Candidates for an at-large seat on Reston Association’s Board of Directors called for tighter fiscal controls and better community engagement at a forum Monday night.
All seven candidates running for the three-year position struck similar positions on financial stewardship and balancing current facilities and programs with future programs as Reston’s braces for major population growth.
Calling himself “Reston’s advocate,” Derrick Watkins, an aircraft mechanic who moved to Reston four years ago, said RA must facilitate transparent discussions and invest more time in community engagement.
Sridhar Ganesan, former president of the Reston Citizens Association, drew from his experience as a current treasurer and director on the board, touting accomplishments like lowering assessments this fiscal year and leading the establishment of internal controls.
He hopes to reduce legal costs and employee costs while engaging in an “honest discussion” of services and programs the community desires. “I want to finish what I started eight months ago,” he said.
In contrast, Ven Iyer, president of a small technology business who took a hardline stance at the forum, said the board was operating in a “dogmatic mode” and needed to eliminate wasteful spending.
He said he wants to be the “voice to the families of Reston” by stopping wasteful spending, unwanted increases in assessment bills and invasive development projects. Among other examples, he criticized RA for decisions like a $100,000 website redesign that he said provided a “terrible user experience.”
Aaron Webb, who previously served as president of the Lakeside Cluster board and often cited his commitment to Reston’s core principles, said he wants to find ways to ensure development and amenities are available at the same pace. “Let’s not get the people here first and then get the venue,” he said.
Similarly, Travis Johnson, who touted nearly 20 years of experience in the public and private sector, said RA cannot “make investments randomly. “Every project that the board approves should have a clear middle and end,” he said.
Part of the challenge is staving off the “external greed of developers,” said John Pinkman, who has lived in Reston for 40 years and co-founded Rescue Reston, a grassroots organization. He hopes to protect and enhance property values, with the ultimate aim of uniting the “Reston spirit.”
“The bottom line really for me is that I really appreciate the $10 that we saved in our assessment, but I’m not sure i’m ready to sacrifice my home value to save that $10 a year,” he said.
Colin Meade, a sales executive who frequently reiterated his commitment to children’s programming and families, said RA must find ways to collect non-assessment dues. “I’m running for me and my family,” he said.
Rescue Reston, a grassroots organization that successfully helped prevent the redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course several years ago, is vowing to defend Hidden Creek Country Club after it changed ownership in late October.
In response to overwhelming requests from citizens for advice and support, the group has pledged to defend recreational open space at Hidden Creek Country Club by amending its mission statement.
Community advocates have long feared both Hidden Creek and Reston National Golf Course will transform into residential development as Reston expands.
“Rescue Reston and its supporters are standing between the green space and the developers who want to reduce, repurpose or eliminate green space for yet even more housing. There is precious little green recreational space in Reston to support the greatly increasing density that is already planned for all of Reston,” the group wrote in the statement.
Wheelock Communities purchased the club earlier this week from its previous owner, Fore Golf Partners, which will continue to manage the club.
In an October email announcing $300,000 in upgrades to the club, Wheelock, which owns properties in Texas and across the East Coast has listed several potential options for development, including additional public amenities, environmental benefits and new housing choices.
Golf Fundraiser Pays Legal Fees in Open Space Fight — Rescue Reston’s recent event at Reston National Golf Course raised money to go toward paying off the $153,000 in legal fees the group has incurred fighting its battle to protect the course from development. [Connection Newspapers]
County Celebrates High-Rise Construction Safety — “The cranes in Reston and Tysons are the most dramatic sign that parts of our county are changing into a more urban environment. Before these new high-rise buildings are built, years of planning go into making sure they are safe for the occupants and the community.” [Fairfax County]
Firefighters Support Breast Cancer Awareness — In an effort to heighten awareness in the fight against breast cancer, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department employees have been authorized to wear FRD-issued pink T-shirts while on duty from Oct. 9-23. The shirts are worn as a symbol of support and recognition for all those who have been touched by breast cancer. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
Preparedness Event Slated for Saturday — The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management is partnering with numerous county agencies and other partners, such as the American Red Cross, to host a Preparedness Awareness Weekend (PAW) event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Providence Community Center (3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax). [Fairfax County Emergency Information]
Digital-Media Company Moves Into New Town Center Home — Intermarkets, a Reston-based digital-media company whose portfolio includes The Drudge Report and The Political Insider, is now headquartered on the 11th floor of Reston Town Center’s One Freedom Square. [Virginia Business]
Reston residents argue that a zoning ordinance amendment proposed by Fairfax County would cause the community to become too overpopulated to manage.
