Lack of Affordable Housing in New Developments Near Future Herndon Metro Station Sparks Debate

Within the last five years, more than 500 residential units have been proposed at the door of the future Herndon Metro Station, which is on track to open by the end of 2020 In all three place-making projects that were recently approved by town officials, there are no affordable or workforce housing units.

Comstock’s downtown Herndon redevelopment project — which has 273 apartments — and Penzance’s mixed-use development less than one-tenth of a mile from the future station — which has 455 residential units — will not have any ADU or WDU units. Stanley Martin’s Metro Square project — which has 64 two-over-two condos — also has none. Prices for those units start at $679,990.

Newly elected town council members Cesar del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal are currently mulling ways to create more new affordable and workforce housing. They plan to discuss policy instruments with the county’s Board of Supervisors, the town’s legal staff, and other town and county officials to decide next steps. 

“If we do not interfere now and talk to builders, it will be very difficult to manage later. This is the time for the change,” Dhakal said. “We need to work with the county and work independently as a town to see what we can do.”

It’s unclear if the town has enough workforce housing to meet the demands of people who work within or near the town’s borders. The number of residential units in Herndon is expected to increase by 30 percent over the next 25 years, according to county data. Major growth is anticipated in Herndon’s transit station areas.

Unlike Fairfax County, the Town of Herndon does not the statutory authority to mandate the inclusion of workforce or affordable housing units. But now, as the Silver Line trains approach, some local elected officials are pushing for the town to explore ways to include workforce units in new developments at a critical juncture in the town’s history.

Policy options could include seeking state-enabling legislation to create an ADU and WDU program for the town — likely modeled after the county’s program.

Others are looking to dip more into the county’s penny fund — which includes tax dollars from town of Herndon residents and has historically been used to preserve and promote affordable.

But some caution that a WDU and ADU program managed by the town could be too cost-inhibitive.

Melissa Jonas, chairwoman of the Town of Herndon’s Planning Commission, said seeking such a change would likely require a town charter amendment, state-enabling legislation, the creation of a housing office, and other administrative requirements that could result in a “net zero” win for the town.

“It’s not easy and it’s not cheap,” Jonas said.

Jonas, who has worked with the county on numerous affordable housing initiatives, notes that affordable housing is a region-wide challenge that cannot be addressed in isolation of other issues and initiatives.

In the past, the town has leveraged its relationship with the county — which has the administrative and financial resources to maintain and preserve older affordable housings units — to ensure inclusion and housing affordability are a priority in the town. Town officials have also made an effort to educate the town’s planning commissioners about housing affordability issues as new applications cross their desk.

The town’s comparative advantage lies in finding other ways to ensure projects are affordable — including working with places of worship to pursue creative new projects on unused land, increased transparency about development approval timelines, and decreased the cost of doing business in the town.

The county currently provides most of the funding for the town’s housing rehabilitation specialist, who finds ways to preserve and rehabilitate current affordable and workforce housing units. The county also provides administrative support for housing vouchers and other federal programs.

Projects like the units set aside for lower-income households at Herndon Harbor House II are a good start to ensure housing affordable is a central part of community planning. That retirement community was partly financed by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.

Dhakal says that’s not enough and Del Aguila says that a town-led ADU or WDU program is “the right thing to do.”

“This initiative will provide several benefits: positively impact the future of many people [and] families by providing an option for home ownership in Northern Virginia,  improve the quality of life for people in our town… and create opportunities for financial security for more residents,”  he said.

Not everyone on the council is convinced of the need to enable the town to regulate affordable housing, including town councilmember Signe Friedrichs.

Friedrichs says there is a lack of consensus on whether or not there is enough affordable housing in the town and that the county is better positioned to manage housing affordability programs. Instead of managing its own program, the town should work with the county to maintain and improve affordable housing options.

“I moved to Herndon partly because it was affordable, and I hope it can stay that way while also improving its housing stock. But I also hope we can maintain, improve and possibly expand our workforce and affordable housing without also increasing our budget, the cost of which would cause people to move out of town,” Friedrichs said.

Photo via Town of Herndon Planning Commission
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‘Beehive’ Musical Comes to NextStop Theatre Next Month

“Beehive: The 60’s Musical” comes to NextStop Theatre Company next month.The production, which is directed by Monique Midgette, takes audiences on a trip down memory lane by celebrating six songstresses that defined a generation.

