Town of Herndon ‘Crescent’ Eyes Remaking by 2035

A 4.2-square mile town once blanketed by dairy farms is poised for remaking as the oncoming train approaches next year. And much of that remaking is in the hands of eight property owners whose nine parcels eclipse to create a crescent at the door of the future Metro station on 12530 Sunrise Valley Drive.

So far, the parcels, which have slowly slipped into suburban malaise, are relics of what town officials hope will soon be a bygone era. But if the pace of development thus far is any indication, it’s no surprise that Stanley Martin’s residential project, called Metro Square (625 Herndon Parkway), was the first to break ground. It is now nearing completion and prices for two-to-three bedroom condos start from $519,000.

It wasn’t until earlier this month that the kind of project that planning officials hoped will help remake the town got the necessary approvals to move forward by the county.

A major development came this week: Nearly four years after Penzance first submitted plans, the company is moving forward with redeveloping a stodgy office building into an urban block with retail, a garage, a mid-rise residential building, a high rise residential tower and a high rise office tower. A total of 475 residential units will be built.

Town officials and developers hope the Penzance project will set the stage for an unprecedented volume of high density development. A revised application by Quadrangle, the owners of the land to the east of Metro known as Fairbrook, is also expected in the coming weeks. The low-intensity project would bring a mixed-use center to the greenfield area. Not much of it is developable due to the presence of flood plain and resource protection areas.

Still, even as phase two of the Silver Line opens next year, the development contemplated by the Town of Herndon’s transit-oriented plan will live its full glory on paper for now. Dennis Holste, the town’s economic development manager, says the area slated for major transit-oriented development — the Herndon Transit-Oriented Core (HTOC) — will likely be built out by 2035.

Given the stagnant demand for office space — a woe whisking its way down phase two of the Silver Line — Holste says residential development is likely to go in first. He predicts the office sector will pick up as new tenants enter the market. Big names like Google — which recently announced plans to move into Reston Station — would be major game changers.

Bracing for impact

The slow place of development could mean more time to manage growing pains. Already, congested roads and overcrowded schools are a concern. A major $105 million renovation of Herndon High School is nearing completion.

Most public amenities are planned on the Fairfax County side of the station, which has an entrance between 575 and 593 Herndon Parkway. The other side is privately owned. The Virginia Department of Transportation is leading an effort to redesign Spring Street between Fairfax County Parkway and Herndon Parkway. Planning officials are now looking into buying the right-of-way needed to make the project possible.

Following that project, a redesign of Elden Street is planned. Though off the path of Metro, officials hope pedestrian connections and the reputation of a redeveloped downtown will bring riders to the area. Pull-off areas are also planned along Herndon Parkway near the Metro station to allows cars to pull off from traffic and pick up or drop off commuters.

The town is also working with the Fairfax Connector to add bus routes to “make certain that as many people as possible have access to bus service to Metro.” said Lisa Gilleran, the town’s director of community development.

‘Not another Tysons’

In county meetings, town officials often stress that the Town of Herndon will not be another Tysons or another Reston after the Silver Line weaves itself into the town’s fabric.

So what will the character of the area surrounding Herndon’s Metro station be? Most officials hope the area’s small town vibe will remain preserved.

“Unique in Northern Virginia, Herndon has an historic downtown with an authentic “sense of place” within one mile of the metro station; this complements the higher density alternatives available around our metro station. Factor in other parts of Herndon, such as our vision for the South Elden area, and Herndon is uniquely positioned to offer existing and prospective businesses several options for growth and development,” Holste said.

Much of that character could come from a wide promenade that will greet riders as they exit Metro and extend up to Herndon Parkway. The pedestrian-friendly gateway hasn’t been designed yet. Town officials hope to pay tribute to Herndon’s history by including signs about the area’s significance.

Gilleran also says that much of Herndon’s uniqueness could come from having a mix of developers create an urban block.

