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Democrat Ibraheem Samirah Wins 86th District Seat

Democrat Ibraheem Samirah, a dentist from Herndon, was sworn into the Virginia House of Delegates this morning after winning the election for the 86th District Seat.

He joins Del. Sam Rasoul as the second Muslim — they are both Democrats — in Virginia’s General Assembly, according to a press release from his campaign.

Samirah, who is the son of Palestinian refugees, was separated from his father in middle school when his father was barred from re-entering the U.S.

The special election yesterday (Feb. 19) to fill now-State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s former seat was the first time Virginia voters took to the polls after a series of scandals erupted in the state, starting with unearthed racist photos on Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook.

The scandals continued with sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and with Attorney General Mark Herring’s admission that he wore blackface. News reports revealed that Virginia Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City County) was a top editor of a yearbook that included photos of people in blackface and racial slurs.

Before the special election, Samirah faced attacks after a conservative website published two of his social media posts from five years ago, including one where he said sending money to Israel was worse than sending it to the Ku Klux Klan, according to news reports.

Samirah apologized for the posts, which he said were used in “a slander campaign questioning my views on Israel and my Jewish friends,” in a two-page statement posted on Facebook.

“I am so sorry that my ill-chosen words added to the pain of the Jewish community and I seek your understanding and compassion as I prove to you our common humanity,” the statement said.

Samirah was just shy of receiving 60 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results from Virginia’s Department of Elections.

Republican Gregg Nelson, a U.S. Air Force veteran, received 34 percent of the votes and Connie Haines Hutchinson, a former vice mayor of the Herndon Town Council who ran as an Independent, received almost 6 percent of the votes.

In total, 6,283 people voted in the special election.

Boysko took to Twitter to congratulate Samirah on his win.

Samirah ran a campaign focused on healthcare, transportation and education.

Now in office, Samirah is planning “to build on the 2018 Virginia Medicaid expansion and bringing healthcare costs down across the state by ensuring that the healthcare marketplace is competitive and accessible to all,” according to the press release.

Photos from the Virginia House Democrats on Twitter show Samirah being sworn in today.

Photo via Samirah for Delegate/Facebook

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Valentine’s Day Morning House Fire Displaces Herndon Residents

A fire that broke out in a Herndon townhouse on Valentine’s Day has left two people displaced and caused roughly $115,000 worth of damage.

Firefighters responded to the fire at a two-story, end-unit townhouse in the 2100 block of Oram Place shortly after 4 a.m. yesterday (Feb. 14), according to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue.

Crews saw smoke when they arrived on the scene and “quickly located and extinguished a fire in the basement,” the fire department said.

The two people in the townhouse evacuated after smelling an odor of smoke and called 9-1-1. They accepted assistance from the Red Cross.

Fire investigators say an electrical malfunction in the furnace caused the fire in the basement by accident.

No one has reported injuries.

Image via Google Maps

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Town Hall on Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Heading to Herndon

This month marks the beginning of Fairfax County’s fiscal year 2020 budget process. Locals in the Hunter Mill District can attend a town hall in Herndon on the first Saturday of March to get more information on the proposed budget plan.

Projections expect the county’s revenue to grow by 2.9 percent, generating more than $156 million in additional revenue for FY 2020, according to the county.

The town hall is set to take place from 8:30-11 a.m. on March 2 at Frying Pan Farm Park Visitor Center (2709 West Ox Road).

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, County Executive Bryan Hill, County and Fairfax County Public Schools staff will give the presentations, according to Hudgins’ newsletter.

After coffee and a conversation starting at 8:30 a.m., the elected officials and county staff will be available to answer questions.

The next steps in the budget process include posting the proposed tax rates, followed by public hearings in April held by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The FY 2020 fiscal year begins on July 1.

Image via Fairfax County

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NextStop Theatre Creates Program for D.C.-Area Playwrights

NextStop Theatre Company is rolling out a new program to strengthen the network of D.C.-area playwrights.

The Herndon-based, nonprofit theatre company unveiled The Playwrights’ Initiative on Friday (Feb. 8) to help connect artists and to provide resources often needed for new theatrical works.

“I have long aspired for NextStop to get involved in developing new work,” NextStop Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Evan Hoffman said in a statement. “But I wanted to start by consulting with playwrights. I wanted to find out how we could best serve them and their creative process.”

