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Some Members Decry Poor Upkeep of Hidden Creek Country Club

Some members of Hidden Creek Country Club, a 163-acre private country club, are vexed about “deplorable” conditions at the 163-acre private country club, which could be redeveloped into a 100-acre grand park with residential housing.

Issues with maintenance and upkeep of the club, which was established in 1963, have become a flashpoint in the public debate about whether or not redevelopment of the property, which was purchased by Wheelock Communities for $14 million in October last year, is warranted. Some worry maintenance issues signal ownership is unwilling to explore an option on the table: maintaining the country club in its traditional form.

A mid-September letter signed by 104 members demanded that management increase the number of staff, fix bathrooms, improve routine maintenance, fix a broken beverage cart and host a meeting to reiterate the company’s commitment to the club so long as the golf course remains a golf course and membership dues are collected.

In a letter responding to members, Wheelock said it is committed to maintaining the club and golf course, noting that the company has invested more than $300,000 in upgrades to the Roanoke Grill, tavern, Fairway room, lobby, and locker rooms. An additional $200,000 was invested to continuously repair the facility. Company representatives also noted that they will continue to keep the club’s membership informed and involved in discussions about the club’s redevelopment — discussions which several members have been a part of since Wheelock purchased Hidden Creek.

The Club Management is in close contact with us on an ongoing basis. We are aware of the punch list items of needed repairs for the clubhouse as well as maintenance needs for the golf course,” the letter states.

Eric Levin, the club’s general manager, told Reston Now that management was aware of issues flagged by members and was working diligently to address them prior to receiving the letter. This year’s summer weather was also the “most extreme” in many years, leading to poor playing conditions, Levin wrote in an email.

“We have been working tirelessly to rectify the issues outlined. The owners have invested over $500,000 to this point in 2018 with another $200,000+ scheduled over the next few months on both the Clubhouse and the Golf Course,” Levin wrote.

Steve Coniglio, Wheelock’s local partner, declined to comment on a request from Reston Now, noting that he did not believe it was appropriate to turn the issue into a public matter.

“As a private country club, I am happy to provide this information to our members,” Coniglio wrote in an email.

Some members, many of whom have been a part of the club for more than 10 years, are still not satisfied. As stated in the letter, they have threatened to post negative reviews on social media about the golf course, absent progress on maintenance and staffing issues.

One member, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to preserve membership status, told Reston Now that conditions are the club have dipped to a new low.

“People think they’re not putting any money into this golf course. There’s a business case that you can’t support a country club in this economic environment. But there are half a dozen golf course communities that are thriving and commanding just enough money. That can happen here too,” the member told Reston Now. “There are some really good employees and people who work there. We want this place to thrive.”

The letter, which was obtained by Reston Now by a signatory, highlights issues like downed trees, irregular moving, inconsistent trash collection, downed and dead trees and poorly maintained bathrooms. It suggests hiring at least four employees to help with maintenance.

“We want so badly to take pride in Hidden Creek. We see it as our home away from home. We would much rather post positive reviews… before we recommend Hidden Creek to the world, we need the conditions to improve,” the letter states.

Although the company has not filed formal development plans with the county, Wheelock is exploring redeveloping the private country club into a 100-acre public park with amenities and an undisclosed number of residential units.

Redeveloping the property would require a number of changes to county planning documents, which designate the property for private recreational use. Rescue Reston, a grassroots group which successfully fought against the redevelopment of Reston’s other golf course, has committed to opposing any redevelopment plans.

Photos via Hidden Creek Country Club member 

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Plan to Redevelop Hidden Creek Country Club Draws Opposition

A developer’s plan to rezone and redevelop Hidden Creek Country Club from a private golf course into a 100-acre public park with between 600 to 1,000 residential units drew passionate opposition from residents Thursday night.

Wheelock Communities, which purchased the golf course in October last year, presented its conceptual plan for the 160-acre property to Reston Association’s Board of Directors. A formal development plan has not been submitted to the county and would require the county to rezone the property. Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan restricts Hidden Creek Country Club as a private recreational use, specifically a golf course. RA also passed a resolution in 2016 that states Reston’s two golf courses are reserved for golfing only, although the approval of the project and required rezoning is determined by the county.

Steve Coniglio, a regional partner with Wheelock, pitched the concept to RA’s board as an environmentally-friendly move that would serve unmet public space needs in Reston and provide for-sale housing stock at a variety of undisclosed affordability levels. Wheelock, which led several work group sessions with area stakeholders about its plans, would also restore several degraded streams on the site and end Lake Anne water rights exclusive to the golf course, creating a community gathering space with input from residents.

