Some Reston homeowners are left lamenting at the 19th hole, RN Golf Management is left deciding if it has the stamina to play an extra round, and the Board of Zoning and Appeals gave both sides a mulligan. Whether either side wanted one or not.
From the Gallery
"Rescue Reston is disappointed that the Board of Zoning Appeals 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."
— David Burns, Rescue Reston
"The issue that the BZA was asked to determine was not whether the golf course should or could be redeveloped. The issue was rather what process and approvals would be necessary before it could be redeveloped.
“The BZA declined RN Golf’s attempt to short-circuit the normal County approval processes. Reston National is no closer to being redeveloped now than it was three years ago, thanks to the efforts of County officials, RA, Rescue Reston and many individual Restonians.
The Board of Zoning Appeals did overturn the Zoning Administrator’s determination that a Comprehensive Plan Amendment was a procedural prerequisite to filing a PRC Plan to redevelop the golf course. The BZA made it clear that, while a Comprehensive Plan Amendment may well be advisable, and even necessary, to obtain approvals from the County Board of Supervisors, County Staff cannot make it an automatic prerequisite to the mere filing of a PRC Plan application. Only the Board of Supervisors can determine whether a specific proposal is in conformance with the adopted Comprehensive Plan. County staff cannot do this. A proposal’s lack of conformance with the adopted Comprehensive Plan is still a legitimate, lawful reason for the Board of Supervisors to deny a development proposal. The BZA did not change this.
“The BZA did not agree with RN Golf that a Development Plan Amendment was not necessary. The BZA did overturn the Zoning Administrator’s determination that a Development Plan Amendment was absolutely and in all instances required to redevelop the golf course, but only because the required conformance to the Development Plan can only be judged against a specific proposed development. There was no development proposed. RN Golf desired a ‘blank check’ from the BZA such that no development proposal would need a Development Plan Amendment. The BZA declined to go this far.
The last determination made by the BZA was that any redevelopment would require a PRC plan application and have to conform to any and all County zoning regulations, including conformance with the approved Development Plan and the Comprehensive Plan (as ultimately determined by the Board of Supervisors when it votes to approve or disapprove the PRC plan).
“RA will closely review the written minutes of the BZA meeting to determine its next course of action. These minutes will be posted on the website as soon as they are available from the county."
— Ellen Graves, President Reston Association
"I'm a by-right property right kind of guy," said BZA's V. Max Beard, but "this is not going to be determined here and now."
"Ultimately it won't be decided by us, it will be decided by the Board of Supervisors," said James R. Hart, of the six member board.
"Until we know what's proposed, I don't think we can make a determination on whether the Zoning Administrator is right or wrong," said Paul W. Hammack Jr., saying the Board of Zoning Appeals is limited by statute on what it can or can not decide and doesn't deal with hypothetical cases.
"I don't want to prolong the agony here. This is the biggest volume of paper we've had this year," said Hart.
The Board of Zoning Appeals was expected last Wednesday, April 15 to issue a ruling on the golf course owner's appeal of the Zoning Administrator's "determination that redevelopment of property in the PRC District from a golf course to residential uses would require an amendment to the Reston Master Plan, a development plan amendment and Planned residential Community Plan approval from the Board of Supervisors," according to Fairfax County documents.
But it took more than two hours for the appeals board to rule that it could not rule, other than to uphold some portions of the case but to overrule other portions of the Zoning Administrator's previous ruling.
COLOR COMMENTARY from the gallery didn't take a safe approach shot after the hearing Wednesday, April 15, in the Board auditorium of the Fairfax Government Center.
"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," said David Burns, of Rescue Reston.
"We will continue to work with you to overturn this BZA decision. This does not end today," he said.
Both Hart and Hammack suggested that it understands both parties might seek the judicial help of caddies as they play the course ahead, such as Circuit Court Judges and possible special studies by the Board of Supervisors.
"We're going to carefully consider our options, but something that makes it difficult for all is that RN Golf has never said what it is that they are going to do," said Connie Hartke, president of Rescue Reston, a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving Reston's Open Space.
"I can't say what I want to say," said RN Golf Management's Francis McDermott. "I have to talk to my client to decide what it wants."
The BZA's decision allows for the owners of the golf course to submit plans to develop the property for residential uses, without first changing Comprehensive Plans, according to Reston Association's President Ellen Graves, who alerted its members to the ruling.
"The issue that the BZA was asked to determine was not whether the golf course should or could be redeveloped. The issue was rather what process and approvals would be necessary before it could be redeveloped," according to Graves. "The BZA declined RN Golf’s attempt to short-circuit the normal County approval processes. Reston National is no closer to being redeveloped now than it was three years ago."
WILL RESTON'S SAND TRAPS be filled with high rises?
The Board of Zoning says it has not teed up Reston's golf course and open space to be developed anytime soon.
Any application, if proposed by RN Golf Management, will need to go back through the entire proceeding before the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Board of Supervisors, with public hearings during all phases.
But under the BZA's ruling, owners of the golf course won't be required to seek an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan before submitting proposals to the Department of Planning and Zoning, according to Reston Association.
"If a PRC application is filed, there will be a public hearing on it," said Hart. "I don't think we're opening this up to putting up high rises up there. There's a very long road ahead."
In January, hundreds filled the Board auditorium and thousands have signed petitions to demonstrate Reston's opposition to development of the course, which opened its fairways in 1969.
"I recognize the significant concerns of the Reston community," said Sharon Theodore, of the BZA, "but the process does provide for significant input from the community."
The next tee time is not yet scheduled.
In fact, it remains to be determined which course of action both sides next choose to play.