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Despite Appeals, Residents Voice Strong Support for Downtown Herndon Redevelopment

At a public hearing Tuesday night, local residents voiced strong support for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon as town officials work to address appeals against the project by local property owners.

Three property owners filed appeals against the project, citing concerns related to the development’s impact on traffic and inconsistencies with heritage preservation guidelines, including density increases above standards laid out by the town.

On Tuesday, a majority of Herndon residents testifying about the appeals reaffirmed their support for the project. Speaking on behalf of Neighbors for Downtown Herndon Redevelopment, a group supporting the project that has rapidly grown in the last several weeks, Donielle Scherff said that while the appeals raise “reasonable” concerns, they have put residents’ “dream for this downtown in jeopardy.”

“We stand to lose the vibrant, thriving small town of the future, one that exudes this Herndon exceptionalism that we all love so much,” Scherff said.

In November 2017, Town of Herndon officials entered into an agreement with Comstock to breathe new life into 4.7 acres of in the Historic Downtown District. Plans proposed in June include a parking garage, 274 residential units, an 18,000-square-foot arts center and 17,00 square feet of retail space.

Earlier this year, the town’s Heritage Preservation Board approved the project, despite staff’s recommendations to defer action on the overall project. Filed appeals following the board’s decision rendered the project’s Certificate of Appropriateness void. The town’s council will consider the appeals in the coming weeks. The agreement for the project is unaffected by the voided certificate, which delays the implementation of the project.

File photo

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Town of Herndon Explores Ways to Regulate Airbnb-Style Rentals

In an effort to break its silence on regulating short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb, Town of Herndon officials are contemplating ways to regulate the growing market, which often pits homeowners seeking to make a profit against neighbors seeking to control noise and maintain safety.

The town’s planning commission is considering a zoning ordinance change that would allow residents to rent out their entire home for up to 90 days per year, so long as occupants are limited to six adults and parking is available. In return, residents must buy a $200 permit, which is active for two years, and undergo a property inspection. No restrictions on renting a room or portion of the property are imposed so long as the operator lives in the residence.

Efforts to regulate the burgeoning industry were set into motion last year when the state’s General Assembly approved legislation allowing localities to regulate short-term rentals. Just last week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved its own set of regulations. After feedback from the public, the board made its regulations more restrictive by scaling back its definition of short-term rentals from a maximum of 90 days to 60 days.

Preliminary conversations about ways to oversee short-term rentals have begun at Reston Association. However, no formal plans or guidelines have been introduced yet.

The Town of Herndon’s proposal was modeled after Fairfax County’s plan, David Stromberg, the town’s zoning administrator told Reston Now. Yesterday’s public hearing on the proposal will continue during the planning commission’s September meeting. Changes may be proposed based on feedback from the public, he said.

“Nothing has been on the books. We’re trying to do regulations appropriately so that people who are doing short-term rentals can get their permits,” Stromberg said. “And if there are problems, we can do enforcement if necessary.”

It’s unclear how much revenue permits could generate for the town. Other area jurisdictions like Arlington County limited short-term rentals to 180 days while Alexandria has no limit.

Photo via Airbnb

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Wednesday Morning Notes

A word about panhandling — Last year, local police received about 2,100 calls related to panhandlers in the county. Here’s what you need to know about laws, public safety and steps you can take if you come across a panhandler. [Fairfax County Government]

Updates on a Herndon apartment fire — A fire sprinkler extinguished a fire in garden-style apartments on the 13600 block of Legacy Circle in Herndon late last week. No one was in the apartment unit that caught fire, but 20 people were in the building at the time. No one was injured. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Nearby: Facebook and Tysons — Facebook, Inc. is edging closer to a deal to open a 75,000-85,000 square foot office in Tysons. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Updated: Fire ‘Under Control’ in Apartments on Legacy Circle

Units have controlled a fire in an apartment building in Herndon, according to a statement released around 3 p.m. today.

The fire was believed to be in a garden-style apartment in the 13600 block of Legacy Circle in Herndon, according to the Fairfax County Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

No further information was immediately available.

This story has been updated.

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Schools and Future Development Come Under Focus at PRC Workgroup Meeting

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. to remove unclear information about the number of total available seats in the South Lakes Pyramid.)