In a flashback to its defense of Reston National Golf Course, which was threatened by development several years ago, Rescue Reston, the grassroots organization that seeks to preserve the golf course and push back against unplanned development, challenged Wheelock to sell the site to another owner who can preserve the golf course and help it rebound.

“They throw in their version of a ‘park’ to misdirect and divide us,” said Lynne Mulston of Rescue Reston, adding that Wheelock’s plan makes “insulting assumptions” about Reston. A survey of area residents conducted by Rescue Reston this year found that nearly 97 percent of the 454 respondents want to preserve the golf course for private recreational use.

“It’s a bad swing that takes Reston out of bounds,” Mulston added.

Rescue Reston members, clad in yellow shirts, also said Wheelock’s plan leaves many unanswered questions, including who will maintain and pay for the park and pedestrian access. The group also said Wheelock’s plan is not driven by environmental stewardship because residential development would require tree removal and contribute to stormwater runoff.

“Open space today, tomorrow, forever,” said Rescue Reston’s president Connie Hartke. 

But Coniglio said the golf course is struggling to court members for dues-only membership, forecasting an uncertain future for the golf course. “Everyone says make it better, but it’s a business and its about cash flow,” Coniglio said.

The company spent around $500,000 for capital improvements to the golf course this year and future expenses to maintain the golf course are only expected to rise, he said.

“Yes, it’s a golf course today. That’s absolutely true. But is the golf course the best use of the land as it relates to the rest of the community? I don’t think it necessarily is,” Coniglio said.

RA board members pushed Wheelock for more information, including market analyses, on how the developer determined the golf course’s current use was unsustainable.

“Why would I join a club if the press tells me you’re going to close it?” said RA board member Julie Bitzer, adding that Wheelock’s vision for the property fails to acknowledge Reston’s golf course heritage.

Wheelock’s vision for the property includes between 600 and 1,000 residential units with a mix of townhouses, villas, and multi-family units. Coniglio said the developer designed the project “backwards” by focusing on open, public space. The residential component of the project would generate between $300,000 and $500,000 in yearly revenue for RA.

“We started with the open space, we started with the stream and the environment and that’s why we don’t have a plan with streets and boxes here for you,” Coniglio said, noting that the development would be designed so that it transitions smoothly to surrounding areas.

RA board member Ven Iyer said it was unfair to neighboring residents who could see their backyards jump from a private to public use.

Wheelock’s presentation is below:

Hidden Creek Country Club Presentation by Wheelock Communities by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

Rescue Reston’s presentation can also be found below:

Rescue Reston North Course Presentation by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

Photo via YouTube

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Wheelock to Discuss Redevelopment Plans for Hidden Creek Country Club

Wheelock Communities, the owner of Hidden Creek Country Club, will discuss its future plans for Hidden Creek Country Club, one of two golf courses in Reston that could be slated for redevelopment.

After a series of focus group meetings with community stakeholders, the company, which has contemplated adding a residential component to the golf course since it purchased the property last year, plans to create a 100-acre “grand park” open to the public. The plan also includes a residential component, which could include a mix of housing types and housing for seniors and generate between $300,000 and $500,000 in yearly Reston Association dues.

The company has not submitted official development plans or a rezoning application to the county. Reston’s Master Plan states the golf course is designed for private recreational open space and an RA resolution commits to ensure Reston is a two-golf course community.

A zoning ordinance change would be required for the project to move forward, if proposed. At a focus group meeting last month, the company said it could build between 500 and 2,000 housing units on the property. Its partner company, Wheelock Street Capital, purchased Charter Oak Apartments, which is next to the golf course. 

A recreational village in the grand park would “accommodate people’s pursuit of physical betterment,” according to presentation materials submitted to RA. A representative of Wheelock will provide an update about development plans to Reston Association’s Board of Directors on Thursday (Sept. 27). The recreational village would serve as a “modern sports and fitness center of excellence.”

Between 2.5 and 3.5 miles of trails would be added to the grand park, as well as recreational amenities like indoor tennis, a garden of remembrance, a playground, a splash park, and a dog park. The company is also contemplating renovation of the Temporary Road Recreation Area and restoring between 3,000 and 5,000 feat of degraded streams. The park would connect with the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and other nearby destinations like Reston Town Center and Lake Anne Village Center.

Rescue Reston, a grassroots group that seeks to preserve Hidden Creek Country Club as a golf course, will offer its response to Wheelock’s presentation at the Thursday meeting. The group was created when Reston National Golf Course was threatened by development several years ago. The development plan was later abandoned in that case.

In previous meetings, members of RA’s board have expressed strong support for maintaining Hidden Creek Country Club as a golf course.

The meeting will be live-streamed on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on RA’s YouTube page.

