The Herndon Town Council is considering a plan to double down on banning guns on town property.
If approved, the ban would restrict the possession, use, and transportation of any firearms on specified town-owned property, including parks and community centers. It would also apply to any public street, sidewalk, right-of-way, or public place specifically being used for an official town-sponsored event.
Some residents fired off on a similar ban in Fairfax County, which was passed nearly one year ago. Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and other neighboring jurisdictions also have similar ordinances.
As drafted, all violations would be classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. The ordinance does not apply to sworn or retired law enforcement officers, military personnel who are conducting official duties, historical re-enactors, private security hired by the town, and individuals who have a concealed handgun allowed through a valid concealed handgun permit.
Gov. Ralph Northam signed enabling legislation in April 2020 that allows local governments to ban guns on public property and public spaces. The move followed a gun rally in Richmond where thousands of gun owners gathered for a rally aimed to eliminate gun restrictions.
Town officials are wrestling with the best way to enforce the ban — if passed. Officials noted that the ban is only meaningful if it is enforceable in a consistent and effective manner.
An impact analysis by the town anticipates nearly $3 million in costs to amp up security in town buildings, install signs at town parks and trails and install magnetometers. An additional $744,600 is anticipated to staff magnetometers.
“If the goal of the firearms prohibition is to protect council, staff and the public from a firearms discharge on town property, then steps would be required to ensure security,” the impact analysis notes.
A public meeting is planned for today. The public hearing begins at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers, which are located at 765 Lynn Street. Masks are required for all attendees and entrance to the council’s chambers will be controlled in order to ensure social distancing, according to town officials.
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
The Herndon Town Council will resume in-person meetings next month after 15 months of virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first in-person meeting since last March will be held on July 6.
“The Herndon Town Council is resuming in-person meetings due to the greatly improved state of the pandemic in Fairfax County, as the decrease in infections and increase in vaccinations make it safer to gather in person,” said Anne Curtis, chief communications officer for the Town of Herndon.
Seats will be spaced six feet apart, and masks will be required for unvaccinated attendees to comply with CDC guidelines.
Public hearings and work sessions will still be available for viewing via live stream, but interactions via WebEx will be discontinued. Those who wish to address the council must do so in person.
“While I am so appreciative of my colleagues on council, town staff and town citizens for their forbearance during this extraordinary time, I don’t think any of us expected we’d be meeting online for more than a year,” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said. “I am excited to see faces and to recapture the energy that is only found in person. I hope citizens will come out and participate as we resume our in-person sessions.”
The first in-person meeting will be on July 6 at 7 p.m. at the Herndon Community Center (814 Ferndale Ave.). The first in-person public hearing will be on July 13 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers located at 765 Lynn Street.
More information on upcoming meetings can be found on the Town of Herndon website.
“The council is looking forward to greater citizen involvement in their meetings, as the opportunity for in-person testimony on issues that come before the council resumes,” Curtis said.
The Town of Herndon is moving ahead with plans to explore a potential ordinance that would prohibit firearms on town property.
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.
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
(Updated at 4 p.m.) A Herndon car wash that discharged green liquid that ended up in Sugarland Run Stream received a formal notice of violation on Friday (May 28) from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, a regional official says.
Flagship Carwash Center of Herndon at 632 Grant Street does have a permit to discharge, according to both a car wash representative and DEQ.
However, the green liquid was being discharged into a storm sewer that goes into Sugarland Run due to a malfunctioning of the car wash’s water reclamation system malfunctioning, says DEQ official Mark Miller, who manages regional enforcement and pollution response for Virginia’s northern region.
Miller says the presence of the discharge in Sugarland Run has been observed multiple times by both DEQ officials and town staff members.
As a result, the business will be notified that it is in violation of its general DEQ permit. The discharge is believed to be a mix of water and car wash detergent, but it is not thought to be harmful to the stream.
“Staff from the town, Fairfax County DPWES, Fairfax County Fire Department, and the Virginia DEQ all performed independent tests on the discharge and did not find any contaminants in the stream that are known to be harmful to the environment,” Town of Herndon spokesperson Anne Curtis told Reston Now by email.
Curtis says DEQ is now in charge of the investigation and is “in contact with the property owner to resolve the illicit discharge.”
This issue was first brought to the public’s attention during a Herndon Town Council work session on May 18. In the work session, Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish noted that town staff were aware of the situation and had recently observed the discharge themselves.
Flagship Carwash Center of Herndon managing member Guy Paolozzi told Reston Now that the business is currently conducting its own investigation to determine why the discharge is green.
Until both the car wash and DEQ complete their investigations, Paolozzi says, the car wash will stop discharging.
