Golf Course Zoning Appeal Moved to May 22

Hearing was scheduled for Jan. 30, but owners of Reston National Golf Course will have to wait until spring before getting answer.

Update, Jan. 7 - The hearing was postponed at the request of the applicant, RN Golf Management.

Original Story: The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals hearings for the owners of Reston National Golf Course has been moved from Jan. 30 to May 22.

This is the second time the hearing has been postponed. It originally was scheduled for Oct. 30. The Board of Zoning Appeals did not say which side asked for this most recent postponement.

The issue dates back to last April, when RN Golf Management, which is owned by a subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, asked county zoning officials if the Reston golf course was zoned residential.

When the zoning officials said the golf course was not residential and to designate it residential would involve a change to the county master plan, the owners filed the zoning appeal.

The looming appeal  which are adamant the 166-acre golf course should remain open space. Reston Association and Reston Citizens Association have vowed to fight redevelopment, and a grassroots organization, Rescue Reston, has mobilized since July.

No plans for potential residential development at the course have been made public yet.

Meanwhile, Rescue Reston is still collecting petition signatures and holding a fundraising gala on Jan. 26.

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.

To see all stories related to the Reston National Golf Course rezoning fight, click here.

K2 January 09, 2013 at 03:07 AM
I read a good portion of the appeal documents submitted by RNGC, and it said that the land could fit 7,921 multiple family units. I realize this is not a developer's plan and it is simply some staff report from a text amendment from whatever year, but holy cow. This developer could end up being authorized to build 7,921 condos. Of course, there seems to be a dozen ways to do the math. Somehow, on page 1 of attachment B, I believe they use the additional acreage to actually try to show that they are decreasing the overall population density with this potential development. Does the county or the district have a lawyer dedicated to this - as it seems Northwestern likely has a full-time legal team. Or do we have....well, I don't know how to say this...do we just have legal clerks or non legal office staff trying to compete in the same ring against big corporation? Is this the goal of the fundraiser? Not sure if anyone on here knows these answers...just throwing it out there.
Ray Wedell January 09, 2013 at 04:57 AM
Why is the fact that there is low inventory currently on the market in Reston (and everywhere else in D.C. and Northern Virginia) have anything to do with a "need" for new construction? Because the current market is one in which homeowners are choosing not to list their homes does not mean we suddenly need developers and builders to become super-active and flood us with more houses. A year ago, people were whining about "shadow inventory" and worried about some "huge supply overhang" which we could not possibly work our way through. Now we are to panic due to low listing inventory?
Ray Wedell January 09, 2013 at 04:59 AM
K2.... your concerns are more legitimate than you may realize.
Ray Wedell January 09, 2013 at 05:19 AM
Beth, I had an epiphany of sorts today by attending the Board of Supervisors hearing related to the Spectrum expansion of the Reston Town Center. It passed unanimously, and almost all the supervisors pretty much chatted with each other as the only person to comment on the project....our Supervisor.... waxed poetic about how this is positive progress for Reston. Her only stated concerns were that sidewalks be wider and that Reston Parkway "not be a thoroughfare", but have room for pedestrian crossing and bicyclers. That was it. I kid you not. If you are familiar with this project and the others already approved, and in some cases under construction, in that same area of the RTC, we are going to witness an incredible expansion of residential and commercial space without a single person raising the issue of traffic or discussing any road being widened or rerouted as part of this project. So in other words, we are going to see a doubling of the size of the RTC with the current transportation system expected to accommodate all of it? No developer concessions to improve traffic flows? The Reston response to this is a stated concern that Reston Parkway not become "a major thoroughfare"? It already is a major thoroughfare, so imagine when you double the residency and number of office workers in the area. So Beth, do I trust the Board of Supervisors, or even our own supervisor, to get this golf course zoning issue resolved properly? We have our work cut out for us.
DGeorge January 09, 2013 at 12:26 PM
K2, I can't believe you said Ashburn is a great place to live. Have you driven around Ashburn? It is a soulless collection of ticky tacky connected to strip malls and fast food joints. I have no doubt the developers profited mightily and then left town. Ashburn is an example of all that is wrong with current development. It will happen to Reston if not opposed.
Karen Goff January 09, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Ray - it doesn't have anything with the need for new construction. I was just pointing out that the statement that the Reston market is flooded with starter homes, townhouses and condos is not true.
David Burns January 09, 2013 at 03:44 PM
K2 The number of multiple family units cited in the appeal document represent the County Dep't of Planning and Zoning calculation of additional units that would be permitted in Reston given existing density requirements. It does not represent the number of units that could be built on the RNGC land even if the golf course owner prevails in its appeal. That said, if they do win on appeal, and in the subsequent judicial review process, they will be permitted to develop the golf course with some number of residential units as a matter of right. Both RA and Rescue Reston separately have retained land use counsel to oppose the appeal. I was involved in the selection process for RR counsel and we hired very able and experienced lawyers to represent our interests. If you would like to donate to the legal defense fund please go to rescuereston.org.