Handout via RA

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‘Road from Nowhere’ to Remain in Reston’s Master Plan

The “road from nowhere” is a household term among Restonians who are abreast of the day-to-day happenings in local development and land use. The conceptual road, which runs from the Isaac Newton Square property to American Dream Way, cuts straight through an open space resource that local grassroots groups are trying to protect from development: Hidden Creek Country Club.

There are no plans on the books to build the road. But the presence of the line in Reston’s Comprehensive Plan has some scratching there heads: Where did this road come from? And what does it mean for the golf course?

County officials say the road is entirely conceptual in nature, but could possibly be needed to improve connectivity if planned redevelopment happens in the Isaac Newtown Square area. The road could also relieve congestion at the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue by serving as an alternative route to Sunset Hills Road, according to Robin Geiger of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Geiger stressed the road has not been designed and if it is — whether through private development or through a public project — the community will have multiple opportunities to provide their feedback. The county will also work through the potential impacts to the golf course or environmentally-sensitive land in the area.

No development applications have been submitted for the Isaac Newton property to date. In May 2016, however, an application to develop a nearby three-acre site at 11480 Sunset Hills Road into an apartment building was indefinitely deferred.

But grassroots groups like Rescue Reston, which actively led efforts to stop the redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course and pledge to do the same for Hidden Creek Country Club, want the planned road connection removed from the comprehensive plan’s map. Its presence suggests the disruption of the golf course, which is one of two in Reston that the plan intends to protect.

In February, then-Reston Association CEO Cate Fulkerson requested that the county remove the line from the Reston Master Plan. Similar requests from community members surfaced again in recent workgroup sessions with county officials this month.

But county staff have remained reluctant to remove the road, noting that the conceptual road shows the intention of connecting the grid of streets with American Dream Way.

As with any new roadway design, the county will work to minimize negative impacts on existing uses and the environment. In staff’s view, the planned road being shown as part of the conceptual street network does not negatively affect the viability of the Hidden Creek Golf Course,” Geiger said.

Despite assurances, some concerns remain, especially as Wheelock Communities engages with community stakeholders to determine the future of the golf course. No redevelopment plans have been formally proposed yet.

Photo via Google Earth

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Early Discussions on the Future of Hidden Creek Country Club Begin

Redevelopment options for Hidden Creek Country Club (Handout via Reston Association)

In early discussions about the future of Hidden Creek Country Club, members of the Reston Association’s Board of Directors and community advocates stood firm against the redevelopment of the golf course as its new owner, Wheelock Communities, contemplates future redevelopment options.

Since purchasing the golf course in October last year, Wheelock has held three work group sessions with community groups and nearby residents to discuss plans for the site. At its last meeting, the real estate developer of master planned communities pitched four options, including a no-build alternative. Discussions are preliminary.

Concerns about future redevelopment intensified when Wheelock Street Capital, an affiliated company, purchased Charter Oak Apartments in partnership with local investment firm Canandaigua & Pratt Holdings in February. The apartment is next to the golf course.

At an RA board meeting Thursday night, members reiterated that Reston is a two-golf course community. Reston’s Master Plan emphasizes the importance of preserving Reston’s golf courses for private recreational use and an RA resolution commits to ensuring Reston is a golf course community and opposes any attempts to create a roadway between American Dream Way and Isaac Newtown Square through the property.

Sherri Hebert, an RA board member, said Wheelock has pitched ways redevelopment could improve public accessibility through additional walking paths and make it more environmentally friendly. Hebert said the club is already “a community diamond” and that the future of golf is strong.

“They’ve even used Bob Simon and his vision to take about this is to be envisioned as something different, which I personally find insulting,” Hebert said.

The discussion harkens back to Rescue Reston’s defense of Reston National Golf Course, which was threatened by development plans several years. Connie Hartke, president of Rescue Reston, a grassroots group formed in 2012 in response to threats against the golf course, said the group is prepared to step up opposition against future development plans.

“This is not the time to concede an inch of open space,” Hartke said, noting that more planned development is on the horizon.

RA’s board plans to discuss the issue with representatives from Wheelock at a board operations committee meeting in September and a later board meeting that month as well. RA board president Andy Sigle described Thursday’s discussion as preliminary.

Sridhar Ganesan, an RA board member, said Wheelock has stated the cost of making improvements to the golf course raises questions about the future viability of the site. Ganesan said he hopes to see an analysis by Wheelock to determine how that conclusion was reached.

Wheelock issued the following statement late Friday afternoon:

When Wheelock Communities purchased Hidden Creek Country Club in October
2017, we immediately recognized the special character of Reston and the need to
include the community in exploring all the possibilities for the future of the golf
course. With that idea and Bob Simon’s Founding Principles of Reston in mind, Wheelock
engaged the community by establishing a Focus Group to gain the perspective
from a broad-based group of approximately 20 Reston residents. The Focus
Group, which has not yet concluded its work, began without preconceived
notions about the future of the property.

