(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) When the Washington Football Team opens its season against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 12, Northern Virginia fans who catch the game at FedEx Field might notice a familiar name among the stadium’s food options.

The Herndon-based, family-owned taqueria Casa De Ávila Tacos is one of eight local vendors included in the ‘Flavor of the DMV Showcase’ that D.C.’s NFL franchise will introduce to FedEx Field for the 2021 season.

“A year ago we never saw ourselves on a huge platform, where we find ourselves today,” Abraham Avila, a founder of the taqueria, said. “I consider it lifechanging.”

Abraham and his wife Stephanie Avila launched the taqueria on Sept. 5, 2020 with his mother Luz Avila and sister Jessica Avila.

Stephanie, whose background is in nursing, came up with the idea for the taqueria because she wanted to do something different. After the couple discussed the idea, Luz and Jessica offered to assist with the venture.

“In the beginning, we knew our food was good. Growing up, my friends would always come over and they would always look forward to my mom’s cooking,” Abraham said.

With influences from Guadalajara, Mexico, the taqueria’s recipes are often homemade, coming from either his mother’s family or his wife’s side of the family.

“When we started, the reception was great,” Abraham recalled. “We didn’t expect the numbers we had, and so that very first day we looked at each other and we were like, ‘we’re onto something.’ And so we started building a following.”

That community support inspired the Casa de Ávila team to apply for the Washington Football Team’s first-ever Flavors of the DMV Showcase, which was brought to their attention by a customer.

Abraham says, when he and his wife discussed the possibility of applying, they initially felt daunted by the competition, but they realized that “the worst they’re going to say is ‘no.'”

“So, we submitted the application and we told them why we think our food would be a good idea as they’re reinventing their image,” he said. “And a couple weeks later we got the invitation as one of the finalists to compete. We were over the moon.”

The family taqueria pitted its birria quesatacos against restaurants, food trucks, food stands, and more from the D.C. area. They were evaluated by a tasting panel consisting of Washington Football Team Vice President of Guest Experience Joey Colby-Begovich, Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, and representatives from Levy Restaurants.

After getting feedback, the family waited a couple of weeks before being notified that they had been selected as one of the official vendors for the season. After initial speculation that Abraham may be pranking the group, the reality of the moment set in, and there were “a lot of tears, screams, a lot of ‘oh my goodness,'” Abraham says.

“That just sent chills through everybody,” he said. “It gave everybody here a new sense of energy. It kind of told us we’re on the right path of what we’re doing.”

During the application process, Abraham made the case that Casa De Ávila could help the football team connect with the local Hispanic community, letting that segment of its fanbase know  that “we see you, we hear you, and here’s a piece of home in our stadium for you guys.”

Colby-Bagovich says the D.C. area’s increasingly diverse population was considered when selecting vendors for the showcase, along with the food’s taste, quality, and appropriateness for a stadium setting — that is, food that could be served in bulk and eaten without a table.

“One of our tent pole goals is to bring the community in as a part of our gameday experience,” Colby-Begovich said. “The DMV community is vast and diverse, and what better represents the richness of the DMV than food? We are thrilled to have local vendors representing their cultures, traditions, and culinary delights.”

The NFL extension of Casa De Ávila Tacos is located in Section B 134, near one of the end zones. It features three meats, with quesatacos (cheese) and carnitas (pulled pork) as permanent offerings, while a third will rotate between chicken, al pastor (sliced pork), and carne asada (beef) tacos.

While the NFL showcase will give the taqueria a whole new audience, for its owners, it will always remain a family affair.

“For us, family is number one. So our business name is our family name,” Abraham said.

When Abraham’s grandfather died earlier this year, the family had an opportunity to visit Mexico and bring his grandmother back to the U.S. visit her children. The sight of the taqueria’s name “brought tears” to her eyes, because she saw it as a way to keep her husband’s last name alive, he recalls.

