Reston, VA

The Town of Herndon  has applied for funding for a new project to reconfigure Sterling Road. 

According to a staff report from Dec. 1, the town would like the residential street to reflect its current plans for traffic access management and multimodal circulation. The project length will be about one mile, located between Elden Street and Rock Hill Road.

According to Jaleh Moslehi, a project engineer, this project may occur in the latter part of the decade, with the hope that public outreach and input will be scheduled for Summer 2021. 

The initial funding source will come from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s Local Revenue, according to the report. In addition, the town has proposed a funding application for up to $1,000,000 for fiscal year 2027. 

Staff and the town’s consultant are planning to present the concept design for the road in Spring 2021. The design will include ADA accessible sidewalks and proposed bike lanes for the entire length of the project, according to the report. Additionally, the traffic study will analyze the potential for better lane realignments at the intersections with Elden Street, Crestview Drive and Herndon Parkway. 

According to the report, the project’s objectives are to implement access management and multimodal measures, improve traffic signalization, add applicable turning lanes and provide for landscaping and safer ADA accessible sidewalks, all in an effort to increase safety while reducing congestion and enhancing circulation. 

Screenshot from Google Maps

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and with that brings closures around the county. Let’s take a look at what’s open, and what’s closed.

All Fairfax County Government offices will be closed on Nov. 26 and 27 for the holiday. 

The Fairfax Connector will be operating on a Sunday service on Thursday, and a holiday weekday service on Friday. 

Fairfax County Public Schools provided seven-day meal kits for Thanksgiving week, which were available for pickup through Nov. 24. 

In Herndon, all trash collection is halted for the holiday, and all trash usually collected Thursday will be collected today. 

Reston Community Center in Hunters Woods will be open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. the day after. However, RCC Lake Anne will be closed both days. 

All Fairfax County parks will be closed on Thanksgiving, but all RECenters are open until noon. The day after Thanksgiving, the RECenters will be running normal hours and Frying Pan Farm Park will open its farm and indoor area. 

Photo by Shoeib Abolhassani/Unsplash

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The Herndon Town Council is considering proposed exceptions for a mixed-use development at Fairbrook Park, which were presented to the council earlier this week.

The council heard proposed exceptions on behalf of Quadrangle Development Corporation for its plans of a mixed-use development at the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Fairbrook Drive.

The company is planning four buildings with 1.5 million square feet of development on the nearly 28-acre site. The planning consists of two office buildings east of Herndon Parkway, north of the Dulles Toll Road and south of Fairbrook Drive. A third building meant for mixed-use abuts Herndon Parkway north of Fairbrook Drive. The final building will be primarily residential, with a parking structure incorporated into it.

The council heard a pair of proposals from Zoning Administrator David Stromberg that would allow for exceptions at the site. The first proposal allows for an encroachment on the 100-foot buffer of the Resource Protection Area (RPA) component of the Chesapeake Bay Protection Area, and the other allows for development in the floodplain overlay.

Stromberg detailed in his presentation two primary boundaries in the flood zone that will be affected by the exception to the floodplain overlay (FPO). The proposal calls for installing two box culverts underneath a private road that would connect Fairbrook Drive to the office buildings. The second change calls for Fairbrook Drive to be built up slightly and grading going down into the flood zone.

The FPO exceptions will require substantial conformance with development plans, and allow for minor changes with final engineering. However, conditions will require Quadrangle to resubmit a flood zone study again for approval if there are changes with the final engineering.

Further conditions on the proposal include the dedication of a floodplain easement and accommodating design requirements of a sanitary sewer metering station, according to Stromberg. Another condition requires Quadrangle to perform hydraulic and hydrodynamic studies that conform to the most current FEMA maps.

The second request into the buffer of the RPA proposes an exception for 0.77 acres (33,552 square feet), with 0.42 acres (18,315 square feet) for new impervious surfaces that water cannot pass through. The area will consist of the private drive that connects Fairbrook Drive to the two office buildings, the private frontage of the mixed-use building, and the private frontage and turnaround area for the residential building.

The encroachment at the mixed-use building will mostly be on the north side of Fairbrook Drive and in front of the new building. It will take up 4,179 square feet with 3,149 square feet being impervious. The encroachment at the residential building will also be on the north side of Fairbrook Drive. It will consist of 9,786 square feet of encroachment with 7,390 square feet being impervious.

New encroachment at the two office buildings is being requested because of a new reoriented private drive. It will include the private drive and the two box culverts that are being called for in the first exception request.

Proposed RPA encroachment map.

Some on-site mitigation and potential off-site mitigation will be required with this exception. On-site will include new native plantings as well as stream restoration to stabilize the banks and slow down the water.

