News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Caddyshackpocalypse Now: Let's Make A Deal?


The ongoing saga of Northwestern Mutual Life's efforts to redevelop Reston National Golf Course into more of the usual bollardy mixed-use goodness may have entered a new phase. According to our BFFs at Reston 2020, it appears that "the quiet company" is quietly trying to negotiate some kind of deal that would preserve open space while allowing it to build on some portion of the land.
We are hearing rumors of a secret deal being negotiated between the County and NM to set aside a substantial portion of the golf course for a large Reston central park. In fact, one authoritative, but so far uncorroborated, source said that an option was being explored to have the developer proffer land for a park in return for being granted rental unit density. Another source indicates that NM is testing the market among several major area developers to see if the golf course can be sold for commercial development purposes. From these eyes, that sounds like NM or a commercial developer could develop more than 7,900 units—the current reported zoning limit—on whatever land is still left to “incentivize” a deal with the County.

We have no added solid information on whether such discussions are ongoing, much less on the nature of any such offer by the County or proffer by NM. Nonetheless, rumors on what such a deal might look like are rampant. Some of those rumors suggest the northern fairways will be turned into housing (they are close to Metro stations). Other rumors say the roughly one-quarter of the golf course land east of Soapstone Dr. will be a park, the west side will be turned into housing.
Reston 2020 speculates about why a deal may be in the works:
We have learned from a long-serving member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission (FCPC) that zoning language from the 1970s does leave open the possibility for housing development on RNGC land. In this “Dillon Rule” state, such a right—if it has been given—can virtually never be taken away. For a recent example, look at the County’s approval for the redevelopment of the Town Center Office Building into a 23-story office building, including six stories of parking and first floor retail—all BEYOND the half-mile circle that is the normal maximum distance used for transit-oriented development (TOD). This occurred because, again in the 1970s, the County amended the zoning ordinance to allow unlimited (yes, unlimited) development on that site—the only site with unlimited density in the County.

And all that puts the County in a quandary. Assuming for the moment that the right exists to develop housing on RNGC, the County faces being sued either by NM if the BZA rejects the NM appeal or by Restonians (RR and maybe RA) if the County acquiesces outright to the NM position.
Meanwhile, our BFFs at Rescue Reston are still asking people to sign their fancy online petition urging the county to hold firm to the position that development isn't allowed at all.

Wow. Between this and the just-revived indoor rec center/juicery discussions on the fancy other side of the Toll Road, this week is shaping up to be a lot like the last 15 minutes of a horror film, only instead of a presumed-dead corpse that keeps popping up, it's long-dead land-use issues. But if a deal to preserve open space winds up happening, maybe the soccer fields displaced by the fancy new rec center can be moved somewhere on Reston National's back 9, the end.


  1. I'll bet the county is really losing sleep over the thought that they would have to allow unlimited development on RNGC land. As far as the "central park" is concerned -- I'm sure they will be able to uncover more 1970's language that will allow them to develop that later.

  2. Kudos to the budding environmentalist!

    But what was up with the distracting and, yes I'll go there, dumb flash bulb effect in the camp segment?

    Less is more sometimes RA editors.

    Aaaaaand Star Wipe!


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