eh?

    I have brought this error up to county staff repeatedly for a year at numerous meetings. They all shrug and claim no knowledge or ability to ‘fix’ it. And yes, here we are with the sale of HCCC. Imagine that.

    What do you say to the concept that NO GRID OF STREETS was ever sanctioned by the Reston Master Plan OUTSIDE OF THE TSAs??? NORTH of Sunset Hills Road is OUTSIDE the TSA boundary. This crap must stop!

    What must the community do to show the county that we are at a tipping point? Did over 900 angry folks showing up at SLHS filing the cafeteria to capacity on 10/23/17 not show them that very fact? Do they need more evidence? Would 5,000 do? Restonians have had it with greedy county officials abetted by willing developers trying to compromise Reston’s PRC planning principles.

    Set the place, BOS or Supervisor Hudgins. 5,000 of us will show up dressed in yellow. We are ticked. As Mr. Hays says: ‘It’s a matter of trust.”

    • Sweet dreams

      O yea the master plan. Chuckles and good night.

      L force isn’t going to sleep tho.

  • Chkitout1

    Our Congressman, State Representative, and County Supervisor all run unopposed. Now residents are complaining because our elected officials are not listening. Can you blame them for not listening? Keep electing the same people and your going to get the same results. I have no sympathy for the complainers.

    • HPL

      Dear Chikitout1:
      U R correct about the production line voting on the same old worn-out models of government representatives. HOWEVER, as U say they run unopposed —- why don’t you run next time and give Hudgins a huge scare!!

      • The Constitutionalist

        That was fun to try and read.

  • 40yearsinreston

    Wither Hudgins is not paying attention or she is involved
    Either way she should be fired
    The new owner of Hidden Creek just hit the jackpot

  • Looking forward

    Maybe the other explanation is we really don’t need two golf courses in Reston, no one less than 40 is really playing golf if you look around. I think nova has something like 3 times the number of golf courses that are needed to accommodate players. Maybe as a community we should engage in conversation that is something other that just obstructionist, we just want it like it was 30 years ago. The community is changing we should as well.

    • Donald

      Looking forward,

      You may be right regarding golf, although I believe the need still exists.

      Regardless, Hidden Creek, like Reston National, represent Reston’s precious open space — which continues to be threatened by redevelopment and new development. It’s quite apparent, a large portion of the open space (known as Hidden Creek Golf Course) may now be in jeopardy.

      Donald

      • Looking Forward

        Donald, if the only response is “Restons open space must be preserved” without defining a viable reason for its use it will disappear with time. The world is changing. What else can we do than just say”keep it the same” We don’t need two golf courses, we also would rather not have a bunch of roads. Any other ideas?

        • Donald

          Looking forward,

          I agree, we may not need two golf courses anymore. Hidden Creek could easily be transformed into beautiful parks, recreation areas, and wildlife refuges.

          I’d welcome having a conversation with you regarding the value of open space. Reston’s vision was to balance pockets of high density with vast amounts of open space. It’s working pretty well.

          I’ve been living here since 1966. I welcomed the addition of “real’ roads to the area. I welcomed Route 7 going to four lanes. I welcomed the other Village Centers (I mean strip centers) being built. I welcomed the north side getting developed. I welcomed the Reston Town Center being built, then the Spectrum Center. I welcomed more office buildings sprouting up along the Dulles Access Road. I welcomed the Toll Road being built. I welcomed Reston Parkway finally going to four lanes, with traffic lights. I welcomed more apartment buildings inside the Toll Road corridor. I welcomed Plaza America. I welcomed Metro arriving. I welcome the dense development inside the Metro corridor.

          I welcome change. But, I will not let Reston’s natural open areas be encroached upon. Not on my watch.

          Why, you ask? Well, Reston’s open space is truly limited. There isn’t anymore, unless we buy undeveloped land on our periphery. Open space makes Reston a unique place to live. Like New York City with its Central Park. And if you do some simple research, you’ll see open natural areas can add significantly to your home’s assessed value. Yup, I’m selfish too.

