To the editor of Washingtonian:
“Follow the money” is a journalistic tenet that suggests corruption can be
brought to light by examining money transfers between parties. In ignoring the
tenet, Benjamin Wofford whiffed on a good story about the battle for Reston’s
If he had followed the money, Wofford would have easily discovered how
out-of-state carpetbaggers bought a 163-acre Reston golf course for only $14
million because Reston’s foundational code prevented development and,
accordingly, kept the value of the property low. The scheme by Connecticut-based
Wheelock Communities: change the rules for its own purposes and build 600 to
1000 million-dollar housing units on the iconic property at estimated margins
that range from $250 million to $1 billion. As part of its development plan,
Wheelock is already eliminating affordable housing adjacent to the golf course..
Wheelock also schemed that the part of the property that is unsuitable for
development — two floodplains — be given over to the parks authority, which does
not want them. Wheelock has neither studied nor addressed additional costs and
burdens to Reston and Fairfax County such as managing school overcrowding,
public safety, infrastructure costs, the environment and traffic congestion
associated with the development.
Wheelock is all in on its bet that Fairfax County will change its rules to
make the carpetbaggers rich. It has hired Commonwealth Consultants, a “top 20”
PR agency, to spin its story through media. And it has hired high-priced land-use
attorneys to steer its fight through the Fairfax planning commission, supervisors
and perhaps the courts.
It is curious that none of this in mentioned in Wofford’s article. Rather, he
demonizes opponents of the plan — a coalition of Reston residents who are
understandably concerned about the impact of increased density and more
development on a community that has been overrun by reckless growth. Wofford
demeans them as “Yellow Shirts,” insults their motivation and implies they are
racists. He engages in sexism and shows his bias with a derisive description of a
leading community activist “who arrived in electric-blue golf shirt, and with her
hawkish features, called to mind Margaret Thatcher at the LPGA.”
That’s spiteful, uniformed and shameful reporting. Readers who value a
more objective take on the battle to change Reston should turn to Reston Now
draws-opposition/ ), rather than Washingtonian.
The future of our communities requires fact-based discourse. Journalism
should inform, not distort, the debate. At a fragile time for Reston, we should
respect the reasonable concerns of the community’s residents, families and
businesses as well as question the self-serving interests of arrogant opportunists.
Dale Peskin is a career editor, reporter and author who lives in Sterling Va.
He formerly served as co-director of the Media Center at the American Press
Institute, formerly based in Reston. Mr. Peskin has extensively covered the
implications of growth and development in Northern Virginia. He is a member of
Hidden Creek Country Club, where he plays golf and trivia.