Developers are seeking permission to redevelop Reston’s two golf courses through a process where Fairfax County considers land use changes to its comprehensive plan.
The county is currently considering dozens of nominations throughout the county for the Site-Specific Plan Amendment process, including the redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course and Hidden Creek Country Club.
Currently, the county’s comprehensive plan states that both areas are planned for private recreation uses — more specifically as golf courses. For years, community organizations like Rescue Reston have vehemently opposed the redevelopment of both golf courses.
Weller Development and War Horse Cities, the owners of Reston National, want to convert the “obsolescent golf course” into a 100-acre open space conservancy with an 8-acre linear park and a “mixed-use village.” The concept is not new and was initially floated several years ago.
The application says the development team could pursue a more intense development plan with more residential development, given its “substantial, longstanding zoning rights.”
“Repurposing the property to provide much needed community amenities, a range of housing and shopping opportunities, and permanent useable open space with covenants, so as to preserve that open space in perpetuity, better utilizes one of Reston’s premier assets,” the application says.
But the prospect has previously drawn backlash from community groups. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn also publicly stated that he would not support redevelopment, unless there is existing community support.
The owners say the golf course is the “very definition of underutilization,” averaging 95 people per day on an annual basis across its 168 acres.
“To remain a dedicated ‘golf course’ is counter to the vision set out by Robert E. Simon in his founding principles, as his was a uniquely inclusionary vision,” the application argues. “Far worse, this serves to delay or potentially forfeit a timely opportunity to accomplish key goals set out by Fairfax County leadership.”
The application proposes converting the golf course into a “village” with new houses and retail and permanent open space dubbed the Conservancy, joined by a linear park that could have nurseries for native plants, vegetable gardens, and pollinators.
The Conservancy is described as a “generational opportunity” to create publicly accessible open space with restored meadows, a performance pavilion, other pavilions, seating areas, community gardens, a dog park, waterfront pier, and new trees.
“Reston National Golf Course has been the focus of intense debate within the community going back more than a decade,” Steve Siegel, a partner at Weller Development, wrote in the application. “While this Owner respects and understands the perspective of Reston National’s immediate neighbors, we contend that, as wonderful as the game of golf is for the few who actually play it, a private pay-to-play golf course is the wrong use for this site in 2022 and moving forward.”
Wheelock Communities, the owner of Hidden Creek Country Club, also contend that the golf course “no longer contributes appropriate to the live, work and play principles on which Reston was based,” adding that the country club has roughly 500 members.
The application notes that a significant number of the club’s membership lives outside of Reston.
“The reality, therefore, is that the combination of weakening economics and competing country club and golf course options, together with ongoing and significant need for capital reinvestment not supported by current revenue, means the Country Club’s future in its current form is shaky, at best,” wrote Mark Cooley, a land use lawyer representing Wheelock.
Instead, the developer pitches turning roughly 100 acres of the property into recreational open space and adding residential units, which could include a range of housing types at several price points to address the “missing middle” of affordable housing.
In July, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors tweaked the SSPA process by allowing more frequent opportunities for nominations, new submission criteria with more information, and enhanced community engagement.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to decide which nominations will move forward — and which ones will be killed — at a meeting on Dec. 6.
The first SSPA cycle kicked off in 2017 for the North County area followed by a second cycle in 2019 for the South County area.
In October, the county accepted nominations for all nine supervisor districts in the current SSPA cycle.
A complete list of other SSPA nominations for the Hunter Mill District is available online.
Alcorn said he will not support Weller Development Co. and War Horse Cities’ effort to change the county’s comprehensive plan to redevelop the golf course.
His public statement comes after a community survey found that 98% of respondents opposed amending the county’s comprehensive plan to change the designation of the golf course. Similar results were yielded from a survey of 14 communities surrounding Reston National.
“The numbers speak for themselves. Therefore, as with Hidden Creek, I do not support changing the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan’s current designation of this property as a golf course and consider this matter closed,” Alcorn wrote in a statement.
Alcorn voiced similar opposition when the owner of Hidden Creek Golf Course sought to redevelop the course with a 100-acre park and 1,000 residential units. In 2020, Alcorn said that he would only support the proposal if there was strong community support.
Reston’s ongoing overhaul of its comprehensive plan leaves the issue of preserving Reston’s two golf courses untouched.
In the absence of changes to the plan, Reston National’s owners financed the creation of the Reston National Neighborhood Study Group to determine lacking amenities in the area.
The group called for the reclamation of roughly 100 acres of the golf course for “usable” open space, a neighborhood with shops, restaurants and gathering spaces, and a half-mile park through the neighborhood.
