“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.