Local citizen representatives pressed county and school officials on how the school system will mitigate the impact of planned and future development on Reston’s public schools Tuesday night.

The meeting, the third in a series on the county’s proposal to increase the community’s population density, highlighted a major obstacle in managing increased school enrollment: limited and uncertain funding to meet future needs.

Kevin Sneed, who oversees design and construction services for the school system, said new development is not expected to generate many students because of the style of new multi-family units.

Two residential buildings recently built in Tysons generated only 21 students, Sneed said. Student enrollment from new residential development in Reston is expected to increase in the next 20-25 years, he said. Meanwhile, the school system must balance the need for renovations at several schools. 

The site for a new high school in the area — especially along the Dulles Suburban Corridor where McNair, Coates and Hutchison Elementary Schools are served — is critical. However, the school system is constrained by lack of funding to purchase a new property. And current plans to mitigate the future impact of development on schools likely will not kick in until development actually takes place, Sneed said.  Development may go live years after it is approved by the county, he said.

Stu Gibson, a former school board member of 16 years, said building capacity only once the students impact the system is a “disturbing” strategy. Gibson said he was concerned that the county is planning for additional residences before the infrastructure is in place to handle additional growth — a mode of operation that he said goes against Reston’s comprehensive plan.

Instead of purchasing land, the county and the school system are relying on proffers from developers and negotiating with applicants to see if land for a new high school can be provided, according to Leslie Johnson, the county’s zoning administrator. So far, those negotiations have been unsuccessful. But talks are underway on the county-level to change the formula used to determine how much developers pay based on the expected impact of the development on area schools.

Others worried that viable land for a new school may be limited, especially when parking lots and aging office parks that could be the site for a future school are redeveloped into mixed-use projects.

Johnson said the county is closely evaluating the impact of each development proposal on fire services, schools, parks and other public infrastructure.

“We are keeping track of the cumulative impact, but, at some point, there will be a trigger for some type of development,” Johnson said.

When and how that trigger comes forward remains unclear.

File photo

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Company behind Silver Line concrete sued — “Virginia and the federal government sued a concrete manufacturer Monday, alleging that it lied and falsified documents in connection with panels it manufactured for the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line that were later found to be defective.” [The Washington Post]

A new community in Herndon — These single families houses planned for Summerhouse Landing in Herndon look traditional from the outside, but inside, a more modern layout is constructed. [The Washington Post]

Hot tub movie night tonight — Enjoy late night swim hours and join Reston Association for a free movie by the hot tub. Classic films from the 70s and 80s as well as modern titles will be featured. The event is open to people age 17 and up. [Reston Association]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Daytime Lane Closures Planned on Centreville Road This Week

Crews will continue to perform utility work on Centreville Road near the Dulles Toll Road overpass in Herndon through Friday (July 13).

Alternating left and right lane closures on northbound and southbound Centreville Road and along the ramp from the westbound Dulles Toll Road lane to northbound Centreville Road and Elden Street will also take place.

Work is scheduled to take from today through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Friday from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Access to businesses and ramps will remain open while maintenance work continues. Drivers are encouraged to exercise caution and pay attention to all signs and barricades.

Large, slow vehicles will exit and enter roads in the area throughout the day.

Map via Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Pilot Program to Bring Free WiFi, LED Lights to Downtown Herndon

The Town of Herndon will take part in a pilot program that will bring LED lights and free WiFi in downtown Herndon. The agreement, approved in late June by the Town of Herndon Council, is with Vivacity, Inc.

A public WiFi network will be established for the downtown area. The D.C.-based company will design and manage the wireless network necessary to make the project possible. Town officials will grant access to infrastructure and have authorized Vivacity to sell its services to third parties.

“We are excited to pilot this program with Vivacity and to explore how these cutting-edge technologies may benefit citizens, businesses and visitors to our downtown,” said Mayor Lisa C. Merkel. “The metrics developed through this program will provide a baseline upon which we build, as we work toward our vision for Herndon’s downtown.”