“Being at the stadium, we want [people] to know that they’re also going receive the same high-quality food they can find at our restaurant or anywhere,” Abraham said. “We want to change the game up for concession food. And we’re doing it as a family.”

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A rendering of the proposed electric vehicle charging stations at 413 Elden Street in Herndon. (via Town of Herndon)

The Town of Herndon could soon get a couple more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

Herndon’s Architectural Review Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. today (Wednesday) to discuss the potential installation of four EV charging stations at Herndon Marketplace on 413 Elden Street.

Identified as Stephan Osborne, the applicant has proposed putting the new charging stations in the parking lot of the Safeway that anchors the shopping center, according to a staff report.

The proposed installation includes two masonry enclosures to screen necessary equipment that support the stations. The site will be accessible from Elden Street, Post Drive, and Grove Street.

The proposed stations will include blue and white bollards as barriers from vehicles, and the enclosure will be a block and brick wall with an opaque metal gate.

The landscape perimeter around the parking lot of the shopping center would also serve as an additional visual buffer between the proposed installation and the street.

Town staff say their report that the installation “should not have a major visual impact on the site.” The materials and design of the stations would match the current design of the shopping center. No lighting has thus far been specified for the stations.

Town staff has deemed the proposal compatible with “the applicable standards and requirements” of the town, including design criteria, according to the staff report.

The Architectural Review Board will also hold public hearings tonight on a sign plan and renovations at the Spring Park Technology Center, newly named Marker 20.

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Herndon Municipal Center (via Google Maps)

The Town of Herndon has taken its initial steps toward utilizing federal funding earmarked to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Herndon Town Council approved the allocation of the town’s funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) during a public session on Tuesday (Aug. 10). However, the budgeting of the funds will take place in the future as the town reviews capital projects and other operations and maintenance needs.

“This is the initial [move] just to kind of get the town started,” Herndon Director of Finance Robert Tang said. “We can do future budget amendments and re-appropriations as needed.”

Passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March, ARPA allocated $350 billion to assist state, local, territorial and tribal governments affected by the pandemic, establishing the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

Virginia’s windfall included over $633 million to provide a “substantial infusion to local governments” that are in turn meant to help turn the tide on the pandemic, address economic fallout, and lay a foundation for a strong and equitable recovery, according to Tang.

Herndon received a first installment of $12.7 million, and a second installment of roughly the same amount is expected in summer 2022, giving the town a total of $25.5 million in relief funding.

The funds can be used to address public health expenditures, negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, lost public sector revenue, premium pay for essential workers, and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure investments.

Tang detailed plans for the funding to support operations, maintenance, and capital projects from fiscal years 2020 and 2021 in order to recover and prepare for another potential economic downturn.

The focus points include addressing the pandemic’s negative economic impacts, supporting safe operations and working conditions for staff, replacing lost public sector revenue, and funding water and sewer projects.

However, Tang told the town council that there are a variety of challenges to meet, including vague and shifting guidance from the US Treasury and the need to follow proper procurement, documentation, reporting, and monitoring requirements.

The ARPA funds are subject to audits to ensure they are utilized for their intended purpose. Funds that are deemed to be improperly utilized would have to be paid back.

Mayor Sheila Olem said that once a spending plan is created for the town, the council will have further public hearings before approving the final allocation of these funds.

The ARPA funds must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and expended by Dec. 31, 2026.

Photo via Google Maps

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The moon shines over Virginia (staff photo by Scott Fields)

Tonight will be Fairfax County residents’ first chance to observe the Perseid Meteor Shower with a free event at the Turner Farm Observatory Park in Great Falls.

Located at 925 Springvale Road, the Turner Farm Observatory will open for the public to view the shower today (Wednesday) from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

In case of inclement weather, the park grounds will open on Thursday (Aug. 12) from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Peak viewing for the annual Perseid shower is tonight and tomorrow, according to the Analemma Society. The shower consists of debris and dust burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere after being left behind by the Comet Tuttle-Swift, which orbits the sun every 133 years and was last seen in 1992.

