News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Caddyshackpocalypse Now: BZA Ruling is 'Complicated,' Not Great News For Fans of Golf, Green Space, Puppies, Pretty Much Anything But Concrete (Updated)

BZA ruling"It's complicated" is not great news.

Following today's "complicated" Board of Zoning Appeals ruling on the Reston National Golf Course, we're going to go out on the world's smallest limb and say that anything but a flat-out rejection of the developer's claims gives them a window to move forward with pursuing awesome bollardy development on the golf course site. And with the money at stake, it would be crazy to think that they won't try to take advantage of that opportunity.

That doesn't mean development will happen -- but it does mean that proposals could ultimately wind up going through the standard county approval process, which hasn't had a great recent track record of listening to opposition from the Reston community -- or even its own planning staff.

Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Rescue Reston:

Rescue Reston is disappointed that the BZA has seen fit to overrule portions of the decision of the Zoning Administrator and we will carefully consider appealing this decision to the Circuit Court. We believe the BZA has ignored not only the law and the property rights of the thousands who own property adjacent to the golf course, but also the will of the more than 6,000 supporters of Rescue Reston, and the thousands more members of the Reston Association, who respect the Reston Master Plan and oppose development of the golf course. We thank our supporters, including the hundreds who attended the hearing in January to help present the community’s views, and will continue to work with you to overturn this BZA decision. This does not end today.
Remember when we said that the developer's argument to the BZA was akin to a plot point from a kid's TV show? Well, according to our BFFs at Reston Now, today's announcement was more akin to the plot of a particularly long and uninteresting 19th century novel:
Before it could get to the ruling — or in this case, a partial ruling — the BZA heard more than two hours of rambling testimony from BZA members Paul Hammack and James Hart.

The testimony covered details including 1971 maps; a 1993 letter from Fairfax County Zoning;  a 2012 letter from county zoning administrator Cathy Belgin to attorney Mark Looney, who filed the original inquiry for RN Golf; and what parcels of Reston land are subject to various planned community zoning rules.

In the end, Hammack’s motion that “we overrule the zoning administrator to the extent she says a comprehensive plan amendment is a precondition [to development]” was unanimously approved.

The BZA took only into consideration the 2012 letter from Belgin to Looney and not the many documents and findings on the issue discovered since then.
But fear not! The BZA said it will have to wait to make a final decision until they see what Northwestern Mutual and its maybe not-so-anonymous developer wind up proposing for the site:
Hammack said it is hard to make a ruling when the board does not know what RN Golf has planned for the golf course.

“Until we know what is proposed, I don’t think we can make a determination saying the zoning administrator is right or wrong,” he said. “At this point, [ruling on] a development plan is hypothetical.”

The BZA motion all but ensures the discussion over the future of the golf course will continue. The golf course owner has 30 days in which to make an appeal.
Rescue Reston is currently weighing its options, but Connie Hartke made one critical point -- that without the protection of a master plan, developers can ultimately wait out any opposition to, well, pretty much anything:
“They can propose whatever they want to propose. Right now, we would band together and fight it. But in 50 years, who knows what will happen?”
Sigh. It's a disappointing day for Reston. Maybe a picture of a cute puppy will cheer us all up:

Sad day
Or maybe not.

Update: From the Washington Post "news-paper," comments from the developer's attorney:
RN Golf Management — which includes the Northwestern Mutual insurance company — bought the golf course in 2005 to use for residential development and has been seeking confirmation from the county of its right to do that, said the group’s attorney, Frank McDermott.

McDermott said Wednesday that there were still no concrete development plans for the golf course. “I have to advise the client” about the ruling, he said.
That calls for another cute puppy photo:

Sad day 2

Action McNews coverage:

And one more, linked instead of embedded because of the stupid Action McNews auto-play video.

Three sad teevee news stories deserve three more puppies:

Sad day 3


  1. I hope they propose McTacoHut II to compete with the other uber successful McTacoHut location across the toll road!

  2. The RA better get its checkbook ready. Turns out they may have to make good on their offer to try to buy the golf course. Judging by the Tetra unpleasantness, that should go well.

  3. The popularity of golf is in decline.
    From the Economist:

    "In 2006 some 30m Americans were golfers. But since then golf has hit a rough patch. And it is now struggling to attract a new generation of American players. In 2013, 160 of the country’s 14,600 golf facilities closed, the 8th consecutive year of net closures. The number of players has fallen to around 25m."

    If Reston wants to keep that space open, they better come up with another use for the property. How about a drone playground?

  4. Just wondering if you've been picking up after all those puppies when you take them for a walk on our golf courses, pathways, and LAWNS.

  5. The emphasis has to be about saving Reston's green space and trees. It's not about the golf course per se, it's about preserving the green space. All the focus on golf makes it harder for non-golf folks to relate to. But many, many more of us Restonians see how crucial it is to preserve the trees and green spaces as part of what makes Reston unique and strengthens both our property values and more importantly our quality of life. In the news coverage, not everyone can relate to golfers, but just about everyone can relate to a community that doesn't want it's parkland paved over. And yes, if we need to, we need to get Reston to buy the land and keep it green.


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