Herndon slated to use $500K from some property owners for development study

The Herndon Town Council meets on Tuesday during a work session (Via Town of Herndon)

Herndon is moving toward examining mixed-use possibilities near the pending Herndon Metro station and expects to use money from private landowners to “study” the area.

Under the agreement, certain property owners would pay the town up to $500,000 for planning consultant services for preparation of a Transit-Related Growth Area Plan, which the town has studied previously.

The new development area, within 1/4 to 1/2 miles of the Metro station, would cover area mostly north of Herndon Parkway from Haley M. Smith Park and also extend southeast of Herndon Parkway to the Fairfax County Parkway.

Two different property owners approached the town and proposed ideas for funding the hiring of consultants to create the plan, deputy attorney Lauri Sigler said yesterday during a town council work session.

According to the town:

The Town Manager received a letter dated May 5, 2021, in which Herndon Van Buren LLC and Herndon Hotel Ownership LLC, who are owners of several properties located in the Transit-Related Growth (“TRG”) Area, made a proposal to the Town where the property owners would provide the funding for the Town to hire a planning consultant for the preparation of a TRG Small Area Plan. The Town was also approached by an owner of additional properties, MBC Property Owners LLC, who is also interested in contributing funds for this effort. 

The town would hire a consultant or consultants through a request for proposals and contract directly with the consultants, Sigler said.

The town asked for proposals on Oct. 12, and they’re due Nov. 12. “According to the terms of the agreement,” the town must select the consultant no later than Jan. 31, Sigler said.

The town plans to appoint a seven-member advisory committee, consisting of two of those property owners funding the effort, two planning commissioners, a town planning staff member and two Town of Herndon residents.

Town manager Bill Ashton said the town would get varying points of view in advising how the project develops.

He said the advisory group is only advising on the “mechanics of how this is going to unfold” and added that the request for proposals identifies a “lot of collaboration … that’s going to be expected out of the consultant to collaborate with neighbors.”

“This advisory committee … will act as almost as a liaison with the consultant,” Sigler said. “They don’t have any, um, real voting rights to make final decisions, but they will help guide the consultant through the long planning process.”

The property owners would make the half million dollar payment in four installments, which would pay the consultant in phases. The plan is slated to take 18 months.

“Them paying the fee, does that create any sort of conflict of interest?” town council member Pradip Dhakal said.

Ashton said he’s very cognizant of the ethical ramifications of things like this. He said it’s an arm’s length transaction.

“They’re paying it,” he said. “We’re managing it.”

The town is slated to go before the town council for approval on Tuesday on its consent agenda, meaning there won’t be as much discussion than a regular board item.

Town Mayor Sheila Olem noted that it “doesn’t etch us in stone on anything.”

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