Anyone interested in attending the event is advised to bring lounge chairs and blankets to watch from the park grounds. The public is also encouraged to bring their own telescopes or binoculars to observe the night sky.

The event is a part of a cooperative effort between the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Analemma Society to provide celestial observing sessions at the observatory.

After being suspended last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Turner Farm’s regular observation sessions returned on June 18, allowing members of the public to study the night sky every Friday from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m., weather permitting.

“Interest in astronomy has not waned during COVID. Sky watching is a great COVID-friendly activity,” said Judith Pederson, a public information officer for the Fairfax County Park Authority.

“Since we resumed our programs and public viewing sessions, classes have been filling up and we have seen an average of 40 people per session on clear Friday nights. What’s great about meteors is that they are best viewed with the naked eye and no telescope is needed. It’s a great family activity as well.”

She added that Park Authority naturalists expect “excellent viewing conditions” for the Perseid shower this year due to the moon’s thin crescent setting in the west shortly after sunset, which will make late night viewing in the eastern sky ideal.

The shower could produce as many as 100 meteors per hour.

Turner Farm also hosts a variety of in-person classes for anyone, ages 8 and older, interested in telescopes, astronomy, stargazing and more. There is an $8 enrollment fee for each class. Signups for classes are available on the Fairfax County Park Authority’s site.

The site follows COVID-19 protocol policies consistent with Gov. Ralph Northam’s directives and CDC guidelines.

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Fairfax County strategic plan meetings are in a fourth phase before being introduced to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. (via Fairfax County)

The Countywide Strategic Plan meant to establish a community-driven vision for Fairfax County for the next 10 to 20 years is edging closer to an expected adoption by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The county hosted a community update and feedback session on Wednesday (July 21) to gather feedback about potential indicators for success among nine priority areas listed in the proposed 56-page strategic plan.

It was part of the fourth phase of engagement initiated by the county. Two rounds were held in 2019 before the process was paused in 2020 to evaluate COVID-19 impacts. Two additional phases were added for 2021, with the third survey phase wrapping up in April.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to take action in October, according to countywide strategic plan coordinator Aimee Brobst, who led the meeting.

While there are no outreach plans to solicit direct public comments on the final text before it is presented to the board, Brobst said community engagement will continue after the plan is adopted. At that point, the county’s approach will “likely shift” to a more targeted focus on each priority area in addition to seeking feedback on the plan as a whole.

“We definitely want to use the feedback that we’re collecting here for the purpose of informing the strategic plan,” Brobst said. “But as we look forward, beyond even when the plan is adopted by the Board of Supervisors, we want to make sure that this isn’t something that stops once the plan is adopted, and we are being very thoughtful and very intentional about hearing from as many people as possible as we move forward.”

The nine priority areas of the plan include:

A poll to gauge attendees’ preferred focus areas within those categories found particular interest in access to cultural and recreational opportunities; economic stability and mobility for all people; financial sustainability and trustworthiness; and access and utilization of services.

Other top indicators were air, water and land quality; housing affordability and quality; career-based training and early childhood education; accessibility, affordability and equity for mobility and transportation; and reliability and security of critical infrastructure.

County staff noted that the plan is meant to be flexible with the ability to adapt over time, serving as a template to help the board determine its priorities and understand what community members think is important.

Acknowledging the rather sparse attendance at the meeting, Brobst said that the shift to virtual meetings over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the county to rethink and expand the tools it uses to engage the public.

“In addition to everything we’re doing that we think makes sense — using every channel that we have available to us as the county — we are very open to adapting,” Brobst said. “…One of the things we definitely wanted to do as part of this process is not necessarily do things just the same way as they’ve always been done in terms of doing only in-person meetings or doing just surveys or long-form surveys.”

A form for general questions or feedback for the plan is available at the bottom of the strategic plan page on the county’s website.