K2 January 09, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Gosh folks....I did not say the Reston market was flooded with starter homes. I said that "the second that the Reston market is flooded" with starter homes...MEANING if and when condos or townhouses are built on the golf course, then the inventory will go up and we will lose the home value gains we made from both the metro and 'current' decreasing inventory. I let it go at first, but I prefer not to be misrepresented twice. However, you are right: The current low inventory did not cause any increase in development ventures. The two are independent. Development is occurring for the sake of development and profit - not due to current low inventory.
Karen Goff January 09, 2013 at 08:59 PM
K2 - Got it. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
K2 January 09, 2013 at 08:59 PM
DGeorge, Not sure there is a need to 'reprimand' someone who is on your side. The spirit of my earlier comment was that we need to NOT develop like Ashburn because they have abundant new construction that keeps inventory high and pre-existing home values somewhat stagnant. Ashburn is oddly plopped down here and there...you're right...and maybe I should not have used the word great, but my point was about new construction, inventory comparisons, and home value.
K2 January 09, 2013 at 09:11 PM
David, Thank you for the information and for your involvement. I did donate $50 to the legal defense fund just now. I do think it's important. This is going to be an interesting year.
David Burns January 09, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Agree, and thanks for the donation
DGeorge January 10, 2013 at 02:37 AM
K2 it is just the beige development to the west, Ashburn, represents, to me, the worst of the worst. First bulldoz the trees, for they are in the way, then build all the same houses, for there is profit in purchasing in large amounts. It is sickening. I too thank you K2 for your donation. I share your concerns of confronting a professional legal team with the home town amateurs. Sometimes however the amateurs win.
Richard Holmquist January 11, 2013 at 07:06 AM
Laura, you seem to think that we Restonians are the ones being unreasonable. Do you really think that Northwestern Mutual Life was under a big misunderstanding when they purchased the golf course? You think they thought all along that the course was authorized for residential development? Baloney. They're the ones being outrageous here, pushing far beyond their legal limits and in clear opposition to the desires of their neighbors. They could only hope for Reston or Fairfax County to negotiate with them, because it would give them far more than they have any right to. Any negotiated settlement would be a corporate hand-out to a company that has no demonstrated need, and which has shown itself to be a terrible neighbor. The "reasonable solution" here is to deny their appeal.
Richard Holmquist January 11, 2013 at 07:26 AM
Eve, I'm a golfer. I've been playing the course for about 30 years. As a freshman hot-head at SLHS, I played the last hole with my putter during golf team tryouts and missed the cut by one stroke. I played a memorable round with my uncle on the day before my wedding. Lots of experiences there - good & bad. In any case, the loss of Reston National wouldn't be a disaster for the golfing community. It would be inconvenient for many, but there are other courses around, which I'm playing exclusively until Northwestern Mutual Life drops this boondoggle. The more important issues for me are the loss of open space that this represents and the damage to the concept of Reston as a planned community.
Laura Ramon January 11, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Richard- first off- I am a Restonian; the notion that one group speaks for all is a little off putting. I am not in favor of this development. What I loath are video's full of half truths, the spreading of rumor as fact and the intense spin of fear. Mr. Pinkman's emails refer to Northwestern/Learners, secret meetings, etc. It's crazy- like the notion that the developers have our lakes in their sights. I think when that's the starting point you run the risk of diminishing your position. Let me state again- I'm not in favor of any change on that golf course, but I don't think this campaign or its leadership is doing the cause much good. If your posturing is so extreme that even people who agree with you can't wholeheartedly get behind you it's a problem.
BBurns January 11, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Laura, bottom line: this fight will most likely be settled in the courts. You said you're not in favor of developing the golf course. So donate to the legal fund, if you are in a position to do so. The chatter and leader you don't like ultimately won't be the determining factors in what happens.
Laura Ramon January 11, 2013 at 01:47 PM
Beth- 2 things. 1. What a foolish thing to think. You dismiss the possibility that there are others who won't publicly align as a result of the extremism and half truths! Read this blog! Do you think terms like "existential threat" or claims that the developers are going to pave over our lakes don't hurt the cause?! Trust me- it does. 2. What makes you think that I haven't contributed? You don't know what I've done.
Connie Hartke January 11, 2013 at 01:58 PM
The Board of Rescue Reston does not in any way control comments made by others. From the Rescue Reston website: Board Of Directors John Pinkman (Executive and Communications Director) Joe Deninger (Finance Director) David Stroh (Legal co-Director) David Burns (Legal co-Director) David Burns has commented on this post. All other comments should not be considered to be official "Rescue Reston" organization points of view.
Laura Ramon January 11, 2013 at 02:12 PM