In response to council member Signe Friedrichs’ questions about potential damage to Sugarland Run with the introduction of the culverts, Stromberg assured the council that considerations had been made to preserve or improve the stream’s condition.

“That’s why you have this RPA exception process; it requires developers to go through this extra level of review to make sure they’re proposing a plan that will result in pollutant removal that’s either the same as existing conditions or better,” Stromberg said.

“Based on the plans [Quadrangle] submitted, it will result in better conditions than what’s currently out there now.”

The council will consider both proposals at its Nov. 17 public session.

Images via Town of Herndon

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On Wednesday, Nov. 4, the Town of Herndon Architectural Review Board will be holding a virtual work session to discuss the signage of a new retail store called Herl’s Bath and Home Solutions.

Herl’s Bath and Home Solutions is a bathroom remodeling company with two locations throughout Maryland — one in Salisbury, and one in Columbia. The Herndon location will be coming soon. The business has been running since 1990, according to the company website. Reston Now did not hear back from them about an opening date. 

The store, looking to move to the Herndon Reston Industrial/Business Park (366 Victory Drive), proposed a sign with a font type and color that does not meet the standards required by the facility’s Master Sign Plan, according to a report released by the ARB. At the work session, the ARB will review their application.

The ARB will discuss the four motion alternatives: to deny the application, approve the application as submitted, approve the application with conditions, or continue the public hearing at another date, according to the report.  

After the work session, the Board can take action on the case at the Board Public Hearing on Nov. 16, according to Anne Curtis, the Chief Communications Officer for the Town of Herndon.

The work session will take place at Herndon Council Chambers Building (765 Lynn Street) tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.

Photo via the Herndon ARB

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Herndon will welcome a new mayor-elect on Tuesday to follow Lisa Merkel’s eight years as the town’s mayor.

Merkel announced in January that she would not run for a fifth term as the town’s mayor. She will spend the next few months with her husband and two kids while she decides on her next steps, though she says she has “no intention” of running for higher office right now.

“Several people have pitched some ideas my way, and I’d like to still volunteer,” Merkel told Reston Now in a recent interview.

“We’ll be doing college visits hopefully with my son. And I’m going to take at least a few months to just sort of settle in and figure out what’s next. But I’m not going anywhere. I live in downtown Herndon. I still love it just as much as the day we moved here.”

On Nov. 3, a successor will be elected to the role Merkel has maintained since she won a three-way race for mayor in 2012 by just 38 votes.

Sheila Olem, Herndon’s current vice mayor, and Roland Taylor are running to be the town’s next mayor. Merkel is not endorsing a candidate for the election cycle, but she did have some words of wisdom for the candidate that will take the reins as mayor.

“When I came into the office, I was a mom and a teacher. I was not a land use expert or lawyer or never studied political science,” Merkel said.

“I truly was a citizen that managed to get herself elected mayor. So there was a lot I did not know, and I think it’s important that when you don’t know something, find an expert and listen and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

She also advised the next mayor to focus on the jurisdiction that they can control in the town and not to focus on national policy issues. She specifically advises a focus on public works, land use, and building planning while helping cultivate the community.

Merkel says focusing on the town helped her move into policies and successfully secure a town council seat in 2010. That same year, she was elected vice major. It is also what continued her motivation when she was voted in as the town’s first elected female mayor in 2012 and the subsequent three elections after.

During her time as mayor, Merkel helped implement large-scale plans for the Metrorail Expansion Project, negotiate a deal with Comstock Partners for the ongoing downtown project and working with the Chamber of Commerce to establish an Economic Development Department.

She can also tout a number of projects such as approving the installation of lights along the portion of the W&OD Trail that runs through Herndon and installing gateway signs at each of the entrances to town.

Merkel recognizes that there have been challenges along the way. Among them have been getting the news of plans for the town out to the community effectively, and ensuring that Herndon retains its sense of community and the core of downtown while growing into a more urban area.

“It took several election cycles, but I’ve knocked on doors on every single street in Herndon,” Merkel said.

“It’s one thing to drive around town, another to walk up and down the street or ride your bike, but to walk up to people’s doors, you really get a glimpse for how people are living, and we have a very diverse town with a lot of needs. I’m really glad that I’ve gotten the chance to experience that.”

Photo courtesy Lisa Merkel

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Town of Herndon is preparing for new architectural surveys, procedure guides and more for its Heritage Preservation Program.

Next Thursday (Oct. 29) the town’s consultants will host a virtual meeting to discuss updates to the program that includes new district guidelines, according to the town’s press release.

