Local community groups are gearing up to protect Reston National Golf Course from redevelopment once again after the 168-acre property was sold off to a pair of Baltimore developers earlier this month.
Weller Development Cos. and War Horse Cities purchased the property from RN Golf LLC, a partnership of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance and Billy Casper Golf, according to the Washington Business Journal.
So far, the developers have “no set plans for the property at this time,” according to the report. But both companies appear to focus primarily on development.
Weller Development creates “large and small-scale development projects with the potential to transform cities,” according to its website. War Horse Cities is focused on “programming spaces, developing real estate and creating philanthropic initiatives,” according to its website.
Rescue Reston, a group formed in 2012 to protect Reston’s two golf courses and open spaces, has already declared that it is ready for battle.
“You bought a golf course and you own a golf course. Period. The war is on,” the group wrote on Facebook.
The fight to preserve Reston’s golf courses now has two fronts.
The advocacy group has vowed to protect Hidden Creek Country Club, which has been the subject of discussion for redevelopment in recent months after it was sold in 2017. Wheelock Communities, the owner, is considering plans to build 600 to 1,000 residential units and create a public park on the property. No formal plans have been proposed, but the company has discussed ideas with community stakeholders.
Rescue Reston says Reston National’s new owners have yet to contact them about their plans for the site.
“Weller Development Co. and War Horse Cities state in this Washington Business Journal article that they are ‘focused on building relationships’ and ‘being part of the Reston community.’ Yet they have not reached out to Rescue Reston or any other Reston entity which is in favor of golf and open space in Reston, thus showing their true intentions,” the group wrote in a statement.
Redeveloping the golf course would require a comprehensive plan amendment — a protracted process that Reston National’s previous owners backed off on in 2012.
Although the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that RN Golf could redevelop the site, the decision was overturned by the Fairfax County Circuit Court. In 2016, RN Golf decided not to take the fight to the Virginia Supreme Court. The golf course was later listed for sale in 2017.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
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:
Rescue Reston’s presentation can also be found below:
Photo via YouTube
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
This is an op/ed submitted by Rescue Reston’s North Course Committee. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. No development plans for Hidden Creek Country Club have been formally proposed to the county. If you wish to submit an opinion piece, email [email protected].
Wheelock Communities, the Connecticut-based company that bought the Hidden Creek Country Club in north Reston, says it wants to build housing on 40 percent of the golf course land on almost half of the golf course that comprises the biggest part of north Reston’s open space. The land design firm that Wheelock is working with told a community focus group last month that Wheelock foresees building between 500 and 2,000 housing units in the open space.
Building housing on Hidden Creek golf course would violate the Reston Master Plan that is part of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, as well as require a change in the County zoning ordinance. The County has designated Hidden Creek as private recreational open space, specifically a golf course.
All of the Hidden Creek golf course needs to remain as private recreational open space, and here’s why: In this area, buying a house is almost always the biggest investment decision that any of us will make.
Because it is such a consequential decision, we homeowners count on the land-use plan to give us some confidence about what we can expect to see in our community over time. In fact, the Fairfax County website says, “The purpose of planning is to ensure that Fairfax County’s excellent quality of life will continue.” The Reston Master Plan Task Force’s goal was to guide the community’s growth and development for the next 30 to 40 years.
Why should one real estate development company that has had no connection to our community be able to make an investment decision that would undermine the individual investment decisions of many thousands of Reston households?
Allowing that would be counter to one of Robert Simon’s primary goals for Reston: “that the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning, and take precedence for large-scale concepts.”
Building new housing where it’s not supposed to be–and losing 40 percent of north Reston’s planned open space at Hidden Creek in the process–would hurt Reston households. And it would hurt not just those who live in the Lake Anne/Tall Oaks district of Reston, but all Restonians who rely on the two major north-south roads through north Reston: Wiehle Avenue and Reston Parkway.
Putting housing on Hidden Creek would add to the Wiehle Avenue traffic that is currently bumper-to-bumper during rush hours. Wiehle Avenue traffic is already expected to worsen because another development company has put in an application to build 2,100 units in the Isaac Newton area (behind the Wiehle Avenue firehouse). That area is within the Wiehle-Reston East Transit Station Area, so new housing development is conceivable there under the approved Reston Master Plan. Add to that the 156 units in new development that has already been approved for Tall Oaks Village Center.
The Hidden Creek golf course is outside the Wiehle transit station development area and should remain ineligible for new housing, lest we both lose our precious green open space plus overburden our roads and other infrastructure–such as our public schools–even more.
