Have you been contacted to participate in a survey?

It’s come to our attention that two research companies have been conducting online focus groups and phone surveys on the topic of development in Reston for an undisclosed client. We have heard from a few supporters about their experience with the researchers and if you have a story to tell and have not reached out to us yet, we’d like to hear from you! Click here to contact us.

Just to set the facts straight: Reston’s two golf courses ARE protected from development. Their land use designation is very difficult to overcome, and our best protection is to consistently say NO to any suggestions of opening the Comprehensive Plan on either property. There is no need to compromise and let that camel’s nose under the tent.

They will not say who is paying for the focus groups, but they are pouring thousands of dollars into so-called research studies to try and influence Restonians into thinking that sacrificing our open space is a “done deal.” Consultants are playing psychological games with focus group participants to have them “pretend to be a land planner” to design the community of their dreams. These tactics are designed to trick people and obfuscate the truth.

We do know for certain that Shugoll Research held online focus groups in August where they paid $200 to each participant. We have talked with participants of three separate sessions and gleaned the following:

The Topic: Development in Reston

The Focus: Village Center concept, benefits of Transit Oriented Development, and Reston’s two golf courses

A few examples of the misinformation presented, per our primary sources:

  • The moderator suggested that the current Reston Comprehensive Plan Task Force discussions includes the two golf courses. Most of the participants (about 6 per session) did not know this is patently false, as Supervisor Alcorn has stated repeatedly. Supervisor Alcorn is the chairperson of this task force.
  • The illusion that development on the northwest shoulders of Reston National Golf Course is basically in progress – a photo was shown. Again, this is patently false, but most participants in the sessions did not know that.
  • The moderator suggested that the way to preserve a large portion of open space is to develop 20% of the open space. There is no density (housing) allowed on the golf courses now. We already have this protection! We don’t have to give up open space to maintain it. 

Now another firm, Luce Research, is calling Restonians and asking very leading questions about development designed ONLY to elicit their client’s desired answers. We can guess who the client is. While the surveyor wouldn’t say, we have seen these shady tactics before. Luce was also the firm used to recruit participants to the Shugoll focus groups.

On Saturday, September 12, Luce Research called Sue Beffel. Sue is the past chair of Reston Association’s Environmental Advisory Committee, and she is a co-chair of Rescue Reston’s North Course Committee. The Rescue Reston Board of Directors asked Sue to take on this task specifically because of her environmental knowledge and her concern about the golf courses.

In summary, the call included several attempts to trick Restonians into positions they do not support by not offering valid options to the survey.

Sue’s report of the phone conversation (reprinted with permission):

First, I had to “qualify” — don’t work for a PR company, don’t work for local government … no problem, I’m retired.


Then was asked if I was aware of what is happening locally and I said I generally was. Then – they asked if I had I taken specific actions, from researching local issues online to attending public meetings and reaching out to local politicians. Check check …

Was asked what my priorities were for Reston — I responded — open space, affordable housing, traffic…and gradually the survey got to development.

Was asked in a sort of slanted way if I supported development within (not sure if it was 1/2 mile or a mile) of metro. Feeling that it encroached on golf course area, I said “no,” and sure enough, then the questions were about the golf course.

When asked if I supported the development of the course — couched as “small area of development and donation of most for open space” — I said “no” and when asked why, said “It’s zoned as open space already and that’s what it should be.”

Then it got weird — The Luce Research lady had a list of attributes of the development plan (grand park, housing…) about which I was to answer, “which are more or less important”, and there was no way for me to simply say the plan was not acceptable. My only choice was to say “not interested”, which clearly doesn’t reflect my strong anti-golf course development opinion. So, after asking her several times to record my comments, I finally hung up.


If I had not been aware of the sales pitch of the course and the issues involved and were not a trained survey analyst, I would not have realized I was being guided to appear to support the plan, by encouraging “development near the metro” and supporting various aspects of the plan as more or less important.

As it is, this survey should not be recognized as fair or unbiased, and its results should not be accepted by RA, Fairfax County or other government entities.

How You Can Help Defeat The Disinformation Campaign:

  1. ​​​​If you receive a survey call, participate as you wish, but refrain from answering any question about developing on an open space golf course that doesn’t give you the option of NO. If you want to report it, email Supervisor Alcorn at huntermill@fairfaxcounty.gov and also us at northcourse@rescuereston.org.
  2. Our specific short-term goal is for all households bordering the Hidden Creek property to be on Supervisor Alcorn’s running tally of residents opposed to changing the use of that land. Many have already sent letters and it is making a difference! If you live next to Hidden Creek or in a community that borders Hidden Creek, and have not sent a letter PLEASE respond through the Action Center by Friday, September 18th. This weekend, volunteers will be door knocking with a petition to fill in any gaps.
  3. Donate to support our work or purchase Rescue Reston swag!

Thank you for your continued support and for sharing what you are doing and hearing in your local neighborhood.