In discussions with the town and Architectural Review Board, these updates include providing property owners and the review board with:

  • Clearer factors for assessing building modifications, new construction and moving or demolishing a building
  • Definitions for “contributing” and “non-contributing” buildings
  • Meeting schedule change
  • New architectural surveys
  • Creation of uniform sign standards
  • More administrative approval of minor changes
  • Creation of procedure guides
  • District awareness campaign Expand training opportunities

The Heritage Preservation Program is designed to provide “a mechanism to ensure conservation of the town’s traditional neighborhoods and older commercial structures, providing a community identify apart from the suburban growth of the urbanizing region,” the website said.

Residents can register for the meeting through the Town’s Meeting Webcast page, once it is available.

Questions and comments will also be accepted next Thursday (Oct. 29) though the chat function.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Two men from China, including one from Herndon, have pleaded guilty to involvement in a $1.1 million fraud scheme involving gift cards. 

One of the men, Shoming Sun, a 41-year-old from Herndon, was sentenced to seven months in prison yesterday, according to a statement from the Department of Justice’s Eastern District of Virginia office.

Court documents say the two men were part of a wire fraud conspiracy. Members of the conspiracy contacted victims by telephone or social media and assumed fictitious identities, claiming to be apart of the Internal Revenue Service or an employee of a financial institution.

The release mentioned they also told victims they were entitled to money or were under a form of immediate financial threat, tricking victims into purchasing gift cards and sending them the redemption codes.

The conspirators used the codes from the gift cards to purchase goods totaling approximately $1.15 million, said the release. 

The other man involved in the incident, Yuchen Zhang, a 23-year-old from Manassas, faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and will know sentencing on Feb. 10, 2021.

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Another season of the coronavirus pandemic has brought on the second semester of remote and hybrid education. And for students without desks, the switch means they must look for alternative school setups.

Alisa Harriot, Lisa Merkel and Tracy Converse, three local Reston and Herndon community members, brainstormed a solution to the alternative setups: they and a hefty group with over one hundred members would find, build, or recycle desks to deliver to the students. 

On Sept. 11, after discovering a group of families in need of desks, the women decided to start a desk collection to benefit these families. They each posted on their individual Facebook pages asking if their circle of friends had any desks to donate. Immediately, the project took off. 

The posts prompted a major community effort to help support these families in need, from people at home building desks from scratch to the donation of surplus desks from the schools in the county.

In addition to an outpour of desks, the women were able to partner with local food pantries to aid with the distribution. They were also given a storage unit at South Lakes High School to help hold a larger number of desks. 

“It’s been a really quick-moving and exciting project that takes a lot of people and a lot of help from the community,” said Harriot. “We have yet to be in a position where we didn’t find that help.”

The story that mobilized the women was that of a local girl who, with the onset of virtual learning, didn’t have anywhere sufficient to set up a workspace and as a result, had to flip a toilet seat into a modified desk. After hearing this girl’s story, they launched into action to help other students in similar situations. 

“If you want to see a bunch of community members activate, you let them know that there’s a little girl somewhere using a toilet as a desk,” said Harriot. 

As of last week, 107 desks have been delivered to students in need. The project has gained the support and participation of about 147 volunteers from the Reston and Herndon communities in the last month. 

They are currently looking to work with The CORE Foundation to become one of their core causes to begin taking financial donations for the project, according to Harriot. Harriot also is thinking about continuing the effort even after school resumes in-person. 

“At a time where everything seems so divisive and uncertain, it’s been really nice to see a bunch of people … all of a sudden working together and doing great things,” said Merkel.

Those interested in donating desks can drop them off at their storage pod at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive). Individuals in need of a desk are encouraged to reach out to their school counselor, who will work with them to find the best way to pick them up. For more information, email [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Alisa Harriot

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Early voting in Fairfax County is scheduled to begin on Friday, Sept. 18 at the Fairfax County Government Center Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Voting will also be available on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sept. 19, and on Oct. 14 through Oct. 31. 

Any registered Fairfax County voter can vote early, according to a statement from the Fairfax County Government. 

Starting Oct. 14, 13 additional early voting locations will open up across the county. These locations include the Herndon Fortnightly Library and North County Governmental Center. Great Falls Library will open for early voting on Oct. 17 and is only open on Saturdays.

Early voting will end on Oct. 31 at 5 p.m., according to the statement. There will be social distancing and enhanced cleaning measures to protect voters and poll workers. 

Polls are now allowing multiple different forms of identification in place of a photo ID, including a copy of a voter’s current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or any other government document with the voter’s name and address. Expired Virginia drivers’ licenses are also allowed, according to the statement. 

