Reston, VA

 

With Christmas just around the corner, many government offices and services will be closed for the remainder of the week, as employees take Thursday and Friday off for the holiday.

Fairfax County government offices will officially close at noon on Thursday (Dec. 24), and they will be closed for the entirety of Christmas Day.

All county parks and recreation facilities, including golf courses and RECenters, will be closed on Christmas.

However, all RECenters will be open until noon on Christmas Eve, and other facility hours vary that day depending on the specific location.

Reston Association offices, including the Central Services Facility and the Nature House will be closed Wednesday through Friday. No RA news will be distributed on Friday.

Fairfax County libraries will close at 1 p.m. on Thursday for the holiday weekend.

The Town of Herndon is also implementing a new trash and recycling collection schedule through the beginning of the New Year. Government offices in the town will also run on an abridged schedule. Offices will close at noon on Thursday and remain closed on Friday and Jan. 1.

Fairfax County will not provide any trash and recycling collection services on Christmas Day. Customers who typically have their waste collected on Fridays will instead get service on Saturday (Dec. 26). In addition, the county’s recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Rd.) and the I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Rd.) will close at 1 p.m. on Dec. 24 and stay closed throughout Dec. 25.

For transit users, Fairfax Connector will operate on Christmas Day according to its Sunday service schedule. Information about specific routes can be found here.

With students on winter break since Monday (Dec. 21), Fairfax County Public Schools has put its meal distribution services on hold starting today through Jan. 1. Yesterday, FCPS offered four days of breakfast and lunch to students who picked up meals at bus stops, and students who used Grab & Go locations or meal kits sites received 14-day meal kits.

Bus route meal distributions will resume on Jan. 4, while distribution at Grab & Go locations and meal kits sites will return on Jan. 5 and 6, respectively.

Photo via Reston Farm Market website

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The Town of Herndon is planning to shine a light on the best holiday decorations in the area this month.

The initiative, “Lights on the for the Holidays,” seeks to recognize noteworthy holiday decorations in the Town of Herndon. A walking map of festive holiday deadlines will be published once the town finishes gathering location details.

Residents and businesses can submit locations to highlight for the map. Both residential and commercial addresses will be featured in the Google Maps. Entries are due by Dec. 18.

The submission form also includes a field for information that can be publicly shared.

The Town of Herndon describes the project as a “community spirit enhancer” and not a contest. Names or contact information of participants will not be published.

Photo by Bob Ricca/Unsplash

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Outback Steakhouse is coming soon to the Town of Herndon with a new address, according to plans submitted to the town’s Architectural Review Board.

Kimley-Horn has submitted building and site design plans for the new restaurant, which will be located at 365 Elden Street. The 6,525-square-foot structure will be located on a nearly 1.5-acre site that is currently undeveloped.

Another location is under a mile away at 150 Elden Street. The company did not immediately indicate when it planned to move its current location.

The board will review the application at a meeting today (Wednesday). So far, staff has withheld a recommendation on the application to allow the board and the applicant to “further discuss the exterior materials” of the property.

In addition to the single-story building, an outdoor seating patio and new landscaping is planned on the site.

Outback Steakhouse offers casual American dining and is based in Florida. The chain has more than 1,000 locations around the world.

Image via Google Maps

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Vice Mayor Sheila Olem has officially been elected as the Town of Herndon’s Mayor, replacing Lisa Merkel, who announced she no longer plans to seek reelection after eight years in office.

Olem swept the election with roughly 61 percent of the total vote, according to election results that were formally released by the town today (Friday). She beat Roland Taylor, who secured 38 percent of the total vote.

The Town of Herndon formally announced results earlier today, but cautioned that Election results will be certified by the Fairfax County Electoral Board on Nov. 16.

Residents who served on past councils dominated the Herndon Town Council election, in which eight candidates sought six seats. Incumbents Cesar del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, Signe Friedrichs and Jasbinder Singh will return to the council alongside newcomers Sean Regan and Naila Alam.

Olem will assume office on Jan.  1.  A swearing-in ceremony is planned for new officials soon.

The following is a breakdown of unofficial results, per the state’s department of elections:

  • Cesar del Aguila:  13.69. percent
  • Pradip Dhakal: 13.48
  • Sean Regan: 13.09
  • Naila Alam: 12.36
  • Signe Friedrichs: 12.14
  • Clark Hedrick: 11
  • Stevan Porter: 10.73

The certification of results could change the outcome of the town council race, which has traditionally been extremely tight.