Flagship Carwash Center currently has five Virginia locations and 10 locations across the region.
Miller says the notice of violation was drafted and sent out last week. The intent of the notice is to get the problem fixed under a timeline. These types of violations are not uncommon, and they can end with the business fixing the issue without any further consequence.
However, a civil charge (a fine) could be imposed depending on the findings of DEQ’s investigation.
Work includes replanting vegetation, placing in-stream structures, and installing brush mattresses.
Construction and restoration is expected to be completed in early 2022.
Herndon is moving forward with another capital improvement project.
The Herndon Town Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday (May 25), with Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila absent, to award a contract to the Ashburn Construction Corporation for the Elden Street and Monroe Street Intersection Improvement Project.
The intersection project is similar to other projects in the town’s Capital Improvement Program in that it will include brick crosswalks and sidewalks as well as ADA compliant curb ramps. The project will also bring a new traffic signal and storm drainage improvements.
Ashburn Construction Corporation beat out one other bidder to win the $1.1 million contract.
Half of the funding for the construction costs is available for reimbursement through revenue-sharing funds collected from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The NVTA funds come from the 30% local distribution revenue given to localities for transportation projects through House Bill 2313, which was passed in 2013.
According to the Town of Herndon’s Fiscal Year 2021-2026 CIP, this project will link the East Elden Project, the Downtown Streetscape Project, and the Elden-Monroe private development project, a reference to the now-completed Junction Square mixed-use development.
The East Elden Project is being designed and constructed by the Virginia Department of Transportation, which plans to widen Elden Street into a six-lane divided section between Herndon and Fairfax County parkways and a four-lane section from Herndon Parkway to Van Buren Street. The project will also include streetscape and median enhancements.
The Elden/Monroe project will provide a transition when the street narrows down to two travel lanes west of Van Buren Street and approaching Monroe Street, according to the CIP.
The Downtown Streetscape project entails widening and enhancing streetscapes with brick sidewalks, grated tree wells and other features. Construction on the project’s third phase is expected to begin this year for an anticipated completion in 2022.
Image via Town of Herndon
Discussion to redevelop the Residence Inn at 315 Elden Street in Herndon continues to progress.
In its work session on Tuesday (May 18), the Herndon Town Council agreed to explore the possibility of amending its zoning ordinance to increase the maximum density allowed in planned development urban residential districts for projects that feature an adaptive reuse of existing buildings.
“This step is required to bring it forward to discussion at a public hearing where the language can be refined, and then it comes back to the council for a final vote,” David Stromberg, a zoning administrator for the Town of Herndon, said.
The potential consideration was prompted by a proposal from the property owner of 315 Elden Street to reuse the existing hotel as a multi-family project.
The council took an initial step last November to remedy barriers for the redevelopment when it voted to amend the site’s land use designation from business corridor to adaptive area residential.
However, the multi-family zoning district in the current zoning ordinance doesn’t accommodate the density needed to convert the hotel units into dwelling units. The current maximum density is 20 dwelling units per acre.
The proposed amendment would allow a maximum density of 28 dwelling units per acre for only adaptive reuse projects. New construction would remain at the maximum 20 units per acre.
The Residence Inn property sits on approximately 6.5 acres with 168 hotel rooms, which would result in almost 26 dwelling units per acre.
Stromberg explained that the property owner’s proposal “would contain a significant affordable housing component.” The developer would propose a percentage of affordable units for the reuse project at a later date as part of the zoning map amendment process.
He added the text amendment consideration would include defining “adaptive reuse” and that the text would “specifically state that it’s the intention of the town that property owners seeking to rezone their properties to the plan development urban residential district provide a percentage of those units as dedicated affordable units.”
If the council approves initiating consideration of the amendment, town staff would be required to present it to the planning commission at a public hearing. Then, if the amendment passes through the planning commission, it would return to the council for another public hearing.
Photo via Google Maps
Fans of Friday Night Live! can breathe a little easier now.
The Herndon Town Council voted on Tuesday (April 27) to approve a budget for fiscal year 2022 that includes an additional $20,000 to support the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce’s popular free summer concert series, which is now tentatively aiming for a delayed start date of July 2.
“This is one of the things I think we need to build and grow upon,” Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said. “[Friday Night Live’s] got a lot of good things around it. It’s a good foundation to build an even better atmosphere for including more people.”
The vote came after a public hearing with several earnest speeches by supporters of the annual event, from longtime attendees and volunteers to an Ashburn resident whose band has performed on the Town Green as part of the series.
