Homeowners Preparing for Golf Course Battle

Possible zoning issue could change face of Reston, some say.

Residents of several neighborhoods in South Reston are getting organized and ready for a fight in order to keep green space.

The homeowners are responding to the news that the owners of the golf course will go before the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals in October as part of an effort to determine the zoning for the 166-acre course.

 The county said that any changes would have to go through the county master plan, as well as the Reston Master Plan and Reston Association.

To see RN Golf Management LLC's appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals - as well as other documents pertaining to this issue - click here.

While plans for any redevelopment have not been confirmed, residents are getting ready for a battle. 

At a meeting of Golf Course View Cluster Association residents on Tuesday, homeowners said they fear that RN Golf Course Management will have legal precedent to remove the land's golf course designation, making the land ripe for redevelopment into medium-density residential units (about 44 people per acre).

Neither RN Golf Course Management nor Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins returned requests for interviews on Wednesday.

"This is a detailed legal battle and is not political in nature," said John Pinkman, a resident of the cluster for 20 years. "I am advised that the most prudent method of preventing this from happening is legal research and action; not phone calls to supervisors, political entities, or petitions. We need to quickly raise funds directly from homeowners to hire specific land use attorneys. "

Pinkman says home values - as well as the promise that Reston is a good place to live, work and play - are issues.

"It is reasonable to assume if we do not take this action, the price of our homes will be dramatically affected and overall real estate values will be degraded when the homes are no longer located on or near a golf course," he said. "Not to mention the effect on the quality of the life you intended to lead when you purchased your home."

Another nearby resident, who asked her name not be used, says she fears that the golf course owners will lay claim that the open space already is zoned residential - and then they can go ahead and built hundreds of homes.

"That is what is scary," she said. "We have to be concerned about what is going to happen to the neighborhoods."

The golf course is about two miles from the Wiehle Avenue Metrorail stop, set to open in late 2013. That does not put the land inside the quarter-mile zone slated for highest-density transit-oriented development, but residents said they feel it still will be a target for developers.

Pinkman said he hopes hundreds of residents will attend the Oct. 24 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting to speak out.

"As a planned community, Reston has an implied, but non-legal, covenant with its residents," he said. "We moved here with implied guarantees of a specific lifestyle and promise to maintain a geography of lakes, golf course, and open space. We pay for those amenities in higher real estate values. If a major component of that plan can be completely destroyed and redeveloped without any consequence or conscience what is to say that the other supposedly protected open spaces will not fall to the same fate?"

"The same evidence cited in the RN Golf Management, LLC redevelopment plan could establish an authoritative precedent which may be used to justify other major redevelopments such as filling in the lakes or paving over other open space."

Pinkman says this is not just an issue for homeowners near Reston National.

"This issue does not only affect Golf Course home owners," he said. "If this redevelopment succeeds it invalidates the total concept of our planned community. Who would trust an investment in this highly priced real estate market if the future homeowner could not depend upon the ability of Reston to keep its word?"

Reston Association President Ken Knueven says RA will  be in touch with members whose properties may be affected by any golf course redevelopment. He says he encourages them to attend the Oct. 24 BZA hearing, as well as the next RA Board meeting in Sept. 13.


Want to get on the homeowner mailing list as the issue progresses? Contact John Pinkman and John@pinkman.us.

