News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, May 20, 2019

Caddyshackpocalypse Now: Reston National Golf Course Sold by Would-Be Developer to Other Would-Be Developers, So Here We Go Again (Updated)

Over the weekend, word got out that Northwestern Mutual has sold an attractive parcel of by-right developable property Reston National Golf Course to two Baltimore developers, who said there's nothing to fear, the golfers are just gonna keep on golfin' (at least for now). Give us some good boilerplate blockquote, BFFs at the Washington Business Journal:

“Billy Casper Golf has been retained to continue managing the golf course with no set plans for the property beyond that at this time,” Marc Weller, founding partner of Weller Development, said in a statement. “Both Weller Development and War Horse are focused on building relationships and working with the communities we serve and we look forward to being part of the Reston community for years to come.”
Of course, "terms were not disclosed," which is key to understanding the developers' intentions. (Update: Sources told the Washington Business Journal on Monday that the sale price is $23.75 million). Remember that as it's tried to unload the property for years, Northwestern Mutual's selling agents have argued that the property, if developed, "could easily be worth more than $200 million" and priced it accordingly.

Rescue Reston cofounder John Pinkman said yesterday that "several golf centric corps wanted to buy the course at or close to selling price. NWM wouldn’t even talk to them. There is no chance that this housing developer has any intention on keeping the course." On social media, Rescue Reston said:

“You bought a golf course and you own a golf course. Period.”
But who knows? Maybe these two developers are really closet golf fans, and just wanted a quiet spot far from the bustle of Baltimore to squeeze in a quick round between deals. Let's check out their fancy "web pages" to see if they have photos of lovingly maintained green space and happy golfers and bunnies and whatnot. Here's what's on the front page of the peaceful-sounding "War Horse" website:

That's a weird-looking sand trap. Who knows, maybe the 18th hole is next to the rooftop swimming pool. And then there's the "human-centric" Weller Development homepage:

Human-centric ant farms, by the looks of it.

But let's look on the bright side. The courts and Fairfax County have both affirmed the idea that the property should remain open space, although all that really means is that the developers would have to go through the normal, often developer-friendly, rezoning process with the county. And since they're more local than a freaking insurance company, there's a good chance they'll propose something nicer than wall-to-wall condos... like say a "grand park". Yeah, that's the ticket!

All this makes the upcoming primary for Catherine Hudgins' soon-to-be-vacated seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors all the more important. The Reston Association, groups like Rescue Reston, and the county all did a good job facing down Northwestern Mutual and its seemingly infinite resources. Hopefully they'll be able to do so again.

Update: Rescue Reston's official statement.


  1. Seems unlikely Reston is going to have two golf courses a decade from now. Or even a half-decade from now.

  2. Just remember the same NIMBY's that run "rescue" Reston are the same odd lot that supported and burdened everyone with the Tetra / Lake House debacle. They are a tiny minority of Reston's tens of thousands of progressive members who, like Bob Simon himself, advocate for dense and transit-oriented developed.

    It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when at least one, and likely both, of the golf courses are redeveloped.

    1. Remember the dense and transit-oriented development was so that open spaces could be preserved. Building tens of thousands of condos in the open space makes the clustered housing just seem like a cluster.

    2. "Building tens of thousands of condos in the open space makes the clustered housing just seem like a cluster."

      I think you mean a 'fluster cuck', so to speak?

  3. Please spare the fake news / hyperbole. No one is going to build tens of thousands of condos on the relatively small golf courses.

    The grand irony is that those relatively few "rescue" Reston NIMBY's who allege they follow Bob Simon seem to conveniently overlook his long-held and published views on density, highrises, and development:

    “There is a relatively small group of active people who are against anything except the status quo,” Simon told Moyer. “…They seem to think that density is bad and they are very anxious to have open space. Well, if you use your head, you’ll figure out that, if you don’t have high-rise buildings, you’re not going to have a lot of open space. Density creates open space. They want to have it both ways, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

    But after breathing and ingesting golf-course Roundup / glyphosate for decades, one can only imagine the states of the NIMBYs' remaining brain cells.

    Or, maybe they are just hypocrites. And NIMBYs.

    1. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonMay 25, 2019 at 2:35 PM

      WaPo2019: So let me see if I have your reasoning straight. The best way to preserve existing open space - the Reston National Golf Course - is to build on existing open space, i.e. the Reston National Golf Course.

      With all the existing townhouse clusters, not to mention the thousands of high-rise units planned or already up in RTC and on the Sunrise Valley and Sunset Hills corridors, Reston already has fairly high density housing stock, especially when compared to the more typical suburban sprawl in Vienna and Oakton, not to mention places like Great Falls.

      We already have the density in Reston. What most of us want is the infrastructure to accompany it, and – as a trade-off for having high density – keeping the already existing open space, a quid pro quo about which you quote Simon.

  4. No, you don't have it straight and Reston is far from densely developed. If you believe it's dense now, you will be shocked to see what's approved and coming.

    Among other issues, the golf courses are private, tax-paying (albeit too low) property dedicated to toxic-chemical using golf. They are not public, and it's a convenient stretch for the NIMBYs to call them "open space." Moreover they have by-right development rights that will be sorted out at the supreme court. Both are owned by developers, not conservationists. Reston's NWF could have bought them, why didn't it? The county or the park authority could have bought them, why didn't it? Even RA could have done more, but "rescue" Reston was implicitly involved in the Tetra / Lake House debacle that wasted millions that have been used to preserve useful open space for all rather than the 1%. The only good news is there is that RA finally fired its incompetent manager?

    I don't make the rules, and neither I nor Simon said nothing about preserving existing open space.

    Also, Reston already, with the planned and in-process development, already has about twice the open space as anywhere else in the county.

    As to your infrastructure: the $6 billion metro line. Check. Long ago planned and long ago approved. Were you for it when it was being considered? Hudgins' favorite pander: bike lanes are more infrastructure. Check. Expensive half-mile $2 million sidewalk improvements here and there. Check. Redundant and nearly always empty bus systems. Check. More school renovations and trailers? Check. More "parkways" with now two-foot tall weeds that are rarely mowed? Check. Almost no parting at the RTC metro station? Check.

    How much more do you want and how do you propose to fund it in our Dillon-Rule jurisdiction?

    1. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonMay 25, 2019 at 5:35 PM

      There are certain things we will disagree on, but certain things we do agree on.

      If you are comparing Reston to New York or any other major city, then, yes, we are far from densely developed. But if you use a more local basis of comparison such as Vienna or Oakton, we are densely developed. It’s all relative.

      Where I do agree with you is that A) Tetra was a total debacle, and B) that a lot of our “infrastructure” improvements to date are a joke. More bike lanes and sidewalk extensions are not going to solve our traffic problems. No doubt Cathy Hudgins would consider my saying that heresy. What would I like to see? How about getting the Town Center underpass beneath the Toll Road built before 2032, as was recently reported? Or more overpasses rather than grade-level intersections at notorious chokepoints on the Fairfax County Parkway, such as at Sunrise Valley Drive?

      I indeed know the amount of future development coming down the pike, and it is mind-boggling. As bad as Reston Parkway is now with crawling traffic, it’s nowhere near as bad as it’s going to be. Might as well rename it Reston Parking Lot.

      And to circle back to the original topic of the Reston National, while it will never be mistaken for something pristine like Yellowstone or Yosemite, I’d still rather see it remain as the open space it now is, rather than have hundreds of townhouses dotting it. To paraphrase Mark Twain and Will Rogers, “Open space – they’re not making it any more.”


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