That makes what happened at a scheduled county meeting to discuss the topic Monday night particularly ironic.
After hundreds of Restonians crowded into the cafeteria at Lake Anne Elementary School for the forum, Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and staff from the Department of Planning and Zoning told them the meeting would have to be postponed until a larger venue could be booked.
“It is a safety issue and a code violation [to have so many people in the cafeteria],” Hudgins said to a chorus of boos from the crowd, many of whom were wearing yellow-shaded Reclaim Reston and Rescue Reston T-shirts. “You did come out and that’s important, and I’m glad that you did, we appreciate that.”
The proposal from the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning would bump the overall limit on people per acre in Reston’s Planned Residential Community (PRC) District from 13 to 16. (The density is currently about 11.9 people per acre.) The PRC District does not include any of the Transit Station Area property surrounding the Wiehle-Reston East and Herndon Metro stations, nor does it include most of the property in the Reston Town Center Metro station TSA south of the Dulles Toll Road.
The ordinance amendment would also allow for the Board of Supervisors to be able to approve individual developments in excess of 50 dwelling units per acre in TSAs within the PRC and when in accordance with Comprehensive Plan recommendations. Those areas that would be marked for major residential development include all of Reston’s village centers.
Citizen activists warn that the combined effect of these changes could see the population of Reston tripled by 2050.
According to signage displayed in the cafeteria at Lake Anne Elementary School, the fire code caps the number of occupants of the cafeteria at 210 when tables and chairs are present, as they were Monday night. Estimates of attendance for the meeting ranged from 350 to over 400.
This letter was submitted by Reston resident John Pinkman, a member of the Rescue Reston board of directors. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. We publish article and opinion contributions of specific interest to the Reston community. Contributions may be edited for length or content.
On Monday, Oct. 2, Rescue Reston will hold its third annual golf fundraiser on the course that Northwestern Mutual would like to turn into thousands of housing units. All fundraisers are directed toward the legal defense. Will NWM stay in town and make a commitment to our community, as did Mobil? I don’t think so; if there were a door, you would hear NWM slam on their way out! See ya!
Through my work with Rescue Reston, I have criticized myself for the inability to create a sense of loss throughout the community that we would experience if we lost the open space the golf course provides. I was hard on myself — until I learned how few Restonians voted in the Reston Association Board elections. Way less than 10 percent, I’m told.
I understand apathy; I expect it. However, Reston was not built on apathy. Thousands of people have worked hard to create the community we thrive in today. It costs more to live here because of the discipline of the way we choose to live. As a result, we have succeeded. The manner in which we built this town has yielded consistent national recognition. It’s a special place.
When I was young, I lived in Houston. They exuded pride in having no zoning regulations. The out-of-control pace of development stretched the city’s boundaries in Texas-size growth. That is, until the housing bust plummeted values and the recent rains came. You could build a million dollar home and see a 7-Eleven store spring up on one side and an oil rig on the other. I don’t remember even a neighborhood in Houston, let alone a sense of community.
When I first saw Reston in the late ’60s, I instantly felt a sense of community. When I returned in 1978, I walked into the Reston Festival at Lake Anne and instantly decided — this is home. There is not a day I walk through the plaza without recalling that celebration of Reston in ’78.
We have lived here for 40 years, 25 in a home on the golf course. We have worked so hard to buy our home and invest in Reston as we raised our three kids and now seven grandkids. As have thousands of others, we have contributed to our neighborhood and community. The beat goes on; our children and their spouses are all teachers making an impact.