Connnie- thank you- I get it, but I don't think the fireside videos are doing your cause any good. Exam the statements of your leadership- my first encounter with him was him shoving a flyer in my face shouting "did you hear they're going to bulldoze the golf course?" This is not an exaggeration- that's exactly what he did, I am receiving the community emails. From Mr. Pinkman: "We are using our resources to learn the answer to that question. We do know this situation has become very fluid and is potentially in the midst of change. We have heard both ominous and optimistic scenarios; the key word being “scenarios”. Nothing has been presented to or discovered by Rescue Reston as fact. It is very interesting that Northwestern Mutual/Lerner suddenly asked for a six month delay (on top of the previous three month delay) in a case they initially felt so secure in asserting. Obviously there are reasons of which we are as yet unaware" Really? Northwestern/Learner? He should worry about liable.
BBurns January 11, 2013 at 02:22 PM
Laura, no, I do not think words in a blog or on Patch will influence or determine the outcome.
Jim Hubbard January 11, 2013 at 02:43 PM
I have to wonder whether folks have thought this issue through. The current appeal to the zoning board, as several folks have noted, has to do with the golf course's owners developing the site without any further reviews. If the zoning board rules against the owners, they could still go to court to overturn the decision or simply do what other landowners do and seek the County's permission to develop the land. Without being a real estate lawyer, I would have to bet that the County, under Virginia law, would almost have to approve some development. I doubt that the County has the authority (or the political will) to force the owners to operate the property as a gold course against their wishes. After all, it is private property. If that's true, the only recourse for those who want to preserve the golf course is to buy it or arrange for someone else to buy it. The County, in the form of Small Tax District 5 or the Park Authority, would seem to be the most obvious choice. Admittedly, purchase by the County is not likely, but it a great deal more likely than forcing the owners to operate a golf course when they don't want to.
Richard Holmquist January 11, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Laura, I believe that a citizen campaign that's designed around acquiescence and compromise - with an impersonal corporate entity that has no motivation beyond the allmighty dollar - is a campaign that's doomed to apathy and failure. The golf course isn't looking to build a caretaker's cottage for the greenskeeper. They're trying to obtain the right to build homes - many of them. Then they'll sell off the property at a huge profit and leave. It's naive to think otherwise, Restonian or not. See how effective your quaint, utopian coffee clutch will be in restricting the developers once they've had their zoning appeal approved. Perhaps you'll convince them too leave a strip of trees along the border.
Kathy January 11, 2013 at 03:44 PM
I am not and have never been a member of the inner circle of Rescue Reston although I did attend two of their early meetings. My daughter and her family live on the Reston National Golf Course. She grew up in Reston and bought into the Reston dream of living in a beautiful place. Her investment in her townhouse is threatened by this proposed redevelopment as are the investments of all the residents on the golf course. John Farrell is right that this redevelopment proposal is an existential threat to Reston. Unfortunately it's not the only threat. All our open space is threatened by redevelopment, the open space that is owned owned both privately and by RA. I don't understand the venom of individuals in this thread and other threads against Rescue Reston from day one. I understand venom against me. I repeat things county planners and others in a position to know have told me. Nobody wants to know what's coming to Reston. Attacking the messenger is old. But why attack people trying to protect their property values? I think that's quite strange. One has to wonder about the motivation underneath the venom. Kathy Kaplan
John Farrell January 11, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Laura The DRB is the essence of Reston. If it is invalidated on 166 acres through the heart of South Reston than its efficacy is ended. Thus, the existential threat to Reston.
John Farrell January 11, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Jim There are so many misstatements and misconceptions in your comment, it may take 2 comments to cover them all: Getting a BZA to overrule a Zoning Administrator is hard. I've done it but most cases fail. Getting a Circuit Court to overrule the BZA when it sides with the Zoning Administrator is even harder. Even getting the Va. Supreme Court to hear an appeal where the Circuit Court sided with the BZA and the Zoning Administrator is exceptional. So assuming Lerner loses, they would have to get a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and a rezoning approved by the Board of Supervisors, after a Planning Commission hearing. There is no reason to expect that to happen. A landowner is only entitled to some reasonable use which the County gets to choose. A golf on that property is a reasonable use. Especially given its profitability. The County can require that no change in use occur. Could the Lerner's abandon operation of the course? Sure, but why would they when its profitable? Spite? btw I am a zoning lawyer and you'd lose your bet. ;-)
Uncle Smartypants January 11, 2013 at 06:17 PM
I thought high self-esteem bordering on narcissism was the essence of Reston. You learn something every day ...
Catherine Baum January 11, 2013 at 10:36 PM
the lakes are "storm water management ponds" and cannot be developed
Joe C. January 17, 2013 at 07:59 PM
That doesn't seem to be the case,Sally.Maybe you should take some lessons.
Sally Singer Brodsky January 27, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Laura, you are a voice of reason. I asked a simple question and one person assumed she knew what I wished for. Another told me to take some lessons. As I read the cynicism and vitriol expressed here, I am turned off. Larry Butler's memo was instructive insofar as it was able to look at some of the implications of this redevelopment. In the last paragraph, though, he mentioned something that does worry me about the golf course...the use of water from Lake Audubon and run-off into Lake Thoreau of whatever they use to keep the grass green. I'd like to have reasonable conversations here, but it's hard because of the "it's all about the money" group.


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