          Donald

          • Looking Forward

            Donald,

            I appreciate your response and I am in agreement with you. You addressed my input to this group, which was to consider other purposes for the space. If we keep saying there has to be a golf course and it is not serving a large enough part of the changing population it is only a matter of time before someone will look to change it’s purpose. We may already be to late with HCC purchase. I like the idea of a Central Park type park personally, but I am only one person.

            On the debate of Golfs future, some perspective below. Like I have said the world is changing faster than ever. We all should spend time listening as it happens.

            https://www.marketwatch.com/story/death-watch-how-much-longer-can-golf-survive-2017-04-18

          • Donald

            I used to play a lot of golf. Enjoyed all the courses around here (there weren’t many in the 60’s and 70’s). Never joined HCCC, but played with members often. It’s a lovely, very traditional, track.

            I agree, golf may be losing interest, which saddens me. It’s one of the few sports where honor and etiquette are prerequisites. It’s one of the few sports where one penalizes themself for a breach of the rules.

            Needless-to-say, HCCC (like Reston National) must be protected for their open spaces — preferably for golf, if the interest comes back.

            Donald

          • John Higgins

            Appreciate your perspective. I have some difficulty with the concept of wrenching privately owned property to government ownership, even if a new use would serve more people. (I dismiss the idea that a private investor would purchase HCCC so as to convert it to a public park.)

            The article you link is terribly superficial. The decline in the number of golf courses over the past decade results from developer excesses. Most developers built them, sold them, and moved on. When the bubble burst, these high-end “golf communities” often had no choice but to drop the amenity.

            My golf club felt the shoe pinching in the post-2008 economy. Rather than close, we brought in a management company who understood the business. In the past five years, golf membership has doubled and social membership has quadrupled. I cite this to say that the fear of conversion of HCCC is real, but a rosier picture is equally possible.

            Last point, only because the superficial MarketWatch article pumped by adrenaline. Golf is not a sport, it is a game. A game of skill, honor, and relationships. A game playable virtually throughout one’s lifetime. It is the only professional sport/game where competitors penalize themselves and are rewarded only in direct relation to how well they performed each time out. Observing one’s demeanor on the golf course speaks volumes about their character, integrity, and social abilities. And it’s one of the few remaining activities that can include a good cigar without drawing looks of horror.

    • Tammi Petrine

      Reston is a two golf course town. If you want it to be like every other crowded, polluted soul-less community, please move to one of those. The gem and value of Reston is that it IS different; we do have two golf course with acres of open space as planned.

      Restonians do value and view our environment holistically. That would not make sense to someone who does not value those ideals but now, due to the intense crowding in the Dulles corridor, it is more imperative than ever that HCCC remain a golf course/open space. It helps clean our air and water, nurture our wild life and feed our souls.

      Our golf courses provide active and passive recreation which is in short supply for a community of our size and increasing population. The LAST thing to do would be to diminish recreation further!

      If no one is playing golf, how is it that developers all over the world are putting in golf courses?

      • Looking forward

        Let’s not diminish it, but let’s not also put our heads in the sand. Communities who have less than two golf courses may not be viewed as soulless by a new generation that does not play golf. They may view it as a waste of space. By the way I’ve lived here for 20 years. Development is a local issue, saying they are wanted other places does not make them wanted here. We don’t need two golf courses, hidden creek wouldn’t have been sold so cheep if the dues kept up.

        • The Constitutionalist

          There’s a lot of things we don’t need, but that isn’t the point. It also doesn’t really matter what a new generation thinks of the golf courses as the new generation doesn’t make up the majority of people who either use the golf course, or live in Reston.

        • OneReally

          So using your logic.

          If I don’t play baseball or softball then I don’t need the fields.

          Do I need the running or biking trails?

          I don’t use them.

    • The Constitutionalist

      “no one less than 40 is really playing golf if you look around”

      Rude.