Shows will take place between August 22 and September 22. The musical stars Rebecca Balinger, Allison Bradbury, Bethel Elias, Kayla Gross, Shayla Lowe and Hilary Morrow.

Tickets are available online. Prices range between $40 and $55, depending on the time and day of the performance. 

Beehive is presented through a special arrangement with Theatrical Rights Worldwide.

NextStop is located at 269 Sunset Park Drive in Herndon. 

Photo via NextStop Theatre Company

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Made in Reston: Electrify America Aims to Fuel Electric Vehicle Use

“Made in Reston” is a bi-weekly series that offers readers a glimpse of what is happening behind the closed doors of offices in the Reston area. As more office buildings scrape the skies, Reston Now chats with company officials at startups and up-and-coming businesses to capture the local business community scene. 

A little over a year since it opened its first charging station, Electrify America is now on a mission to roll out the country’s fastest-growing network of zero-emission car chargers.

The Reston-based company hopes to fuel zero-emission vehicle adoption nationwide by deploying a network of highway chargers that are “convenient, ultra-fast and reliable,” per Company spokesman Mike Moran. 

Part of the solution is to make charging for EV drivers as easy as possible, while also educating the general public about zero-emissions vehicles. Earlier this year, Electrify America launched a mobile app to allow EV drivers to “manage their entire charging experience on their mobile phone” — from finding a charger to tracking a charging session.

The company also plans to expand its partnership with Walmart by bringing dozens of charges in major urban areas at Walmart locations. So far, it has more than 120 charging stations at Walmart stores in 34 states. Other companies like EVgo and ChargePoint are also attempting to challenge Tesla’s hold over its fast-charger network, which has more than 11,200 superchargers around the world.

Electrify America executives are also exploring new partnerships with the EV charging company on roaming charging agreements with the company’s networks. Recently, the company announced it will work with Harley-Davidson to provide honors of a new all-electric motorcycle — the LiveWire — with complimentary charging over two years.

The push to grow its charger network and expand into motorcycles comes in the the wake of Volkswagen’s fuel emissions scandal, which led the automaker to pour $2 billion from its 2016 settlement into Electrify America.

Electrify America is a subsidiary of Volkswagen and first opened in an unassuming office complex on 2003 Edmund Halley Drive two years ago. As part of the Volkswagen settlement — which rocked the automaker industry and opened the door for other investigations into diesel emissions scandals — Electrify America now operates as an independent entity.

Moran says the company’s placement in the technology corridor of Reston now provides Electrify America with unique access to innovation partners in the state and across the country.

As more EV vehicles come online, company officials are confident that demand for EV vehicles will continue over the next five years, maintaining Electrify America’s relevance and the inspiration behind its name.

One way it’s hoping to stay relevant is by bringing EV vehicles mainstream through emojis.

The company submitted a formal proposal to the Unicode Consortium — the government body for emoji creation — to create the first-ever “EV with charger” emoji. Emojis, according to the company, should be “representative of today’s world” — whether it’s using the proposed emoji or the zero-emissions vehicle. 

Photo via Electrify America

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Pet of the Week: Rapturous Rambo

Meet Rambo, a male Terrier & Shepherd mix puppy available for adoption locally.

Here is what his friends at Safe Haven Puppy Rescue have to say about him:

Rambo and his siblings Rocky and Stella are beautiful little mixed breed babies who likely have terrier, shepherd and collie genetics, a real doggie potpourri — they’re all just as cute and happy as they come.

As they’re fairly petite now at 12 weeks old we don’t think they’ll be very big when grown, maybe about 35 pounds or so, a nice medium size.

This great pup is a nice blend of friendly affection and normal puppy playfulness and will be great company. This friendly, happy little fella is going to bring lots of joy to some lucky adopters.

Are you and Rambo a match? If so, let us know and our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, will send you some treats and prizes.

Want your pet to be considered for the Reston Pet of the Week?

Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks.

Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of eight Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Reston and Northern Virginia.

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Op-Ed: Open Space — All of It for All of Us

This op-ed was submitted by Connie Hartke, president of Rescue Reston. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. We publish article and opinion contributions of specific interest to the Reston community. Contributions may be edited for length or content. 

