The Town of Herndon is in the process of drafting its first bicycle master plan, which lays out a longterm plan for bicycle route locations and a vision for the town’s bicycle network.
The plan, which was discussed by the town’s Planning Commission at a meeting earlier this week, intends to promote cycling as an alternative mode of travel and improve connectivity for cyclists.
The plan notes that Herndon’s population density is high in comparison to other suburban communities. As expected redevelopment around Metrorail stations and downtown Herndon continues, town officials say they will need to better incorporate bicycle facilities in the town.
The current plan builds on the 2012 Fairfax County Bicycle Master Plan, which was endorsed by the Town Council and the town’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC).
Once approved by the Town Council, PBAC will evaluate the implemented of the plan on a yearly basis.
Currently, the town has nine active bicycling-related projects, including:
- Bicycle lanes and a cycle track between Fairfax County Parkway: The project is nearing design completion. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.
- A mixed-use trail on Chandon Park to connect Worldgate Trail to Van Buren Street: Construction is expected to begin this year as the project goes to construction biding.
- A cycle track from Spring Street to Van Buren Street: The project is partially under construction and will be built in phases depending on the pace of private development.
- Bicycle lanes on Van Buren Street from Spring Street to Herndon Parkway: Construction is expected to begin in late 2019.
- Bicycle lanes on Sterling Road from Elden Street to Herndon Parkway: Funds were allocated in the town’s capital improvement plan and the project is in the early planning phase.
- A mixed-use trail from Worldgate Drive to Herndon Metrorail Station: The project is fully planned and designed. Construction will likely begin in late 2019.
- Folly Lick Regional Trail from Herndon Parkway to Center Street: Construction is expected to begin in late 2019 since the project is fully designed and planned.
- Sharrows from Park Avenue to Van Buren Street — Construction is expected to begin this year.
The plan also suggests exploring guidelines and policies to ensure residents safely use personal transporters like electric scooters, Segways and pedal-assisted bikes.
Much of the plan’s success will depend on whether or not bicycling is seamlessly incorporated into the county’s existing and future infrastructure, as well as a balanced approach to transportation infrastructure improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. The plan suggests adopting a “complete streets” policy in order to guide decisions on the planning and design of infrastructure projects in the town.
Image via Town of Herndon
The Herndon Town Council adopted a $53.9 million budget this week for fiscal year 2020, representing a 10.4 percent decrease over last year’s budget.
Although real estate taxes were unchanged this year, the town’s meals tax increased from 2.5 to 3.75 percent — a move that town officials said was necessary to fund capital improvements, the Herndon Police Department’s operations, an assistant town attorney position, and restoration of parks and recreation programs.
Fiscal year 2020’s recurring expenditures increased by 2.2 percent over last year from $35.2 million to $36.3 million. Overall, expenditures increased nearly 3 percent over last year.
Other taxes like the cigarette tax and business professional and occupational license tax remained unchanged. The water service rate increased from $5.87 in FY 2019 to $6.19 per 1,000 gallons of water consumption in FY 2020.
Recycling fees doubled from $16 to $32 per year. Personnel costs also increased by $805,359 over last year, totaling nearly $28.1 million of the overall budget.
Town officials said that this year’s budget continues to prioritize Metro planning, downtown redevelopment, the efficiency of town operations and capital improvements.
“We appreciate everyone who called, emailed, and provided in-person comments throughout the budget deliberation process,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “The newly-adopted budget funds the programs and service our citizens have told us are important to them.”
The next fiscal year runs from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2020.
Photo via Town of Herndon
Restaurant-goers in the Town of Herndon will likely see their total bill go up this year after the Herndon Town Council approved an increase in the town’s meals tax Tuesday night.
In a 5-2 vote, the council increased the meals tax — which covers all meal purchases at food establishments — from 2.5 to 3.75 percent. Town officials said the hike is necessary to meet a revenue shortfall for capital improvement projects in the town. Councilmembers Bill McKenna and Jennifer Baker voted against the increase.
Some business owners and Town of Herndon residents criticized the measure for putting local businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Others said the tax unfairly singles out one industry and could regressively impact people with low incomes who rely on prepared meals.
Kristen Murphy, the general manager of the Washington Dulles Marriott Suites in Herdon, said her business was being “unfairly signaled out again.” She said she has lost business because clients looking to book the hotel have expressed concerns about the town’s occupancy and meals taxes.
Although the decision was tough, Mayor Lisa Merkel said the increase was the best way to boost revenue by minimizing the impact on Town of Herndon residents and property owners. The tax would apply to anyone who purchases meals in the Town of Herndon — including the 17,000 people who visit the town. Meals taxes are also a “predictable and stable source of revenue,” Merkel said.