“Individual developers will build each of these blocks, whereas in some cases, one developer will own more than 38 acres,” Gilleran said. “We’re trying to weave independent development into a fabric that gives you a sense of wholeness. We’re creating the pallet.”

They also plan to put in a raised cycle track along Herndon Parkway in lieu of putting bike lines in the street.

Much remains up in the air. The town is planning to jumpstart discussions about an area slated for transit-related growth – also known as the TRG – beyond the auspices of Metro. That process, which would set development goals for around 100 acres north of the downtown core, could begin as early as the summer.

Photo via Town of Herndon/Handout

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Baby Season in Full Bloom at Frying Pan Farm Park

Baby critters are eagerly awaiting visitors at Frying Pan Farm Park.

It’s been a busy birthing season this year at the Herndon park. Hokie, the farm’s cow and part-time Virginia Tech mascot, delivered a healthy baby boy last month. Sheep Flufette and Stompey also delivered their lambs in March. Momma pigs Hazel and Puma also delivered their litter of piglets in February.

More news is expected as several sheep and two goats are due this month.

The farm is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can also catch several programs during spring break, including puppet shows, a Bluegrass concert, and farm skills programs. Admission to the park and farm is free, but most activities and programs have fees. For more information, visit the park’s website.

Photos via Yvonne Johnson

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Hudgins Praises Frying Pan Farm Park for Land Use Award

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins lauded Frying Pan Farm Park for its clean water efforts, which recently earned the Herndon park a land-use award.

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) selected the park for the 2018 Fairfax County Clean Water Farm Award because of “its implementation of effective agricultural best management practices and diverse educational and outreach programs, as well as its close interactions with NVSWCD,” according to Fairfax County.

“It’s a fabulous park,” Hudgins said at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday (April 9). “It’s really exciting to be able to recognize them for the stewardship they do.”

Located at 2739 West Ox Road, the park preserves and interprets farm life of the first half of the 20th century. For the last two decades, the park has been working to comply with the Fairfax County’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Program by following the Soil and Water Quality Conservation Plan, according to the county.

Chairman Sharon Bulova also added to the praise of the park. “That is pretty impressive,” Bulova said about the farm earning the award. “It is a working farm with lots of animals.”

Hudgins asked that the Frying Pan Farm Park staff get invited to the board for recognition, along with representatives from the county’s Park Authority and NVSWCD.

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After County Lawsuit, Town of Herndon Moves to Finalize Airbnb Regulations

Renewed discussions are underway on how to regulate Airbnb-style rentals in the Town of Herndon following an unsuccessful legal challenge by residents to Fairfax County’s recently established regulations.

The Herndon Planning Commission took up the issue at a work session on Monday (April 8). If approved, the new zoning ordinance would require residential property owners seeking to rent out their homes to limit guests to six adults for terms of no longer than 90 days. A $200 zoning permit, valid for two years, and an associated inspection will be required before property owners can operate a short-term rental.

Town officials first considered ways to regulate short-term rentals late last year. The commission directed zoning staff to research best practices regarding regulations and monitor the legal challenge to Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance, which is similar to the town’s proposal.

In the latest draft, zoning staff removed a condition requiring residential property owners to maintain a guest log. The new proposal also defines who constitutes a permanent resident, according to David Stromberg, the town’s zoning administrator. The draft also stipulates the following:

  • Operators must provide proof of permanent residency.
  • Events like weddings, concerts, parties and banquets associated with a short-term rental are prohibited.
  • Operators must provide two off-street parking spaces. The county’s ordinance requires one off-street parking space.
  • Recreational vehicles are not allowed.
  • One rental contract is allowed per night.
  • There is no limit on the number of nights where a portion of the unit can be rented if the primary resident is present.
  • Operators must provide safety equipment like smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors.

Late last year, 36 Fairfax County residents sued the county for overreaching its authority on regulating short-term lodging rentals. The county’s motion to dismiss was granted, although the plaintiffs can come back to the court with an amended petition, according to town officials.