You’ve probably seen this yourself:  communities that once were charming and lovely but are now car-clogged concrete canyons.  Rescue Reston and other like-minded yellow-shirted citizens associations in Reston are dedicated to preserving the charm of Reston and preventing over-development.  Rescue Reston focuses specifically on preserving Reston’s two planned open spaces, which are the two 160+ acre golf courses–Reston National and Hidden Creek.

Open space matters.  It’s good for us.  It not only enhances our physical health but our moodcreativity, and memory.  Scientific studies show this.  You cannot get these same health benefits from walking in busy, dense spots such as Reston Town Center or in the Village Centers.  Fairfax County says in its Economic Success Plan that it wants to encourage health benefits like these through a “Health in All Policies” approach.

Preserving Reston National and Hidden Creek is not all about promoting golf, though that is a worthwhile endeavor in keeping with Reston’s promotion of healthy living through sports.  It’s about preserving Reston’s deliberate plan for everyone to benefit from the Reston Association paths that were designed–from Reston’s founding in 1964–to go along and through the golf courses.

The vast majority of people who benefit from Reston National and Hidden Creek are not the golfers themselves but the hundreds of walkers, joggers, bicyclists, kids in strollers, and elderly and disabled people with canes or wheelchairs who enjoy these open spaces via the RA paths every single day.   Everyone in Reston–from the youngest to the oldest among us–has access to the benefits of this open space.

The out-of-state outfit that owns Hidden Creek, Wheelock Communities, is talking about redeveloping this land into housing and turning some of it into a park.  Don’t be deceived.  The so-called “grand park” that Wheelock is promoting would result in a loss of the majority of this beautiful and rare open space.  What Wheelock is offering as a so-called park is only that part of its property that is not suitable for housing.  The latest proposal says a large chunk would be marshland.

As density increases–as planned–at the Metro stations and the Transit Station Areas, the Restonians living or working in those high-density areas will need and want the vistas of the golf course open space that they have access to now.  It is short-sighted and, frankly, greedy for out-of-area developers to try to take these planned open spaces away from Restonians just when we need it most.

Yet we Restonians were promised that this open space would be preserved for the long term.  The latest Reston Master Plan(completed in 2015) that guides our community’s development for the next thirty to forty years commits to keeping this open space.  Violating that 30-to-40-year open-space pledge after only four or five years would truly be a violation of the plan for generations to come.

Unlike most of Fairfax County, Reston has always been a planned community.  Restonians know and abide by planned-community rules that affect things as small as whether we can change the color of our shutters or put in a bay window.  And yet, despite the respect that we residents have always shown to planned-community principles, real estate developers who are brand new to our community want to violate the plan and change the character of our community forever by robbing it of its planned, promised, and dwindling open space.

Remember:  once the open space is gone, it is gone forever.   Preserve the open space at Reston National and Hidden Creek.  All of it.

Photo by Paul Hartke

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Report: Aslin Beer Company to Open Herndon Taproom

After more than two years of waiting, Aslin Beer Company is finally moving into its planned tasting room and bar in Herndon.

Northern Virginia Living Magazine reported that the tasting room — which closed due to a dispute with neighbors — plans to open by the end of the year.

An exact opening date has not been announced yet. The company did not return several requests for comment from Reston Now.

The Town of Herndon’s Heritage Preservation Review Board approved plans on July 17.  The new location — which has undergone several design revisions — will include terrace seating and rooftop bar. 

Rendering via Town of Herndon/handout

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Wednesday Morning Notes

New Pop-Ups at Reston Farmers Market — The market, which is held on Wednesdays between 3-7 p.m. through Nov. 27, will feature Bon Becca and It’s Baking Day, two pop-up businesses. Mike Henry will also join the market to play some tunes. The market takes place at St. John Neumann Church. [Reston Farmers Market]

Energy Surge Causes Minor Fire — Local fire and rescue crews put out a small building fire at the 1800 block of Samuel Morse Drive. No injuries were reported. Lightning reportedly struck a power transformer next to the building, leading to an energy surge. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Fractal Industries Breaks New Ground  A whole new ballgame is beginning for Reston-based Fractal Industries. The analytics and insurance software provider today announced it closed its Series A funding round totaling $78.6 million, led by Cannae Holdings and Motive Partners. Coinciding with the fresh round, the company changed its name to QOMPLX. The tech firm will use the capital to expand its headcount – currently at about 100 – and accelerate growth.” [American Inno]

Photo submitted by Christian Bolus

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