New Details Released on Officer-involved Shooting and Crime Spree in Downtown Herndon

Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard said the two Maryland men arrested on Labor Day in connection with an armed robbery, shooting at a police officer, and a carjacking in downtown Herndon have “extensive criminal histories” and may be connected to other similar incidents in the county.

At a debriefing before the Herndon Town Council earlier this week, DeBoard released new details about the incident that happened near Locust Street. She said police officers responded quickly and effectively, even though there were only four people on duty when the incident happened at around 7:20 p.m. that day.

Edward Maul Mejia Sandoval, 22, was charged with two counts of robbery and two counts of threatening to abduct with the intent to defile. Manual Enrique Casco, 34, was charged with robbery, carjacking and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

Police believe the suspects were attempting to rob a business in downtown Herndon that evening. As the incident was unfolding, one of the two women assaulted by the men spotted a police cruiser parked in the store’s security camera footage. The woman alerted the police officer — who was filling out paperwork in the cruiser and happened to be near the scene at the time — about the armed robbery. The officer — whose name has not been disclosed — immediately began to chase the suspects as they fled from the business, police said.

During the foot pursuit, one of the suspects shot at the police officer. The officer responded by shooting back. No one was injured or hit during the exchange, police said.

Sandoval was arrested with the help of two off-duty police officers and an EMT from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. After a brief search, Casco was arrested nearly thirty minutes later after police received a report of a carjacking up the street near Guapos.

The Fairfax County Police Department has taken over the criminal investigation due to the town’s limited resources, DeBoard said. The officer-involved shooting was a first for all three commanders on the scene at the time, she said.

“When you have an incident of this magnitude and this high enough of a threat, it becomes extremely dangerous and challenging,” DeBoard told the council.

The Herndon Police Department is conducting an internal affairs investigation. The county’s Commonwealth Attorney will determine if the police officer’s use of a gun was justified. Thus far, the suspects have not been charged with attempted capital murder.

The incident was captured with body camera footage. DeBoard also said the Herndon Town Council’s $25,000 investment in technology to track police cruisers helped police respond to the scene by tracking the cruiser.

Details about the business robbed by the suspects, the names of the victims, and the name of the officer will not be released for privacy and safety reasons, the police chief said. The department may release the officer’s name later this week if it determines there is no threat to safety.

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Town of Herndon Launches Comprehensive Plan Review Process

Town of Herndon officials have launched a process to review the town’s comprehensive plan, a planning document that guides current and future development.

The comprehensive plan, which state law states must be reviewed by the local planning commission at least once every five years, will head to the town’s planning commission for review.

Although dates have not been announced, the commission plans to review public input and make suggestions on changes to the plan. The commission will then draft a resolution for the town council that states the plan’s priorities and direction. By law, the Herndon Town Council is not required to take action on the resolution.

In previous years, the town has incorporated major changes to the plan, including planning for downtown Herndon and areas near the Herndon Metro Station.

The following amendments have been approved in recent years since the original plan was adopted in 2008:

  • Downtown Master Plan
  • Downtown Streetscape Map
  • Metrorail Station Area Plan
  • Cycle Track on Herndon Parkway
  • South Elden Area Plan

Changes to the future plan could include updating the parks and recreation chapter, sustainability policy, multigenerational planning, and economic development.

Residents interested in submitting their comments and suggestions on the plan can email [email protected].

Image via Herndon Planning Commission

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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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Downtown Herndon Redevelopment Construction Likely to Begin in Late 2019

The Town of Herndon plans to close on selling nearly 4.7 acres of its land to Comstock in order to begin the redevelopment of downtown Herndon later this year.

Comstock, the developer of Reston Station, was selected by the town three years ago to redevelop the property into a mixed-use project.

The $85 million redevelopment project includes 273 apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail, a new arts center, public space and a new parking garage for public and private use.

Construction on the project is expected to begin in late 2019.

The town and Comstock have several hurdles to clear before groundbreaking. An application for building permits is pending and an additional agreement to “protect town financial interests” must be determined, according to the town’s website.

The project was approved by the Heritage Preservation Review Board in mid-May.

The town will provide $3.6 million for the project, which is described as a public-private partnership.