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Reston Town Center North 2021 conceptual plan (via Fairfax County)

Plans for Reston Town Center North continue to slowly develop.

The Reston Association Design Review Board approved an amendment to the previously accepted conceptual plan for Reston Town Center North during its virtual meeting on Tuesday (July 20).

Put forward by Fairfax County’s building design and construction division and Inova Health Care Services, the amendment pertains to the grid of streets, a central green space and tree preservation areas, and establishing future developable blocks in conformance with the comprehensive plan.

A conceptual plan for the 47-acre site was previously approved in 2019. It included 400,000 square feet of public space for office, residential and retail, nine-plus acres for open spaces and eight developable blocks, all of which remains the same after Tuesday’s amendment.

Among the changes in this amendment was an increase of the allotted central green space from 2.3 acres to 3.5 acres, while keeping the tree preservation area intact. It also maintains the curvilinear streets, public space, athletic field, and county rec center.

Additionally, Cameron Glen Drive will connect to a different new street in the conceptual plan to allow for the larger central green.

“I don’t see it as a huge deviation from what was previously proposed, I see it as an improvement,” Design Review Board member Michael Wood said. “I see that we still need a lot of detail, but I think they know that after all of us kind of basically said it in all different ways.”

Comparison of Reston Town Center North conceptual plan between 2019 and 2021 (via Fairfax County/Reston Association)

Maintaining the other features falls in line with objections the design review board expressed to the initial plan in 2018.

“The DRB at that time expressed objections to the plan, and indicated that they’d like it to be more Reston-like in character with curvilinear streets and a greater emphasis on preservation,” Joan Beacham, a project coordinator for the building, design and construction branch of Fairfax County, told the board.

The design of the amended central green will be advanced as a portion of a zoning development plan that will be brought to the board in a future meeting.

The amendment was approved with some additional conditions requested by DRB member Bruce Ramo, including a retention of requests previously made in 2019 when the board approved the initial plan:

  • Further define the buffers surrounding the developmental blocks with illustrative cross-sections and dimensions
  • Confirm and provide approximate minimum percentages of additional open/green space per developmental blocks in addition to the total open space requirements in the Memorandum of Understanding
  • Provide a more cohesive merge in design and active involvement with Edgewater Park

The final condition added that final approval should be in line with Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan for Reston, which is currently being revised.

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Rendering of office building proposed for Reston Gateway Block D (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the alteration of Boston Properties’ plans for Reston Gateway to swap previously designated retail and parking space for offices after holding a public hearing on Tuesday (July 13).

The decision came two months after the county planning commission approved the proposal to amend the mixed-use development’s site plans and proffer conditions in May.

Mary Ann Tsai with the county’s department of planning and development noted on Tuesday that “no change is proposed to the approved overall gross floor area, or FAR, of the development.”

Submitted to the county in October, the application suggests replacing retail space and garage parking with offices and a screened level of above-grade parking. It will transfer up to 78,000 square feet of office space to Block D from parcels earmarked for Fannie Mae and and Volkswagen’s North American headquarters.

“The big move with this application is to take four stories of above grade structured parking and essentially turn them into office space,” Cooley partner Mark Looney, a legal representative for Boston Properties, told the board.

The Reston Gateway development design blocks (via Fairfax County)

“That office space is coming from other blocks within the existing development where there was office space allocated to them, but they were being developed with less than what the maximum potential was,” Looney said.

Boston Properties, the developer of the multi-phase development, also proposed providing additional design elements on the street level as a part of this application. These elements could include façade articulation, decorative materials, and additional lighting.

Looney added that, while the developer thinks it has made “great strides,” further discussion and work will still need to be had to address these potential changes with Public Art Reston, Town Center Design Review Board, and Fairfax County planners.

Looney said this application is designed to shift square footage “into what used to be an above-grade structured parking facility to improve to overall design of the building itself.”

