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Reston, Herndon and Fairfax County Presidents’ Day Closures

Presidents’ Day is coming up on Monday (Feb. 18). Whether or not you plan to spend the day remembering past U.S. presidents, check this list if you’re planning to visit government facilities around Fairfax County.

Fairfax County 

Fairfax County’s libraries and courts will be closed.

The county’s public schools will be closed.

The Fairfax Connector will be running on a holiday weekday schedule and some routes won’t operate.

Colvin Run Mill Historic Site will be closed, while Frying Pan Farm Park will remain open.

County trash and recycling collection will not have any changes to the collection schedule next week.

Reston

The Reston Association offices, including the Central Services Facility and Nature House, will be closed.

Reston Community Center will be open.

Herndon

Town of Herndon government offices will be closed.

Refuse will not be collected and will resume service on Tuesday (Feb. 19).

The Herndon Community Center will be open from 6 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Classes will be held as scheduled.

The Herndon Centennial Golf Course will be open from 8 a.m. to until dark.

DMV and more

All Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) customer service centers will be closed.

Metrorail will be running on a weekend schedule, while Metrobus service will operate on a Saturday supplemental schedule, with some late-night trips canceled on select routes.

Speaking of closed offices, Reston Now will be on a break as well on Monday.

File photo

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Comstock’s Revised Plans for Downtown Herndon Project Under Review

After hitting delays with multiple revisions, Comstock’s newest redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are now back under review.

Town Manager Bill Ashton told the Herndon Town Council at its public meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 12) that the staff started reviewing the revised site plans on Friday (Feb. 8).

“The fourth revision of the site plan is back in staff hands as of late last week,” Ashton said, adding that the Town of Herndon has “gone back and forth” with Comstock to refine the proposal and site plan.

The proposed project for Herndon’s downtown has stalled several times since the Herndon Town Council and Comstock agreed to the mixed-use development in 2017.

Plans for the redevelopment were withdrawn and then resubmitted last summer after property owners next to the site of the redevelopment effort filed three appeals.

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Town of Herndon Boards Consider New Outback Steakhouse, Walls at Chestnut Grove Cemetery

Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Corrects Outback Steakhouse location.

The Herndon Town Council and two of its boards held work sessions this week, taking up proposals for a new restaurant building, a massive mixed-use development and more.

Possibly soliciting public comment during the development of the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020 was discussed at a Town Council work session on Tuesday (Feb. 5). The Town Council is set to take up the resolution next week on Feb. 12.

That same work session also held a public hearing on a comprehensive plan amendment for plans to revamp the South Elden area.

The Architectural Review Board on Wednesday (Feb. 6) discussed plans for a new Outback Steakhouse. (There’s one currently at 150 Elden Street.) The plan calls for a new 6,525-square-foot single-story commercial building and 82 parking spaces on an undeveloped site with 1.46 acres across from the Herndon Centre.

The board also continued the conversation about Penzance Properties’ redevelopment project, which would add three buildings in three phases at 555 Herndon Parkway.

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. The Planning Commission will continue its consideration of the development plan at its public hearing set for Feb. 25.

Penzance’s redevelopment isn’t the only proposal that has hit some snags lately.

The Heritage Preservation Review Board held a public hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 6) revised plans for Aslin Beer Co.’s planned tasting room and bar at 771 Elden Street, which has recently faced design hurdles.

According to a staff report, the original application for the tasting room had a proposed deck area on the second floor that would inadvertently cover a stormwater management easement. The revised design takes away the deck, yet adds new elements that the staff report says need clarification.

“The Town and the applicant are working collaboratively to resolve this issue and a revision to the previous HPRB approval is being required as a component of this effort,” the report says.

Ira Saul, an attorney representing Aslin Beer Co., sent Community Design Planner Christopher Garcia a letter on Jan. 14 saying that all of the required materials have been submitted for the application to move forward at the Feb. 20 HPRB meeting.

“My understanding with [the Town Attorney] is that we are in a position to proceed with the HPRB application in tandem with the building permit revision, so that construction can begin expeditiously,” Saul wrote.

Later in January, the beer company told Alexandria Living Magazine that it plans to open a production facility and a 3,500-square-foot tasting room in the city’s West End neighborhood.

The board also held a public hearing on a proposal to add new retaining walls around a mausoleum and create new garden seating walls at the Chestnut Grove Cemetery (831 Dranesville Road).

