Town of Herndon Moves Forward on Free WiFi, Charging Station in Downtown Herndon

Free WiFi and a new electric vehicle charging station is coming soon to downtown Herndon.

The Herndon Town Council is considering amending its agreement with Vivacity Networks to add an electric vehicle charging station and set up WiFi and smart city functionality in the town.

The council will discuss changes to the agreement at a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

Last year, the town announced a plan to launch a pilot program to bring LED lights and free WiFi to the downtown area.

In response to questions about the implementation of the project, a town spokeswoman told Reston Now that the town will release more information about the project soon, including when free WiFi will go live.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. tomorrow (Dec. 3) at the Herndon Council Chambers building (765 Lynn Street).

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Town of Herndon Moves to Regulate E-Scooters

The Herndon Town Council is considering plans to regulate electric scooters.

The proposal, which would require companies to seek licenses and permits to operate scooters in the town, is part of a statewide push to enact licensing requirements throughout the state.

This year, state lawmakers passed legislation requiring jurisdictions to set licensing requirements or ensure the devices were permitted according to state law.

If the town’s legislation is approved, all companies would be required to reach an agreement with the town to operate electric scooters in the town’s rights-of-way before a permit for operation is considered.

The council is expected to discuss the proposal at a meeting today (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Municipal Center (777 Lynn Street).

Photo via Unsplash

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Town of Herndon Seeks Applicants for Local Committees, Boards

The Town of Herndon has a number of openings for local advisory committees, boards, and commissions.

Town residents are encouraged to apply to open positions in the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) — which aims to promote safe walking and bicycling in the town — and the Fairfax County Athletic Council. One resident will represent the town on the athletic council, which is an advisory body that sets policies and priorities to improve sports programs in the county.

Middle and high school students can also serve on the Herndon Youth Advisory Council, which advises the council on issues and decisions relevant to youth. Students who either live in the Town of Herndon or attend Herndon Middle and Herndon High schools are encouraged to apply.

Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel said the youth council is a critical way to engage Herndon’s youth, especially as the town’s population increases in number and diversity.

“This is a great way for middle and high school students to develop lifelong habits of community activism,” Merkel said. “The voices of our young people are important and need to be heard.”

Applications are available online and at the clerk’s office in the Herndon Municipal Center (777 Lynn Street).

Image via Town of Herndon

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Town of Herndon Charts Path for Improved Pedestrian Safety and Mobility

Town of Herndon officials are looking for ways to improve pedestrian safety and mobility.

At a Tuesday meeting, Herndon Town Council members reviewed the Herndon Pedestrian Plan, a strategic document that identifies deficiencies in the town’s pedestrian infrastructure and creates a framework to improve pedestrian safety.

The plan highlights the following challenges to create a walkable community:

  • Poor connectivity between neighborhoods
  • Vehicle-oriented site design and separated land uses
  • Existing streetscape with low attention to pedestrian comfort
  • A lack of crosswalks across blocks
  • Existing pedestrian paths with accessibility issues

Roughly 12 percent of right-of-way areas in Herndon do not have sidewalks, largely due to the result of piecemeal development and physical obstructions, according to the plan.

Herndon has largely been fully developed so the best opportunity for any significant changes to its street pattern can only occur through coordinated redevelopment,” the plan states.

Like in other jurisdictions, almost all pedestrian injuries happen at crosswalks. In the Town of Herndon, nine in every ten accidents involved a pedestrian within vehicle travel ways.

The plan hones in on several areas in the town that need improvements, including installing missing sidewalks and ensuring existing sidewalks are ADA-compliant on both sides of Locust Street.

Bryce Perry, the town’s Deputy Director of Community Development, said the plan is intended to serve as a guiding document for developers, staff and other interested stakeholders as they contemplate pedestrian improvements.

Some council members expressed the need for town staff to incorporate additional projects. For example, while the plan includes suggested improvements to Nash Street’s sidewalks, it does not directly address the intersection of Nash and Spring streets.

Perry noted that specific requests for improvements can also be discussed as part of the capital improvements budget.