Speakers praised Friday Night Live as an attraction that draws both town residents and outside visitors to downtown Herndon, giving local businesses and restaurants a boost that could be especially critical now after a year of upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s an advertisement for the Town of Herndon that costs much less than the revenue it brings in,” Herndon resident Mindy Thunman said. “Dollars aren’t the only way to measure the value of Friday Night Live. There are so many other intangible ways, the most important one being the sense of community it brings, and you simply can’t put a dollar figure on that.”
After pivoting to an online-only format last year, Friday Night Live organizers hope to bring the event back in person this summer, but their ability to stage the concerts hinges on the Town of Herndon funding support services like police security and public works staff and equipment.
The possibility that Friday Night Live would be unable to go on inspired “an outpouring” of support for the event from citizens, Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton told the town council on Monday.
According to FNL founder Doug Downer, who spoke at the public hearing, more than 90 letters of support were sent to the town council as part of the community input process for the FY 2022 budget. Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said that they received more comments on the concert series than any other issue she has voted on since joining the council in 2017.
Ashton said that he had approached FNL funding in his proposed FY 2022 budget with the expectation that the town would get federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act in May, but it turned out that the money needs to be appropriated by the state and won’t be available until July.
Because the budget was already advertised at $55.7 million, Ashton proposed offsetting the $20,000 increase in expenditures for FNL by decreasing appropriations for a retiree health benefit program that the town ceased using for police employees in 2017 and is in the process of phasing out for all other government workers.
“What we did is we took the money from there to move to Friday Night Live,” Ashton said. “We’re going to monitor the retiree system moving into next fiscal year. Again, if we need to add additional money in there, I can under my authority maneuver up to $100,000 from one account to another.”
Herndon residents will start paying a little bit more for water and sewer services this summer.
On Tuesday (April 27), Herndon Town Council approved a 1.5% rate increase on water and sewage services for the 2022 fiscal year, which starts on July 1. According to the town, this was necessitated by increasing commodity costs that Fairfax County is charging the town for water and sewer services.
For sewer services, rates are going up from $6.19 to $6.28, or nine cents per one thousand gallons. For water usage, rates are going up from $3.16 to $3.21, five cents per a thousand gallons. For water usage during peak periods (often during the summer), rates will rise eight cents per one thousand gallons, going from $5.38 to $5.46.
Town staff said at the public hearing that these increases would raise the water and sewer bills for a “typical” Herndon household — defined as a family that uses 5000 gallons per month — by $2.27 per quarter.
However, Herndon residents’ quarterly water bill will still remain among the lowest in the region, with Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Fairfax City, Vienna, and Leesburg residents all paying more.
The increase will generate about $97,000 in revenue for the town that will go toward paying commodity costs, along with other operating expenses, funding for capital improvements, and system expansions.
According to data compiled by town staff, since 2006, the town has had more water and sewer expenses than generated revenue, meaning that Herndon has been losing money — as much as $2 million in some years — providing water and sewer services to residents.
The gap was closed in 2020, but town staff are projecting that will no longer be the case in fiscal years 2021 and 2022.
Even with the rate increase, the town is projected to operate at a $217,600 loss for water and sewer services in fiscal year 2022.
Along with the newly approved rate increase, the town will also conduct a study early in FY 2022 about adjusting rates going forward.
“Water is one of the most precious resources out there, and will eventually be more valuable than petroleum,” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said.
Photo via Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay
A telecommunications tower initially set to be erected on Grove Street in Herndon last year may take an additional several years to come to fruition.
On Tuesday (April 27), Herndon Town Council is set to determine whether to give T-Mobile and Maryland-based contractor Network Building + Consulting another extension on obtaining a final building inspection to build a 125-foot telecommunications monopole at 525 Grove Street.
This time, the companies are seeking a five-year extension, a significant delay compared to the six-month extension granted in September 2020. The town’s planning commission recommends that the request be approved.
The project was originally approved in April 2019 and expected to be completed in 18 months, setting up completion for September 2020. But the companies then got an additional six months for their special exception permit, which will expire this month.
In a February letter to the Herndon Planning Commission, the companies attribute that initial delay to “numerous circumstances beyond our control,” including the COVID-19 pandemic and T-Mobile and Sprint’s 2019 merger, which they say held up funding for the project.
“For that reason, our work was put on hold from approximately September of 2019-April of 2020, while we were in the process of obtaining site plan approval,” the letter said. “During this time, the coronavirus pandemic began, causing additional delays in obtaining various documents required for site plan approval.”
The same reasons are “predominantly the genesis ” for another extension and the reason for this delay, according to Herndon Deputy Director of Community Development Bryce Perry.
