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What's Next for Rescue Reston and the Fight for Open Space?

Rescue Reston has been receiving many calls and emails concerning what lies ahead on the golf course crisis now that Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance has asked for a three-month delay.

Many folks are trying to figure out why there has been a delay of three months for RN Golf Management's Board of Zoning Appeal.

They approach Rescue Reston with numerous scenarios and conspiracy theories. Is there a problem in the appeal? Are they trying to cool off the uprising of citizen opposition? Are they retooling the entire concept; have historical and well documented zoning evidence emerged?

We have no idea. We are confident in this, though – Restonians’ legitimate paranoia has been brought about by the secretive action that Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance has taken.

Just Checking

 A major credibility gap that has led to the speculation and conspiracy theories stems from Northwestern Mutual's own published word. The statement (included in their brief, 250+ pages submitted to Fairfax County) that Northwestern Mutual, the parent company of RN Golf Management, is “merely checking their options relative to land use”, has been rejected by numerous land use consultants as laughable.

Why? Consider this. Let's say that you were an executive of a Northwestern Mutual's Real Estate Investment Group in 2007, and someone within your company comes to you and says, “We want to spend approximately $10 or $20 million to buy a golf course in the top-rated planned community in the United States. This community has extreme sensitivity to their open-space, lakes, and the golf courses around which the community has been built for 50 years. And by the way - we really don't intend to run it as a golf course”.

Your next logical question would have likely been, “Well, what do you intend to do with this land then”? Would you accept the reply, "Actually we have no idea; we're just exploring our options." Of course there's a plan, they are just keeping it quiet. As a Rescuer in the insurance business told me at the last Rally, “Northwestern Mutual, "the quiet company," is quietly destroying Reston.” I assured him we will not be as quiet.

Numerous people from the development and land-use management industry have contacted Rescue Reston and commented on the unusually secretive manner in which this process has occurred.

We are told by developers it is their standard policy to meet with affected homeowners in the surrounding area as soon as possible and brief them as to the overall scope of the project, and that development, especially redevelopment, is aboveboard and in public. They cannot understand why the landowner and the developer are hiding their intentions.

Several sources have indicated the golf course developer to be The Lerner Company, owner of the Nationals baseball team. Lerner has not publicly announced its involvement. But how perverse would it be that a premier sports entertainment company in the metro area is part of the plan to close down one of the premier golf courses and recreational amenities in Northern Virginia to construct medium to high-density housing?

Rescue Reston's Plans

So considering the many conspiracies at play, what are Rescue Reston's plans?

Sooner or later all the players and all the facts will be revealed. While we are evaluating the various scenarios, our primary mission remains as it has been since our inception. It has been clear since day one and that is: inform, inspire, and motivate citizen activism to prevent the elimination and redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course.

It is absolutely astonishing that we've had some leaders in Reston actually criticize us for our methods. Why did the community create Rescue Reston?

  • To generate legal action to protect arrogant, abusive redevelopment.
  • To inform Reston residents who are unaware of this open space crisis.
  • To move as many people as we possibly can to the BZA meeting on Jan. 30.
  • To conduct a massive letter and petition campaign to show our opposition to the potential redevelopment of the golf course.


I don't know about you, but to us that sounds like responsible leadership. I suppose it might upset the people who are trying to redevelop the course.

However, in the spirit of Neville Chamberlain at the outbreak of World War II, some have said that this development will never happen, we’re making a mountain out of a molehill, wait and see, and I don’t live on the golf course, it doesn't affect me so why should I care? Those folks may soon change their tune if the redevelopment of the golf course is involved with a new Reston-wide tax increase to pay for the new roads (as happened recently in Tyson's Corner).

Rescue Reston erupted with such approval from the community precisely because they didn't want to sit and wait to see what happens. As this crisis evolves there continues to be an ever-growing mistrust in the entire process. The process of re-creating a major part of Reston, and establishing a precedent for more anti-open-space development is alarming to most Restonians.

Action

Rescue Reston is about to undertake a major petition campaign. We're doing this because Reston's future will be decided by the opinions and decisions of people we vote for - the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Northwestern Mutual's appeal to thecCounty simply claims they have a right to avoid what the county has said is the normal procedure of land development. On Feb. 1,  after losing their appeal to the BZA, Northwestern Mutual could easily say - OK, we accept your requirements. We will now work toward amending the Reston Master Plan and the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan. That decision ultimately tosses this crisis back in the lap of the Board of Supervisors.

