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Letter: 'We Will Never Back Down'

Resident tells Northwestern Mutual CEO what Reston is about.

Reston resident Kathy Kaplan shared with Patch a letter she sent to Northwestern Mutual Insurance CEO John Schlifske last week after it was discovered that Northwestern Mutual is the parent company of the company that owns Reston National Golf Course.

 


Dear Mr. Schlifske:

Perhaps when you bought Reston National Golf Course you were led astray.  Perhaps someone in Fairfax County government assured you that our community was undergoing massive redevelopment and that it was a good opportunity to make a cool half billion.   Perhaps someone told you that no one living here would lift a finger if you took away our open space and removed one of our long-standing community amenities.   We would really like to know if you were egged on by someone in our county government.  We might need to do some house cleaning.  Please inform us; we would appreciate it. 

Perhaps your advisors didn’t tell you that Reston is a planned community and both of golf courses were included in the original Whittlesey and Conklin master plan of 1962.  They are designated as open space in every county map produced since then.   

We are an unusual community, not like any other.  Perhaps you don’t know very much about us.  We do things very differently here.  We have an ongoing love/hate relationship with the Design Review Board.  We love to hate them.  We endure, mostly in silence, insults from our original developer/founder who believes he should be our dictator.   We are a difficult people.  We have stayed put here 50 years and we aren’t going anywhere.  Many of us have three and four generations of our families living in Reston.  My daughter, who grew up in Reston, lives on Reston National Golf course. So do my grandchildren.  Reston is our home. 

Restonians understand the balance of nature.  We live in nature.  We live in harmony with our resident predators—foxes, coyotes.  As long as they don’t break the rules and eat our pets or our children we don’t trap or poison them.  We let them stay and eat whatever else they can find.   And we live in harmony with our resident predatory developers—Boston Properties, JBG, and others.  They occasionally put up nice buildings.  We appreciate nice buildings. 

But stealing our open space breaks the rules.  You do a disservice to your stockholders if you think you will win this battle to take what is ours, what has always been ours.  You will not be allowed to eat the future of our children.  You need to reconsider your legal actions to redevelop Reston National.

We will never back down.