Located adjacent to the impending Reston Town Center Metro Station, Reston Gateway will expand the town center by 4.4 million square feet of development when finished, adding 2.2 million square feet of offices, 93,000 square feet of retail, 2,010 residential units, and a 570-room hotel.

The first phase, which encompasses the Fannie Mae and Volkswagen buildings, is currently under construction and expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021.

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Solar panels (via Minoru Karamatsu/Flickr)

Fairfax County is continuing its efforts to transition to renewable energy with the installation of solar panels on county government and public school buildings, but it will now do so with a different vendor.

The county ended its contract with the company Sigora Solar yesterday (July 1), about 18 months ahead of schedule.

Sigora Solar is one of three vendors awarded contracts to install, manage, and maintain solar energy infrastructure for county government and school buildings in December 2019, when Fairfax County announced what it said was the largest solar power purchase agreement initiative by a Virginia locality to date.

The original contracts with Sigora, Sun Tribe Solar, and Ipsun Power were set to run through Dec. 31, 2022.

However, the county amended its contract with Sigora on June 10 to state that it would be “terminated for convenience” effective July 1. Sigora was designated as the primary contractor for roof-mounted solar panel projects.

Moving forward, the county will now work with Sun Tribe Solar, the secondary contractor for roof-mounted panels and the primary contractor for carport or canopy-mounted panels.

“Under the terms of the agreement, the county leases space on its buildings for the companies to install solar panels that those vendors will own, and the county buys the energy generated by the panels at a fixed price,” Brian Worthy, a public information officer with Fairfax County’s Office of Public Affairs, said.

“However, these companies have the right to decide whether or not to install panels at any buildings identified by the county,” Worthy said. “During the past year and a half, the county selected 30 buildings for solar panels, and we are eager to move forward with these projects.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved leasing necessary roof space at two batches of county-owned properties so far. The first round of eight sites came on Oct. 20, 2020, and another 22 sites were added on March 9.

The sites approved for solar panel installations in Reston are:

  • Reston Fire Station (1820 Wiehle Avenue, Reston)
  • The North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Dr., Reston)
  • Reston Community Center Hunter Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston)
  • Great Falls Volunteer Fire Station (9916 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls)

Under the solar power purchase agreements, the installed solar panels will be owned, operated and maintained by the contracted vendors, rather than the county. The county will simply purchase electricity produced by these panels over time.

When the contracts were announced in 2019, the county estimated that the initiative could potentially yield over $60 million in electricity cost avoidance over the terms of the contracts. Additionally, it was projected that approximately 1.73 million megawatt hours of renewable energy could be generated at the county’s facilities.

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Residence Inn at 315 Elden Street in Herndon is the subject of redevelopment plans for a multi-family project. (via Google Maps)

The potential redevelopment of the Residence Inn at 315 Elden Street in Herndon for a multi-family project is now one step closer toward fruition.

The Herndon Planning Commission voted on Monday (June 28) to adopt a motion to amend the town’s zoning ordinance following a public hearing on the matter.

If subsequently approved by the Herndon Town Council, the motion will increase the maximum density allowed in the town’s planned development urban residential district for projects that adapt an existing building for residential use.

The amendment would allow 28 dwelling units per acre for such projects, up from 20 dwelling units per acre. It would also add language defining “adaptive reuse” and requiring the projects to demonstrate no negative impact on water and sewer lines, include by affordable dwelling units, compared to the existing use.

The current proposal to redevelop the Residence Inn is not allowed under the existing zoning districts. The property sits on approximately 6.5 acres with 168 hotel rooms, which would amount to about 26 dwelling units per acre.

“There really aren’t any others out there that have this land-use designation and would be a building with a different use that could be adaptively reused,” zoning administrator David Stromberg told the planning commission.

“A big part of what the commission’s work is going to be over the next one to two years would be, when the comprehensive plan is updated, identifying areas that should get that adaptive area residential designation.”

