News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Caddyshackpocalypse Later: Wheelock Snub Shows Why a County Board Seat Might Actually Be Worth $255 Per Vote

As if we needed any more reminders that elections have consequences, Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn's decision to exclude Hidden Creek Golf Course from the upcoming study of the county comprehensive plan sounds like a pretty definitive "no" to efforts to redevelop one of Reston's two golf courses -- at least for now. Give us some caddy-friendly blockquote, BFFs at the Washington Business Journal:

“Based on a review this week of all direct communications with my office via emails, phone calls and letters, there is not support from surrounding communities for changing the comprehensive plan,” Alcorn wrote. “In fact it is not even close — there are more than five residents against for every supporter of possibly changing the plan. Therefore, I do not support changing the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan’s current designation of this property as a golf course and consider the matter closed.”
The decision, which follows months of attempts by developer Wheelock Communities to drum up support for the project, brings new clarity to the shocking $420,000 raised by Hunter Mill candidates in last year's board elections, which works out to $25 per vote cast -- and a whopping $255 per vote cast for the developer-backed candidate who lost to Alcorn.

Considering that the return on redeveloping Reston's other golf course, which sold for $23.75 million to a couple of decidedly non-golf-centric developers in 2019, was estimated at $200 million, all of a sudden a tenfold return on investment doesn't look like such a bad gamble for a little political "free speech" on the part of developers.

For its part, Wheelock has said it plans to continue efforts to persuade Reston residents:

Wheelock Principal Dan Green said in a statement he was "extremely disappointed" in Alcorn's decision, and disputed the supervisor's characterization of the local reaction to the company's development pitch.

"From our community engagement, we had already received support from some adjacent clusters as well as many of club’s neighbors and others throughout the Reston community," Green wrote. "This is an unprecedented show of support when an application has not yet even been filed. We are encouraged by this show of support and will continue to engage the community about the future of Hidden Creek and what it can mean to Reston."

We wonder if that engagement will continue to borrow from yet another corporate-friendly tool often used in elections -- questionable "push polling" tactics, as repeatedly alleged by Rescue Reston in recent months.

To be fair, Rescue Reston engaged in a letter-writing campaign of its own. Next steps for Wheelock, which has given up on a similar golf course effort in Florida, remain unclear.

In an interview, Alcorn said "it is a free country and people can campaign as much as they like," but he is not interested in additional conversations about development at the property. Alcorn said he has heard Wheelock's arguments that the club may struggle as interest in golf wanes nationwide, but he is not overly concerned about the prospect of the course gathering dust these days. He also would not speculate on the idea, raised in some corners, that the county could look to buy the site someday.
However, it's also important to remember that this decision is temporary, and a new board member could completely reverse it. In fact, so could the current one:
While Alcorn could always change his mind, such a definitive statement is a severe blow to the redevelopment effort. Because the club is categorized in the county’s Comprehensive Plan as a golf course, supervisors would need to change that designation before rezoning the property to allow housing. As the Reston area’s representative on the Board of Supervisors, it would likely be up to Alcorn to steer that process.

Alcorn had pledged before winning office last year that he would not support any development at Hidden Creek or the nearby Reston National Golf Course, the site of past community skirmishes, unless the community signaled its support. And he noted in his statement that Wheelock has spent the last few years holding meetings to try and generate the community’s backing, which has “given them the time and opportunity to make their pitch” to neighbors.

Elections matter. The folks with the money get this. Hopefully the rest of us will, too.

So vote early and often, folks, and as an extra enticement let's take a fleeting look at some vaporware "Grand Park" drawings, the end:


  1. 2 thumbs waaaay up!

  2. Eminent domain + park designation, or bust.

    To borrow something from the Garden State:

    Welcome to Reston, now go home!


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