The proposed retaining wall with an iron top rail is meant to minimize erosion, drainage and aesthetic issues, while the garden wall is set to be two feet high and be constructed in three separate segments, according to the staff report.

The Town Council is set for a public session next Tuesday (Feb. 12).

Images via Google Maps and Town of Herndon

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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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New Book Examines Bizarre Stories from Herndon’s Past

Herndon is well known as a sleepy farming community with growing development working its way west from Reston, but a new book takes aim at some of the bizarre stories from the town’s history.

“Hidden History of Herndon,” part of the Hidden History series from publisher The History Press, is scheduled to be released on March 11 in paperback.

The book’s author, Barbara Glakas, is the historian of the Herndon Historical Society. Glakas is a native of Fairfax County and a retired teacher from Fairfax County Public Schools.

The book includes tales from the town’s naming by a mysterious stranger to local unrest in the 1920s. According to the Amazon description:

A mysterious stranger who passed through the village one night suggested the name Herndon, after the captain of a sunken ship. The Civil War split loyalties among the townspeople and brought an unexpected Confederate raid on the town. Prohibition brought bootleggers with it, but its repeal caused an uproar from temperance-minded residents. Lively community fairs were ever present in the 1920s, but so was the Ku Klux Klan. Local author Barbara Glakas uses rare photographs and firsthand accounts to tell little-known stories of the people, places and events that shaped the history of the Town of Herndon.

Other nearby Hidden History books include “Hidden History of Northern Virginia,” “Hidden History of Arlington County” and “Hidden History of Alexandria.”

The book was mentioned by the Herndon Town Council in a Jan. 15 session during a recognition of the town’s 140th anniversary.

Photo via The History Press

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Reston, Herndon and Fairfax County MLK Holiday Closures

Several government facilities around Fairfax County are closed today (Jan. 18) for Lee-Jackson Day and on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this coming Monday (Jan. 21).

Fairfax County 

Fairfax County’s courts are closed today and Monday.

Fairfax County’s government offices and libraries will be closed on MLK Day.

The county’s public schools will get off three hours early today and be closed on MLK Day.

The Fairfax Connector will run on a holiday weekday schedule MLK Day. A full list of routes running in the Reston area is available online.

Frying Pan Farm Park will remain open on MLK Day, while Colvin Run Mill Historic Site will be closed.

County trash and recycling collection will not have any changes to its schedule on MLK Day.

Reston

The Reston Association offices, including Central Facilities and the Nature House, will be closed on MLK Day.

Herndon

Town of Herndon government offices will be closed on MLK Day.

The Community Center will have altered hours from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. on MLK Day.

Metro, DMV and more

All Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) customer service centers will are closed today and Monday.

Metro will operate on a Saturday schedule, opening at 5 a.m. and close at 11:30 p.m. on MLK Day. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, and parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities. Meanwhile, Metrobus will run on a Saturday supplemental schedule with some late-night trips canceled on selected routes.

Speaking of closed offices, Reston Now will be on a break on MLK Day.

File photo

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Fliers for White Nationalist Group Spotted in Herndon, Reston

Posters appeared yesterday in Herndon for Patriot Front, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist hate group.

Patriot Front tweeted that its “activists” put up the posters around Herndon. Last week the group said that it also put up posters in Reston.

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.

A spokeswoman for the Town of Herndon told Reston Now yesterday that the town does not have any information related to the posters.

Via Twitter, a person in Herndon said he saw “some guy” posting the fliers “on the electrical box outside of an office park.” He encouraged people to “take them down and report it.”

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Herndon House Concert Set to Challenge Zoning Citation Next Week

A Herndon house concert series that features independent artists is set to challenge a zoning violation at the Board of Zoning Appeals next week.

Chris Devine, the host of The Crib, received a violation notice taped to his front door from the Town of Herndon for a concert on Nov. 17 in his home, the Herndon Connection reported last week.

Dated Dec. 13, the citation says that 44 people were observed entering the home between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. for a Gina Venier and Lexie Hayden concert.

“[This] activity constitutes an Indoor Entertainment use and is not a permitted use on the subject property pursuant to the Town of Herndon Zoning Ordination,” the citation said. It gave Devine 15 days to resolve the violation to avoid incurring fines.

Instead, Devine decided to appeal the violation.