“I don’t anticipate its something that will become a trend,” Merkel said, noting that other towns and cities in Virginia also levy meals taxes.
The meals tax has not gained traction in Fairfax County. Voters rejected a referendum to institute a meals tax in 2016.
Photo by Melissa Walker Horn
Comstock’s redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are heading soon to the town’s Heritage Preservation Review Board.
“A few weeks ago the council asked me at every public hearing to give an update on the downtown even there is nothing to report,” Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton told the Town Council on last night’s public session. “Tonight is not one of those nights.”
Ashton said that the site plan has been approved following months of engineering and zoning reviews.
He added that staff is currently looking at Comstock’s applications to appear before the HPRB, which may happen as early as May.
“That is a major milestone,” Ashton said, adding that he applauds the engineering and zoning staff for their work. “We are on to the next step.”
Comstock’s plan wasn’t the only development on last night’s agenda. The Town Council approved a development plan to change the zoning at 555 Herndon Parkway to allow for Penzance Properties’ proposed mixed-use project, which would create an urban block with residential, office and retail space in three buildings.
“This is the first real transit-oriented development that has come to our 38 acres,” Mayor Lisa Merkel said. “Eight years later, we finally have our first plan.”
Comstock’s newest redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are moving forward.
Town Manager Bill Ashton told the Herndon Town Council at its public session last night (Feb. 26) that the staff has finished reviewing the fourth resubmission of the site plans. The staff began the review at the start of February.
Now, the staff is preparing to send a consolidated list of questions back to Comstock.
“It’s something we’re working on diligently, but it’s deep in the staff weeds right now,” Ashton said.
The next step will involve the Heritage Preservation Review Board, he said.
At the meeting, the Town Council approved a special exemption to increase the number of nonresidents from four to seven in a 24-hour period at a home-based business.
The change affects a hair salon at 767 Monroe Street. The salon’s website says:
The salon is located in an English basement on a private residence. Please park in the driveway. On the left side of the house you’ll see a fence gate, if it is closed please let yourself in, then follow the concrete sidewalk all the way around back where you’ll find a staircase down to the salon.
“We really want to make it easier for home-based businesses to thrive in Herndon,” Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said, urging locals to share any advice they may have.
The Town Council also approved an amendment to the town’s Comprehensive Plan to create a design concept for improvements on South Elden Street between Sterling Road and Herndon Parkway.
“I know this is the first step, and we need to secure the funding so we can get into the nitty-gritty with trash cans and raised medians,” Mayor Lisa Merkel said. “As the Metro station opens, this does need to be a more walkable and friendly area.”
The Herndon Town Council is moving forward with a planned makeover for an area of South Elden Street that currently has aging shopping centers and a mix of retail, residential and office space.
The area set for revitalization runs along Elden Street from Worldgate Drive to Sterling Road. Currently, the area includes the Dulles Park Shopping Center, Parkway Shopping Center and Elden Street Marketplace Shopping Center.
The Town Council has been working since 2017 to create a plan for the area, which will serve as a guide for future land use decisions.
The plan is broken into five tiers.
The first tier, which is above Dulles Park Court, and the third tier, which includes the area surrounding Alabama Drive — excluding the Dulles Park Shopping Center, would have similar zoning.
The second tier, southwest of Herndon Parkway and above the Kohl’s, would transform from office space to two-over-twos and townhouses.
Meanwhile, tier four, which includes the Parkway Shopping Center and area east of Elden Street and south of Herndon Parkway, and the last tier — the Elden Street Marketplace Shopping Center — would keep some of the commercial space, with tier five adding up to 45 multifamily units per acre.
Ultimately, the Herndon Town Council wants the area to have greater connectivity to the Metro, add more residential units, provide a diversity of housing and incorporate sustainable design.
Councilmember Jennifer Baker said the plan “has been a long time coming.” Baker stressed that this plan will set up an outline of what the Town of Herndon wants from businesses and developers.
The Town Council adopted the plan as a Comprehensive Plan amendment at its public hearing on Tuesday (Feb. 12).
Noe Flores, Jr, a Herndon resident and vice president of the Four Season Homeowners Association, told the council that he wants some clarification about the “super exciting” proposal.
Flores said during the public hearing that the two-over-twos should have a capped height stated and that more information is needed to get “an idea of what makes the land use more sustainable now under the proposed plan in the presentation than it currently it is.”
Jay Hadlock, a Herndon resident, said the plan needs to make sure that it balances retail and residential or “or you’re going to have one business after another fail and you’ll have empty storefronts.”