Photo via handout/Town of Herndon

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A New German-Style Christmas Market is Coming to Herndon

Herndon residents are banding together to host the first-ever “Herndon WinterMarkt,” a traditional German-style Christmas Market with a family focus.

The event, which is set for Dec. 14 from 12 p.m to 8 p.m., will include vendors, food, crafts and entertainment linked to European traditions.

Kevin LeBlanc, an event organizer, said the idea was inspired by the large number of German and Austrian natives living in the area. Discussions to organize the event quickly gained momentum after residents partnered up with the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce to launch the event.

Organizers say Herndon’s historic downtown area naturally lends itself to community gatherings typically held in small grounds and villages.

“Historic Herndon lends itself to that kind of an atmosphere, both because of the historic town center and a strong sense of community that the town house.”

So far, the event will include Gluhwein and German beer. A majority of vendors and entertainers are German or Austrian. and the event will also coincides with the Herndon Model Trail show.

It will take place at the Herndon Depot Museum (717 Lynn Street).

More information will be available on the event’s Facebook page.

Photo via Herndon WinterMarkt/Facebook

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Poll: What Do You Think About the New Location of the Herndon Festival?

Since late last week, festival-goers had the chance to enjoy the annual Herndon Festival at a new location.

The festival left its home in downtown Herndon — which was slated to be a construction site by the time the festival came around — for the Northwest Federal Credit Union this year.

Construction is expected to begin soon after plans for downtown were approved in mid-May by the Town of Herndon’s Heritage Preservation Review Board.

It’s unlikely the festival will return to its home in downtown Herndon.

The redevelopment of the town’s core likely will not have enough open space to make the festival happen.

Here’s some more information from the Town of Herndon:

“Once the redevelopment project is complete, town staff will assess what new events or activities will be appropriate and attractive to the community. The Herndon Festival, as we know it today, likely will not return to the downtown area, due to the loss of the open space to host the carnival and considerable number of vendor, sponsor and volunteer booths required.”

Nonetheless, Reston Now wants to know which location you prefer for the festival. Let us know your thoughts below.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Annual Herndon Festival Kicks Off Tomorrow with New Location

Mark your calendars for four days of fun-filled activities at the annual Herndon Festival, which has a new location at Northwest Federal Credit Union on 200 Spring Street this year.

The annual festival, which features a carnival, food vendors, an arts and crafts show, and live entertainment, begins tomorrow and runs through June 2.

The location changed in anticipation of construction beginning in downtown Herndon. Although the process was delayed by an unsuccessful appeal by neighboring property owners, the decision to change the location was made one year ago.

Town officials say its unlikely the festival will return to its previous location because the redevelopment of the area will take up more open space.

The entertainment lineup, which kicks off with a performance by China Grove tomorrow (May 30), is available online.

The carnival will be open from 6-10 p.m. tomorrow (May 30), 5-11 p.m. on Friday (May 31), 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday (June 1), and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday (June 2). Single tickets are $1.25 and a batch of 30 are for $30.

Kids can also immerse themselves in a hands-on art program, which will be held under the overhang at the rear entrance to Building 200. The program runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday (June 1) and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday (June 2).

Races that take runners through historic downtown Herndon are also planned for Sunday (June 2) at the Herndon Community Center. Online registration closes tomorrow (May 30) at noon. Participants unable to finish the 10K race in 90 minutes and the 5K race in 45 minutes will be transported back to the Herndon Community Center.

A festival map is also available online.

The title sponsor for the event is Northwest Federal Credit Union and platinum sponsors are the Virginia Paving Company and Herndon Family Medicine.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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After Appeal, Heritage Preservation Review Board OKs Downtown Herndon Redevelopment

In a flashback to its hurried approval of the downtown Herndon redevelopment project last year, the town’s Heritage Preservation Review Board unanimously approved Comstock’s application to demolish several buildings to make way for the mixed-use project last night (Wednesday).

The board granted Comstock, which is leading the public-private partnership, Certificates of Appropriateness that allow the developer to proceed with the project. The HPRB’s approval last June prompted several property owners neighboring the project to file an appeal on the grounds the project was approved prematurely.