“We firmly believe The Crib house concert does not meet that definition, and further believe the citation arose from a lack of understanding of the house concert concept,” The Crib’s blog says.

At the public comment period during the Town Council public session last night (Jan. 15), Devine said that he met with town staff after receiving the citation.

“In that meeting, I learned that the town had very little understanding of that activity, which is house concerts, and as a result were very vague on how my activity tripped the wire as a commercial use,” he said.

Devine slammed Town of Herndon’s leadership, saying that he was denied access to basic information about the situation after he tried to ask follow-up questions after the meeting.

A Herndon town attorney told Mayor Lisa Merkel that the appeal never goes to the Town Council. Instead, it goes to the Board of Zoning Appeals and then to the circuit court.

“There is a role in the Town Council in looking at our code if there were a change to be made in the future,” Merkel said.

As Devine tackles the appeals process, a GoFundMe page created on Dec. 20 is helping to cover the fines.

The campaign says the following:

It will take a while to work through the appeals process — possibly as long as three months — and we don’t know at this point what the outcome will be.

During this time we have five fantastic artists already scheduled to perform and we will incur fines for each event we choose to hold, but we want to continue with the events in order to keep our commitments to both the artists and our guests who have made advance donations.

During normal times, each house show we hold costs The Crib between $100-$200; we do this because we have a passion for connecting incredible artists with deserving and appreciative guests.

But we can’t absorb the fines on top of the costs we already incur as part of our mission to the arts and the community.

Our fundraising goal will allow us to pay the fines over the next several months ($200 for the first event and $500 per subsequent event). We are also seeking a small amount to cover any legal fees we may incur during the appeals process.

Any residual funds will be used to create an even better experience for artists and audiences and/or donated to our non-profit partner, The Warrior Music Foundation.

The campaign has already hit its fundraising goal of $3,200. In 26 days, 32 people donated $3,335.

Since launching in 2015, The Crib has hosted nearly 50 house shows with 28 different artists, according to its website.

Each show lets the artist perform two 45-minute sets of original music. Seating is on a first-come basis with a capacity of roughly 40 people. Attendees are encouraged to make a donation in advance — all of the donations go to the artist.

A public hearing notice indicates that the Board of Zoning Appeals will take up the matter next Thursday (Jan. 24) at 7:30 p.m. at 765 Lynn Street.

Photo via The Crib/Facebook

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Civil Lawsuit Dropped Against Herndon Town Councilmember

Two current and one incoming Herndon Town councilmembers have dropped their lawsuit against Councilmember Grace Wolf Cunningham.

Cunningham, who lost her seat in a narrow and highly charged election, was replaced by newcomers Cesar del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal.

Del Aguila and current councilmembers Sheila Olem and Signe Friedrichs, who both won re-election, filed a civil suit on Sept. 24 against Cunningham for allegations of malicious prosecution. The trio ran a unified campaign.

John Farrell, the attorney for the plaintiffs, told Reston Now that his clients directed him to file a nonsuit last Tuesday, which the judge has not yet signed off on.

Farrell said his clients decided to drop the case “since they won the election quite handily.”

The lawsuit alleges that the four-term councilwoman engaged in malicious prosecution over when she filed campaign law violations against the trio. The Virginia State Board of Elections dismissed the three complaints lodged by Cunningham.

The first complaint against Friedrichs stated a grip card that said “Herndon’s Future is Happening Now: Let’s plan it together” contained no identification about the campaign committee that paid for the card. The second complaint against said del Aguila did not form a campaign committee and did not file any campaign finance disclosure reports. The final complaint against Olem challenges a grip card that stated “Moving Forward Herndon.”

The judge in the case rejected Cunningham’s attempt to dismiss the case.

While re-election of four incumbents maintained much of the board’s composition, the lawsuit signals a changing dynamic of the new town council.

“I think it is a shift in who is the dominant voice of Herndon,” Farrell said. “I think my clients would hope that the people who supported Ms. Cunningham will support the interest of the voters.”

Cunningham declined to comment to Reston Now because the case is still pending.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Town of Herndon Mayor Resigns from County Democratic Committee

Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel severed ties with the Fairfax County Democratic Committee this week in response to “Trump-like” campaign signs that asserted candidates were “pretending to be Democrats.”

Merkel, a Democrat who has been served as the mayor since 2012, resigned from the committee a day after the election.

