Plans to turn the 166-acre Reston National Golf Course into a massive residential community have been put off -- at least temporarily -- at the request of the course's owners.

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. needs time for "additional preparation" before appearing before the Fairfax Board of Zoning Appeals, spokesman Mark Lucius said. The company was scheduled to meet with zoning officials Oct. 24 to determine whether the tract can be developed. That meeting was put off until late January.

John Pinkman, executive director of Rescue Reston, a community group trying to prevent the development of the golf course, attributed the delay to the "buzz saw of very public and very loud opposition" from residents of Reston, one of the nation's oldest planned communities.

"We will not be moved," Pinkman said. "We live here. We are not going anywhere. If anything, this delay helps us get better organized and communicate our message to others who have are just becoming aware of this crisis."

The owners of the golf course asked the Zoning Appeals Board to review whether the tract is eligible for development after Cathy Belgin, senior assistant to Reston's zoning administrator, determined the golf course can't be developed.

If the Zoning Appeals Board did reverse Belgin's decision and decide the land could be developed, it would not mean that the land would be immediately redeveloped. Ensuring that the tract is zoned residential is the first step in the city's planning process.

"This delay doesn't mean we're going to take our foot off the gas pedal," said Ken Knueven, president of the Reston Association Board of Directors, a group that maintains Reston design standards and organizes community programs. "It just gives us more time to prepare."

Pinkman agreed, saying it was a "major miscalculation and an underestimation of our resolve" by the developers to think the community's concerns would disappear now that the hearing has been delayed.

"We will be heard and we will protect this town of ours -- now, in the cold of winter, or the heat of summer," Pinkman said. "We live here, outside investors do not."

The case is now scheduled to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals on Jan. 30.