Last year, the HPRB approved the certificates to demolish buildings at 770 Elden Street and 750 Center Street, as well as the exterior architecture of the development, despite staff’s recommendations to defer the decision to a later date.

Mike McFarlane, who was the lone dissenting vote on the board last year, voted in favor of the project last night. After discussions with staff, McFarlane said the reasons why he initially opposed the project — the size, mass and scale of the building — were not within the purview of the board.

“There was more than gentle arm twisting from some elements in the town that I resented,” he added.

Residents who testified at last night’s hearing overwhelming supported razing the buildings, including the site of the former Stohlman Subaru, which one resident said had a roof that was “flapping in the wind.” Supporters urged the HPRB to approve the project, which they said would give the town a sense of place and has been anticipated for years.

Noah Klein, Comstock’s legal representative, noted that the properties under question were not historic landmarks and did not contribute significantly to heritage preservation. He said Comstock would continue to work with residents to incorporate some elements of the to-be-demolished buildings.

“The concept is to present a new and vibrant design but also connect it to the historic heritage,” Klein said.

John Vassello Jr., one of the appellants who challenged the HPRB’s decision last year, said he was still dissatisfied with the project. Although he noted he does not oppose the development, Vassello said he was vexed about the lack of public involvement and questioned whether the HPRB’s vote was influenced by town officials, who have a vested interest in the project.

The town’s attorney cut off Vassello’s remarks after he reached the maximum allotted time of three minutes. A resident who supported the project read Vassello’s remaining testimony.

The meeting concluded with applause from the audience. The vote was unanimous.

Photo via handout/Town of Herndon

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Heritage Preservation Review Board Dives into Downtown Legislation — The Town of Herndon’s board will hear public feedback on Comstock’s proposal to develop downtown Herndon. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Herndon Council Chambers Building. [Town of Herndon]

Lunch with the Four Mrs. Hemingways  Hear each of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives tell their story about a man who changed literary history. The performance is set for noon today at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods. [Reston Community Center]

Volunteers Needed for Taste of Reston — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce needs to fill more than 300 volunteer positions for the event, which is set for June 14 and 15. Each volunteer gets a free T-shirt and 12 taste tickets. [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]

Reston Hospital Center Helps Sterling Teachers Make Their Dream Classroom — The local hospital and Stone Springs Hospital purchased $5,000 in supplies to help teachers at Sterling Middle School afford their dream classroom. [WUSA 9]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Heritage Preservation Review Board to Consider Comstock’s Downtown Herndon Plans

Comstock’s redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are headed to the town’s Heritage Preservation Review for a possible vote this month.

The HPRB dove into details of the proposal on May 1, setting the stage for a May 15 public hearing.

At the May 1 meeting, HPRB members encouraged Comstock to ensure it provides proper notice of public events and activities to residents neighboring the property as the development proceeds.

Members also asked Comstock to look into the visibility of shafts from public streets and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

Staff have recommended approval of the project. A public hearing is set for May 15 at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Town Council Chambers.

File photo

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Comstock’s Revised Plans for Downtown Herndon Project Under Review

After hitting delays with multiple revisions, Comstock’s newest redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are now back under review.

Town Manager Bill Ashton told the Herndon Town Council at its public meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 12) that the staff started reviewing the revised site plans on Friday (Feb. 8).

“The fourth revision of the site plan is back in staff hands as of late last week,” Ashton said, adding that the Town of Herndon has “gone back and forth” with Comstock to refine the proposal and site plan.

The proposed project for Herndon’s downtown has stalled several times since the Herndon Town Council and Comstock agreed to the mixed-use development in 2017.

Plans for the redevelopment were withdrawn and then resubmitted last summer after property owners next to the site of the redevelopment effort filed three appeals.

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Reston Then and Now: Elden Street in Herndon

This week on Reston Then and Now we take our first foray into Herndon, moving a little west of the Reston Town Center. Fairfax County’s aerial photography shows how the shopping venues on Elden Street west of the Fairfax County Parkway have evolved over the years.

Herndon is a historic town, but the shopping centers along Elden Street are a relatively recent addition that followed the rise of Reston to the east.

The first of the shopping centers to spring up along Elden Street was Herndon Pines Shopping Center, which was established in 1959 but recently has faced continuing vacancies.