      • OneReally

        I know right. He is offended if I called someone illegal.

        How about calling them someone who isn’t 30.

        The nerve of people. 🙂

    • Constance (Connie) Hartke

      Our SLHS Seahawk golf teams play tournaments at HCCC as well as their home course at Reston National. Senior Kurtis Grant has signed a letter of intent to golf and study next year at West Virginia University (google him).

      Fairfax County has population based recreation standards and for Reston’s projected population (the planned density increase), two golf courses meet that County standard. Referene pages 21-22 of fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/comprehensiveplan/policyplan/parksrec.pdf.

      Reston gains nothing if it sacrifices one amenity for another. The net sum gain would be zero.

      • OneReally

        Dear Son loved playing with Kurtis.
        Dilly Dilly!!!

    • OneReally

      Tell that to my 14 and 12 year old kids.

      Tell that to the numerous number of PGA jr league kids that are involved in golf.
      PGA Junior League Golf grew to a record-number 36,000 participants in 2016 nationwide.

      The SLHS golf teams practice at Reston, but Hidden Creek is an early high school tournament. This tournament is a well attend tournament by all high school in the area.

    • cRAzy

      Strangely, however, almost everyone who is “less than 40” eventually becomes “more than 40.” So, yes, we need 2 golf courses.

      Moreover, county park facility guidelines state that Reston should have two golf courses for the population that is expected. Go ahead, check it out.

  • Mike James

    So Reston is a two golf course town? It’s also a four lake town. Would anyone even consider filling in one of these lakes to add more density? I (hopefully) think not! Not everyone uses the lakes, but everyone appreciates their effects and their ambience. “Touch not one hair…

  • Laura Stassi

    Great piece, Dennis! On another topic, does anyone know what’s going on with the path from North Shore-Wiehle intersection around to Lake Anne Village Center? Lots of orange fencing and yellow tape among the woods.

    • Libby Schreffler

      They’re doing a restoration project on the stream beds. That’s probably what you’re seeing.

      • Laura Stassi

        Thanks!

  • Tom Wyland

    I don’t play golf. But I do think we need to preserve open space in Reston. It wouldn’t bother me if it was used for another park-like purpose that preserved the open space.

  • OneReally

    IMHO I believe this is the way we are headed at HCCC.

    Below is a summary of what is happening to Goose Creek GC in Leesburg (near the Wegmans).

    “Goose Creek’s owner, will shut down the 63-year-old public course on Dec. 31, and by the middle of next year, will launch a full-scale redevelopment of its 110.8 acres. The plan calls for the construction of 33 single-family detached homes, 125 townhomes, a 132-room hotel, a 6,000-square-foot restaurant and a 9-hole golf course.”

    • Donald

      Agree.

      • OneReally

        Also, just down the street from there is Westpark course.

        Its up for sale.

        http://loudounnow.com/2017/10/12/leesburgs-westpark-golf-club-for-sale/

        Following comments from both are similar to us here in Reston. It’s unrealistic to expect any help from our elect officials.

        We need to stick to the lawyers.

        • Donald

          Agree.

          This board almost diminishes its Land Use attorney(s). Relegating them to the last agenda item at board meetings; chastising them with subtle humor — “keep it quick John, we all want to finish and go home early tonight”.

          Why bother.

          Donald

          • OneReally

            We all have lawyer jokes until we need one. 🙂

          • Donald

            Yup.

  • LeftPolitico

    Re “The Reston Association wrote to the County last January opposing this road and asking for an explanation of how it appeared. Eleven months later they continue to wait for a response.” Perhaps 10 months ago RA should have realized that it had not received a response and asked again….. and kept asking until they received a response. .

    • Donald

      The laissez-faire attitude of this board is becoming reckless. They continue to focus on micromanaging staff to save me $2 a year, while Rome burns around them.

      I pray four people with real governance experience come to our rescue in April.

      Donald

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