Councilmember Pradip Dhakal added that mixed-use developments can help lessen the impact of any future economic downturns. Still, Dhakal said the Town of Herndon is grappling with how to grow and build without losing what makes it unique.
“We are in a situation where we have to balance two things right now,” Dhakal said. “We are proud of having Herndon as a small town so we are in a continual pressure to maintain the small town presence. We have to be ready for increasing demand of people moving in with residential need and business need.”
Councilmember Cesar del Aguila reminded everyone at the public hearing that the plan is still a skeleton of a draft. With more work left to go, del Aguila urged residents to keep submitting comments and suggestions.
“The worst thing we can do is make decisions within an echo chamber, within a bubble,” he said.
Future steps include adopting zoning map amendments and holding Architectural Review Board hearings.
Construction could begin as soon as late 2020.
Image via Google Maps
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.
Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Corrects Outback Steakhouse location.
The Herndon Town Council and two of its boards held work sessions this week, taking up proposals for a new restaurant building, a massive mixed-use development and more.
Possibly soliciting public comment during the development of the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 was discussed at a Town Council work session on Tuesday (Feb. 5). The Town Council is set to take up the resolution next week on Feb. 12.
That same work session also held a public hearing on a comprehensive plan amendment for plans to revamp the South Elden area.
The Architectural Review Board on Wednesday (Feb. 6) discussed plans for a new Outback Steakhouse. (There’s one currently at 150 Elden Street.) The plan calls for a new 6,525-square-foot single-story commercial building and 82 parking spaces on an undeveloped site with 1.46 acres across from the Herndon Centre.
The board also continued the conversation about Penzance Properties’ redevelopment project, which would add three buildings in three phases at 555 Herndon Parkway.
The Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board previously provided dozens of suggestions and areas that needed improvement for the project, which is the first of its kind for Herndon. The Planning Commission will continue its consideration of the development plan at its public hearing set for Feb. 25.
Penzance’s redevelopment isn’t the only proposal that has hit some snags lately.
The Heritage Preservation Review Board held a public hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 6) revised plans for Aslin Beer Co.’s planned tasting room and bar at 771 Elden Street, which has recently faced design hurdles.
According to a staff report, the original application for the tasting room had a proposed deck area on the second floor that would inadvertently cover a stormwater management easement. The revised design takes away the deck, yet adds new elements that the staff report says need clarification.
“The Town and the applicant are working collaboratively to resolve this issue and a revision to the previous HPRB approval is being required as a component of this effort,” the report says.
Ira Saul, an attorney representing Aslin Beer Co., sent Community Design Planner Christopher Garcia a letter on Jan. 14 saying that all of the required materials have been submitted for the application to move forward at the Feb. 20 HPRB meeting.
“My understanding with [the Town Attorney] is that we are in a position to proceed with the HPRB application in tandem with the building permit revision, so that construction can begin expeditiously,” Saul wrote.
Later in January, the beer company told Alexandria Living Magazine that it plans to open a production facility and a 3,500-square-foot tasting room in the city’s West End neighborhood.
The board also held a public hearing on a proposal to add new retaining walls around a mausoleum and create new garden seating walls at the Chestnut Grove Cemetery (831 Dranesville Road).
The proposed retaining wall with an iron top rail is meant to minimize erosion, drainage and aesthetic issues, while the garden wall is set to be two feet high and be constructed in three separate segments, according to the staff report.
The Town Council is set for a public session next Tuesday (Feb. 12).
Images via Google Maps and Town of Herndon
Hutchinson is running on a campaign to improve education, revamp transportation, lower medical costs and ensure Northern Virginia gets support from the Commonwealth.
Ever since she ran for the Herndon Town Council in 1990, Hutchinson said she is dedicated to “give my time and talents to improve the quality of life in my hometown,” according to her website, adding that her seven terms on the council gave her the background and knowledge to represent the area in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Hutchinson, who claims that her main issues are nonpartisan, decided to run as an Independent for the 86th District seat because elected officials in Herndon run as Independents “in order to allow cooperation and collaboration without divisive party politics,” her website says.
Currently, Hutchinson is the general manager at The Borenstein Group, according to her LinkedIn. She is also the treasurer of the Herndon Hospitality Association, a nonprofit she founded to assist Herndon’s hospitality industry.
In 1992, she became a member of the Herndon Town Council, and she served as vice mayor during the 2008-2010 term and again in 2012-2014. Prior to that, Hutchinson served on the town’s architectural and heritage preservation review boards.
She has also been involved with the Optimist Club of Herndon, Herndon Recreation, Inc., Herndon Youth Soccer and the parent-teacher associations for Herndon Elementary School and Herndon Middle School.