Photo via Sheila Olem

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In the 2020 presidential election, Fairfax County voters cast a record number of votes — 600,238 — but the overall turnout was not record-breaking.

This year, 78.8 percent of the county’s 761,753 active registered voters took part in the election,  down from the 2016 presidential election when turnout was 82.5 percent and roughly 563,000 votes were cast. 

In the 2012 general election, the turnout rate was 80.5 percent

“This election year was unlike any other we have ever seen,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “Our turnout throughout the process was truly encouraging and spoke to our residents’ faith in the democratic process.”

Fairfax County voters strongly favored Democrats in this year’s election, supporting Joe Biden over incumbent President Donald Trump and reelecting Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Don Beyer (8th District), Rep. Jennifer Wexton (10th District), and Rep. Gerry Connolly (11th District) to Congress. Precinct-level reporting offering some variation.

It’s important to note that while turnout did not break records, the number of registered voters went up significantly from around 683,000 in 2016 to 761,573 this year. More than two-thirds of votes cast were absentee votes due to no-excuse absentee voting.

The county expects to officially certify election results on Nov. 16.

The Hunter Mill District boasted the highest turnout for the election. More than 81 percent of the Hunter Mill District’s 93,193 active registered voters cast a ballot in the Nov. 3 election, either in person on Election Day or absentee. The district is also the only one in the county with over 90,000 active registered voters as of Oct. 30. Springfield District had the second highest turnout at 80.8%

In the Town of Herndon, Vice Mayor Sheila Olem swept up the Mayoral election with a resounding 61 percent of total votes. Roland Taylor took. 38 percent of the total vote.

The winners of the Herndon Town Council election were separated by a handful of votes. Town spokesperson Anne Curtis said the town is expected to announce results once they are certified by the county. On election night, early election results changed dramatically due to a data entry error.

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The Town of Herndon and Comstock Companies are set to close on the redevelopment of downtown Herndon on Dec. 15, bringing a long-anticipated project mired by nearly a year of delays to fruition.

In a memo to the Herndon Town Council, which will discuss the matter on a Nov. 10 work session, staff attributed delays to a “significant rise in labor and material costs” in the DC construction market since 2016, an issue that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This week is a lesson in patience for Americans….  and for Herndon patience is paying off,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel, whose eight-year time as mayor has revolved around the redevelopment project.

The Town of Herndon will sell 4.7 acres of town-owned land for $10 million to Comstock, which will develop the area into a mixed-use neighborhood with 273 apartments, a 787-space parking garage, an  18,000-square-foot arts center, and 17,000 square feet of retail space.  The town purchased the land for $5.8 million and will pitch an additional $3.6 million for the project to cover the following:

  • Environmental remediation:  $500,000
  • Transitional public parking: $500,000
  • Arts center relocation: $250,000
  • Culvert repair: $100,000

The Herndon Town Council will consider the matter at a work session on Nov. 10.

To close, both parties negotiated a new comprehensive agreement that was finalized after months of deliberation and few answers on why the project was stalled. The previous agreement was signed by the town in 2017. The council will vote on the proposed agreement.

In the interest of the continued forward movement of the project the Town and Comstock now desire to amend the Comprehensive Agreement in order to better address the changes in the market, unforeseen effects of COVID-19 and to provide both parties maximum advantage,” the memo states.

Per the agreement, Comstock must begin construction of the project by Dec. 31 of 2021 after a closing date of Dec. 15. The company will also pitch in $10 million instead of $5 million to cover costs associated with the arts center and parking. Among other changes, appropriation for the project will be required before closing and Comstock will be allowed to pause construction due to market conditions and other delays caused by the pandemic.

Additionally, Comstock will receive several tax breaks, which were recently established by the Herndon Town Council.

The company will have to pay $2.5 million less in fees for water, sewer, and building permits than typically allowed. At the time, the town declined to indicate if the recently-passed tax rebates were designed for the redevelopment project in downtown Herndon.

So far, the town says that it’s very confident the agreement will result in a big return for the town.

All together the financial investment plus development incentives for the project are approximately $16 million and the town anticipates the value of its capital return on the project to be over $16.6 million,” according to a memo by town manager Bill Ashton and town attorney Lesa Yeatts.

Image via Comstock

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The Town of Herndon’s Department of Public Works will begin its annual collection of leaves next Monday (Oct. 5).