If a voter requested a mail-in ballot but now wants to vote early, they can bring their uncast mail-in ballot to the polling location and surrender it in exchange for a new, in-person ballot. 

Those voters don’t want to mail in their cast ballot can return it at a drop-off box at any early voting site during open hours. Additionally, starting Sept. 21 the Fairfax County Government Center will have a 24-hour secure drop-off box at the government center.

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Theater fans and movie-goers alike now have a private, socially-distanced movie-watching venue as an entertainment option this fall. 

NextStop Theater Company is opening the “NextStop Cinema” in Herndon, where customers can rent out the entire theater for themselves for a private viewing. 

Patrons will provide their own movie on DVD, Blu-ray or via a streaming service, and in return, the cinema will provide the full movie theater experience while still adhering to COVID-19 precautions.

“Nothing makes me sadder than seeing a theater empty,” said Evan Hoffman, the Producing Artistic Director at NextStop. “Since we do not feel the time is right yet for live performances, we thought we would try something completely different with our empty theater and let our beloved patrons make use of it for their own personal use and entertainment.”

NextStop Theater has been closed to public performances since March 12 when they canceled their final weekend showing “Ordinary Days.” However, they held a small educational program for 185 students in socially-distanced theater classes over the summer. 

The theater is also holding a major fundraising initiative called the NextStop Now Fund. The campaign’s funds will go towards keeping the theater running during the shutdown, in addition to the revenue from the Cinema. 

NextStop Cinema rentals are available for $50 per hour with a minimum of three hours, plus a $50 deposit. Those interested in making a reservation or finding more information can visit the NextStop website.

Photo courtesy of NextStop Theater Company

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Labor Day is this Monday, Sept. 7, and with the holiday comes closures throughout Fairfax County. 

Fairfax County Government offices will be closed, according to the government website, as well as Herndon town offices. The Herndon Community Center, while finally open again with reservations, will be closed on Labor Day. The Reston Community Center will also be closed. 

Fairfax County Public Schools will be observing the holiday, with school starting on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

All parks in Fairfax County will be closed except for the Frying Pan Farm Park Farm and the Frying Pan Farm Park Indoor Area.

Recyclables will not be collected in Herndon, according to a message from the Town of Herndon. Any recyclables normally collected on Mondays will instead be collected on Tuesday, Sept. 8. 

The Fairfax Connector will be open and operating on Sunday service.

The Herndon Centennial Golf Course will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. 

The Metrorail will operate from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., and the Metrobus will run on a Sunday schedule

Photo by Aral Tasher/Unsplash

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In Forbes’ second annual ranking of America’s Best Employers by State, several Fairfax County businesses topped the list. 

In the Virginia state ranking, Reston’s Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, ranked #55 (12010 Sunset Hills Road). 

Peraton, the Herndon based IT company founded in 2017, was ranked #78 (12975 Worldgate Dr.).

Reston’s Leidos, a holding company involved in defense, intelligence, civil and health markets ranked #87 (1750 Presidents St.). 

The list was compiled by surveying 80,000 Americans, according to Vicky Valet’s article on Forbes. Surveys were conducted on a rolling basis from October 2019 through May 2020.

Additionally, responses about the same employers were compared to make up for any variation before and after the onset of the coronavirus, according to Valet. 

Photo by Peraton via Google Images

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Escape Room Herndon was named one of TripAdvisor’s 2020 Travelers’ Choice Award winners for Fun & Games. 

The winners are decided based on a full year of reviews and are known for constantly receiving great player feedback that places them in the top 10 percent of hospitality businesses around the world, according to a press release. 

Escape Room Herndon is located at 406 Elden St., and was also rated the #1 Escape Room in Virginia by TripAdvisor, according to their website. The business closed its doors on March 16th with the onset of COVID-19 but was able to reopen to the public on July 3rd after restrictions eased. 

The facility has put new protocols in place to ensure safety when playing, including restricting the number of groups at a time, glove and mask requirements and more time between games to clean.

“We put in a one hour gap between games so we can extensively clean as much as possible, as well as allowing the room to ‘breathe,'” said Omar Aru, the owner of Escape Room Herndon. 

Since reopening, business has been slower than in past summers, according to Aru, with numbers at about 30 percent of that of last year. Fewer players and fewer games each day contribute to the downturn. However, Aru said guests report feeling safe the whole time. 

In addition to in-person fun, Escape Room Herndon also offers an online game called Back To The Present with 5-10 minute puzzles to play from home. 