Hoffman says that playwrights often say they face two challenges. “They lamented that the writing process can be very lonely work and that finding the people and space to gain objective feedback is daunting,” Hoffman said. “It is my hope we can help to ease both of those struggles through this program.”

The program has two components.

First, the theatre company will host an inaugural “Playwrights’ Mixer and Pitch-fest” on March 23. NextStop Theatre Company plans to invite 30 local playwrights network with each other and local directors and producers before each playwright pitches their work to the group.

After the event, playwrights in attendance will have the opportunity to complete a survey about the pitches, which will help NextStop Theatre Company select the works for a series of free staged readings. The theatre company plans to have professional actors and directors take part in the developmental readings, which are slated to take place over six months.

The Playwrights’ Initiative is partly funded by a grant from ArtsFairfax.

Photo by NextStop Theatre Company

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BB&T Closes Branch at Reston Town Center

BB&T’s signs and outdoor ATM machines are gone at its former branch spot in Reston Town Center.

A sign on the door at 1864 Explorer Street say that “this financial center is closed,” encouraging people to go to the BB&T branch and ATM at 1490 North Point Village Center.

Locals looking for the closest location can find it at 230 Herndon Parkway.

Reston Now has not heard back yet from BB&T as to why and when the branch closed.

Building permits from CH Realty indicate that the vacant spot is set to undergo interior alterations.

First image via Google Maps

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SunTrust Undergoing Demolition Inside Hunters Woods Plaza Safeway

The SunTrust branch inside the Safeway at Hunters Woods Plaza recently closed.

The branch at 2304 Hunters Woods Plaza shut its doors on Tuesday, Jan. 29, Hugh Suhr, a spokesman for SunTrust, told Reston Now.

The closure is unrelated to the recent announcement that BB&T will buy SunTrust Banks for about $28 billion, Suhr said.

While the spokesman did not confirm that the branch was getting demolished, a torn apart space and posted permit indicate just that.

Locals can find nearby SunTrust locations at Plaza America, South Lakes and the Safeway in Herndon.

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After Fire in Herndon Home, Fire Department Gives Tips for Discarding Ashes

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue wants to educate locals on how to prevent issues when discarding fireplace ashes after a recent Herndon house fire.

Fire investigators say that improperly disposed fireplace ashes in a trash bag caused the fire last week.

The investigators determined that the fire, which started in the garage, was an accident, according to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue.

Firefighters had the fire under control in about two hours after arriving at the two-story, single family home in the 12100 block of Westwood Hills Drive on the morning of Jan. 31.

The Red Cross has put the displaced family of two adults and three kids up in a hotel. A GoFundMe page is currently raising funds to help the family cover the costs of “small things that add up” — clothes, toiletries, shoes, coats and more — with the hope that insurance will cover the larger losses.

Damages from the fire were approximately $347,162, including exposure damage worth $43,000 to two vehicles and a boat near the house, according to the fire department.

In an effort to help stop similar fires from happening, the fire department has several safety tips for disposal of fireplace ashes. They are the following:

  • do not discard ashes in a combustible container (paper or plastic bag), cardboard box or plastic trash can
  • do not place ash containers on decks, porches or in garages
  • put ashes into a non-combustible metal container with a lid
  • pour water into the container to make sure the ashes are cool
  • keep your can outside and away from anything combustible

Additionally, the fire department recommends that all household members learn safety tips for ashes from a fireplace or wood stove.

The fire department is also reminding people that ashes can stay hot for several days.

Images via Google Maps and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue

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Domestic Violence Action Center Opens in Herndon

A newly opened domestic violence action center in Herndon will provide free advocacy services every Friday.

Fairfax County recently announced that the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) began offering services last Friday (Feb. 1) at the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center (1086 Elden Street), which is a collaborative effort between the county, Cornerstones and the Connections for Hope Partnership.

“A crucial component for engaging victims in services is access to the necessary resources available to them,” Kevin Ochs, the advocacy services supervisor for the Fairfax County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, said in a press release.

The services, which will include an onsite victim advocate who speaks English and Spanish, will be available every Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some of the services DVAC offers are:

  • Court Attire Program with a selection of clothing for court hearings and job interviews
  • crisis intervention, emotional support and options counseling
  • education about the criminal and civil justice systems
  • emergency shelter
  • housing information and referrals
  • short-term case management

DVAC also has locations in Alexandria and Fairfax staffed by county agency and community nonprofit partners.

Locals’ heading to the DVAC location at the Historic Courthouse in Fairfax “presented challenges for victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking, with safety being a prominent issue,” according to the county.

