Rescue Reston’s mission is to defend Reston’s recreational green space at Reston National Golf Course (RNGC), a 166-acre Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program Golf Course on the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
RNGC’s land use designation is exactly the same as that for Hidden Creek Country Club. From page 56 of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, as amended through 6-2-2015:
The Reston National [Tax Maps 17-4 ((11)) 4A, 26-1 ((6)) 96, 97, 26-2 ((2)) 8, 26-2 ((3)) 8B, and 26-2 ((5)) 4] and Hidden Creek Country Club [Tax Maps 17-2 ((1)) 19, 17-2 ((24)) 1, 17- 4 ((1)) 11, 17-4 ((2))(37) 2, and 17-4 ((10)) 2] golf courses are planned for private recreation use, more specifically to remain as golf courses.
As such, we thought it might be helpful to our community if Rescue Reston contrasts the behavior of the new owners of Hidden Creek Country Club with the way Northwestern Mutual conducted itself as owners of Reston National Golf Course:
Northwestern Mutual (NWM) purchased majority ownership through a shell company, attempting to keep their identity secret.
Hidden Creek (HCCC) readily announced its new owner and shared information about them.
NWM – The public knew nothing of NWM’s intentions until they came at the County Zoning Administrator with attorneys.
HCCC – The new owner lays out their short-term plans (management stays in place, existing club memberships remain unchanged, and some upgrades) and their longer term potential (referencing “Over the next few years, Wheelock will be working in partnership with the club members and the Reston community to explore potential changes to the property that could provide the Reston community with additional public amenities, environmental benefits and new housing choices.”).
NWM used attorneys to demand they had a right to develop, which they do not. This attorney-led strategy caused Fairfax County, Reston Association and Rescue Reston community supporters to engage attorneys in defense.
HCCC – Does the new owner understand the County process to change the land use designation? It has been clarified many times recently. They are starting with a presentation on November 3 to their club members (note – not open to the general public). This sentence from the HCCC email to members suggests that the new owners understand that a change to the Comprehensive Plan would be required: “Over the next few years, Wheelock will be working in partnership with the club members and the Reston community to explore potential changes to the property that could provide the Reston community with additional public amenities, environmental benefits and new housing choices.” (Emphasis added.)
If HCCC’s owner, Wheelock, develops a plan that includes “new housing choices,” here is the process they must follow:
Property owners must follow county process for requesting a land use designation change. Any residential development plan would require a review by County Planning Commission staff, a public hearing before the County Planning Commission, a public hearing before the County Board of Supervisors, and ultimately an amendment to the County Comprehensive Plan. It will be the Board of Supervisors’ decision to approve or NOT approve a land use change.
When NWM decided this year to sell RNGC, they hired ARA Newmark, the largest national investment advisory brokerage in the multihousing industry. ARA initially misrepresented the property as having by-right residential development. To this day, the broker continues to search for a major housing developer.
Restonians care about the recreational space at Reston National Golf Course and continue to wait and wonder what uncaring entity will buy RNGC on speculation of future development. We cannot stop a sale, but we CAN stop a comprehensive plan change of the land use designation. In the meantime, HCCC has been purchased by an entity that, at this point, is planning to work “in partnership with the club members and the Reston community.”
It is the civic duty of ALL Restonians to monitor land use sales and ownership activity of our Designated Open Space areas. We hope that HCCC’s new ownership will maintain open discussion with the Reston community.