Further east, the the Herndon Centre was anchored by a Kmart built in 1976. The building was demolished in 2017 and is expected to be replaced by a Sprouts Farmers Market.

New development continued to spring up along the southern side of Elden Street from the 1990s onward, including the addition of the Safeway, SunTrust, and various shops in Herndon Marketplace.

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Mile 20 Brings Beers On Tap to Downtown Herndon

The Breeze Sports Bar and Restaurant in downtown Herndon is going the extra mile by adding a new venture to their popular restaurant in downtown Herndon.

Mile 20 (781 Station Street) will offer 24 taps and bottle beers for customers to try. The business, which is part of The Breeze, is located in the lower level of the restaurant in the patio area — space formerly occupied by a hair salon.

A grand opening party is set for tomorrow (Oct. 6) from noon to 11 p.m. 

The owners had the following to say about their new venture, which offers many beers from local breweries like “Optimal Wit” from Port City Brewing in Alexandria and “Choosy Mother Peanut Butter Porter” from Isley Brewing Company in Richmond.

Mile 20 is taking a step back from all the beer that you can get at anywhere. American light lagers are not what we are about. We are about supporting local and small breweries. There are amazing beers in your backyard, and you shouldn’t have to go far to find all of them. Mile 20 has 24 taps and dozens of bottle beers for you to try. Rotation is key so there is always something new and interesting. Whether your thing is IPAs, Sours, Porters, or anything in between; we got you covered. If you are new to the craft beer world, come on in and try a flight; specially picked out by our knowledgeable bartenders or build your own.

Photos by George Nikolopoulos

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Monday Morning Notes

‘Muscle Up Mondays’ continue today — Crunch Fitness will continue to offer free group fitness classes on Mondays through October 29 at 6:30 p.m. in Reston Town Center. [Facebook]

Delays on Orange, Silver and Blue lines continue –Metro commuters are encouraged to seek other transportation options this week as major construction work continues through August 26. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Ramp and lane closures in effect this week — Several local lanes and ramps will be closed this week as work on phase two of the Silver Line continues. Impacted roads include the Dulles Toll Road, Sunset Hills Road, Sunrise Valley Drive and Herndon Parkway. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Let’s talk finances — Reston Association’s Board of Directors will meet with the organization’s fiscal committee to review the first draft of the operating and capital budgets, as well as the PRC zoning amendment. [Reston Association]

In summary: Downtown Herndon redevelopment — Comstock Partners has officially withdrawn its application for a Certificate of Appropriateness to the Town of Herndon’s Heritage Preservation Review Board for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon. But plans are in the works to resubmit the proposal, which calls for roughly 17,600 square feet of retail, 200+ apartments, and a 761-space parking garage. [Fairfax County Times]

Photo by Beth Allgaier

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Despite Appeals, Residents Voice Strong Support for Downtown Herndon Redevelopment

At a public hearing Tuesday night, local residents voiced strong support for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon as town officials work to address appeals against the project by local property owners.

Three property owners filed appeals against the project, citing concerns related to the development’s impact on traffic and inconsistencies with heritage preservation guidelines, including density increases above standards laid out by the town.

On Tuesday, a majority of Herndon residents testifying about the appeals reaffirmed their support for the project. Speaking on behalf of Neighbors for Downtown Herndon Redevelopment, a group supporting the project that has rapidly grown in the last several weeks, Donielle Scherff said that while the appeals raise “reasonable” concerns, they have put residents’ “dream for this downtown in jeopardy.”

“We stand to lose the vibrant, thriving small town of the future, one that exudes this Herndon exceptionalism that we all love so much,” Scherff said.

In November 2017, Town of Herndon officials entered into an agreement with Comstock to breathe new life into 4.7 acres of in the Historic Downtown District. Plans proposed in June include a parking garage, 274 residential units, an 18,000-square-foot arts center and 17,00 square feet of retail space.

Earlier this year, the town’s Heritage Preservation Board approved the project, despite staff’s recommendations to defer action on the overall project. Filed appeals following the board’s decision rendered the project’s Certificate of Appropriateness void. The town’s council will consider the appeals in the coming weeks. The agreement for the project is unaffected by the voided certificate, which delays the implementation of the project.

File photo

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