Efforts to regulate the burgeoning industry were set into motion two years ago when the state’s General Assembly approved legislation allowing localities to regulate short-term rentals. Permit fees and the maximum number of nights allowed per unit vary across jurisdictions. Arlington County sets a limit of 180 nights and has a $63 permit for one year whereas Loudoun County allows unlimited nights and requires no permits.

Photo via Airbnb

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Police Investigating Man’s Death Near Downtown Herndon

Police are investigating the death of a man who was reportedly suffering from “upper body trauma” near downtown Herndon, according to the Herndon Police Department.

Around 1 a.m. today (April 5), police responded to the 600 block of Clearwater Court for a report of an unresponsive man with trauma to his upper body, according to the report. The 45-year-old man was pronounced dead around 2 a.m. at the Reston Hospital Center, police say.

Police say there is no known threat to public safety and are asking for anyone with information regarding the incident at contact Detective Miranda at 703-435-6843.

File photo

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Herndon Town Council ‘Pretty Close’ to Finishing Ethics Code Update

The Herndon Town Council appears to be getting closer to finalizing revisions of the code of ethics — a move that some councilmembers say will ensure ethical behavior of future councils and erase a perception that the council skirts rules.

The councilmembers discussed the ordinance that would revamp their current code of ethics at last night’s Town Council work session. “I like the changes that you made,” Councilmember Signe Friedrichs told the town attorney. “They made it more easy to understand where things are.”

The ordinance would add this preamble:

WHEREAS, the proper operation of local government requires that public officials be independent, impartial and accountable to the citizens, that governmental decisions and policy be made through proper processes, that public office not be used for personal gain, and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government and public officials; and

WHEREAS, as public officials we are charged with upholding the trust of the citizens and with obeying the law and respecting established policies and procedures; and

WHEREAS, as public officials we have taken the oath of office and have pledged that we will support and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia and further that we will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of our office.

NOW THEREFORE, in recognition of our obligations as citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and as public officials and citizens of the Town of Herndon, we do hereby adopt the following Code of Ethics to guide the Town’s council and council appointed board and commission members.

The rest of the ordinance also adds four more adjectives to describe how members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members should act, including: “faithfully and impartially perform their duties,” “demonstrate… independence” and “treat the public, town staff and each other in a respectful… manner.”

The councilmembers discussed how the new wording balances a need for more specific language with the concern that trying to list every single unethical behavior could end up missing some things.

The ordinance also would add numbered subheads and references to applicable sections of the Town of Herndon’s code and charter and the Code of Virginia. (The code of ethics is currently located in Article I of the second chapter under the Herndon Town Code.)

In addition to the code of ethics, Vice Mayor Sheila Olem said that she is looking forward to seeing social media guidelines.

“I think we have spent a ton of time on this, and we have a nice document here that should be — I feel like after all these discussions — pretty close, if not ready, for prime time,” Mayor Lisa Merkel said.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Crime Roundup: Suspect Tried to Cash Stolen Check at Herndon Bank

Sheriff’s deputies are investigating a case of a stolen check that someone tried to cash at a Herndon bank, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

A man in Ashburn reported to police that an envelope containing a check was stolen from his mailbox, according to the police report.

The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston District Station reported the following incidents in recent days:

LARCENIES:

1800 block of Cameron Glen Drive, backpack from residence

1800 block of Cameron Glen Drive, tools from vehicle

1800 block of Campus Commons Drive, cable from business

2400 block of Centreville Road, electronic devices from business

2400 block of Centreville Road, cell phone from location

2500 block of Centreville Road, merchandise from location

2300 block of Emerald Heights Court, bicycles from residence

800 block of Grace Meadow Court, jewelry from residence

2300 block of Harley Ford Court, tools from vehicle

11900 block of Market Street, merchandise from business

STOLEN VEHICLES:

None reported

File photo

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Ramen ‘Round the World Cooking Class and More This Weekend in Reston

Want to learn how to make ramen (and then eat it)?