Precedent

We want thousands of Rescuer signatures. We want neighborhood leaders to work in small areas to knock on doors, talk to their neighbors and inform, inspire, and motivate their neighbors to oppose this change in the Reston lifestyle.

What's at stake?

If I've heard it once I've heard 50 times in the recent weeks:

"John, we don't want Reston to become Ballston." Many people have
called our office in shock as the bulldozers across the street from town center
on Reston Parkway tore down Parc Reston to replace 82 apartments with 360. http://reston.patch.com/articles/parc-reston-ready-to-clear-way-for-towers.


Most everyone said, "I had no idea that that was going to happen!"
We are working hard to help everyone avoid that shock again.

We also know that if you can do it once, you can do it twice; if you can do it in Reston, you can do it anywhere. This is the crack in the dam, the paradigm shift and development in Northern Virginia. We must stand firm against development that is in opposition to the very reason that we moved here.


Rescue Reston is your organization. It is your opportunity to raise your voice and stand in opposition. You can do that either by passively writing letters and signing petitions or you can choose to become active and help lead your neighborhood.

By choosing either option, Rescue Reston is giving you the opportunity to take action, and not just sit on the sidelines as your town changes in ways you never thought possible. Visit our website, become involved. http://RescueReston.org

John Pinkman is the executive director of Rescue Reston.

 

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This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joseph V. Morris October 25, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I will agree with you that there are important differences between the PARC Reston redevelopment (currently underway -- and after going through the normal process) and the RNGC redevelopment which has now arisen. And, yes, we all knew that the Metro was going to change Reston. The difference is that redevelopment associated with the urban corridor along the Toll Road has been identified and planning is already underway to deal with its impact on population, traffic, and public infrastructure (including specifically Reston's public schools). That's simply not true with respect to RNGC's proposal.
Jim Hubbard October 25, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Under current state and county law, I believe that a determined landowner will eventually be able to carry out whatever development they want. The current argument is only about how many hoops NW Mutual has to go through, not whether they will eventually be able to build on the golf course. If the community wants the golf course to remain open space, public ownership remains the only sure option.
Joseph V. Morris October 25, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Jim, Is your comment expressly in the context of the PRC zoning that applies to Reston (and specifically the Golf Course)? I will grant your premise that the only 'sure' solution is public (or RA) ownership of that tract. For quite some time, it has seemed to me that there's a major missing section in the current PRC zoning statutes and that's related to the entire (and critical) issue of redevelopment. Consequently, decisions are being made on a case by case basis. Still, it would seem to me that, if RNGC prevails in its currently stated position, the whole concept of Reston as a planned community is meaningless -- it's only planned as the developers see fit to determine.
Ray Wedell October 25, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Joe...ditto. That is it in a nutshell. On another note, NW Mutual, and others in their positions, are known to lose their appetite for pet projects in which there is major public opposition. Keep in mind these projects are all speculative in nature as well, so whatever they have in mind may not be as exciting a rate of return as we think. Investors, banks, insurance companies, etc. get sold a bill of goods on these things often.... for a local example, look at the idiocy in the proposed Linden Springs project (the old Prison Ministry). Educate them on projects like this, and on how much push-back they will get from the public.... don't underestimate the power of informed and passionate public opposition.
Jim Hubbard October 26, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Rescue Reston imagines that if enough people object, NW Mutual will give up or the County will force them to keep the golf course as is. I doubt that there is any legal way for the County for require the owners to keep the golf course as is or to block them from any new construction. Moreover, I doubt that the County would try to block new construction. The County is fully committed to massive development along the Silver Line. It is already using the weaknesses in Reston's zoning to facilitate development. And the scale of the development already approved demonstrates that the County is indifferent to development's impact on the existing residents. Almost certainly the County will negotiate with the golf course owners about the nature/extent of the new construction rather than try to preserve it all as open space. Rescue Reston needs to think bigger. If the community owned the golf course, perhaps through Small Tax District 5, it could preserve the open space. Even if a campaign for public ownership failed, it would raise the right issues, namely that the zoning ordinance and the County's policies put the entire community at risk.

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