By David Stroh, Executive Director, Rescue Reston
Wow, fun and wow, successful. That’s a short summary of the fine evening we had on May 5 at Rescue Reston’s “Spring into Action” BBQ and silent auction fundraising event held at the Hidden Creek Country Club in Reston. The Bank Street Band was great. The venue was perfect for our full house crowd of 130 friendly, fun, and caring folks. We all had a good evening, enjoyed each other, and know now, more than ever, that we are a strong community devoted to protecting the long-standing Reston Master Plan for open space at Reston National Golf Course.
I want to extend my thanks to all for making it such a success. Thanks to Ruth Ann Pinkman who chaired the event. She tirelessly handled every aspect of the evening and is still at work tallying the results. Thanks to Ray Wedell whose membership at Hidden Creek allowed us to hold the evening there without charge for the venue. Thanks to the Bank Street Band that played so well, got the crowd dancing, and freely contributed their talents. Thanks to the many folks who made generous purchases of the more than 80 donated silent auction items. Thanks to the special volunteers whose efforts made the evening run smoothly. Thanks to State Delegate Ken Plum and to Reston Association’s President , Ken Knueven, and Board Member, Richard Chew, and to the Reston Citizens Association President, Colin Mills, for coming out to show their support. Thank you to everyone who came. Your many contributions and support are much appreciated as Rescue Reston continues the fight to keep one of Reston’s major open spaces.
by Connie Hartke, Rescue Reston
I received a phone call from a longtime Restonian who is a shareholder of Northwestern Mutual (NWM). He talked about what an ethical company NWM is and his surprise that they would try to take away what has been permanent open space since Reston’s earliest planning—open space that we have relied on in our decisions to buy property and live here. He thought it would be powerful if he and other Reston NWM shareholders wrote letters explaining how they feel about this particular investment.It’s a wonderful idea, and here is the person to write to:
Mr. John E. Schlifske
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance
720 East Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202
RE: [your NWM account #s] and Redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course, Reston VA
A quick synopsis of the issue: Fairfax County tax records show a sale of the Reston National Golf Course property in 2005 to RN Golf Management LLC (RN Golf) for $5,009,819, an entity in which NWM is a major investor.
In June 2012 the Fairfax County Zoning Administrator’s Office received and rejected RN Golf’s contention that the Reston National Golf Course could be developed with residential housing without the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County first making an appropriate change to the adopted Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for Reston. In July 2012, RN Golf appealed that decision to the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) and has since asked for, and received, three delays of the hearing date. The BZA hearing is now scheduled for September 25, 2013. You can read more details at RescueReston.org.
Whatever led RN Golf to buy the property back in 2005 and then conjure a belief in 2012 that the golf course is already zoned for easy residential development was mistaken.
RN Golf bought the Reston National Golf Course property subject to zoning restrictions requiring that it remain open space, as has been shown on the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for over 40 years. People have long relied on Reston’s plan, its zoning and permanent open space in making decisions to buy property and live in Reston. RN Golf has no right—legally or ethically—to expect that those restrictions would be changed.
RN Golf and Northwestern Mutual have underestimated our community response. We will not go away. Restonians are passionate about Reston and tenacious enough to fight for as long as it takes to prevail.
Rescue Reston is a grass-roots organization of volunteers dedicated to protecting the permanent open space of Reston National Golf Course. Executive Director David Stroh and I were interviewed by John Lovaas, longtime Restonian and host/producer of the public affairs program RESTON IMPACT. It’s a worthwhile 28 minutes to share with anyone who isn’t clear on the possibility of residential development on our permanent open space and Northwestern Mutual’s involvement. It will first air at 8:30 p.m. on May 1st on Comcast Channel 28. You can see it anytime at http://vimeo.com/64568662#.
If you are a shareholder of NWM and care about the open space that makes Reston unique and a highly desirable community to live in, please write a letter. NWM has a $30+ billion portfolio of real estate investments, but what about your personal investment in Reston?
Perhaps you can mention that you read on the nm-reston.com website that “Northwestern Mutual of Reston has found that success is primarily driven by a well-thought-out, comprehensive strategic plan” and that you would like them to respect our long-standing Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for Reston. Reston’s historic land use plan created a design for a place to live, work and play and is what makes Reston number 7 of the 10 best places to live in America, according to CNN/Money Magazine in 2012. If you can, join us on Sunday May 5th at our Spring into Action BBQ & Rally.
Attorneys for RN Golf Management LLC (of which Northwestern Mutual is the majority owner) have once again delayed their hearing before the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals.
Rescue Reston board members were disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that attorneys for the owners of the Reston National Golf Course, RN Golf Management LLC (of which Northwestern Mutual is the majority owner) once again have delayed their appeal hearing before the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals.