A cooking class on Saturday (March 30) will teach participants how to make umami-rich soup — and several variations — from scratch. Chef Kim Tran will teach the class, which will include a lunch of ramen.

The class takes place at 100 Bowls of Soup Kitchen (279 Sunset Park Drive) from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Tomorrow (March 30)

  • Bookworms Club (11 a.m.) — Kids can join the free Scrawl Books’ club, which explores a new theme each week with picture books, special guests and authors. This week’s book is “Inky’s Amazing Escape: How a Very Smart Octopus Found His Way Home” by Sy Montgomery and illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford.
  • Diva Central (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) — Current middle and high school students will be able to pick out free prom dresses and accessories at RCC Lake Anne.
  • C-H-I-C-K-E-N-S … in Your Backyard” (1-2 p.m.) — Adults interested in raising backyard chickens, which can be a source for high-quality, fresh eggs and meat or as pets, can learn how. Willie Woode from the Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District and St. Clair Williams, the senior assistant to the zoning administrator, will give a presentation at the Herndon Fortnightly Library.
  • On That Note — Brand New Day!” (7-9 p.m.) — On That Note will perform songs from musicals at ArtSpace Herndon. Tickets cost $20.
  • Rob Fetters (7-10 p.m.) — Singer/songwriter and guitarist Rob Fetters is set to perform at a Restonian’s house. Tickets cost $25.

Sunday (March 31)

  • Reston Runners walk or run (8 a.m.) — Starting at the Autumnwood Pool, runners can go for either a 3- or 6-mile walk or 10-mile run.
  • “Hidden History of Herndon” book signing (1-2 p.m.) — Herndon Historical Society Historian Barbara Glakas will sign copies of her new book called “Hidden History of Herndon” at the Herndon Depot Museum. She will also answer any questions locals have about her book or about Herndon history.
  • History of World War II (2-4 p.m.) — Harry Butowsky from George Mason University will present the third part of his six-part lecture series at the Reston Regional Library.

Photo via Facebook

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Domino’s, Herndon Laundry Sign Leases for Pines Shopping Center

The Pines Shopping Center in Herndon has welcomed two tenants to help fill its empty storefronts.

Established in 1959, Pines Center was the first of the shopping centers to pop up along Elden Street.

For roughly the last decade, the shopping center at 690 Elden Street has faced continuing vacancies, which prompted talk in 2012 about revitalizing the center.

News outlets reported the shopping center obtained a new leasing manager — Vienna-based Renaud Consulting — in July 2015. Recently, the commercial real estate company announced that Herndon Laundry and Domino’s signed leases.

Domino’s has 1,600 square foot at the shopping center, while Herndon Laundry occupies a 2,270-square-foot space.

Domino’s lists a location offering both carry-out and delivery at 698 Elden Street on its website.

While Renaud Consulting did not provide the address for Herndon Laundry, its announcement features an image of the closed Coin Laundry at 692 Elden Street.

In its brochure, Renaud Consulting notes that seven out of 19 spaces at the shopping center are vacant, totaling 15,460 square feet of empty retail space.

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EXCLUSIVE: Herndon Man Charged in Connection with White Nationalist Group’s Posters

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) A Herndon man is facing charges after Vienna police say he was caught placing posters for a white nationalist group around the town, Reston Now has learned.

Last Saturday afternoon, a caller told police that two men were placing posters on light posts at a shopping center at 180 Maple Avenue, according to Vienna police.

Officers responded and observed one of the men placing a Patriot Front poster on a Town of Vienna utility box in the area of Nutley Street and Maple Avenue, Vienna officials told Reston Now.

Patriot Front is identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “white nationalist hate group.” It was described as a “political activist organization” in Vienna’s weekly crime report; an inquiry from Reston Now confirmed that Patriot Front was the group behind the posts.

Police issued a summons to a 21-year-old Herndon man, Brendan Smith, for destruction of property, according to a town spokesman. The man was released on his signature, the report says.