Here’s Alcorn’s full letter:
Since I took office almost three years ago, the topic that my office has received the most emails about is the potential redevelopment of Reston’s two golf courses, Hidden Creek and Reston National Golf Course. On this question I have consistently stated that any proposal to change the comprehensive plan for these properties from their current respective “golf course” designations would need support from surrounding communities.
The owners of Reston National have spent considerable resources during the past year reaching out to the community to consider the condition of and potentially the redevelopment of, some or all of their privately-owned property.
Below is the information that has been compiled by my staff from emails and other communications I have received from residents of surrounding communities and beyond. The pie chart and map provide a visual of the input received from residents in the surrounding communities of Reston National. I have also not received any requests from neighboring cluster association leadership to change the comp plan guidance for Reston National – in fact, I have heard the opposite from those neighborhood leaders.
The numbers speak for themselves. Therefore, as with Hidden Creek, I do not support changing the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan’s current designation of this property as a golf course and consider this matter closed.
Rescue Reston, a volunteer organization that seeks to preserve Reston’s open space, is officially marking its 10-year anniversary.
The grassroots organization plans to host a rally on Oct. 15 from 1-3 p.m. to celebrate its efforts to protect Reston’s recreational open space.
Rescue Reston formed in 2012 in an effort to successfully oppose the redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course. The owners of the golf course sought to redevelop the golf course into a residential development.
“The Rescue Reston 10th Anniversary Rally for Open Space will show all how strong we are together and demonstrate the level of community support there is for protecting Reston’s recreational open spaces for current and future generations,” organizers said on the event page.
Participants will get a chance to learn how to get get involved with the organization.
“In 2012 we coalesced around a common vision and purpose and have moved forward with unwavering community support over the past 10 years,” organizers say.
Here’s more from Rescue Reston’s president Connie Hartke:
Hidden Creek’s owners made their pitch for development a few years ago, but on March 23, 2020, Supervisor Alcorn stated “…there is not support from surrounding communities for changing the comprehensive plan. 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 community around Reston National Golf Course has stayed united against development, even after listening to the RNGC developer-owners pitches for the last 18 months.
The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for Reston recently went through a 2.5 year update process by a 31-member community task force. Reston currently has a population of slightly over 60,000, but when all the development under the current plan draft is approved and built, the total population will nearly double to an estimated 110,000 to 120,000 people. Over half of the new housing population will be in the Transit Area between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Drive, where it is expected and planned for.
Our designated Biophilic City of Reston continues to grow and evolve. The speculators who own the two golf courses need to stop attempting to upend our careful planning. They bought golf courses.
Since its inception, the organization has fought a battle on two fronts: preserving the Hidden Creek Country Club and Reston National. Reston’s comprehensive plan — the county’s official guiding document on planning and development for the planned community — designates both golf courses for private recreational use and specific to remain as golf course.
Weller Development Co. and War Horse Cities, the golf course’s owners, hired New City Enterprises to launch the study group more than a year ago in order to assess the current and future conditions of the golf course area.
The group’s work paints a stark picture of two Restons — North and South — the latter of which the group concludes strays from founder Bob Simon’s dreams for the planned community.
After meeting with residents and surveying available community resources, amenities and environmental conditions, the group concluded that the neighborhood surrounding the golf course and most of South Reston needs economic revitalization.
Greg Hamm, managing partner of New City Enterprises, headed the group, which included neighborhood participation and launched in May of last year.
“We kept in mind that Bob Simon was a developer, and the community came out of the idea that working together genuinely works best. So, we thought this small group, open air format offered the best way to create a comfortable environment, especially following the lockdowns,” Hamm wrote to FFXnow. “We engaged all the immediately adjacent neighbors, as well as the larger Reston community and had very good, civil discussions.”
The group identified a three-pronged approach for the future of the golf course and the area, calling for redevelopment of a portion of the golf course into a public open space for Reston.
The group describes the proposal as a “conservancy” that would be fully funded and governed locally. It also suggested new services, amenities, and housing near the existing infrastructure, along with vegetation, architecture, landscaping and views to create what could be called a “conservancy district.”
In a recent Patch opinion piece, Hamm described South Reston as an “amenity desert” compared to other areas in Reston, which are expanding and leaving legacy neighborhoods behind as phase two of the Silver Line aims to launch this year.
The group also said walkability in the area is below average, demanding the need for permanent and public open space.
With the work of the study group now complete, the next step is for the golf course’s owners to identify a plan going forward.
“With the completion of the Silver Line later this year, everyone should honestly gauge the costs of keeping ‘transit-oriented golf’ against its benefits, and then make the comparisons with the proposed alternatives,” Hamm said. “Then the ownership of Reston National, the county and community can begin the appropriate public process.”
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn has repeatedly stated that he would oppose redeveloping the golf course unless there was overwhelming support from the community.