Restonians already know what it’s like to crawl along Reston Parkway in the morning or late afternoon. But more traffic will be coming there, too, from the 20-story condominium that has been approved for the corner of Temporary Road and Reston Parkway. That area was zoned for high density living in the Reston Master Plan because it is within the Reston Town Center Transit Station Area.
Wheelock Communities bought a golf course that is supposed to remain as open space. They knew it when they bought it, and we as a community need to work to keep the zoning ordinance and the Reston Master Plan as they are in order to protect all of it as open space. Based on the information on their website, Wheelock’s strategy as a developer is to buy, build, sell, and leave. They have no long-term interest in Reston.
if Hidden Creek Country Club becomes yet another housing development, Reston National Golf Course may suffer the same fate. Chipping away at one big parcel of green space will set a precedent for destruction of other open space within Reston and Fairfax County.
Speculative developers will not stop trying to pave over green spaces when they can make millions by building more housing. Let’s not give them an opening to take away our green space in Reston. If Wheelock does not have the vision for how to make Hidden Creek the gem of a golf and tennis club that it should be, then they should sell to those who do have the vision.
We have enough planned development coming to Reston. Let’s not allow additional unplanned development. Learn what you can do.
This is an op/ed submitted by the North Course Committee of Rescue Reston. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. To submit opinion pieces, email [email protected].
Wheelock Communities bought Hidden Creek Country Club in October 2017. Hidden Creek is zoned as a golf course and is intended in the Reston Master Plan to remain a golf course in order to provide planned, open green space as a balance to the high-density development currently occurring in Reston Town Center and near Metro.
This innovative way to combat suburban sprawl has always been the Reston planned-community deal: protected open space to balance out high-density living. And Restonians were told they could count on this deal.
Yet, from the start of its interactions this year with the Reston community, Wheelock Communities has claimed that Hidden Creek is economically unviable as a golf course. Why did Wheelock buy it then?
Wheelock cannot be arguing that golf courses are inherently commercially unviable because it owns two large properties in Texas that include golf courses. There’s no reporting that Wheelock intends to close those courses.
And Forbes reported this May that the number of people starting to play golf was at an all-time high last year. The demographic makeup of those new golfers coincides nicely with Reston’s demographic makeup. And the number of non-golfers saying they’d be interested in learning to play golf is up as well, according to Forbes.
Plus, Reston is an outdoor-oriented community that looks to enjoy the great outdoors right here, as summed up in Reston’s “Live-Work-Play” slogan. Outdoor activities sponsored by the Reston Association and by the Lake Anne and Reston Town Center merchants’ associations are well attended.
Despite what looks to be favorable conditions for generating more demand for golf among Restonians, Wheelock has not been exploring this opportunity in its interactions thus far with the Reston community. Instead, Wheelock has been gauging how much housing the community might tolerate on what is now the Hidden Creek Golf Course.
Wheelock’s apparent lack of interest in making Hidden Creek succeed as a golf course raises the question:
Could it be that Wheelock is looking to neglect the golf course and let it commercially fail in order to boost its argument for a rezoning request?
It’s easy to see why Wheelock would want to renege on its commitment to honor Hidden Creek’s zoning as a golf course. According to the Fairfax County Tax Administration website, Wheelock paid $63.75 million for a mere 12.3691 acres in the adjacent Charter Oak Apartments, or $5.15 million per acre. Charter Oak Apartments commanded this high acreage price because the land is zoned as residential (for apartments), is developed, and can be redeveloped as housing.
Yet Wheelock paid only $14 million for the 162.5835 adjacent acres of Hidden Creek Country Club, or less than $100,000 per acre, according to the same Tax Administration website. That’s right: an acre on the golf course was one-fiftieth the price of an acre in the apartment complex next door. This dramatically lower price per acre for Hidden Creek is precisely because the golf course is not eligible for development (beyond the parts that already have buildings).
If Wheelock could get Hidden Creek rezoned for housing, the value of the land would skyrocket, giving Wheelock a huge windfall. And in the process, Restonians would lose their precious green open space that they were told was guaranteed by the Reston Master Plan.
Could it be that Wheelock never intended to honor its commitment under the zoning plan to keep Hidden Creek as a golf course? From where we sit, it sure looks like it.
Photo via Rescue Reston
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
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.
Diversity and Inclusion
The all-male panel stressed the need to engage with people from diverse backgrounds and aggressively recruit more women to run for RA.
Watkins said RA can encourage inclusivity by becoming “more relevant in people’s lives,” noting there are “no institutional hurdles” to run for election.
“We just need to get people interested in it,” Watkins said.
Iyer, one of three non-white candidates on the panel, said encouraging more grassroots candidates like himself to run will encourage minorities to run. If candidates run on slates and are openly supported by the current board — which is the case with four candidates — people may believe there is a “revolving door of candidates.”