Earlier this year, Patriot Front tweeted that its “activists” put up the posters around Herndon and Reston in January and then in Reston again in February and March. Posters were also recently placed around Vienna and Arlington, according to the group’s social media account.

The posters include slogans like “reclaim America” and “better dead than red.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Patriot Front broke off from the alt-right group Vanguard America in the aftermath of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va.

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Noodles World Kitchen to Donate Part of Tonight’s Sales to Coates ES

(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Diners at the Noodles World Kitchen in Herndon tonight (March 20) can support a local public school in Herndon.

The management at the Noodles World Kitchen at 2405 Centreville Road will donate 25 percent of tonight’s sales to the Lutie Lewis Coates Elementary School.

Customers who eat the noodle chain — formerly known as Noodles and Company — between 4-8 p.m. can tell the restaurant staff that they are supporting Coates.

Image via Google Maps

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Crime Roundup: Herndon Man Arrested After Car Rental Expires

City of Fairfax police arrested a Herndon man after police received reports that his car rental had not been returned on time.

Police arrested the 32-year-old Herndon resident on the afternoon of March 7, the police report says.

He is currently being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center on a secured bond of $1,000.

The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston District Station reported the following incidents in recent days:

LARCENIES:

1800 block of Cameron Glen Drive, cash from location

12100 block of Eddyspark Drive, wallet from vehicle

12000 block of Heather Down Drive, jewelry from residence

1400 block of North Point Village Center, merchandise from business

1800 block of Old Reston Avenue, laptop computers from residence

11800 block of Spectrum Center, merchandise from business

12100 block of Sunset Hills Road, merchandise from business

STOLEN VEHICLES:

1300 block of Pavilion Club Way, 2009 Nissan Murano

1100 block of Vantage Hill Road, 2008 Ford Expeditio

File photo 

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Painter Trisha Adams Opening Junction Square Gallery in Herndon

Painter Trisha Adams is setting up shop in Herndon’s Junction Square.

According to her bio, the Californian started painting at age 44 when she decided to make art to fill an empty frame. Adams is known for her bright and colorful landscapes and still paintings, which often feature flowers, birds, boats or gardens.

This will be Adams’ fourth gallery — she currently has her art showcased in Richmond; Sarasota, Fla. and Watch Hill, R.I.

Her website says that the dates for the grand opening range from last Friday (March 15) to Sunday, March 31. Locals can check out her gallery at 708a Elden Street.

Image via Google Maps 

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Town of Herndon Grapples with How to Revamp Ethics Code

Updated at 9:15 a.m. on March 18 — A previous version of this story incorrectly said “Vienna” instead of “Herndon” officials. This has now been corrected. 

Some Herndon Town Council members are pushing for more robust ethics guidelines, but there’s disagreement about how best to go about doing that.

While councilmembers have agreed that revising the code of ethics is a positive step toward ensuring ethical behavior of future councils and erasing a perception that the council skirts rules, they have different ideas on what should get changed or added.

At a March 5 meeting, Councilmember Pradip Dhakal suggested borrowing from other codes of conduct, and analyzing omissions in the current code, may solve current gaps. (Councilmembers said they have been looking at the ethics codes from the Town of Amherst and Williamsburg as examples to emulate.)

Breadth and specificity dominated the March 5 debate, with some councilmembers raising concerns that trying to list every single unethical behavior could end up missing some things and creating a policy that no one would read.

For the sake of appearances, having a longer ethics code might raise some eyebrows if it’s overly detailed, one councilmember said.

“I’d be like what kind of crap is going on if they need this level of detail?” said the councilmember, who could not be positively identified on an audio recording of the meeting.

While some of the councilmembers expressed support for the current policy’s simplicity, others argued that a more in-depth code will clear up any confusion.

“We are coming from different backgrounds and sometimes common sense is uncommon,” Dhakal said. “My common sense may not be yours.”

Other possibilities floated at the March 5 meeting included defining “ethical behavior” and adding some definitions and rules that are in the state code. Creating guidelines for social media and online conduct also came up as a possible addition to the code of ethics or as a separate set of guidelines.