T-Mobile and Network Building + Consulting asked for additional time, but didn’t specify a length. So, the Town of Herndon recommended five years — adding three years to the process — to ensure another extension was not needed.
“The applicant has indicated to the town that they fully expect to complete the project well before the additional 3 year deadline,” Perry writes.
The pole is set to be built on the same site as a Virginia Dominion Energy substation, and no changes have been proposed to its original architecture plans. It’s expected to be between 120 and 125 feet tall enclosed by a 15-foot by 100-foot ground equipment facility.
The structure would butt up against the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, but it would be “minimally visible” from Grove Street, according to architecture plans from October. It would also not interfere with residential properties.
The design previously resembled a monopole being built near Herndon High School, but community opposition reduced the size and footprint of that one.
T-Mobile said in its 2019 project application that 525 Grove Street in Herndon is a good site for a telecommunications pole because there’s a need for cell service congestion in the area.
Photo via handout/Google Maps
Herndon Budget Vote Today — The Herndon Town Council will vote a fiscal year 2022 budget and real estate tax rate after holding a second public hearing when it meets at 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday). The town has proposed maintaining the current tax rate and several spending cuts, but a $20,000 increase in funding for Friday Night Live! is on the table, giving hope to the summer concert series. [Town of Herndon]
2020 Census Results Revealed — Virginia recorded a total population of 8.6 million for 2020, a 7.9% increase since the 2010 census. However, that is not enough of a change to affect the state’s representation in Congress, which will stay at 11 House seats. [Patch]
Metro Extends Service for Sporting Events — “Beginning Tuesday, April 27, through the end of the year, Metro will “flex” service for an additional 30 minutes after the game ends, (until midnight), and will waive the fees normally charged to the team for extra late-night service.” [WMATA]
Virginia Launches COVID-19 Variant Dashboard — “The Virginia Department of Health has launched a dashboard to track the number and location of coronavirus variants that have been detected in the state. The Variants of Concern dashboard, which will be updated weekly, on Monday reported 965 coronavirus cases involving variants.” [The Washington Post]
Green Reston Scavenger Hunt Winners Announced — “Congratulations to Emma & Nora Ivanov, the winners from our Green Reston Scavenger Hunt! A huge “thank you” goes to everyone who took part and made our photo contest such a great success. #greenreston” [Reston Community Center/Twitter]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The Town of Herndon is edging closer to allowing Peppertree Montessori School to open at 400 Herndon Parkway.
The town council held a public hearing during its work session on Monday (April 19) to hear out an special exception application that would pave the way for the private school and daycare to move into the Sugarland West Business Center.
David Stromberg, a zoning administrator for the town, provided council members details on the application that was approved 7-0 by the Herndon Planning Commission in March.
The school’s proposal would utilize 4,951 square feet of the 19,547 square-foot building. There would be 10 designated parking spaces for pick-ups and drop-offs directly in the building.
Stromberg assured the town council that 10 parking spaces would be sufficient based on talks with the applicant, who said there would be “short turnover times” for drop-offs and pick-ups.
“The number of classes and start times, and various days that they offer, they said that 10 spaces accommodates all of their needs, and that they have staff that comes out, especially now, to escort the children in with the parents,” Stromberg said. “Anything more than the 10 spaces may start to use up some of the available parking on site.”
The proposed application also dictates the school will cap its enrollment at 50 children at one time and would be open for infants and children up to eight years old. The school’s open concept design would house eight classes and eight teachers on site.
The school’s proposal also includes a 1,554 square-foot outdoor, fenced play area behind the building.
An additional public hearing is set for April 27 during the Town Council’s 7 p.m. public session.
“Daycares are always welcome,” Mayor Sheila Olem said. “I know that’s one of the most stressful times when families start their family and you need good quality daycare. Look forward to seeing them succeed in the town.”
Images via Town of Herndon
The original funding agreement dates back to September 2018.
Under the new agreement, the county will provide $201,800 in fiscal year 2021 to complete the design phase of the stream restoration. Then, upon the completion of design, another $1 million would be given to the town in fiscal year 2022 for construction.
The town previously received $200,000 from the county for design work in 2019.
In total, the project is expected to end up costing about $1.4 million — about $200,000 more than initially estimated, according to the Town of Herndon staff report.
The project was first approved almost three years ago, back in August 2018.
Conditions along Sugarland Run Stream’s southern banks and the valley located just north of Wiehle Avenue have been deteriorating for a number of years.
The restoration will stabilize erosion along stream banks which will help prevent flooding. It will also improve stormwater systems and ensure the stream does not exceed its Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load of nutrients, which is part of a regional mandate.