Hutchinson is a Herndon native, and her four children attended Herndon schools, according to her website.
Hutchinson will face Republican Gregg Nelson and Democrat Ibraheem Samirah in the special election set for Feb. 19.
Photo via Connie Haines Hutchinson/website
A Herndon house concert series that features independent artists is set to challenge a zoning violation at the Board of Zoning Appeals next week.
Dated Dec. 13, the citation says that 44 people were observed entering the home between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. for a Gina Venier and Lexie Hayden concert.
“[This] activity constitutes an Indoor Entertainment use and is not a permitted use on the subject property pursuant to the Town of Herndon Zoning Ordination,” the citation said. It gave Devine 15 days to resolve the violation to avoid incurring fines.
Instead, Devine decided to appeal the violation.
“We firmly believe The Crib house concert does not meet that definition, and further believe the citation arose from a lack of understanding of the house concert concept,” The Crib’s blog says.
At the public comment period during the Town Council public session last night (Jan. 15), Devine said that he met with town staff after receiving the citation.
“In that meeting, I learned that the town had very little understanding of that activity, which is house concerts, and as a result were very vague on how my activity tripped the wire as a commercial use,” he said.
Devine slammed Town of Herndon’s leadership, saying that he was denied access to basic information about the situation after he tried to ask follow-up questions after the meeting.
A Herndon town attorney told Mayor Lisa Merkel that the appeal never goes to the Town Council. Instead, it goes to the Board of Zoning Appeals and then to the circuit court.
“There is a role in the Town Council in looking at our code if there were a change to be made in the future,” Merkel said.
As Devine tackles the appeals process, a GoFundMe page created on Dec. 20 is helping to cover the fines.
The campaign says the following:
It will take a while to work through the appeals process — possibly as long as three months — and we don’t know at this point what the outcome will be.
During this time we have five fantastic artists already scheduled to perform and we will incur fines for each event we choose to hold, but we want to continue with the events in order to keep our commitments to both the artists and our guests who have made advance donations.
During normal times, each house show we hold costs The Crib between $100-$200; we do this because we have a passion for connecting incredible artists with deserving and appreciative guests.
But we can’t absorb the fines on top of the costs we already incur as part of our mission to the arts and the community.
Our fundraising goal will allow us to pay the fines over the next several months ($200 for the first event and $500 per subsequent event). We are also seeking a small amount to cover any legal fees we may incur during the appeals process.
Any residual funds will be used to create an even better experience for artists and audiences and/or donated to our non-profit partner, The Warrior Music Foundation.
The campaign has already hit its fundraising goal of $3,200. In 26 days, 32 people donated $3,335.
Since launching in 2015, The Crib has hosted nearly 50 house shows with 28 different artists, according to its website.
Each show lets the artist perform two 45-minute sets of original music. Seating is on a first-come basis with a capacity of roughly 40 people. Attendees are encouraged to make a donation in advance — all of the donations go to the artist.
A public hearing notice indicates that the Board of Zoning Appeals will take up the matter next Thursday (Jan. 24) at 7:30 p.m. at 765 Lynn Street.
— DCSocial (@SocialInDC) January 16, 2019
— DCSocial (@SocialInDC) January 3, 2019
Photo via The Crib/Facebook
Virginia Tire and Auto may open next year at 199 Elden Street — the former Cardinal Bank branch spot.
The Herndon Town Council approved on March 13 the construction and operation of the vehicle service center nearly one year after Cardinal Bank closed its branch there during its merger with United Bank.
A new tire and auto business is opening!
— Mayor Lisa Merkel (@MayorLisaMerkel) December 12, 2018
Maps via Google Maps
Two current and one incoming Herndon Town councilmembers have dropped their lawsuit against Councilmember Grace Wolf Cunningham.
Cunningham, who lost her seat in a narrow and highly charged election, was replaced by newcomers Cesar del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal.
Del Aguila and current councilmembers Sheila Olem and Signe Friedrichs, who both won re-election, filed a civil suit on Sept. 24 against Cunningham for allegations of malicious prosecution. The trio ran a unified campaign.
John Farrell, the attorney for the plaintiffs, told Reston Now that his clients directed him to file a nonsuit last Tuesday, which the judge has not yet signed off on.
Farrell said his clients decided to drop the case “since they won the election quite handily.”
The lawsuit alleges that the four-term councilwoman engaged in malicious prosecution over when she filed campaign law violations against the trio. The Virginia State Board of Elections dismissed the three complaints lodged by Cunningham.