Let me be clear; our family is far from unusual. Other families also have a long legacy and have done much to make Reston what it is. Why do 90 percent of people who live here care so little about its future as to ignore their right to choose the leaders who guide that future? Are they too busy? Got to get the kids to soccer? “All I care about is driving on these nice roads, seeing the trees and kicking back. I’ll let someone else take care of the future.” Apathy.
Rescue Reston is continuing its effort to ensure any future action at Reston National Golf Course maintains its status as nearly 170 acres of open space.
The grassroots organization has been working for more than five years to preserve the golf course. Its efforts to block a sale of the property for residential development resulted in a temporary victory in 2016. However, the property’s owners continue to show interest in what they view as “by-right residential development” on the site.
In a letter emailed today to representatives of property owners Northwestern Mutual and investment advisory firm ARA Newmark, as well as delivered by hand to RN Golf Management LLC, Rescue Reston urges them to remember the desires of the community.
Rumor has it that you are encouraging speculative development of the Reston National Golf Course property, including that, through litigation, one might be able to build upwards of 4,000 units on this land.
Northwestern Mutual and ARA Newmark personnel responsible for this should be ashamed to be willing to put Fairfax County taxpayers through years of litigation to defend the very definite land use designation of Open Space at the property located at 11875 Sunrise Valley Drive and 2018 Soapstone Drive, Reston, Virginia.
We direct your attention to your PR statement regarding strengthening local communities at northwesternmutual.com/about-us/what-we-believe. If Northwestern Mutual, the majority partner of RN Golf Management LLC, which is the owner of the property at Reston National Golf Course, truly believes its own statement, then NWM must stop.
Reston is a Planned Residential Community. You can read the short version of what that means at http://bit.ly/PRC-Districts.
We request that NWM consider a tax efficient strategy which will preserve the golf course as open space involving the donation of the land to the Reston Association or a conservation group, or the creation of a perpetual conservation easement. Andrea Reese, Sr. Land Conservation Specialist at the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust stands ready to explore this option with you. She can be reached at 703-354-5093.
Rescue Reston’s correspondence also refers back to a letter it penned in May reminding ARA Newmark of the group’s commitment to defending the property and of the property’s approved zoning uses and land use limitations.
Earlier this year, ARA Landmark sent out information indicating that by-right residential development would soon be available at the golf course. The price was designated as “TBD by Market.” A report by real-estate news website GlobeSt.com estimated its selling price might be more than $25 million — and that a developer could make up to $200 million from the property.
In April, Fairfax County Superintendent Cathy Hudgins reminded constituents that any attempt to redevelop the property would require a lengthy list of rulings, including “an amendment to the Reston Master Plan which is part of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, as well as obtaining both Development Plan Amendment approval and Planned Residential Community Plan approval from the Board of Supervisors.”
More than 100 turned out for a planned rally at the Reston National Golf Course Sunday against the development of the 166 acres which has long been kept as natural open space.
The group, which calls itself “Rescue Reston,” says the acreage is “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program Golf,” and that its designation as open space dates back to Reston founder Bob Simon’s vision for the community.
“We’re going to send a message to the majority owner of the golf course — Northwestern Mutual — and potential bidders that Reston will not stop defending the 166 acres across Sunrise Valley Drive from the Northwestern Mutual offices,” said Connie Hartke, president of Rescue Reston. “Restonians have the power when the zoning is already on our side.”
“[Our] message to speculators regarding the sale of Reston National Golf Course is: buy a golf course if you wish, but know that recreational open space is all you will have,” Hartke continued.
News of this latest potential sale and development of Reston National Golf Course emerged earlier this year when ARA Newmark began distributing information that implies the acreage is “coming soon” for interested parties. The memorandum indicates it was prepared “solely for the use of prospective buyers of the real property commonly known as Reston National Golf Course.”
Rescue Reston members have been consulting with attorneys in preparation of fighting any potential rezoning, sale or development of the property, the organization’s website states.
Reston National Golf Course has been advertised for potential redevelopment, but a lot would need to happen for that to take place, Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins is reminding constituents.
In a statement to media Monday morning, Hudgins said an interpretation of the property’s status made by Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning is “clear and concise.”