Now, people can walk-in, make appointments and also call the Herndon location.

Image via Google Maps 

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Board of Supervisors to Hold Hearing on Proposed Sign Changes

Updated at 11:35 a.m. — Corrects description of food truck proposal. 

Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors is set to hold a public hearing on sign changes.

The proposed changes outlined for the sign ordinance would include new provisions for the regulation of temporary signs and the prohibition of off-site signs.

They would also establish ew regulations for electronic display signs, along with more uniform regulation of signs in all zoning districts.

Last Wednesday (Jan. 30), the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted 12-0 to support the adoption of the zoning ordinance.

The board is also set to vote on a proposed change to the Fairfax County Code that would allow two new locations for food truck vending.

 

The Herndon location is on Dulles Technology Drive near the Sunrise Valley Drive just south of the Dulles Toll Road, while the second location would be located in the Mount Vernon area.

Photo via Fairfax County Government/Facebook

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Fundraising Starts to Help Family After Herndon Home Fire

A GoFundMe page is raising funds for the family displaced after a fire broke out in their home in Herndon yesterday.

The campaign, which was created and activated today (Feb. 1), aims to help Tim Gaffney’s family cover the costs of “small things that add up” — clothes, toiletries, shoes, coats and more — with the hope that insurance will cover the larger losses.

In just a few hours, the GoFundMe page has raised nearly $2,000.

The Red Cross has put the family up in a hotel, according to the fundraiser.

The GoFundMe page says the following:

January 31, 2019 Tim Gaffney woke to the smell of smoke. The entire garage was engulfed and it was quickly moving to the house. He woke Ryan and Tara and they were able to get out. Janeen and Sofia were in MA at a skating event.

Flash forward 24 hours and my oldest friend in the world and her family are homeless.

The Red Cross has put them up in a hotel and friends have rallied around them. But this is just day one.

Our hope of course is that insurance will cover the larger losses. House. Cars. Boat. It’s all the small things that add up. Clothes. Toiletries. Shoes. Coats.

We are asking for any help you can provide to get this family through the next really difficult months until they find their new normal.

Anyone not comfortable with sending money is more than welcome to send gift cards. Anything — I mean anything — will be so appreciated.

Thank you on on behalf of Tim, Janeen, Ryan, Sofia and Tara.

Firefighters had the fire under control in about two hours after arriving at the house in the 12100 block of Westwood Hills Drive around 6:38 a.m. on Jan. 31.

The three people in the home at the time of the fire were able to self-evacuate. Two of the occupants received treatment for smoke inhalation, according to the fire department.

Photo via @ffxfirerescue/Twitter

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Q&A: Cofounder Shares How ‘Electro Fitness’ Studio Debuted in Herndon

Nestled away in Sport and Health at Worldgate Drive is a fitness studio with a surprising twist on exercising: Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS).

Co-founded by Connie and Pedro Ruiz, Personal20 started as an EMS franchise in Portugal before it came to the United States in 2017. The Herndon location at 13037 Worldgate Drive is the only one in the country, although that might change as Connie Ruiz eyes new markets for a possible expansion.

This is how it works: clients don special suits with 10 pairs of electrodes that provide electrical stimulation to the muscles as they work out for 20 minutes. During the sessions, the muscles feel tingly and prickly sensations.

The workouts, which are delivered by certified personal trainers or physiotherapists, are customizable to clients’ goals, ranging from weight loss to minimizing back pain issues. Personal20 claims the technology provides all of the benefits of a 90-minute workout in 20 minutes.

Ruiz told Reston Now that most of the prospective clients find out about Personal20 either through Sport and Health or from current clients. While “Electro Fitness” is a novelty in the U.S., Ruiz said that it has gained popularity in Europe, where professional soccer team athletes and celebrities have brought attention to EMS training.

Reston Now caught up with Ruiz to find out the details behind why “Electro Fitness” landed in Herndon.

Reston Now: Why Herndon?

Connie Ruiz: The demographics supported the brand positioning as a premium service for those with disposable income who are busy working executives and professionals who value exercise but are challenged with time.

RN: How many people can you accommodate now with the two stations per day?

CR: We can service about 28 trainings a day with our two stations. We just now have started considering a third station for the first semester of the year.

RN: Can you describe the very first time you tried electro fitness?

