This post by RCA President Colin Mills was originally published in Reston Patch.

I have a confession: Golf is not my favorite sport. I love baseball (to play and to watch), I love hockey (to watch; I can’t ice-skate to save my life), I like tennis and basketball and plenty of other sports. Golf? Not my thing.

The main reason I don’t enjoy golf, as a player or spectator, is that it takes so long. Hit the ball, walk until you reach it, hit it again, walk after it again… lather, rinse, repeat for the better part of an afternoon. Perhaps if I someday achieve a professional stature such that golf is a regular part of my life, I will feel differently. For now, though, miniature golf is more my speed.

Even the slowest round of golf, though, has nothing on the saga over the Reston National golf course. The Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on the golf course, which had been set for May 22nd, has been postponed yet again, this time to September. This is the fourth time the hearing has been delayed. If the hearing actually does occur in September (which we have every reason to doubt, given the history), it will be a full year since the hearing was originally supposed to occur.

I’m all for due process, but this is ridiculous. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder which will take longer: the appeals process over Reston National, or the Master Plan revision process. The Master Plan process had a two-year head start, but Phase 1 is showing signs of grinding toward a conclusion, whereas the Reston National process has no apparent end in sight. (Remember that no matter which way the BZA rules, when and if it ever does, there’s a good chance that the decision winds up in court.) Also, the Master Plan process will determine the future of all of Reston, as opposed to the fate of a single golf course.

Why is this taking so long? Why do Reston National’s owners keep asking for delays? There are several theories floating around.
One popular theory, put forth by grassroots activist group Rescue Reston, is that the course owners know that their case is weak, so they keep delaying, either in hopes of finding a miracle or simply delaying the inevitable. (I’m reminded of the old lawyer’s maxim, “When the law is against you, pound the evidence. When the evidence is against you, pound the law. When they’re both against you, pound the table.” Or in this case, kick the can up the road.) If this is the case, like Rescue Reston, I’d be disappointed but not surprised.

Another theory is that the course owners are working in secret with the County to cut a deal where they would get to develop some part of the course, in exchange for keeping the rest as open space, possibly turning it into a park. I suppose it’s possible that this could be happening. However, the people you’d expect could be part of such a discussion (Supervisor Hudgins, Reston Association, County planning staff) all deny having any knowledge of it. I hope and trust that those folks are telling the truth, and that they’ll continue to look out for Reston’s best interests, which wouldn’t be served by any backroom deal.

I subscribe to a simpler theory. I think they’re trying to wait us out. After all, the prospect of redeveloping Reston National has stirred up a hornet’s nest of opposition among our citizens. RA and RCA have both passed resolutions calling for Reston National to remain as open space, and Rescue Reston has mounted a strong public and legal effort to protect the course. Moving forward with redevelopment now would spark widespread protest from the community.

But if experience has taught developers anything, it’s that citizen uprisings can’t last forever. People are busy and have limited attention spans; sooner or later, their focus may drift to other things, other causes or simply day-to-day concerns. Citizen-funded legal efforts run out of money eventually. It’s hard to sustain long-term grassroots outrage. Reston National’s owners have deep pockets and the luxury of patience; if they stall long enough, they might think, the citizens will get bored or frustrated and give up.

If that’s what they’re thinking, they don’t know Reston. We have a long and proud tradition of civic activism, and our citizens aren’t the type to give up and go away. RA and RCA are both fully committed to this fight, and we’ve been around for decades. We’re not going anywhere.

Rescue Reston isn’t going anywhere either. They got started last July, and they’re still going full steam. In fact, they may be stronger than ever. With a reorganized board, they’ve clearly got a fresh burst of energy and they’re raring to keep the fight going. Connie Hartke, Rescue Reston’s new VP for Communications, has been quite prolific here on Patch; she’s penned a series of eloquent and passionate posts that show that neither she nor Rescue Reston has any plans to back down.

I know Reston’s citizens want to show the golf course owners and the County that we care and we’re not about to give up. What’s the best way to help? Right now, the best way you can show your support our open space is to attend Rescue Reston’s “Spring Into Action” rally and fundraiser at Hidden Creek on May 5th. The BZA hearing may have been pushed back, but Rescue Reston’s going to keep moving ahead.

Even if you can’t attend the fundraiser, it’s a good idea to send some funds their way. Rescue Reston’s got plenty of volunteer power, but lawyers cost money. We don’t want our citizen legal effort to fail because we can’t afford it. We’ve got to show the golf course owners that they can’t wait Reston out.

You can sign up to “Spring Into Action” at Rescue Reston’s website. I’ll be there, and I hope you will too. In the meantime, though, the weather’s warming up, and Woody’s miniature golf course is calling my name. Time for me to work on my putting.

Also: Happy birthday, Bob! Congratulations on 99 years of living, and 49 years of seeing your vision come to life. May Reston always live up to your founding principles.