This story was updated on Monday (July 30) to include Wheelock’s response.

Handout via Reston Association

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Full-Scale Terror Response Exercise Today — Fairfax County is one of six sites in the DC Metro area participating in a drill today “designed to prepare for the possibility of a complex coordinated terror attack in the region.” The county’s exercise site is the former Lorton Reformatory prison site. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Amazon to Move Into Herndon Office Tower — One Dulles Tower (13200 Woodland Park Drive) will be leased out by Amazon Web Service, the Washington Business Journal first reported. That building is just across the Toll Road from Amazon’s facility on Worldgate Drive. [Bisnow]

BXP First-Quarter Earnings Down from 2016 — Boston Properties, owner of Reston Town Center, announced Tuesday that profits are down 8.9 percent from the first quarter of 2016. Revenue fell 5.1 percent. In addition to the DC region, BXP has properties in Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. [Nasdaq]

Seahawks Soccer Team Ranked in Region — The South Lakes High School boys’ soccer team, 6-2-2 so far on the season, is ranked No. 8 in the Washington Post’s Metro region Top 10. The team next plays Thursday night at Hayfield. [Washington Post]

Golf Tournament Will Benefit Families of Heroes — The 47th annual HEROES Inc. golf tournament will be July 13-14 at Twin Lakes Golf Course in Clifton. The event benefits the HEROES scholarship fund, which provides financial aid and professional counsel to the surviving family members of law enforcement officers and firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

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Closed: Hunter Mill Golf Park

Hunter Mill Golf Park/Courtesy Yelp

(Updated Wednesday 3 p.m. to remove legal background info and add quotes from Hunter Mill Golf Park owner)

Hunter Mill Golf Park has closed its doors.

The driving range located at 1627 Hunter Mill Rd. on the Reston-Vienna line, actually quietly locked its gates in late January. But with the arrival of spring in recent weeks, the spot has been missed by are golfers looking to hit a couple buckets of balls at the large (100 tees) range.

The back half of the property was sold years ago to Oakcrest School, a private girls school, to build a new campus adjacent to the golf park site. Construction began over the winter and the new school should open in 2016, according to its website.

It took Oakcrest more than three years — from 2010 to 2014 — to gain Fairfax County approval for alternate access to the school via a driveway on Crowell Road.

Hunter Mill Golf Park had been in business since 1995. Its owner, John Thoburn, made news in 2001 when he was fined and eventually jailed, he said, for zoning violations including not planting enough shrubs and for selling illegal snack foods.

“I was surprised we stayed in business as long as we did,” Thoburn said on Wednesday. He said he had issues with county zoning and with neighbors for years, which made it hard to operate his business.

“I would have liked to have put netting up on the driving range,” he said. “[The county] turned us down on mini golf and on a par-3, 9-hole course. It costs $7 round-trip [on the Dulles Toll Road from the Beltway] to come here and hit a $10 bucket of balls. “

Meanwhile, the closing of the golf park is the latest in a series of golf news in and around Reston. Woody’s Golf Range in Herndon recently announced it would close in the fall. RN Golf Management, the owners of Reston National Golf Course will also find out next week whether their zoning appeal is approved.

RN Golf’s appeal was in response to a 2012 inquiry it made with the county, asking if the 166-acre public course can be considered residential. The county maintains its is open and recreational space and should remain so.

Photo: Hunter Mill Golf Park/Courtesy Yelp

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Reston Real Estate: Get to Know Reston’s Golf Courses

Reston Real Estate column banner  

This is a sponsored column by Eve Thompson of Reston Real Estate. She writes twice weekly on Reston Now.

Many consider golfing the perfect sport. I can definitely agree with that on those glorious days when the sun is shining and a light breeze carries the aroma of honeysuckle through the air.

On those days, nothing beats grabbing the clubs and heading over to one of the two amazing Reston golf courses: Hidden Creek Country Club and Reston National Golf Course. Legendary golf architect Ed Ault built both of these beautiful courses.

So, for you golf enthusiasts, here is the lowdown on Reston golf courses.

Hidden Creek Country Club

The Hidden Creek Country Club course is a classic, playable design renowned for its meticulously landscaped tees and greens where beautiful plants and flowers adorn each hole. This PGA-quality course is a favorite for serious golfers.

Reston National Golf Course

Located in South Reston, Reston National Golf Course is Reston’s public golf course. This secluded course is full of shaded fairways that provide a tranquil environment for any kind of golf outing you can imagine. Visit the restaurant or the clubhouse before or after your game to prolong the fun.

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