CR: The very first time I tried it was in Europe, after my husband wanted to start the concept however I was initially resistant. When I tried it, I gave up all my other exercise and only did Electro Fitness once a week. After the one month workout (four visits), I was amazed at the results. I got definition in my arms that I never had before and I even lost a couple of pounds.

RN: What’s your favorite part of the training?

CR: The effectiveness in a short time.  I love that I can do a 20-minute workout only twice a week and see body shape change and definition. I can even do one a week for maintenance.

RN: What keeps people coming back?

CR: The common thread that keeps people coming back is the effectiveness of the technology.  It really does deliver all the benefits of a 90-minute workout in only 20 minutes. Also, the clients enjoy the experience as that is what we focus on delivering.

Photos courtesy of Personal20

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Two People Treated for Inhaling Smoke From Herndon House Fire This Morning

Two people are being treated for smoke inhalation after the Herndon house they were inside of caught on fire early this morning (Jan. 31).

Crews arrived at the house in the 12100 block of Westwood Hills Drive around 6:38 a.m., Fairfax County Fire and Rescue tweeted.

About two hours later, firefighters had the fire under control.

The three occupants in the home at the time of the fire were able to self-evacuate, according to the fire department. “Two transported for smoke inhalation,” the tweet said.

Photos via Google Maps and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue/Twitter

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UPDATED: Accident Closes Part of Herndon Parkway

Updated at 9 a.m. — All lanes are now open.

Earlier: Herndon Parkway is closed near Summerfield Drive due to an accident.

Herndon Police tweeted about the closure at 8:21 a.m. today (Jan. 30).

Drivers and pedestrians should follow police direction, according to the tweet.

Image via Google Maps

This story has been updated

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Herndon’s Planning Commission Continues Probing Mixed-Use Project

The Herndon Planning Commission held its first public hearing on the Metro area last night (Jan. 28), continuing discussion on concerns surrounding an unprecedented mixed-use project.

Penzance Properties’ redevelopment project, which would add three buildings in three phases at 555 Herndon Parkway, has hit several design snags and a zoning issue.

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.

At the meeting last night, a Planning Commission staffer said that more information and materials are needed to evaluate the development plan. Some of the concerns include:

  • lack of open space
  • unclear about how it will “reinforce an identity unique to Herndon”
  • air flow issues
  • concerns with the Herndon Parkway curb cut and entrance designs

The staffer noted that integrating artwork and redesigning the facades will help soften the stark image in the plans. The Planning Commission continued its request for more refined designs, a revised color palette that creates warmth and texture and a new architectural scale that makes the ground floors more visually interesting.

Kenneth Wire, the land use attorney for the project, told the commission that more color will get added to the site to address concerns about the project appearing stark.

Wire noted that some of the project’s struggles have resulted from its novelty as a new urban portion moving into a suburban community.

“One of the questions that we had with the Town is, ‘When you say unique to Herndon, Herndon doesn’t have any 200-foot-tall buildings,'” Wire said. “So how do we take the rich fabric of the DNA and the materials and pedestrian scopes and bicycle network and fold it into this project?”

Wire said about 40 people attended the community meeting on Jan. 23, asking questions about the scope and the scale of the project.

Richard Downer, a Herndon resident, praised the commission for taking time with the project to address concerns. “You all don’t have that much experience — I believe — with these mega projects, and I think it’s very good that there appears to be a lot of cooperation all the way around.”

Downer said that he has concerns about transportation and accessibility to downtown Herndon as the Herndon Parkway project and Comstock development bring more people into the town.

The Planning Commission decided to continue discussion on the development plan at its public hearing set for Feb. 25.

The Architectural Review Board will take up the application on Feb. 6.

Image via Planning Commission

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Wooboi Chicken to Bring ‘Nashville Hot Chicken’ to Herndon

Wooboi Chicken is set to hold a soft opening tomorrow ahead of its grand opening next week.

The grand opening at 139 Spring Street, Suite 1 — the former spot of Metro Cafe — is set for Feb. 5, Wooboi Chicken told Reston Now.

The chicken eatery posted on its Facebook page today that it plans to have a soft opening with a limited menu tomorrow (Jan. 30) from noon to 4 p.m. Government workers and law enforcement officers can receive 10 percent off of their entire order.

Wooboi Chicken had pop-up locations in Maryland and Virginia last summer.

The “Nashville hot 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.

Depending on how hot customers like their chicken, Chef Minwoo will offer six different levels of heat, along with five options for sides.

Image via Google Maps

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