Comments from Rescue Reston Executive Director David Stroh, “We presume that the owners recognize the weakness of their case attempting to oppose the County Zoning Administrator’s determination that the Reston National Golf Course is clearly zoned as permanent open space. What they hope to accomplish by yet another long delay of the hearing is unclear, but we are looking into our options with Rescue Reston’s attorneys Greehan, Taves, Pandak & Stoner, PLLC.
“The most important thing our community can do right now is to show the Board of Zoning Appeals and our County Supervisors where we stand and why. Together we can show them that we support the Zoning Administrator’s determination and the County’s long-standing Comprehensive Plan for Reston. We can stand together and show that we do not appreciate and will not stand quietly by when anyone attempts to destroy the open space that makes Reston unique — one of Money Magazine’s top 10 places in the country to live – even if they have deep pockets to fund their attack.
“The Rescue Reston May 5th rally/Spring Into Action fundraiser at Hidden Creek will go on! A strong showing of support will send a message to Northwestern Mutual. If the goal is to wear us down, then they do not understand what Reston is, who we are, and what we Restonians are made of.”
The hearing date has been moved to September 25, 2013.
“I fully support your position.” Those were the words of Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova as three Directors of Rescue Reston concluded a meeting with her on Wednesday, March 27.
Present were her chief of staff, Clayton Medford; Leslie Johnson, Fairfax County Zoning Administrator, and Cathy Belgin, Sr. Assistant to the Zoning Administrator. RN Golf Management LLC (of which Northwest Mutual Life Insurance Company is the majority owner) is appealing to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) the Zoning Administrator’s determination that RN Golf Management does not have the right to re-develop the Reston National Golf Course (RNGC) with residential housing units without an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.
Rescue Reston (RR) President David Stroh and VP of Legal Affairs David Burns briefed Chairman Bulova on how RR came to be formed, for the singular purpose of opposing development of the golf course property, that RR has retained legal counsel to vigorously oppose RN Golf Management’s position in the BZA appeal process, and that the Reston Association (RA) and Reston Citizens Association also oppose development of the golf course. RA also has retained counsel to present its position before the BZA.
Ms. Belgin explained how thoroughly the Zoning Administrator’s office had researched its position that the 166 acre golf course is designated as permanent open space. She reported that this had been in planning documents dating back to the period when Reston was founded, and was reaffirmed in subsequent rezonings. Ms. Johnson confirmed that the Zoning Administrator’s position is very firm. Chairman Bulova asserted her belief that the County Attorney’s office would surely support the Zoning Administrator should there be a further appeal after the BZA hearing.
We also discussed how Reston is a unique and award-winning community, nationally recognized for its commitment to intelligent urban design and maintenance of open space. Mr. Stroh pointed out that development of the golf course would threaten this reputation and adversely impact the perception of Fairfax County as a leader in “smart growth” policies. We mentioned the impact that the loss of the golf course would have on the environment, including loss of wildlife habitat and important “old field” habitat which is endangered in Fairfax County, and the effects on storm water runoff.
I presented the status of our petition efforts. As of March 27, Rescue Reston has almost 3,000 signatures: 748 on paper petitions, and 2,215 on the online petition. 772 of those who signed online also wrote comments. Chairman Bulova was impressed that so many had taken the time to write a comment. I had randomly selected 11 comments to share at this meeting, and they represented a range of concerns including open space being a criterion of Reston’s founding, possible overcrowding of schools, Reston Interfaith using the RA path through the course for its annual Walk for the Homeless and the impact that the loss of this concentrated space of peace and beauty would have on the community. I also mentioned that the design proposal for the new Reston Heights includes a design that “engages with the landscape,” particularly in its site across from open space at Reston National Golf Course.
In summary, the Zoning Administrator is concerned primarily with issues of process. They do not take a position as to whether development would be good or bad, but simply rule on the zoning as it currently stands, and their position is that no portion of RNGC can be developed for any use other than open space. Chairman Bulova appreciates the jewel in the County that Reston is, and heard us when we said there is no compelling reason to allow a change in the zoning that would threaten this open space.
Rescue Reston is made up of a small group of volunteers with input and help from many. We are for smart growth and smart development while retaining the founding principles that Reston is based on. We regret that we do not have the bandwidth to take specific formal positions on any projects outside of the Reston National Golf Course.
Help get more signatures on the petition (print version also available). Purchase your tickets for our “Spring Into Action” event on Sunday, May 5th at Hidden Creek Country Club. Feast on BBQ, bid on auction items and enjoy the music of the Bank Street Band as we raise money to save Reston’s open space and preserve the Master Plan.
RCA Reston 20/20 blogger Terry Maynard reports on the rumors circulating about the golf course redevelopment…a MUST read!
Read the article Rumors of Golf, Parks, and Housing.
For reasons yet unknown, Northwestern Mutual/RN Golf Management has asked BZA to delay the hearing again. The new hearing date is May 22, 2013.
You can follow a very animated series of comments and replies on the Reston Patch article about the BZA hearing postponement.