“I think it’s more important than ever to find fun and safe activities to break away from screens and the current monotony for everyday life to create positive memories we can hold onto,” said Aru. “Escape Rooms present an immersive engaging game that gives you a chance to forget about the outside world just for a little bit and have a fun shared adventure.”

Photo courtesy of Omar Aru

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With the prevalence of COVID-19 and an upcoming flu season, local pharmacies are now offering the flu vaccine to preemptively reduce the number of flu cases and ease the burden on the healthcare system.    

“The convergence of COVID-19 and flu season means that flu vaccinations are critical to reduce the overall burden of respiratory illnesses on the healthcare system and help protect communities,” said Kevin Ban, M.D., the Chief Medical Officer of Walgreens, in a press release

Giant Food is now offering the flu shot with no appointment necessary. They recommend that customers fill out their vaccine consent form before coming in to save time. 

“COVID-19 has presented challenges that we have not encountered before, and medical professionals around the world advise that getting the annual your flu shot is of vital importance to your health and wellness during this global pandemic,” said Paul Zvaleny, the Giant Food Director of Pharmacy Operations, in a press release.  

Safeway is also offering flu shots for free with most insurances. 

Here are some of the local grocery store pharmacies offering the vaccine:

  • Giant: 1450 North Point Village Center, Reston
  • Safeway: 11120 S Lakes Dr., Reston 
  • Safeway: 2304 Hunter’s Woods Plaza, Reston
  • Safeway: 413 Elden St., Herndon
  • Safeway: 9881 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls

The grocery stores, in addition to Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, are offering the flu shot for free with most insurances. 

“Throughout the pandemic, Walgreens continues to make the health and safety of its team members and customers a top priority,” said Dr. Ban in the release. “We want our patients to know that we are there to help them and are taking precautions necessary to keep our communities safe.”

Photo by the CDC via Unsplash

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As Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for virtual classes, some private schools in Reston and Tysons are bringing students back into classrooms.

Four private and parochial school administrators told Reston Now a high demand for in-person instruction and their ability to socially distance students are the main reasons they are offering in-person learning.

At Ideaventions in Reston, admissions staff noticed an increase in applications over the summer that they attribute to their in-person opening. The school serves students in fourth through 12th grades. The academy gained five extra students, bringing their student population for the 2020-2021 school year to 62 students as opposed to last year’s 56, Juliana Heitz, the admissions director at Ideavations, said.

“The summer was surprising in terms of admissions,” according to Heitz.”We had to reopen admissions because so many people were looking for that in-person instruction.”

Green Hedges School in Vienna also noted an increase in enrollment interest for the 2020-21 school year, according to Jennifer Bohnen, who is the head of the school.

After initially planning for a hybrid of in-person and online classes, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced in July that the public school system, which is the largest one in Virginia, would open virtually on Sept. 8 for the fall. Concerns about public health safety and staffing levels prompted the switch to fully online classes.

Unlike big public schools with larger class sizes, the private school administrators Reston Now spoke to said that they will be able to keep students spaced out.

Oakcrest School plans to move classes with 20 or more students outside, weather permitting. The school is looking to use its 23-acre campus near the Reston Presbyterian Church to keep its approximately 260 students safely spread out.

“We’re trying to implement as many safety precautions as possible without disrupting the normal rhythm of the school day,” said Miriam Buono, who heads up operations at Oakcrest.

To further ensure social distancing, Oakcrest is implementing unilateral stairways to avoid overcrowding in the halls. The school is also extending passing periods from five to 10 minutes to compensate for the stairways and to allow students to step outside for mask breaks.

In addition to figuring out how to keep students physically distanced, school administrators are also finding ways to deal with another new element: getting kids to wear face coverings for several hours.

“It’s a learning curve,” Kristen Rogers, the head of Academy of Christian Education in Reston, said. “We have little footprint stickers on the floor to remind them even when they’re lining up to go to the bathroom to stand 6 feet apart.”

To address the issue of mask fatigue, St. Joseph Catholic School in Herndon is allowing teachers and students to pull down face coverings when 6 feet apart or when alone. Additionally, the school is allowing students to remove masks while eating.

Even while many private schools in the Fairfax County area are planning for in-person learning, some are offering a virtual option for families with health concerns. The school administrators Reston Now spoke to also said that they have to remain flexible if new state guidelines or a COVID-19 surge require a switch to fully-virtual learning.

In addition to following Gov. Ralph’s Northam Phase 3 guidance, Heitz noted that Ideavations is also using Fairfax County’s COVID-19 dashboard and Harvard’s dashboard assessing COVID-19 risks levels.

Administrators want parents to know they are tracking the ongoing conditions to determine whether or not in-person classes are safe.

Photos via Oakcrest School/Facebook

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