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 5-9
  • October 19-23
  • November 2-6
  • November 16-20
  • November 30 – December 4

South of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail

  • October 12-16
  • October 26-30
  • November 9-13
  • November 23-27 (No collection on Thanksgiving (Nov. 26)
  • December 7-11

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

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Public Safety Input Set Set for Today — Fairfax County public safety officials will hold an input session today at 6:30 p.m. Residents and organizations will offer testimony on various public safety issues. [Fairfax County Government]

Urbanist Issues in Town of Herndon Elections — Silver Line development issues are at the forefront of what most candidates are talking about, including two candidates running for mayor and eight candidates running for all of the six seats on the council. [Greater Greater Washington]

Cool Green Bags of Food for the Need — “Sixty-one volunteers will be fanning out over Northern Virginia this Saturday with one simple mission — to pick up green bags packed with food donations to help people experiencing food insecurity.” [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Friday Morning Notes

Candidate Forum for Town of Herndon Election This Weekend — Candidates for the mayoral and council elections will take part in a panel moderated by Brian Tumulty, who covers finances and taxes for The Bond Buyer. The event is hosted by the Dulles Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 27 at 4 p.m. [Dulles Chamber of Commerce]

County Grant Programs Expands Eligibility Criteria — “Expanded business sectors are now eligible to apply, including small hotels and bed and breakfast lodging facilities, along with film industry companies supporting production in the commonwealth.” [Fairfax County Government]

Virtual Career Fair Set for Oct. 8 — “The Hiring + Reskilling Virtual Career Fair will welcome job seekers of all backgrounds, especially those unemployed due to COVID-19. The open positions will span a variety of industries, and not all require a college degree. Open positions include store clerks, construction laborers, security guards, program managers, information security analysts, and more.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston Now is running statements of candidates running for mayor of the Town of Herndon. With longtime Mayor Lisa Merkel stepping down, two candidates are running for her position. Featured here is Sheila Olem, the town’s current vice mayor, who is running against Roland Taylor.

What is the top challenge the town faces currently and how do you aim to address it? 

The COVID pandemic is our biggest challenge for staff and council, as well as our local businesses until a vaccine is available.  We have been addressing this crisis since March and it looks like we may have another year. Town Manager, Bill Ashton, has been the General in charge of our town staff, our troops, since the shut down in March.  Having a professional town manager that is charged with the day to day operations is a gift in good times.  During this crisis it has been a blessing.  My background in public health has helped me understand the “why” of our new normal.

What would your top three priorities be as mayor? 

  1. Continuing our leadership as the environmentally focused leader in urban Northern Virginia.
  2. Continuing and improving our great town services and quality of life for residents, visitors, and businesses.
  3. Bringing home county, state, and other regional dollars to benefit our town.

How does your background uniquely position you for mayor? 

For over twenty years I have been involved land use issues and served on numerous committees, including the Dulles Toll Road Task Force (2000-01), Hunter Mill Task Force (2005),  Herndon’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA)  (2000 -07), and the Virginia Municipal League’s (VML) General Laws Policy Committee.  Having a good working relationship with our County elected officials is an asset when projects such as the New Fire Station in Herndon and the need for funding to build an Arts facility in our redevelopment area of the downtown.  I have had a working relationship with every Dranesville Supervisor since 1990, three Republicans and one Democrat.  My goal is to do the best for Herndon and work with all elected officials.  As a homeowner and business owner in town since 1990, I have also worked with staff on numerous occasions for building and business permitting. Improving our process is always on the table. Legislating and bringing home dollars is the job.

The Town of Herndon is poised for transformation as Metro and the redevelopment of downtown Herndon is underway.  What is your current assessment of progress made so far? 

The size fits with our community’s desire to keep a hometown feel in our downtown.  The current project has been underway since 2009. My tenure on council started in July of 2010 so I have been there for this long process.  It has been thoughtful, vetted by the community with focus groups, public hearings etc.  Once complete the project will generate tax revenue for the town, new customers for existing businesses and the new residents will see why we enjoy having a walkable vibrant community. 

How do you hope to continue ensuring the development occurs in a timely and productive manner?  

I support the current project; we do have a meeting to determine the final finances of the project.  We have been planning and investing for this project for the past ten years.  Once the final agreement papers are signed and ground breaks the project will be completed in twenty-four months!

Photo via Sheila Olem

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Reston Now is running statements of candidates running for mayor of the Town of Herndon. With longtime Mayor Lisa Merkel stepping down, two candidates are running for her position. Featured here is Roland Taylor, who is running against Sheila Olem, the town’s current vice mayor.