The town and Vivacity will determine whether or not they will continue the partnership based on the following considerations, as indicated in a June 20 press release:

  • Cost savings of LED lights and centrally-controlled management system;

  • Potential reduction in carbon emissions;

  • Impact of improved mobile coverage in the downtown;

  • Public safety impacts from the lighting and blue button emergency calling feature;

  • Data on bicycle and pedestrian flow on the W&OD Trail; and

  • Cost and usage of the electric vehicle charging station.

The pilot program will run from Dec. 31 through the end of 2020.

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Former Town Attorney to Fill Vacancy on Herndon Town Council

The Herndon Town Council will fill a vacancy created by the death of Councilmember Jeff Davidson in April.

At a public hearing on Tuesday (July 10), the council will vote to appoint Richard Kaufman as the new council member.

Kaufman previously served as the town attorney from 1994 until his retirement in 2015. He advised the council on legislative issues, leases, franchise agreements and contracts.

The following information about Kaufman was provided by the Town of Herndon:

His legal counsel on topics ranging from town boundaries to economic development was invaluable to the Town Councils under which he served, and he earned tremendous respect throughout his career from his legal peers throughout the Commonwealth. He was active in several organizations, including the Local Government Attorneys of Virginia, Inc. and the Virginia Municipal League.

Kaufman holds a Bachelor’s degree from Washington and Jefferson College, a Master’s of Arts degree from the University of Virginia and a Juris Doctorate from Washington and Lee University.

If appointed, Kaufman’s term will begin on July 11 and conclude at the end of the year. A new Town Council is set to take office next year.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Revitalization of South Elden Street Area in Herndon Planned

Town of Herndon officials are seeking the public feedback as the town works to revitalize the South Elden Street area, a corridor that runs along Elden Street from Worldgate Drive to Sterling Road.

Officials plan to present what they described as a “moderate scale” redevelopment plan for the area at a meeting today (June 26) at 7 p.m. in the Town of Herndon Council Chambers (765 Lynn Street).

Ideas on how to revitalize the corridor are requested, including whether or not older properties in the area should be redeveloped and the desired mix of retail, residential, office and other uses.

Last year, the town jumpstarted an initiative to create a plan for the commercial corridor between Herndon Parkway and Sterling Road. In 2015, an amendment to the town’s comprehensive plan called for making improvements to South Elden Street. Possible changes include creating a shared use path for bicycles and pedestrians, dedicated turn lanes, a raised median, updated pedestrian signals and the placement of overhead wires underground.

If funding sources are received, the town could begin designing the project in 2024. A conceptual plan of improvements and the preliminary application for improvements has not been made public yet.

A public hearing is set before the Planning Commission on July 2 and August 6.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Fairfax County Commits $1.2 Million for Downtown Herndon Redevelopment

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted today (Tuesday) to contribute $1.2 million for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon — an effort being led by Comstock and the Town of Herndon.

The funding commitment is the largest dollar contribution for economic development to date. Funds are drawn from a funding category designed for one-time, seed money for projects that provide direct economic benefits for Fairfax County. Roughly a quarter of $5 million in available funding has been committed to downtown Herndon.

County officials hope to recoup their investment within the first two years after the project is complete. Estimates suggest the redevelopment will generate $800,000 annually in new property and sales taxes for the county, according to an independent analysis commissioned by the town.

The 4.67-acre property, which is owned by the town, is currently tax-exempt. The new town center would pay real estate taxes and generate additional sales tax from retail elements.

The project includes an 18,000-square-foot arts center, which will serve as the centerpiece of the downtown area. Overall, downtown Herndon will include around 281 apartments, 17,600 square feet of ground floor retail and a 761-space parking garage.

Fairfax County will release its funds only when the Town of Herndon contributes $1.2 million of its own funding. The town plans to pitch in $3.6 million for the public-private partnership.

In prepared statements, local elected officials reacted to the funding commitment:

“I am pleased that funding from the County’s Economic Development Support Fund will help make the Herndon Arts Center a reality,” said Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who chairs the Fairfax County Economic Advisory Commission. “Activities around the arts create thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity in Fairfax County. The Herndon Arts Center will also contribute to the success of a redevelopment project that will significantly increase the tax base of the town and the county. Projects like the Herndon Arts Center also contribute to the county’s economic success by creating a community that will attract a 21st century workforce.”

