RESTON, VA — Representatives from the Reston National Neighborhood Study Group met with residents of the Hunters Green neighborhood Thursday night in a closed meeting.
The purpose of the gathering, according to Gregg Hamm, president of New City Enterprises, was to discuss invasive plant species that grow on the border of Hunters Green and the Reston National Golf Course.
Hamm represents Weller Development Co. and War Horse Cities, two Baltimore-based developers who purchased the golf course in 2019. The study group was established so Reston National had a forum to discuss issues about the future of the golf course with local officials and neighboring residents.
"The first topic that we're bringing up in this study group is our property lines and vegetated buffers or trees," Hamm said, in an interview prior to the meeting. "We spent a very significant amount of time and effort, working with Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. to assist us in understanding the condition of these areas."
The report Hamm presented to Hunters Green residents says the areas bordering the golf course's property lines are affected by a number of invasive species such as ivy, bamboo and other species that could be harming trees.
"It's a bit complicated because for anyone to improve invasive, all contiguous property owners have to participate and be in agreement with a plan of action," Hamm said. "We believe the right way to move forward is to start by beginning conversations with people who immediately abut our property, get to know them, and have this conversation."
Addressing the invasive species issue would support Reston National's ability to continue operating in its current capacity.
"Generally, golf courses are regularly managing and treating their trees," Hamm said. "The grass and the trees are really often what make up much of a golf course, so we've got a challenge that we have to contemplate for the future."
Thursday night's meeting was just the first in a series of community meetings the study group expects to have in the coming months with owners of the properties bordering the golf course.
"It is intended to be the first of many about a number of issues," Hamm said. "We have about six things on our website that are important, and we plan to have issues that touch on those matters. This is the first of them. This will likely have more meetings associated with it than the other topics, because they're broader and they may not be as specific to particular areas."
Reed Skaggs, president of the Hunters Green Cluster Association, attended Thursday night's meeting and said he appreciated hearing from the golf course's ownership team on how it was dealing with invasive vegetation on their shared property lines.
"The Reston National Neighborhood study group appears to have broader agenda for future golf course use as it was stated that 'The property won't be a golf course in perpetuity' however no additional information was provided," Skaggs said, in an email. "HGCA expects to have continuous dialogue with the study group on what is best for the community as well as will support Reston National seeking the service of the Virginia extension service and others to deal with the invasive vegetation in the near term."
When Weller Development Co. and War Horse Cities purchased Reston National in 2019, the reaction of many Reston residents and community activists was grave concern that the developers intended to convert the property to another use. With the golf course's former owners failing in 2015 and in 2017 to redevelop the 166-acre tract of green space for residential development, their concern was understandable.
Similar battles were fought to keep Reston's other golf course, Hidden Creek Country Club, from being redeveloped. As recently as last October, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn put the kibosh on Wheelock Communities' plans to convert Hidden Creek into 1,000 housing units and a 100-acre park.
The only way Reston's two golf courses could be redeveloped is by amending the Reston Comprehensive Plan. Although Alcorn kicked off a process in January 2020 to update the plan, he has said repeatedly — most recently regarding Wheelock Communities' failed Hidden Creek effort — that he would not support a plan amendment to change the use of the golf courses unless adjacent property owners approved it.
When asked if the intentions of the study group's discussions were to talk about changing the use of the golf course, Hamm said the intention was to look to the future.
"When we look at the future, we have to contemplate a lot of factors and we want to have a very honest, truthful conversation and reach a common understanding about present conditions, so that when we talk about anything in the future, we are able to do so in a way that fosters beneficial dialogue, and I mean beneficial for the entire community, not simply one party or the other," he said.
When ask specifically if Reston National owners intended to move the discussion toward changing the use of the land for development, Hamm responded that the intention was to have thoughtful and meaningful conversations now and use those to help inform their future plans.
"We do not have a plan we intend to submit or advance at this time," he said. "And it would be irresponsible of us not to, and to the extent that we submit anything, it would be with the participation and strong involvement of the neighboring communities. It would have enough support from within the larger Reston community and would need to live in spirit, I would say, with Bob Simon's seven founding principles."
Skaggs disagreed with the premise that the status of the golf course would change, because the comprehensive plan has clearly designated it as open space.
"Our supervisor, Walter Alcorn, has explicitly stated he does not support amending the plan without support from communities along the course," he said. "We do not support changing the status of the golf course to anything besides open space because it is an important asset to the quality of life in Reston."
David Burns, a Rescue Reston board member, attended an earlier presentation by Hamm, which focused on invasive species and the study group's concern for the tree canopy. Rescue Reston is one of the groups that has consistently fought redevelopment at Reston's two golf courses.
"We certainly support their efforts to improve the golf course, environmentally and other ways," he said. "If they can work with people in the community, that's great and we support that completely. ... If this is intended to be a means to try to get people to buy into the premise that issues with the golf course have to be resolved through development, then that's not a position we agree with."