“I cannot in good faith be a part of a committee that condones such negative campaigning and untrue messaging about its own members, especially at the polls and with my constituents.  I consider myself a Democrat, particularly in the Trump era, but I will no longer be associated with the Fairfax County Democratic Committee,” Merkel wrote in a statement to Reston Now.

She said the signs were divisive in a written statement to the county committee and the Dranesville District Democratic Committee:

I must admit that I was most disappointed to arrive at the polls in Herndon yesterday to see the attached very large committee-approved signs asserting that there were candidates “pretending to be Democrats.”  This is appalling behavior, and I expected better of my party.   Many of the candidates running for town council were still dues-paying members of FCDC and the Dranesville committee on Election Day.  I wonder what our Congressman and Senator would think of seeing their signs seemingly associated with this kind of untrue, Trump-like “Fake News” scare tactic?  My guess is they would not appreciate it, particularly given that I was pleased to receive the personal endorsement of both Gerry Connolly and Tim Kaine, along with every other Virginia Democratic elected official that serves the Town of Herndon.  I think that speaks to years of relationships building and working together on behalf of the residents of Herndon.   

Additionally, I’m not sure if you are aware but  Herndon Voices, a PAC owned by one of your endorsed candidates, distributed materials at the polls endorsing known Republicans along with another non-FCDC endorsed candidate.  Does this set well with the committee and the required-for-endorsement pledge to only support the endorsed candidates?

In a statement to Reston Now, Dan Lagana, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, said the signs were not authorized by the committee

“The signs were not authorized nor produced by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. I wish Mayor Merkel the very best and want her to know that the door is always open. However, I strongly urge both the Mayor and Herndon Town Councilmembers-elect to set aside personal differences and work collaboratively on behalf of the residents of the Town of Herndon,” Lagana wrote.

Photo via Lisa Merkel

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Updated: Incumbents Return but Cunningham Ousted from Herndon Town Council

 

(Editor’s note: This story was updated Thursday at 7:30 a.m. to reflect official results). 

Incumbent Grace Wolf Cunningham, a four-term councilwoman, lost her seat on the Herndon Town Council following a narrow and highly charged election.

Cunningham was replaced by newcomers Cesar Del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal. Incumbents Jennifer Baker, Sheila Olem, Bill McKenna and Signe Friedrichs were also elected to the council, maintaining much of the composition of the board. After official results were certified, Dhakal came in fifth place, moving McKenna to the sixth spot and booting Joe Plummer, another candidate who was previously projected to win, off the council.

Ten candidates ran for six open seats and margins between candidates remained characteristically narrow, as in previous years. Although Olem, Aguila and Friedrichs were separated by relatively comfortable margins, votes separating other candidates were minimal. Plummer lost to McKenna by 22 votes.

At around 11:30 p.m. on election night, it appeared the newcomer would secure the final seat on the board and that McKenna, a one-term councilman, was off.

Internal conflict that boiled over in the public arena was common in this year’s election. Olem, Friedrichs and Del Aguila — who ran a unified campaign — filed a lawsuit against Cunningham alleging she engaging in malicious prosecution over when the four-term councilwoman filed campaign law violations against the trio. The violations were squarely dismissed by the Virginia State Board of Elections.

The lawsuit is pending a decision following the election. The judge in the case rejected Cunningham’s attempt to dismiss the case.

Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel was re-elected as mayor, continuing a position she has held since 2012. The election was not contested. New council members will assume office on Jan. 1.

In Focus: Fairfax County

In other local and county election news, Fairfax County voters approved a $182 million bond to fund public safety improvements for a number of facilities, including fire stations, police training buildings and the renovation of civil and criminal justice facilities.

The measure was approved with just under 70 percent of total votes. As of 9:45 a.m., one precinct has not reported results, but the absence of that data will not alter results.

Meanwhile, voter turnout was high this year in Fairfax County. The Fairfax County Office of Elections estimated a voter turnout of nearly 70 percent, including absentee ballots. That number is up from nearly 46 percent in 2014.

This story has been updated.

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Town of Herndon Candidates Gear Up for Final Stretch Ahead of Council, Mayoral Election

Candidates for the Herndon Town Council are gearing up for election day on Nov. 6.  Over the last month, fundraising totals for Grace Wolf Cunningham, a current councilwoman running for reelection, surpassed her opponents who are also vying for seats on the Council.