“Allocation of this grant funding to the town is a tangible, impactful demonstration of Fairfax County’s commitment to economic development in Herndon,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “Redevelopment of Herndon’s downtown creates a new and exciting destination at the county’s western edge, and we greatly appreciate the spirit of partnership symbolized by this grant.”

Photo via Comstock

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Candidate List Released Ahead of Herndon Town Elections in November

The roster of candidates vying for Herndon Town Council and Town Mayor has been released ahead of elections on November 6.

Lisa Merkel, the town’s current mayor, is running for reelection. No other candidates are running.

Five incumbents are running for six seats on the Town Council for one-year terms. Those candidates are Jennifer Baker, Grace Cunningham, Signe Friedrichs, William McKenna and Sheila Olem.

In the race, five newcomers are hoping to challenge incumbents for their seats: Cesar Del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, W.J. Kenis, Jr., Joseph Plummer and Roland Taylor.

Town residents must register to vote by 5 p.m. on October 16. Applications must be mailed to the General Registrar (12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 323). Online applications will be accepted through 11:59 p.m.

File photo

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Herndon Town Council to Consider Installing Free Public WiFi, Declaring June LGBTQ Pride Month

The Town of Herndon’s Council will consider a proclamation to officially recognize June as “LGBTQ+ Pride Month” at a public hearing tonight at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers Building (765 Lynn Street).

The proclamation intends to “recognize the difficulties and prejudice the LGBTQ+ community has worked to overcome,” in addition to recognizing the work of advocates who fight for equality for all people.

The Town Council is also considering launching a Smart Cities pilot program in Herndon. Through the agreement with Vivacity D.C. Inc., a Delaware-based corporation, the town will evaluate smart city technologies, including remote-controlled LED lights with radio capabilities in downtown Herndon in an effort to reduce electricity and maintenance costs.

Upgraded infrastructure, to be installed by the end of the year, would allow the town to provide free public WiFi, improve mobile coverage and county pedestrian traffic, according to the draft pilot project agreement.

Specifically, Vivacity DC, Inc. will build a wireless network in the downtown area, replace 10 street light poles with LED smart poles, and upgrade 10 existing street light poles with LED lighting. The project also includes the installation of an electric vehicle charging station.

Town Council public hearings are webcast and are cablecast live on Herndon Community Television (HCTV).

File photo 

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Roof at Sully’s Pour House in Downtown Herndon Collapses Over the Weekend

A roof collapse in downtown Herndon forced several businesses to close over the weekend. According to the Herndon Police Department, the roof collapse happened on 764 Elden Street on Saturday (June 10).

Sully’s Pour House, an Irish pub, will remain closed until the issue, which owners described as a “sudden structural mishap,” is resolved. All other businesses in the building will also remain closed, according to a spokesperson for the police department.

“We are extremely grateful that not a single person was hurt during this,” the business wrote on Facebook.

No injuries were reported and the road has since reopened.

The town’s building official declared the building unsafe after inspecting it, a spokesperson for the town’s government told Reston Now.

Building owners are required to submit a plan to the town indicating how they will make the building safe, after which town officials will re-inspect the building, the spokesperson said.

This story will be updated.

Photos via Sully’s Pour House

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Town of Herndon to Become First Dementia-Friendly Community in Virginia

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The Town of Herndon is aiming to become Virginia’s first dementia-friendly community in order to spread awareness about the impact of the disease on individuals.

Using a toolkit to engage community members, town officials and community partners aim to develop respect and inclusion of people with dementia. A dementia-friendly community also has services and resources throughout all community areas that promote quality life, educates people with dementia and their families and promotes engagement with the community.

There are 38 other communities in the Dementia Friendly America network, an initiative that includes more than 30 organizations to foster dementia friendly communities across the country.

Toni Reinhart, the owner of Comfort Keepers, a Herndon-based home health care service, is leading a team of community leaders throughout each phase of the initiative.

“With her to drive to enhance community awareness for persons with dementia and 16-year commitment to serving the Herndon-Reston area, her passion for senior care would only serve greater purposes statewide,” said Herndon Mayor Lisa C. Merkel.

Photo via DFAHerndon.org

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