This amendment is the second of three required legislative steps that have to be taken for the proposed redevelopment to take place. The first step was changing the site’s land-use designation in the town comprehensive plan, a hurdle that was cleared on Nov. 17.

The final step will be a legislative application by the applicant that will provide details about the proffers that the applicant will include in its plans for the project.

Stromberg added that this text amendment is “fairly specific” to this site, but depending on how this project works out, the land-use designation could be used in other parts of the town.

“This ordinance isn’t an affordable dwelling unit ordinance,” Stromberg said. “So, it was crafted a little bit narrowly because we have an applicant who’s indicated that they want to go in and redevelop a property, or reuse existing buildings on a property, and part of that will include affordable housing.”

He noted that the town won’t know how much affordable housing the developer plans to include until the proffers are submitted.

“Potentially, it’s something that could allow the town to get more affordable housing units if this model works,” he said.

The town council will hold another public hearing on the subject before making a determination on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment.

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Fairfax County School Board meets during its regular meeting on Thursday, June 17. (Screenshot from FCPS meeting)

The Fairfax County School Board is providing expanded support for adult education programs and services, particularly in Herndon and Reston.

The board provided consent for a lease renewal and expansion of Fairfax County Adult High School as well as the consolidation of Fairfax County Public Schools instructional and services programming in the Herndon and Reston area during a regular meeting yesterday (Thursday).

The consent follows the staff recommendation to continue and expand the existing lease at the Herndon Centre III shopping complex on Elden Street or another financially and functionally feasible location to consolidate other programs.

The programs considered for consolidation specifically include the Transition Support Resource Center, Adult and Community Education (ACE), ACE-English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and the Community Welcome Center, which would have student registration, ESOL assessments, and community liaison services.

“There is an increased demand for Fairfax County Adult High School services,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in a statement to Reston Now.

“Currently these programs are operating in undersized spaces and at various locations in the Herndon/Reston area that unintentionally cap enrollment and create inequity of service delivery of these programs with like programs offered in other parts of Fairfax County.”

The effort to consolidate the spaces used by the programs is meant to allow FCPS to provide an appropriate classroom learning and training environment, according to Caldwell.

The consent item on the school board’s agenda also stated that there is an opportunity for the board to “capitalize on favorable lease rates available in the commercial real estate market today that ‘stretch’ buying power and permit the rental of additional space at a much reduced per square foot cost.”

A new lease would also allow the re-use or removal of three ACE trailers at Herndon Middle School.

A new lease could also provide a one-stop opportunity for students and families with a shared location for a welcome center with instructional programming that would allow easier access to ESOL assessments, student registration, and other community services.

The consent item stated that neither FCPS nor Fairfax County facilities are available to meet the needs of these programs, which could require as much as 30,000 square feet of space.

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Dominion Energy construction project at W&OD Trail at Wiehle Avenue (courtesy of Dominion Energy)

Preliminary work necessary for the eventual construction of a new pedestrian bridge on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail over Wiehle Avenue has begun.

Dominion Energy began work on an electric transmission line located at the W&OD Trail at the site on June 1 as part of the initial steps required to accommodate the eventual bridge, according to the company.

Additional elements of this work will require Dominion to remove existing structures, install new structures, and relocate transmission facilities.

Also, as part of this project, detours have been established between Isaac Newton Square and Michael Faraday Court from June to September for safety precautions.

The detours will remain in place when crews are not working. While some weekend work may be necessary during the course of the project, the current working hours for it are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Dominion.

Detours will direct trail users to either paved or gravel sections of the trail, which will be contingent on the work being performed at the time.

The gravel trail will be temporarily closed for a couple of weeks in June as improvements are made to it for trail users during the company’s construction efforts. Work will begin on the paved portion following the improvements on the gravel trail.

Construction on Dominion’s project is expected to last through August, with restoration of the work areas concluding by late August. This project is anticipated to be complete by September, at which point the detours will be removed.