A draft of the plan is available online.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Monday Morning Notes

Updates on Route 7 Widening — “In September, crews continued installing storm sewer between Amanda Drive and Baron Cameron Avenue. Work also continued in the median to construct temporary eastbound lanes between Reston Avenue and Amanda Drive/Markell Court.[Virginia Department of Transportation]

Herndon Town Council Community Round Table This Wednesday — The council is hosting a roundtable to give citizens a chance to engage with council members informally on Wednesday (Oct. 23) from 7-9 p.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church (651 Dranesville Road). [Herndon Town Council]

A New HVAC System for a Local Family — “One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, Ashburn, joined Lennox’s Nationwide “Feel the Love” social responsibility campaign for the 2nd year in a row to assist a family in need. Installers from One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning volunteered their time to help the community as part of this program.” [Fairfax County Times]

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Herndon Town Council to Host Community Roundtable This Month

The Herndon Town Council is hosting a community roundtable later this month.

The roundtable, which is set for Oct. 23 from 7-9 p.m., is designed to give councilmembers and residents a chance to engage in an informal way.

Councilmembers will be available to answer questions about the redevelopment of downtown Herndon and listen to feedback.

The event takes place at the Trinity Presbyterian Church (651 Dranesville Road). It is made possible with a partnership with the church and Cornerstones, a local nonprofit organization.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Land Acquisition for Van Buren Street Improvements Project Underway

Land acquisition is underway to make way for major improvements to Van Buren Street from Spring Street to Herndon Parkway. But permission from five property owners for necessary easements and land acquisition is pending to allow the $4.6 million project to proceed.

Planned improvements are envisioned as a critical link between downtown Herndon and the Herndon Metro Station ahead of its expected opening in July next year.

The Herndon Town Council plans to vote on plans to seize the properties through eminent domain. So far, property owners have rejected the town’s proposals to buy easements based on the unit price of the real estate:

Town planners attempted to use existing right-of-way as much as possible in order to minimize land acquisition needs.

Planning for the project began in December 2011. If land acquisition and utility relocation is completed by the end of this year, construction is expected to begin in spring 2020.

Construction, which is expected to cost $3.7 million of the overall $4.6 million price tag — would be complete by fall next year.

The project includes 11-foot wide travel lanes, on-road bike lanes in each direction from Spring Street to Senate Court, an off-road cycle track in both directions from Senate Court to Herndon Parkway, five-foot-wide sidewalks, and a new traffic signal at the Alabama Drive intersection.

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Council Approves First Bicycle Master Plan for Town of Herndon

With little fanfare and a nod to staff, the Herndon Town Council unanimously approved the town’s first bicycle master plan on Tuesday (August 13).

The plan, which was created by staff and the town’s Pedestrian Bicycle Advisory Committee, offers policy guidance for the town’s bicycle network planning and design, as well as a longterm plan for connectivity and network improvements.

The plan highlights the locations of mixed-use trails, cycle tracks, bicycle lanes, and sharrows —  including future connections. Areas in the center of the town are largely designated for further study.

Council members lauded staff for their work on the plan and the town’s efforts to promote cycling as a viable alternative mode of travel.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal said the document — which is part of the town’s efforts to seek a national award for being a bicycle-friendly community — was a “step in the right direction.”

“This is a product that I think the town can be proud of,” council member Cesar del Aguila added.

The plan also ensures that connectivity is a priority, especially between new developments, said council member Signe Friedrichs.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Town of Herndon to Appoint New Deputy Town Attorney

The Herndon Town Council is looking to appoint a new deputy town attorney at a meeting next week.

The position was created during the fiscal year 2020 budget cycle in order to help manage the workload of the town attorney’s office.

“The Town Attorney’s Office is extremely busy, as the town has grown and embarked on projects requiring legal review and consultation,” Anne Curtis, the town’s chief communications officer, told Reston Now. “This new position reflects a need for additional inhouse legal resources.”

At a Tuesday, July 9 meeting, the council will consider a resolution to appoint Lauri Sigler to fill the new position.

The position is effective July 22 to “serve at the direction and under the supervision of the Town Attorney,” according to the resolution. The salary range is between $85,000 and $115,000.

The current town attorney is Lesa Yeatts, who was hired in 2015 to replace Richard Kaufman, the town’s legal attorney of more than 20 years.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Town of Herndon Drafts First Bicycle Master Plan

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

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Herndon Town Council Passes FY 2020 Budget

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

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Herndon Town Council Votes to Increase Meals Tax


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

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

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.”

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Town of Herndon Continues Work with Comstock on Downtown Plans

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.”

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Plans Move Forward to Revamp Herndon’s South Elden Street 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

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