“According to the interpretation, the process is clear and concise and must be followed in order for development other than a golf course or open space to be considered for the property,” Hudgins said.
The interpretation of the golf course property by Fairfax County Planning and Zoning reads:
“Based on the previous approvals, the redevelopment of the property from a golf course to residential uses would first require an amendment to the Reston Master Plan which is part of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, as well as obtaining both Development Plan Amendment approval and Planned Residential Community Plan approval from the Board of Supervisors.”
According to Hudgins’ office, the supervisor made the statement Monday in response to the recent advertisement of the property by developer ARA Newmark as well as a recent article on real-estate news site GlobeSt, which quoted specific rumored sale prices and development values for the property. Hudgins believes the characterization of the property as a “by-right, mixed-use development opportunity” could be misleading to some residents, who may believe its redevelopment to be “a done deal,” her office stated.
Activist group Rescue Reston, which fought against a previous attempt to redevelop the property, has stated it will “mobilize [its] allies and supporters as necessary to oppose any attempt to amend the Comprehensive Plan that would threaten our open space.”
An investment advisory firm has listed Reston National Golf Course as a property “coming soon” for developers, which has angered a local advocacy group.
Rescue Reston was formed in 2012 to oppose efforts to redevelop the golf course’s open space into a residential area, and it was successful. However, it now appears the group has a new fight on its hands.
ARA Newmark has recently distributed information announcing that “168 acres of by-right residential development” would soon be available at the golf course. In an emailed statement to media, Rescue Reston says the advertisement’s use of the term “by-right” is “highly misleading.”
“The Development Plans filed with Fairfax County for the Golf Course and the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan clearly designate the land as open space to be used as a golf course. Any residential development plan would require a review by County Planning Commission staff, a public hearing before the County Planning Commission, a public hearing before the County Board of Supervisors, and ultimately an amendment to the County Comprehensive Plan.”
Rescue Reston president Connie Hartke says her group believes the ownership of the golf course, RN Golf Management, is putting out feelers to potential developers.
“After consulting with our attorney, we suspect this is the first round to determine what the market will bear. A call for bids, if you will,” she said. “RN Golf let it be known in this letter of March 4, 2016 that they intend to pursue ‘available redevelopment options’ to develop Reston’s permanent open space. This is why we have remained vigilant and are able to react so quickly to this news.”
The Reston National site is listed on ARA Newmark’s website, with a price designated as “TBD by Market.”
Hartke said Rescue Reston plans to “mobilize [its] allies and supporters as necessary to oppose any attempt to amend the Comprehensive Plan that would threaten our open space.”
The event, which will raise money for Rescue Reston’s legal bills in the battle to protect Reston National Golf Course from development, is Monday at Reston National.
Rescue Reston was formed in 2012 in response to the golf course owners’ Board of Zoning Appeals case to render the 166-acre golf course as a candidate for residential redevelopment.
The BZA ruled in 2015 that the owner 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, and the decision was later vacated by a Circuit Court judge.
If you want to play Monday, Rescue Reston says sign up by Saturday.
Fees (greens fee, carts, range balls, dinner and drink ticket):
- Individual Player $85
- Foursome $340
Here’s the schedule:
1 p.m. Check-in and Warm Up
2 p.m. Shotgun Start (Format Captain’s Choice)
5 – 7 p.m. Dinner-Awards-Prizes
Raffle ticket drawings 6 p.m.
There is also a free nature walk around and through the course from 3-5 p.m. The walk will be led by resident Bill Burton and Walker Nature Center Naturalist Idalina Walker. To reserve your spot call 703-476-9689 x5 or email [email protected].
Dinner will be provided by Glory Days Grill. For non-golfers, a dinner donation of $10 will be accepted at the entrance by check, cash or credit card.
For more information, visit Rescue Reston’s website.
The annual Citizen of the Year Award traditionally honors an individual who has contributed to the quality of life in Reston, helped others in need and acted with the goals of Reston in mind, without thought of personal benefit or recognition, RCA says.