The first complaint against Friedrichs stated a grip card that said “Herndon’s Future is Happening Now: Let’s plan it together” contained no identification about the campaign committee that paid for the card. The second complaint against said del Aguila did not form a campaign committee and did not file any campaign finance disclosure reports. The final complaint against Olem challenges a grip card that stated “Moving Forward Herndon.”
The judge in the case rejected Cunningham’s attempt to dismiss the case.
While re-election of four incumbents maintained much of the board’s composition, the lawsuit signals a changing dynamic of the new town council.
“I think it is a shift in who is the dominant voice of Herndon,” Farrell said. “I think my clients would hope that the people who supported Ms. Cunningham will support the interest of the voters.”
Cunningham declined to comment to Reston Now because the case is still pending.
Photo via Town of Herndon
Official Herndon Town Council results are in — Pradip Dhakal came in fifth place for the election, taking off Joe Plummer from one of the six candidates to take a seat on the council and sliding incumbent Bill McKenna to sixth place. [Reston Now]
Sharing mental health battles — Local first responders share their mental health battles in an effort to help others. [NBC 4]
Get your skates on — The Reston Town Center ice skating pavilion opens tomorrow at 11 a.m. for public ice skating and daily skate rentals. [Reston Town Center]
Herndon High School Theatre presents The Diary of Anne Frank — A performance of the play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett begins tomorrow. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults. [Herndon High School]
Photo by Tina
(Editor’s note: This story was updated Thursday at 7:30 a.m. to reflect official results).
Incumbent Grace Wolf Cunningham, a four-term councilwoman, lost her seat on the Herndon Town Council following a narrow and highly charged election.
Cunningham was replaced by newcomers Cesar Del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal. Incumbents Jennifer Baker, Sheila Olem, Bill McKenna and Signe Friedrichs were also elected to the council, maintaining much of the composition of the board. After official results were certified, Dhakal came in fifth place, moving McKenna to the sixth spot and booting Joe Plummer, another candidate who was previously projected to win, off the council.
Ten candidates ran for six open seats and margins between candidates remained characteristically narrow, as in previous years. Although Olem, Aguila and Friedrichs were separated by relatively comfortable margins, votes separating other candidates were minimal. Plummer lost to McKenna by 22 votes.
At around 11:30 p.m. on election night, it appeared the newcomer would secure the final seat on the board and that McKenna, a one-term councilman, was off.
Internal conflict that boiled over in the public arena was common in this year’s election. Olem, Friedrichs and Del Aguila — who ran a unified campaign — filed a lawsuit against Cunningham alleging she engaging in malicious prosecution over when the four-term councilwoman filed campaign law violations against the trio. The violations were squarely dismissed by the Virginia State Board of Elections.
The lawsuit is pending a decision following the election. The judge in the case rejected Cunningham’s attempt to dismiss the case.
Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel was re-elected as mayor, continuing a position she has held since 2012. The election was not contested. New council members will assume office on Jan. 1.
In Focus: Fairfax County
In other local and county election news, Fairfax County voters approved a $182 million bond to fund public safety improvements for a number of facilities, including fire stations, police training buildings and the renovation of civil and criminal justice facilities.
The measure was approved with just under 70 percent of total votes. As of 9:45 a.m., one precinct has not reported results, but the absence of that data will not alter results.
Meanwhile, voter turnout was high this year in Fairfax County. The Fairfax County Office of Elections estimated a voter turnout of nearly 70 percent, including absentee ballots. That number is up from nearly 46 percent in 2014.
This story has been updated.
Town of Herndon residents will be asked to select candidates for the Herndon Town Council on the ballot tomorrow. But language on the ballot states that voters are only required to select up to six candidates, leaving voters with the option to select candidates they feel particularly passionate about without filling out all available slots.
The option, which has garnered questions from voters, prompted Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel to address the issue earlier today. Merkel, who is running unopposed, is backing only four candidates: Jennifer Baker, Bill McKenna, Grace Wolf Cunningham and Joseph Plummer.
There are several ways to look at that. Voting for just the candidates you believe in may make sense in this kind of election when the top six vote getters are the winners. Recent elections have been very close. (Even the Virginia House of Delegates was essentially decided by one vote in one house district!) At times in the past Council seats have been decided by as few as 4 votes. What if you voted for the four or five candidates you really believe in, but then felt like you had to use up your last vote or two, and cast votes for candidates that you weren’t 100% behind? And then one of the “second choices” manages to beat one of your top choices by a vote or two? In essence you contributed to your favorite actually losing the seat. Sounds crazy, but it could happen. Food for thought, I guess.
Town of Herndon residents, take the following poll to indicate how you plan to handle the issue on Election Day.