Construction of bridge project itself is tentatively scheduled to begin in Summer 2022 and be complete in summer 2023, according to Fairfax County’s project site.

The bridge will replace the existing at-grade crossing at the site. The project is planned as a measure to improve vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, which was noted by Reston Metrorail Access Group’s plan.

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After a year of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fourth of July fireworks displays will return to Fairfax County.

Lake Fairfax Park will once again host a fireworks display on Saturday, July 3. Fireworks will begin at dark, around 9 p.m., but attendees are encouraged to arrive by 8 p.m. to find a place a park and a spot to watch.

Tickets for the event are now available online for $10 per car and will be $15 on the day of the event. Ticketed entry begins at 10 a.m.

Food trucks will be on the site throughout the day for attendees.

The following day, on July 4, the Town of Herndon will host a free celebratory fireworks display for the public at 9:30 p.m. from the Herndon Centennial Golf Course.

The town’s suggested viewing spots are around the Herndon Community Center and the softball field at Bready Park. The town will have event parking and access to Bready Park starting at 8 p.m., but the park’s turf field will be closed during the event.

Parking will be available at Herndon Middle School, Herndon Community Center, and the municipal parking lot on Center Street. People may also park at the Station Street municipal parking lot and watch the display from the Herndon Municipal Center Town Green.

Cars parked in the Herndon Community Center and Bready Park lots will not be released until the fire marshal and Herndon Police declare the area safe.

Due to the display and parking, traffic in the town may be rerouted beginning at 7:45 p.m.

Herndon’s July 4th Celebration will not have food concessions or other entertainment this year, and spectators in and around the park are encouraged to maintain physical distancing while watching the display.

Pets, alcohol, glass containers, grills or cook stoves, and personal fireworks — including sparklers — are not allowed. For safety reasons, the fire marshal also prohibits any persons on the golf course or in its parking lot from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

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Herndon town officials and Fort Meyer Construction project manager Cesar Casanova (second from the left) participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Elden-Center street intersection project (Staff photo by Scott Fields)

Construction on improvements to the intersection of Elden and Center streets is now underway.

The Town of Herndon held a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday (Monday) to celebrate the initial steps of the project, which will realign the intersection, provide a new traffic signal, and add a turn lane.

“The two primary goals of the project is to signalize the intersection and to align the roadway on both sides of the road,” Richard Smith, a senior civil engineer for the town’s Department of Public Works, said. “And we’re accomplishing that by adding a right through turn lane on the south side of the intersection.”

The project also entails upgrades to the existing storm drain system and enhancements to the intersection’s pedestrian facilities, including improved crosswalks and new ADA signals. It is being coordinated with Comstock’s plans to redevelop downtown Herndon, which will encompass 4.7 acres adjacent to the Elden-Center street intersection.

Smith said there will undoubtedly some interruption to traffic during construction, but the town will do its “best to minimize any of those impacts and advertise those the best we can.”

The town council awarded a contract for the project on May 11 to Fort Meyer Construction Corporation with a low bid of $863,000 from five bids submitted.

Up to 50% of the construction contract will be covered by reimbursement funds through a revenue-sharing agreement between Herndon and the Virginia Department of Transportation. The costs not supported by the revenue-sharing agreement will come from local funds from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

Town manager Bill Ashton confirmed that the project is currently projected to come in under budget at around $1.4 million. It is scheduled to be completed in spring 2022.

The Elden-Center street project is one of several capital projects in the works for Herndon’s downtown area.

The town council recently awarded a contract for pedestrian improvements at the Elden and Monroe street intersection, and a third phase of streetscape improvements is expected to start construction this year.

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Reston Association is looking at potentially introducing greater electric vehicle initiatives, but a months-long evaluation of the proposal’s feasibility has revealed some hurdles.

During the RA Board of Directors meeting on May 27, COO Larry Butler and Cam Adams, the director of covenants administration, presented findings from a study of electric vehicles and charging stations that the board unanimously approved on Feb. 25.

