The owners of the golf course are pushing county officials to allow homes to be built on the site, but 500 residents attended a hearing last week, fighting to keep the space public and open for golfers, joggers, and bird-watchers.
The owners of Reston (Va.) National Golf Course are pushing county officials to allow homes to be built there, a move that has triggered opposition from residents worried about the potential loss of open space, the Washington Post reported.
The publicly accessible golf course has been a draw for golfers, bird-watchers and joggers for decades, part of the “Live, Work, Play” motto that made the western Fairfax County community a national model for planned suburban living. But the 166-acre course sits close to a recently opened Metro station and the site of another station scheduled to open in 2018, making it a prime spot for developers who want to build homes within walking distance of the train, the Post reported.
C&RB reported on the redevelopment plans in November 2014 (“Push to Develop Reston National GC Heats Up Again“).
Fairfax County said in 2012 that the land cannot be developed unless the area’s planning guidelines are changed by the county Board of Supervisors, but the owners’ group is appealing that decision to the county’s board of zoning appeals. A ruling by that body is expected in April, the Post reported.
A six-hour public hearing last week drew about 500 residents of Reston, a community of 60,000 that is already expected to grow dramatically. Many wore matching yellow T-shirts that called to preserve the golf course, on land they consider to be their “Central Park.” The course is used by high school golf teams and as a recreation area for nature enthusiasts and joggers, the Post reported.
“This is what makes Reston unique, and this is what makes Reston great, and we cannot let a greedy company destroy that,” said Jay Szlamowicz, 69, who was part of a long line of residents who testified.
Fairfax zoning officials say that both the property’s original 1971 development plan and broader county planning guidelines for Reston would have to be amended in order to allow residential development on the golf course land. But an attorney representing the RN Golf Management owners group argued that the group has a right to build there, because the course is on private property and located in a section already zoned residential, the Post reported.
The owners’ group, which includes Northwestern Mutual insurance company, had redevelopment in mind and believed building was permissible when it bought the land in 2005 for $5 million, said attorney Frank McDermott.
“My client did its diligence” by confirming that no deed restrictions existed on the golf course, McDermott told the appeals board. “All the property owner is trying to do is confirm its property rights.”
County officials vehemently disagreed, at one point drawing a standing ovation from the crowd of residents gathered inside the county government center. The appeals board deferred a ruling until April 15. Either side could challenge the board’s decision in Fairfax County Circuit Court, the Post reported.
The prospect of losing one of Reston’s two golf courses—the other is located inside the Hidden Creek Country Club—has resonated deeply in a community where many already believe the arrival of the Silver Line, a Metro line extension, is generating too much growth, the Post reported.
Plans are underway to add 22,000 more homes in Reston, along with hotels and office buildings near the train route—growth that residents say will add more cars to local roads and place an extra burden on schools, the Post reported.
“The subway has been both a blessing and a curse,” said Carol Molesky, the coach of the girls golf team at South Lakes High School in Reston. With few other public courses in Fairfax County, she said, “we’re running out of places to go.”
Ed Hass, 72, has lived on the perimeter of the golf course since 1973, when he and his wife bought a house that offers an open view of the fairway. “I have years of broken windows to prove it,” he joked.
Hass is not a golfer. But nearly every morning, he laces up his hiking shoes and ventures through the course’s briar patches or along its walkways and ponds, taking photographs of foxes, hawks or other animals that frequent the land, the Post reported.
The ritual offers a slice of rural living, Hass said, in an area that is also a short drive from a Whole Foods market and new restaurants opening up in Reston Town Center, the Post reported.
“If this is redeveloped, it’s just gonna ruin the whole thing,” Hass said. “I mean, that’s what Reston is all about.”