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Chipperson August 16, 2012 at 10:31 AM
If the whole area is zones PRC then anything allowed in the PRC goes - just need to do it via a special exception and have the citizen meetings. Don't see what the issue is unless it was proffered that the golf course has to be there - even then it can be altered.
Ray Wedell August 16, 2012 at 11:12 AM
The golf course has been long established as a means of valued recreation for Reston residents and surrounding towns. This proposal is a huge loser for the residents of Northern Fairfax County. The entire vision of open space, livable Reston, of being "different" in terms of not yielding to short term profit motives of developers just went out the window with this proposal. Not only should the space stay open, it should remain a golf course. What was the old song by Joan Collins, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot?" Ray Wedell
BBurns August 16, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Ray, I think you're thinking of Judy Collins, but it was Joni Mitchell. The Reston residents who fought for Brown's Chapel Park used it as a theme song (with different lyrics), including a great on-line audio slide show, if I recall. This isn't just about a golf course. Or golfers. People stroll along the cart paths in the evening with kids and dogs, I'm told. It's about developers and the county, including Hudgins, wanting to chip away at Reston until we're Tysons West. They see huge dollar signs since Reston has some of the last undeveloped land close to Tysons. In their eyes, we're just a suburbs with valuable land. My husband and I don't live near Reston National. I hope residents who think golf is boring or who live in other parts of Reston will help. If it was Brown's Chapel last year and the golf course today, what's next?
Laurie Dodd August 16, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I agree that this issue is larger than the golf course, larger than the property values of its immediate neighbors. It is about the green spaces of Reston and the character of our area. While the population density of Reston will inevitably increase, we must retain some areas of green space, even the altered landscape of a golf course. I hope to attend the October 24 meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals and hope many others will join me.
Jim H August 16, 2012 at 03:09 PM
While I agree that this is larger than the golf course or property values of its immediate neighbors I would like to address the later point. As mentioned in a previous post, the owners of properties in the "golf course communities" purchased those properties, at a price premium, due to their proximity to the golf course. I don't believe anyone purchased their home with a disclaimer attached saying "oh, by the way, you’re paying x number of dollars more for your house because your adjacent to a golf course, but that golf course won't be there next year and you will be adjacent to a densely populated housing development!” If that were the case, then why pay the premium? Isn’t one of the roles of government to “protect property from the majority?”
Stella McEnearny August 16, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Beth, yep, it was Joni Mitchell (and "Big Yellow Taxi" is the song's name). You summed it up quite accurately with "...wanting to chip away at Reston until we're Tyson's West." We don't live near Reston National, either, but we're weary of watching continual incursions on the community's beautiful open spaces, green oases which are inherent in Reston's character. There's nothing enjoyable about high-density dwellings, traffic congestion, and more useless, high-end commercial frippery.
Richard Holmquist August 16, 2012 at 05:15 PM
This golfer will never play another round at Reston National under the current ownership after reading their appeal. Since it's clear the owners doesn't want to operate this land as a golf course anymore, I look forward to the failure of their appeal and the sale to new ownership so I can get back on the Reston links.
Skip Endale August 16, 2012 at 06:08 PM
By you not playing golf you are making a compelling argument against keeping the golf course as an ongoing concern. I understand your upset but reducing revenue flow surely will convince the owners to pursue more profitable options.
The BSD Guy August 16, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I THINK IT'S ABOUT TIME TO FILE A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST THE COUNTY, RESTON, AND THE DEVELOPERS. REASON: FRAUDULENT MISREPRESENTATION! If I wanted to live in an over developed pig stye I would have moved to Rosslyn, Ballston, or Tysons. Reston was has been continually misrepresented to us by the Reston Association, Fairfax County, our elected "Representatives," and of course, the county's very, very special interest - the developers. Reston was presented by Reston Association representatives to me as a "planned community" with one of the selling points they were using being the fact that Reston couldn't turn into a pig stye - yet it's happening right before our eyes. Why in Gods name, are we having to waste our precious free time to go to county meetings so we can continually engage in combat with the county's elected and appointed officials, who ARE BEING PAID BY US THROUGH OUR TAX DOLLARS so they can apparently work against us every time the developers come up any weaselly money making scam they can think of. GUYS, WAKE UP! THIS IS A SCAM! Sit down and really think about it. You're paying taxes so Kathy Hudgins can work against you for a special interest. One of the county's "planning experts" during a tour of the area made a vague claim that the entire area needed to be bulldozed. HE'S BEING PAID BY US TO DESTROY OUR TOWN. THIS IS RIDICULOUS.
Laura Ramon August 16, 2012 at 06:51 PM
The Brown's Chapel video was a god-awful smear campaign designed to make people believe that the little church, (that was moved there) was going to be torn down. Behind it all was a group of North Reston NIMBY's who used the masses to rally on their behalf. Do not compare the Brown's Chapel disaster to this situation.
Richard Holmquist August 16, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I will play golf under new ownership. Why should I support an enterprise that wants to fundamentally change the character of Reston for the worse?