Johnson and Ganesan are running alongside Tammi Petrine and John Bowman, who are seeking other board seats. Candidates on the slate said they chose to run together because of their shared ideas, including concerns about the Tetra purchase. They also oppose a controversial proposal to increase Reston’s population density.
In contrast, Iyer said the board was operating in “group think mode.” In the past year, the board failed to pass one motion and more than 120 decisions were passed unanimously, he said.
The Tetra Purchase
Candidates also focused on RA’s $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property and cost overruns linked to the building’s renovation.
When asked if it was time to move forward after the controversial purchase 2015, Ganesan and Iyer said changes were not implemented thoroughly enough to give closure, including a third party review of the purchase by StoneTurn.
Others like Johnson and Meade, however, said it was time to move on.
“We can’t complaining about what happened before… we own it,” Johnson said, adding the purchase was “emblematic of mismanagement of RA.”
Boosting RA’s Influence
Candidates also touted the need to increase the influence of the board on the Hunter Mill District Supervisor, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the county’s park authority. RA’s board and the county have clashed in recent years.
Pinkman said raising RA’s voice is especially if residential development encroaches upon Hidden Creek Country Gold Club.
The real power to enact change, Webb said lies at “the ballot box.”
With effective grassroots mobilization, Ganesan said it is possible to successfully challenge county positions, noting previous successes stopping development at Reston National Golf Course and the St. Johns Wood development.
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.
Dozens of meeting attendees filed out the door after Hudgins made the announcement, saying they were making room for the meeting to go on as scheduled. Meanwhile, suggestions were shouted that the entire meeting be picked up and moved to the school’s gymnasium or even outside.
However, the decision to postpone had already been made.
“We want to communicate, and we will try to find a solution,” Hudgins said. “We’ll get a facility where we can accommodate you.”
The large turnout came after a community meeting last week where members of Reston activism groups encouraged residents to spread the word and rally attendance. One of leaders of that event was Dennis Hays, president of the Reston Citizens Association.
“I’m disappointed that we’re not having the meeting, particularly after several hundred people volunteered to walk out to try to get us down to the [maximum occupancy] number,” Hays said Monday night. “[But we] sent a message. The message was that the citizenry are concerned by this and willing to stand up and say something.”
The Reston Association Board of Directors had been scheduled to hear an update on the situation and take an official stance on it at their meeting Thursday; however, that will now likely be postponed as well, President Sherri Hebert said.
Hudgins and Fred Selden, director of the county DPZ, said the proposal will not move forward in any way until all feedback from the community has been received.
“This is not a done deal,” Hudgins said. “If it was a done deal, we would have stopped [scheduling meetings] long ago. We’re back here to continue to hear from you.”
Information about the date, time and location of the rescheduled meeting will be provided when it becomes available.
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.
No doubt everyone has a reason, specifically valid to himself or herself, for focusing inward of their own four walls. Busy for sure, but apathetic about the very nature of how we evolve and unaware of how we have to fight to preserve the very concept of Reston, only arousing when the threat of uncomfortable or inconvenient change rustles the bushes close to home.
For decades, Reston has fought the internal view of North and South Reston. Honestly, I have never understood that concept. Even before the Wiehle Avenue bridge was built, we developed as one community — many neighborhoods but one community. We took pride in the big “Reston” billboard on Route 7. Perhaps I feel that way because of the years I’ve spent in recreation and teaching players. We would use all of the parks, pools and fields.
But in the process of trying to preserve our open space, I have been amazed to hear comments like “that’s a South Reston problem,” “I don’t play golf,” or “I live in North Reston — don’t care.” Any problem that affects a neighborhood in some way impacts the entire community. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but we must direct our efforts to understand the effect on the whole.
We must be united in facing the big issues, regardless of the immediate neighborhood where we live. Six thousand housing units and the multiples of people residing on 167 acres of what is currently open space would have a domino effect on the entire area. It changes how we move, how we educate, the value of a RESTON property. It changes our patience too.
There are before us now many issues that require the energy of our leaders and their followers. We need to remember that the best way to achieve solutions to the challenges we face is for more people to become involved in the process. I am committed to the Steven Covey quote, “begin with the end in mind.” That’s how we became Reston. That’s how we shall deliver this town to our children who love to return and raise their own children.
If you have read this far it’s only right that I ask you to help support Rescue Reston’s Golf Tournament on Oct 2. Play golf that day. If you don’t play golf — seriously — everyone knows someone who does! Call them; ask them to play. Stay up on Northwestern Mutual’s continual assault to destroy those 167 acres at RescueReston.org/golf.
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.”