One of the motions approved in February directed RA staff to study the possibility of installing electric vehicle charging stations at one or more RA facilities. The other motion called for staff to review the potential replacement of the association’s current fleet of fossil-fueled vehicles over the next 10 years.

With notes from consulting firm Kimley-Horn, Butler said at last week’s meeting that the availability of electric vehicles does not meet the general needs necessary for the complete conversion of the fleet at this time.

Since the majority of RA’s fleet consists of trucks, the current design for electric trucks does not meet the association’s needs, according to Butler, who noted that they typically have shorter beds than fossil-fuel versions and lack power capabilities for towing, hauling, or snow plowing.

However, he clarified that “this is really just the beginning of this investigation,” and the review to switch to electric vehicles will continue.

“The market isn’t there yet. It’s moving very fast,” Butler said.

He told the board that Kimley-Horn had recommended reevaluating electric vehicle options “every two to three, maybe four, years.”

“As the market becomes more robust with the types of vehicles, the cost of those because the competition will also come down…we’ll be in a better place to really look at more wholesale conversion,” he said.

There will remain consideration in the budget for electric vehicles, but a full conversion is not yet possible, in Butler’s opinion.

“We are in the early stages of going from fossil to electric. You’ve raised, I think, what are the major issues,” RA Director Bob Petrine said after Butler’s presentation. “I think the biggest single one is there isn’t at the moment a good break-even point. The trucks that are in offing are more toys than they are work trucks.”

Adams followed this discussion by addressing the board’s Jan. 28 directive to study how RA, the Design Review Board, and the covenants committee can assist clusters considering the installation of EV charging stations.

He suggested that a draft guideline could be presented to the DRB when it meets in July but estimated a final draft will take about five months to prepare, potentially for presentation in October.

While the Design Review Board has already approved six separate types of EV installations, it does not have an established guideline “that the DRB can objectively review that application,” according to Adams.

He added that the board would probably review any request submitted for an EV installations and that each “will evaluate it in a certain level of reasonableness that’s appropriate.”

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The Town of Herndon is moving ahead with plans to explore a potential ordinance that would prohibit firearms on town property.

During a work session on Tuesday (June 1), the town council agreed to schedule a pair of public hearings on Sept. 14 and 28 to discuss the proposal.

The September dates were chosen after council members decided it would draw more participants compared to the summer, when many residents might be away on vacation.

Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said that holding two public hearings would encourage a more thoughtful discussion on the subject.

“I would really like people to think through more than just saying, ‘Well, it’s an ordinance and it’s opposed to guns, and therefore I want to pass it, ‘ as opposed to ‘It’s an ordinance and it’s damaging my right to carry my weapon, so I’m against it,'” she said.

The ordinance was first brought to council for general discussion on Sept. 15, 2020 and subsequently returned for further review on April 6. The council deferred action on April 13 to allow for additional consideration of the fiscal impacts of adopting a gun ordinance.

Lesa Yeatts, the Herndon town attorney, advised the council that “it would be prudent” to start additional discussions about the ordinance as it existed in April.

The currently proposed ordinance stems from Virginia’s adopted legislation that allows localities to institute ordinances prohibiting firearms on their public property.

If passed as currently written, the ordinance would prohibit the “possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof” on town property. There would be a few exceptions for law enforcement personnel and educational activities, such as historical reenactments.

“Will this solve and prevent everything? No. But it’s a step to a more secure town in terms of our facilities, in terms of our parks, and just the community in general,” Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila said.

The council agreed to move forward with the discussion of the ordinance, but since the existing language largely replicates the ban passed by Fairfax County, they expressed a desire to get a clearer understanding of the legal implications and how much room there would be for tweaks based on feedback from the public hearings.

“I think when we just flatly say that ‘I’m for guns’ or ‘I’m against guns,’ then we’re missing something important, which is nuance,” Friedrichs said.

Photo via Thomas Def/Unsplash

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