Richard Holmquist August 16, 2012 at 07:08 PM
The appeal by Reston National is being made because government agencies are BLOCKING them from the ability to redevelop the golf course into residential housing. Our government officials have acted properly so far. They've done exactly what you want them to do. Perhaps you could be more effective by appealing to RA and your supervisor rather than alienating them right from the start. The enemy here is Reston National's owners.
Jim H August 16, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Rich, I’m sure you have played RN for many years, as I have, and we both know that unless it is grossly mismanaged (which it may be) it has got to be a “cash cow” for Billy Casper Golf Management and RN Golf Management (who I believe as far as Reston Nation GC is concerned are one in the same). Its full day golf camp for kids in the summer time is always packed at $535 a head; prime weekend rates are $90! They’ll typically do 250 - 300 rounds on a busy Saturday or Sunday. You and I both know that “boycotting” the course just frees up a tee time for someone else! If you go to the RN website http://www.restonnationalgc.com/index.php it is billed as “…among Northern Virginia's favorite classic golf courses. Designed by the legendary Ed Ault and proudly managed by Virginia-based Billy Casper Golf, Reston National is a great place to learn, practice, and play golf.” Billy Casper Golf is headquartered in Vienna by the way and its Chairman and CEO Peter Hill was named one of the “most powerful people in golf by Golf Inc.” in 2009 http://www.worldgolf.com/newswire/browse/61145-Billy-Casper-Golf-Chairman-and-CEO-Peter-Hill-Rises-No-5-Golf-Inc-%E2%80%98Most-Powerful-People A few years ago there was talk that they wanted to make Reston National a premier facility, maybe even moving their corporate offices there.
Jim H August 16, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Glad a few people remember Joni!
Richard Holmquist August 16, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I agree with what you say, Jim. I'm sure they'll be perfectly healthy without my overpriced greenfees, but they're not going to get them until they stop this nonsense or switch owners. I encourage all other Restonians to do the same. This company is not a good neighbor. Sounds like I'll need to extend my boycott to the other Billy Casper courses as well.
Lilguy August 16, 2012 at 09:14 PM
"...The enemy here is Reston National's owners." And their attorney, Mark Looney, who lives in Arlington, yet represents the Reston Chamber of Commerce on the Reston Master Plan Task Force.
Robert Beale August 16, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Robert Simon's high density vision for Reston is flawed. In the April 11, 2012, Washington Post article about Mr. Simon, he discussed his development vision that includes having residents live above businesses. He called for our existing village centers to be demolished and to be replaced by high-rises as is planned for Spectrum Center. He was quoted as saying "Density is good, it makes open space available.” Can someone point me to a nice quiet, treed park in Reston, a place with lots of benches and maybe a duck swimming in a pond near kids playing with their sail boats, a quiet park where one might sit down away from stress and read a book under the shade of an oak? There are such parks in London and yes, even in NYC. But in Reston we continue to cut down trees and pave over our remaining green spaces. Reston’s mixed-use plans proffer a mix weighed much too heavily towards concrete. Do we really want Reston Parkway and Temporary Road looking like 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue in NYC? Planners and developers are destroying all of the best of Reston. This speculative re-development is driven primarily by money and may not be our best interests. Reston is not New York City! Neighbors please speak up!
L C White August 16, 2012 at 11:13 PM
One of the reasons I bought my townhouse was its proximity to the golf course. Another reason was Reston’s reputation for enforcing stringent covenants to preserve Reston’s appeal. It takes a virtual Act of Congress to get permission to cut down a tree or change the official color palette for a townhouse cluster. And yet the golf course owners may get permission to bulldoze 166 acres so that a developer can get rich building more ugly McMansions? Really? This proposed zoning change is something I’ve feared for the 11 years that I’ve lived on the edge of Reston National Golf Course. Whenever I voiced my concern to neighbors and Reston residents, they scoffed because they all “knew” that Reston’s charter is to maintain green living space and recreational facilities. I suspect that the Reston Association will be unable to prevent the denuding of Reston--starting with the RN Golf Course—without a prolonged legal battle. I am willing to contribute to a legal defense fund, at least as much as I am able. And I’m also willing to do whatever research, phone calling, canvassing, and other activities are needed to avert this travesty. I will definitely be at the RA Board meeting on September 13 and the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting on October 24.
Bill Burton August 16, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Will there be public input at the Oct 24 BZA and/or Sept 13 RA meetings? I'm ready to speak about preserving Reston's open space. Among many other arguments, the patch of land between the 1st and 9th fairways is old field habitat--one of the rarest habitats in Fairfax County, and home to a family of foxes and a lot of bluebirds.
Robert Beale August 16, 2012 at 11:47 PM
I may be aware on biz, but if in town, I will plan to attend these sessions. Is there anything there that can be legally defined at "endangered."
John Farrell August 17, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Yeah, Hudgins definitely needs to replace him. Even asking for the interpretation demonstrates he clearly doesn't get Reston. And he's not even handling the BZA appeal. That been taken over by the guys at Hunton and Williams, 500+ lawyer firm out of Richmond.
John Farrell August 17, 2012 at 05:06 AM