RCA chose Rescue Reston for its defense of Reston National Golf Course as open green space in a drawn-out legal battle of more than four years. RN Golf, the owners of Reston National, recently dropped their legal appeal in the effort to see if the course could be developed as residential.
“Typically, RCA has awarded the honor to an individual from Reston, but chose Rescue Reston for 2015 because it greatly represents the things that make Reston very unique — strong community involvement and passion for core founding principles such as preserving open green space and having ample recreational facilities within the community,” RCA President Sridhar Ganesan said in a statement.
“Thousands of citizens united behind the Rescue Reston cause, which resulted in a great public common good for Reston. Being an association of, by and for the citizens, RCA is proud to honor this organization that represents a citizen-led movement,” he said.
Rescue Reston will be honored at the annual RCA Award Ceremony on Sunday, April 24 at 6 p.m. at the Reston Community Center Hunters Woods.
Advocacy group Rescue Reston says the decision by the owners of Reston National Golf Course not to pursue an appeal in the land use rights case concerning the course is a “very positive moment” in the battle to keep the course as open and recreational space.
However, advocates for open space must also remain vigilant, the group said.
Rescue Reston is holding a fundraiser to help boost its legal defense fund.
The group, which advocates for open space in Reston, is expecting the owners of Reston National Golf Course to file an appeal with the Virginia Supreme Court of the 2015 Fairfax Circuit Court ruling that vacated a previous decision regarding the golf course’s zoning.
Rescue Reston is raising money for the supreme court case, should the Virginia Supreme Court decide to hear it.
Rescue Reston’s fundraiser is Thursday March 10, 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods.
Guests are invited to enjoy appetizers, beverages, and camaraderie while being led in painting a 16 x 20 painting of a weeping willow tree. Painting instruction will be provided by Pinot’s Pallete Dulles.
Refreshments include a slider bar by JJ Deli and wine, beer and soft drinks.
Admission is $70; $20 of the admission fee will be donated to the legal defense fund. Register online.
The owners of Reston National Golf Course have filed a notice of appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court in regards to the recent lower court ruling on the 166-acre course’s land use designation.
RN Golf, owners of the public course claims in its filing that By Right development means it can develop what it wants with no zoning changes or public hearings.
The filing sets the clock ticking for a hearing at the Supreme Court sometime in the next several months.
RN Golf’s filing at the state level caps a year of many court appearances 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, 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.
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.
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.
So the saga continues. Meanwhile, play through.
“RN Golf, backed by the deep pockets of Northwestern Mutual, knows the legal option is their only near term chance of success, so they are going for it,” said Rescue Reston President Connie Hartke.
John McBride, RA’s land use attorney, said the association, the county and the individual landowners will file a brief in opposition within 21 days.
After hearing oral arguments by RN Golf, the supreme court will need to decide whether to accept the case for review. This will likely happen in May or June, said McBride. If the case is accepted for review, then it would be scheduled for briefing and argument later in the fall of 2016.
Proponents of open space in Reston got a small victory on Friday when Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Michael Devine denied the request of RN Golf Management, the owner of Reston National Golf Course, to delay the final issuance last month’s opinion on the future of the the 166-acre-course.
In November, the court vacated the Board of Zoning Appeals’ decision from earlier in 2015, when it ruled that the golf course owners would not need a comprehensive plan amendment to redevelop the course as a residential neighborhood.
RN Golf has been saying the last several years it has no specific plans it just wants to know its rights.
Last week, RH Golf had asked the court to delay issuance of its order — which cements the ruling — for at least three months so as to permit RN Golf more time to consider alternative strategies.
That means the clock begins ticking now if RN Golf wants to take the case to the Virginia Supreme Court. RN Golf has 30 days from Dec. 4 to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.
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), which heard from all sides in a lengthy hearing in January of 2015.
Rescue Reston, the advocacy group created in the wake of the golf course saga, said they expect a further fight in the case.
“We fully expect RN Golf Management to continue its attempts to invade our open space,” said Rescue Reston President Connie Hartke. “Rescue Reston will remain vigilant and take all steps necessary to prevent that from happening.”