Work to be completed includes re-planting vegetation, placing in-stream structures, and installing brush mattresses.
The project is also set to restore a portion of the stream that flows near the Washington & Old Dominion Trail crossing.
With the town council’s approval tonight, the project could finally move from the design phase to construction after nearly three years.
Herndon Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish told Reston Now in January that the design phase was “approximately 95% completed.”
Once the design is finished and the town receives the additional funds for construction, the town will then advertise for construction bids as soon as this summer.
Construction could be completed within six months of the awarded contractor being given the go-ahead, according to town official comments in January, meaning that, nearly four years after first approvals, the Sugarland Run (South) Stream Restoration Project could be finished in early 2022.
Reston Now has reached out to the Town of Herndon for an updated timeline, but has yet to hear back as of publication.
The restoration project is part of Fairfax County’s full Sugarland Run Watershed Management Plan, which was first adopted in 2010.
The Herndon Town Council has deferred action on an ordinance that would prohibit firearms on town property.
Mayor Sheila Olem announced Tuesday (April 13) at the council’s meeting that it will hold off on any action with the firearm ordinance until Town Manager Bill Ashton can come back with additional information on the subject.
Olem added the council would also like to hold an advertised public hearing on the matter so it “can gather input from our residents.”
“Following last week’s work session discussion on the item, the council’s consensus was that we should give the town manager time to analyze the budgetary impacts of this,” Olem said.
Ashton will return to the council on May 6 to present his findings during a strategic planning session.
The proposed ordinance follows initial discussions the council had in September after Virginia adopted legislation allowing localities to institute ordinances to prohibit firearms on their public property.
The ordinance, if passed, would prohibit the “possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof” on town property.
The town property listed in Herndon’s proposed ordinance includes any building used or owned by the town, or any authority or local government entity controlled by the town for governmental purposes. The ordinance extends to public parks and recreation or community centers owned or operated by the town.
The ordinance would not to apply military personnel when acting within their official capacity, sworn or retired law enforcement officers, on duty private security hired by the town, and for educational programs or historical reenactments conducted or permitted by the town and wherein the firearms used are not loaded.
A violation of this ordinance would constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Photo via Thomas Def/Unsplash
A new look is being considered for a Herndon Parkway development that has been in the works for more than half a decade.
The Herndon Town Council heard proposals from Penzance Properties to alter the development plan for 555 Herndon Parkway on Tuesday (April 6). Plans for the property have been years in the making after being first submitted in 2015.
Herndon Director of Community Development Lisa Gilleran told the council that Penzance met with town staff “several weeks ago…to discuss the possibility of changing the approved development plan for the property.”
“These changes would require a revision plan to the development plan be filed. That would require public hearing,” Gilleran said.
Approved on April 4, 2019, the current development plan for the site encompasses three buildings: two that have been planned as residential with ground floor retail, and a third planned as an office building. An entry court open space and driveway have also been approved.
The existing plan caps the development’s density at 475,000 square feet for residential uses split between a 12-story low-rise building and a 23-story tower. It allows a maximum of 8,000 square feet of retail and 325,000 square feet of office space in a 24-story building.
The minimum density range is 275,000 square feet for residential, 200,000 square feet for office, and 8,000 square feet for retail. The low-rise residential building must be at least six stories tall, while the tower must be at least 10 stories. The office building has a minimum height of 12 stories.
Penzance’s proposal to the council on Tuesday suggests reducing the height of the tower to be similar to the low-rise residential building.
“Really, what this means is you would be going from a concrete and steel structure down to a wood construction over concrete podium, similar to what’s allowed for [the lower residential building],” Gilleran said.
However, it could result in a potential 10% increase in the number of residential units due to “a rearrangement of the footprint,” according to Gilleran. That would give the development around 500 available units.
Additional changes proposed by Penzance include a rearrangement of the buildings and open space, though the office space would still be planned to meet or exceed the approved minimum.
No changes to the proffers have been proposed.
“I will say, this is really being driven in large part by market forces and some of the issues that the market is posing at this time when it comes to high-rise construction,” Gilleran said.
She stated that the cost of steel and concrete is “one of the driving forces” behind the proposal, but when questioned by Councilmember Signe Friedrichs about a potential change in quality, Gilleran responded that Penzance’s intent is not “to come in with, in some way, a cheaper, less quality product.”
Gilleran could not speak to whether the expanded footprint of the buildings under the proposal would result in less green space.
The council collectively signaled it would hear out the proposals as more details of the development plan are introduced in the future.
Town Manager Bill Ashton also clarified for the council that Penzance has “been made aware” of the council’s desire to create additional workforce housing going forward.
Image via Town of Herndon