Vice Mayor Sheila Olem and councilmembers Cesar del Aguila and Signe Friedrichs have led the effort to revise the code.

Unethical, sketchy, and uncomfortable behavior among Herndon officials are some of the main reasons behind the push to strengthen the code. The councilmembers shared stories of unnamed former town officials who publicly berated staff, grabbed a staffer in a sexual manner, and solicited jobs from other elected officials in the performance of their official duties.

The code of ethics is currently located in Article I of the second chapter under the Herndon Town Code.

Reston Now saved you the trouble of hunting it down:

Sec. 2-5. – Code of ethics for the members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members.

(a) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members shall perform their duties to the very best of their abilities and demonstrate integrity, honesty, and ethical behavior in the conduct of all town business.

(b) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members shall treat the public, town staff and each other in a courteous manner and shall at all times refrain from abusive conduct, threatening or intimidating language or gestures, personal charges, or verbal or written attacks concerning the character or motives of other members of the town council, town boards and commissions, town staff, or the public.

(c) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members shall bring any concerns about the performance of a council appointee to the entire council. Concerns about the performance of a town employee shall be discussed privately with the town manager.

(d) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members should direct significant requests for information or discussions concerning town business to the town manager, who directs the day-to-day operations of the town and its employees.

(e) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members shall fully comply with the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, Code of Virginia, §§ 2.2-3700, et seq. and the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act, Code of Virginia, §§ 2.2-3100–2.2-3131, as applicable.

“One of our citizens came to a public hearing and said, ‘Pass it now!'” Mayor Lisa Merkel said at the end of the March 5 discussion. “I don’t think we need to rush into it, but [we’re] making movement in the right direction and making sure it reflects what we all really want to see in there.”

The Town of Herndon is still working on the code. At the town’s public session on Tuesday (March 12), del Aguila said that the code of ethics “is certainly coming to fruition.”

Image via Town of Herndon

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Wooboi Chicken’s Chef Talks Secret Menu, Spiciest Nashville Hot Chicken Waiver

One month after Wooboi Chicken’s opening, Chef Minwoo says that the Herndon eatery still has lines out of the door in the late morning and even one diner who came down from New Jersey for a taste of the Nashville Hot Chicken.

After pop-up locations around Maryland and Virginia last summer, Wooboi Chicken officially opened a brick-and-mortar spot in early February at 139 Spring Street, Suite 1.

The chicken is free-range, does not contain antibiotics and is fried in peanut oil, according to its website. For customers with peanut allergies, Wooboi Chicken has a separate fryer that uses canola oil instead.

The concept is based on Nashville Hot Chicken, which has its roots in a woman’s attempt to get back at her cheating man by serving him a super spicy chicken.

Minwoo told Reston Now that he has thrown in his own twists, including D.C. mumbo sauce made from pineapples, distilled wine, vinegar, tomato paste; Japanese-influenced brine; and a unique breading that Minoo calls a “fusion of fine dining and generic KFC and Popeyes.”

The chicken eatery offers six different levels of heat depending on how hot customers like their chicken — the code red and code blue options are the hottest and require an extra warning: a “waiver” on a chalkboard-painted wall where diners have signed their names.

Minwoo estimates that about 10 percent of the customers try either the red or the blue option, and about 5 percent of those “brave people” successfully finish their food. (If you’re not a spice person, don’t go above a level two, Minwoo says.)

This Reston Now reporter chickened out and tried one of the milder items from the secret menu instead — the Merkaroni Salad. (Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel took to Twitter to share her excitement about having a secret menu item named after herself.)

Other secret menu items to ask for include The Kracken, which is a double chicken sandwich inspired by Paul from Weird Brothers Coffee, and the Choi Fries, which are fries with D.C. mumbo sauce, chicken, cheddar cheese and mustard.

The secret menu isn’t the only surprise. The recipes change a little bit every day, Minwoo adds.

“I’m just going to try to make the best chicken sandwich I can.”

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