Sincerely, 

Kathy Kaplan

Reston

Laura Ramon September 23, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Dear Kathy- and the rest of the torches & pitchfork team, perhaps instead of hiring lawyers you should take up a collection so you can buy the golf course. Then you could keep it exactly as it is FOREVER, UNCHANGED, at your expense. We know absolutely NOTHING at this point, can't we tone it down just a bit? I was offended to be accousted at Lake Anne yesterday by someone shoving a leaflet in my face saying "did you hear they're going to bulldoze the golf course?" Really? Very nice tactics guys- good fear mongering. I think I'll hear what's on their minds before I strike the match.
Kathy September 23, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Actually, Laura, we know quite a lot. The lawyers for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance filed legal documents with the Board of Zoning Appeals. Please feel free to read them: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/bza/appeals/appealstaffreports/a2012hm020app.pdf They want to build housing on the golf course. A lot of housing. And they don't feel they need to go through any approval process whatever. No comprehensive plan amendment, no PRC approval. They are ready with their shovels as soon as the Board of Zoning Appeals agrees with them that the golf course isn't open space. That zoning appeal hearing will be October 24. If you want more information, please see Rescue Reston's website, RescueReston.org They are also on facebook as Rescue Reston. I am very glad to hear Rescue Reston's supporters were passing out flyers yesterday. Kathy Kaplan
John Farrell September 23, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Their filing with the BZA makes clear that they want to redevelop the golf course for residential uses "by right," that is, without going through the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors public hearing process that all other redevelopment projects, like Fairways and RTC, went through. If they win, they would merely file plans with the County who would be required to approve them and, if the County refused to approve them, the Circuit Court would. I'm sorry you felt accosted. The point here is that Northwestern Mutual doesn't want to show you or us their plans or go through the same process as everyone else. As for buying them out, that just might be Northwest Mutual's plan. Though as one of the most profitable courses in a Metro DC area where so many other courses are losing money, I cannot understand why their policyholders would think that's a good idea.
Laura Ramon September 23, 2012 at 02:25 PM
As I said Kathy now John- If you want the golf course to remain unchanged you and RA and everyone else that feels entitled to having it provided for them should buy it and keep it as they want it--"by right." In terms of feeling accosted- I am sick of extremism being used as a tool to engender the fear of loss. "Have you heard they're going to bulldoze the golf course?" It's BS-- and Kathy you and your constant insistence that developers are plotting to buy up and mow down our clusters, I just find it very hard to take you seriously.
John Farrell September 23, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Ms. Ramon The zoning and the restrictive covenants to keep the golf course as permenant open space are already in place and were in place when Northwestern Mutual bought the land. Now, it wants to overturn those arrangements by an end run around established processes. That's what's radical and extremist in this case. Maintenance of established processes and procedures is actually the conservative, moderate course. Sorry you disagree.
Laura Ramon September 23, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Given your intelligence I have to assume you are deliberately avoiding the point-- Has it been stated that the golf course owners want to bulldoze the golf course or do they want to add some housing that will have golf course views? We don't know, that's the point. It's all positioned in extreme terms, Rescue Reston, bulldozing golf courses!! Can't we just work the process and find out exactly what the situation is? Ms. Kaplan has been singing this song for so long it is as I said, hard to take her seriously. Is the sky really falling this time? This is my point, I don't need a damn torch, I need good reliable un-spun data.
John Farrell September 23, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Ms. Ramon Thank you for the compliment. Read the 200+ page appeal that their attorney filed, as I have, and you'll know that the answer to your question is indisputably, "yes." No torches required.
Kathy September 23, 2012 at 05:28 PM
There will be a RALLY in support of maintaining the open space at Reston National golf course Saturday, September 29th at 4 pm. It will be held at Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley at the National Realty Parking lot. RA Board President Ken Kenueven will speak. RA Board member Richard Chew of South Lakes District will speak. John Pinkman of Rescue Reston will speak. There will be music. Tired of hearing from Chicken Little? Here's your opportunity to hear from our Reston Association representatives. Kathy Kaplan Reston
Rob Whitfield September 23, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Kathy: I worked in the real estate and mortgage loan department of a major life insurance company three decades ago. Northwestern Mutual Life is highly regarded in the real estate industry and has invested with major developer partners on a joint venture basis throughout the Washington, DC area since the 1980s. http://www.northwesternmutualrealestate.com/equities.html Their local office is headed by Bill Norton, a highly experienced regional manager. I have met Bill several times in the past but not recently. Life companies are very conservative typically in their investment practices and seek stable returns matched against the terms and risks involved in their insurance policies. They aim mostly to be passive community neighbors. If the existing/proposed golf course investor partner is the major company which you mentioned to me last month, then perhaps we should be asking them for an explanation rather than NML. I defer to John Farrell and you in that you have read the documents filed with BZA. It is time to review the overall goals of the Reston Master Plan update task force which has stalled in the last year. John Lovaas told me last month that he had heard from a senior County Planning staffer that they will act to expedite any proposed development. I did not understand the context of his remarks. Many or most of those involved in the RMPUTF represent national developer interests rather than the local community. This situation merits investigation.
Skip Endale September 27, 2012 at 11:40 PM
It just seems odd that someone chose to write an open letter to a fortune 500 CEO while at the same time actively engaging with a community organization that chose to retain a lawyer to investigate and work things out. To make things worse the tone of the letter is creepy and patronizing and in that sense just as unprofessional as the act itself. Please, lets do a better job in representing Reston. And not to leave anyone out - lets also respect Laura's opinion whatever point she was trying to make. I hope the rally tommorrow will go smoother...
Kathy September 28, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Let's say there are 1,000 homeowners that live on the golf course. Reston Association said there are between 1,000 and 1,200, but let's round it down. On the lower number the collective loss of their property value those families will face if the golf course is redeveloped is $100,000,000. That's a hundred million dollars of property devaluation of my daughter's and her neighbors' properties. So if it was your neighborhood and the value of your home was about to fall off the chart, you would say what? Hey, dude, let's work it out? I don't think so. Kathy Kaplan

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