Hamm says his group has worked with Alcorn’s office to share their findings along the way. That process comes as Alcorn’s workgroup completes its formal review of changes to Reston’s comprehensive plan, which currently states that Reston is a two-golf-course community.
Rescue Reston, a group formed in 2012 to protect Reston’s two golf courses and open spaces, has vehemently opposed any redevelopment of the golf course.
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Reston National Developers Propose “Quality of Life” Study — “Reston National Neighborhood Study Group will be examining ‘quality of life’ gaps between north and south Reston and the implications those purported gaps may have on property values…The group plans to finish its study in April and follow it up with a round of community meetings.” [Patch]
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It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 43 and low of 21. Sunrise at 6:59 a,m. and sunset at 7:30 p.m. [Weather.gov]
FCPD Commander Demoted Over Shooting Response — “A Fairfax County police commander has been demoted as part of an ongoing administrative investigation of suicides by a department recruit and his wife that occurred hours apart in their Mount Vernon-area home in late February, authorities said…The officer was the on-scene commander during the incident.” [The Washington Post]
Fire Put Out Near Vienna’s Flint Hill Elementary — “Crews responded this morning to the 2400 block of Flint Hill Road for a small fire in a chicken coop. #FCFRD firefighters were im-peck-able in quickly egg-stinguishing the fire. Everyone felt very cluck-y that there were no reported fowl-talities or injuries.” [FCFRD/Twitter]
Last Living Pupil Revisits Historic Oakton School — The Vale Schoolhouse in Oakton got a visit from a familiar face last week. Now 103 years old, Stan Proffitt stopped by the two-room building, which dates back to 1884, with his three great-grandchildren from Florida during their spring break tour of Virginia history. [The Washington Post]
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It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 62 and low of 46. Sunrise at 7:10 a.m. and sunset at 7:24 p.m. [Weather.gov]
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Pedestrian Improvements Finished in Bailey’s Crossroads — The Virginia Department of Transportation has completed work on pedestrian and traffic safety measures at the Columbia Pike (Route 244) and Lacy Boulevard intersection. Changes include a new traffic signal, four new high-visibility crosswalks, ADA curb ramp upgrades, and flashing yellow arrows for left turns from Columbia Pike. [VDOT]
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It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 64 and low of 40. Sunrise at 7:21 a.m. and sunset at 7:17 p.m. [Weather.gov]
The Reston National Neighborhood Study Group reported finding severe levels of invasive species on the golf course and some surrounding areas after looking into the health of the shared tree canopy.
A color-coded photo showing the scale of the issue in each area had several red spots, but the panel also discussed how to address the problem, noting that it will be key to get neighbors of the golf course on board so the invasive species won’t return after remediation.
“Uncontrolled invasive species have choked-off natural vegetation, increased soil erosion and accelerated the decline of the tree canopy,” the group wrote in a Patch op-ed recently. “With this study complete, the scale of the problem and the path forward are better understood. The problem isn’t as simple as pulling up weeds and replanting native species.”
The study looked at about 60 acres of tree canopy on the course and 40 acres on adjacent land. There’s another 100 acres off site that the group says still needs to be studied.
Funded by the real estate firms that own the golf course, the study group aims to look into how the area has changed and how to restore “basic Reston values of walkability, accessible amenities, community diversity and housing opportunity,” according to its website.
The group is working on a pilot project to determine the best way forward, it said. The pilot can be followed on Reston National Neighborhood Study Group’s website.
Some have raised concerns that the study on removing invasive species is the first step to planning for redevelopment of the course, according to Patch, though Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn has maintained that he would oppose any change unless it’s supported by the community.
While the group at Friday’s meeting focused on the tree canopy study findings and the pilot program, they said future items that will be discussed are amenities, values, open space options, water quality, and housing costs.
Reminder: Old Metro Cards Stop Working Today — “SmarTrip cards purchased before 2012 are no longer compatible with new, faster, modern faregates already installed in many stations. In an announcement more than 10 months ago, Metro advised customers that the old cards would need to be replaced as stations are equipped with new faregates.” [WMATA]
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Fear of Reston Golf Course Development Persists — “A recent proposal to establish a pilot program to remove invasive plant species around Reston National Golf Course is seen by some as a first step to garner support for redeveloping the land.” [Patch]
Historic McLean Estate to Be Conserved — “An 8-acre Civil War-era McLean property known as Elmwood recently became the 129th conservation easement for the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT)…Elmwood most recently was the home of the late television journalist Roger Mudd, whose family lived in the house for nearly half a century.” [Sun Gazette]
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It’s Tuesday — Today will be mostly cloudy, then gradually become sunny, with a high near 58 and a low around 40. Sunrise will be at 6:39 a.m. and sunset at 6:01 p.m. [weather.gov]