The BZA Oct. 24 meeting is a public hearing where you can speak but its more like a court hearing than a zoning case. How Ken Knueven runs the 9/13 RA meeting is anybody's guess. In the past, public comments were restricted to 3 minutes each at the beginning of the meeting with no interaction or dialog between any speaker and the Board members. They just sit there like statues, trying to endure an unpleasant experience and get it over with as quickly and painlessly as possible so that they can get on with: 1) telling each other stories about the latest cute thing their child, grandchild spouse or some group of volunteers did since the last Board meeting; 2) telling the volunteers on DRB and Covenants they're not needed anymore; 3) moving boxes around on the organizational chart but keeping the same dysfunctional employees in place; 4) moving line items and funds around on the financial statements without fixing more pools so that they're open during the summer (see Dogwood pool) or putting lights on Browns Chapel field #1 and #2, which are now scheduled to be thought about again in 2015, or maybe it was 2021; or 5) going into executive session. All the while the sound on the recording equipment is turned down so low that no one can hear what's being said by anybody the following night when the RA Board meeting is replayed on Channel 28. So what can you expect at the RA meeting? A lot of talk about nothing real; taking all night and leading to no concrete activity.
BBurns August 17, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Robert, thank you for speaking up for the animals (and preserving old field habitat). Not enough people seem to care about them.
The Analyst August 17, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Robert Simon is historically one of the most belligerent and self interested developers in the country. For those that have been in this area longer than 5 years, they've likely become familiar with the unending insults that he throws at Reston residents. It seems his highness seems to think that just because someone actually purchased (as in has paid or is paying for it) a property in the area, they, in Simon's opinion, have the audacity to actually believe they own it. No - he owns it, he's just renting it to you. He will decide what's best for you - you insignificant peon. Every time I see the statue of Simon I roll my eyes and have to wonder - what's next, a statue of Joe Stalin?
The Analyst August 17, 2012 at 07:29 PM
I really like the lawsuit idea. This would hurt developers, county politicians, and county officials the one place they value the most - in their wallets. From a tactical point of view, I would wonder if it wouldn't be advisable to assemble a group of attorneys, put them on retainer or under contract, and continually file suits against those working against the residents. Face the facts, if county "officials" are going to cater to the development industry and then suddenly find themselves paying legal fee after legal fee to face unending legal challenges, they'll likely put an end to their tactics - unless developers come out of the closet and actually start paying their legal fees for them. That wouldn't happen because it would expose the criminal link between the two. The same would hold for Hudgins and any other "by the developers, and for the developers" supervisors. I would think that in some cases, because those being sued could be sued as individuals, it would prevent them from hiding behind the their status as either an elected official or an appointed official. I think this would work effectively.
Karen Goff August 17, 2012 at 09:35 PM
The analyst - That is not true. If you own your home, in Reston or anywhere, you own the land it is on. Check your deed.
Patty Cidone August 18, 2012 at 12:19 AM
I tend to agree with you Richard - if just on principle. Reston National is one of the biggest money making golf courses around this area, with my understanding of an average of 55,000 tee times a year (do the math - and they are hoping to up it to 65,000 in 2012). In fact, I believe procedes from here have allowed them to get the 1757 Golf Course in Loudoun going. However, what I think would be interesting is to register with the county (I'm going to look into this) to picket these guys. Because I would hope that there are a great deal more local golfers out there who would have the same opinion as you. To my knowledge, the bad guys are not Billy Casper Golf who manages the property. It rests soundly with the investors who we have on record of stating the sole purpose of purchasing the property was to redevelop it. Now if that isn't a crock, I'm not sure what is. This whole thing just sickens me.
The Analyst August 18, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Ms. Goff: I am not referring to actual ownership, I am referring to the fact that Mr. Simon seems to be under the impression that he owns, and is entitled to control all that goes on in Reston without any regard to Reston's residents (meaning those that bought his homes.) He isn't, and never has been. One of the typical developers sales pitches has historically been that they're economic experts, they know what's best for everyone else, and if you just let them go about they're schemes, everything will be so, so much better. This has been going on county wide for the last 20 years. We now have the nations worst traffic congestion, there's a more than reasonable possibility that job losses caused by a reduction in work force in the government and government contracting industries will impact the area because of our national debt, and what's the developers solution? Let us put up more buildings. The county can seize property using eminent domain as they see fit, and since developers seem to be dictating policy in the county, there's absolutely no reason for me to believe the county government will act on the behalf of residents. God help the poor person that paid, say $300,000 for a townhouse and finds the county seizing it for a special interest for what they see as the homes value, which is typically considerably less ($200,000). That homeowner gets stuck paying the remaining $100,000 off for a non-existent property. Welcome to Fairfax County!
John Farrell August 19, 2012 at 03:27 AM
The most endangered species in Reston is working class and blue collar families. They are in the processed of being price out of this city all together! Redeveloping RGN will only accelerate that process.


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