Cunningham reeled in nearly $7,000, moving her ahead of funds raised by other candidates — even after factoring in a $3,000 loan she took from herself. Ten candidates are vying for six town council seats: Cunningham, Jennifer Baker, Cesar Del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, Signe Friedrichs, W.J. Sean Kenis Jr., Bill McKenna, Sheila Olem, Joe Plummer and Roland Taylor. Baker, Cunningham, Friedrichs, McKenna and Olem are incumbents.

Mayor Lisa Merkel is running unopposed and reeled in $4,374 between Oct. 1 and Oct. 25, including donations from Cunningham, and State House Rep. Jennifer Boysko, Fairfax County Board of Director John Foust. She had roughly $2,345 cash on hand.

Most other Council candidates brought in roughly $1,000 in contributions over the past month. Baker raised around $2,519 and was left with $1,542. Dhakal received more than $4,000 over the last reporting period through 51 contributions, largely from the Indian community.

Del Aguila raised nearly $900 and was left with $677 in his campaign coffers, a number similar to Kenis Jr. who raised nearly $2,000 but was left with around $692. Friedrichs received nearly $610 and was had roughly $1,200 in his coffers. McKenna received around $1,528 and was left with a little over $1,000. Olem held on to most contributions, with around $1,015 raised and $3,682 in the bank. Plummer raised $1,161 and had just $390 remaining.

Data for Taylor was not available because he is a self-funded candidate and is only required to file campaign finance reports at the conclusion of his campaign.

Donations across campaigns were common. For example, Merkel donated to the several council candidate committees, including that of Cunningham, McKenna, and Plummer. 

Alliances have also emerged during a recent civil suit filed by Olem, Del Aguila and Friedrichs against Cunningham alleging she engaged in the malicious prosecution against them. A judge is likely to make a decision on the civil suit following the election.

Cunningham’s legal representative, State Sen. Chap Peterson, called the lawsuit a “distraction.”

 “My client, the Honorable Grace Wolf Cunningham looks forward to Election Day and continuing to represent her constituents and achieving results. Once Election Day is over we will deal with whatever legal issues remain,” Peterson wrote in a statement.

File photo

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Annual Leaf Collection in Town of Herndon Begins This Week

The Town of Herndon’s Department of Public Works has begun its annual collection of leaves this week.

Residents should rake leaves as close to the curb as possible without blocking storm drains, sidewalks or mailboxes. Grass, shrub clippings and weeds must be placed in 30-gallon recyclable bags only on regularly scheduled trash days.

The schedule is as follows:

North of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail

October 9-12

October 22-26

November 5-9

November 19-21

December 3-7

South of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail

October 15-19

October 29 – November 2

November 13-16

November 26 – 30

December 10-14

A map showing areas north and south of the trail is on the town’s website.

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Nominations Sought for Herndon Good Neighbor Award

If the person next door is always ready to lend a helping hand or make your day better, Town of Herndon officials want to hear from you.

The town is accepting nominations for its Good Neighbor Award. The deadline for submissions is Oct.15.

Only town residents can nominate a family member, friend or neighbor how “makes noteworthy contributions toward the quality of life” in local neighborhoods, according to the town. Recipients must be residents of the Town of Herndon and cannot have performed acts of good neighborliness for paid employment.

The town mayor and council will recognize Good Neighbor Award recipients at a future public meeting and all recipients will receive a commemorative gift.

Nominations can be submitted online and forms are also available at the Herndon Municipal Center and the Herndon Community Center.

The award is part of the town’s Cultivating Community initiative, which aims to encourage beautification and the enrichment of quality of life in the town’s neighborhoods.

Photo via Town of Herndon Government

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Town of Herndon Seeks $1.2 Million for Sugarland Run Stream Restoration

The Town of Herndon Council will is seeking $1.2 million in county dollars to design and complete the stream restoration of Sugarland Run South.

The project is expected to cost $1.2 million. Under the agreement between the town and the county, the county would pay the town a percentage of stormwater service district fees collected from Herndon residents. Those funds could be used to help fund the project.

Restoring the stream is necessary in order to meet requirements to improve conditions in the Chesapeake Bay. Currently, conditions along the stream banks and stream valley are deteriorating.

Stable channels will be created in order to protect the stream’s geology and limit channel erosion. The council will consider the agreement at a meeting tonight (August 14) at 7 p.m.

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