As your mayor, I will be focused daily working to lowering your taxes, utilities, and fees. Herndon needs a commonsense candidate, with no bias divisive partisan political agenda. Local level government works best without bias parties involved. Roland has no compromises from campaign contributions from developers, real estate companies, or political parties. No parties should put local Town elections on their ballots.

My wife Kathy and I have lived in Herndon with our four children for 16 years. Their youngest graduated from Herndon High in 2019, and now we are eager to take the next step in their service to our community.

My twenty-year career as a public servant in local law enforcement provides me extensive experience working with citizens and government leaders. As a United Nations’ senior rule of law leader and while supporting the U.S. Department of State in international locations, Roland gained experience living and working with diverse international populations, respecting all cultures and focusing on human rights and protecting endangered population groups.

Now as a federal government program manager, Roland has eighteen plus years of extensive experience with managing large budgets and personnel supporting federal government contracts both domestic and international. For over ten years he has been a certified project management professional and experienced in risk management. 

Based on Roland’s law enforcement background and his Masters in Criminal Justice Administration, from Loyola University in New Orleans, he has served as both an Associate and Adjunct Professor of transnational and organized crime for two universities. Roland understands public safety.

As both a parent and grandparent, Roland Taylor wishes to continue giving back and offers his service to the Herndon community as its Mayor. Roland has never avoided a crisis when help and leadership were required. Herndon requires proven executive management and leadership during the COVID-19 crisis and our recovery. I am that candidate and asks for your support and vote on or before November 3rd, 2020.

Top Three Priorities as Mayor

Density Zoning

Town of Herndon, voters have to decide why they selected to live in Herndon and if that quality of lifestyle will continue with a higher density rezoning model the current Town Council is supporting. With rapid growth, there are equal impacts on increased traffic congestion and school overcrowding. We need a diverse Council and not yes votes across the board, as with current party ticket slates. There are some very big projects on the table that will have long term impacts on Herndon. Real conversations have to be had, with all views expressed and listened to in a respective manner. Developers and realtors should not lead the discussions with crony politicians, that are accepting their biased contributions to their campaigns. 

Meals Tax Impacts

In the 2016 General Election, Fairfax County put a Meals Tax on the ballot, and it was defeated countywide. All three Town of Herndon precincts voted “no” to the Meals Tax, however, in April of 2019, my opponent and all seeking re-election to Council, voted to increase Herndon’s Meals Tax, without putting to the Town Citizens for their vote. Long ago the Town put a Meals Tax on the books, to protect the Town from a County Meals Tax. Clearly, the citizens have expressed their desire against a Meals Tax in 2016 and our elected officials ignored the citizens. This was very disappointing and another reason, I am running for Mayor. 

Be assured, I am opposed to Meals Tax as it unfairly affects Seniors, low-income and middle-income families, and negatively impacts tourism. It causes decreased tipping, devastating waiters who rely on tips to make a living, which has already been badly impacted by COVID-19. Sadly, many restaurants only make 3-4% in profit, and the Meals Tax hurts our small business owners.  I am a strong small business supporter and these measures are putting our local businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

COVID Economy Impacts

Due to COVID-19 and its negative impacts on our economy, all levels of government will be required to make budget cuts as all the prior budget forecasts were incorrect. We know after COVID-19, many business models will change. Office space may reduce, lowering commuters, and impact lunch traffic. These and others will reduce taxes paid and Town revenues.

The next two years will be difficult and requires someone with extensive government and business experience like Roland’s, to lead Herndon to recovery. This requires selecting the best candidate for leadership, and not just voting down a party ticket. Roland sincerely asks for your support and vote as the Town of Herndon’s next Mayor on Nov. 3, 2020.

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As COVID-19 continues to change the local and global landscape, several Town of Herndon restaurants are seeking to continue offering outdoor dining on town property for the remainder of 2020.

The Town of Herndon is considering a proposal to extend outdoor dining permits for six local restaurants and a bike shop through the end of November. The following restaurants are expected to continue offering outdoor dining on town property:

The businesses have been using town sidewalks, private property and town parking lots to allow for outdoor dining.

The council first approved the outdoor permits for 100 days in July.

The council will meet tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. to discuss the measure. An ordinance to continue revised governmental operations due to the pandemic is also on the meeting’s agenda.

Photo via Sully’s Pour House/Facebook

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Design Review Board to Meet Next Week — Reston Association’s DRB will meet via Zoom on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. to discuss a number of requested cluster updates. Information to join the virtual meeting is available online. [RA]

Month-to-Month Count of COVID-19 Cases On Decline — “The coronavirus case trends are looking better in June and July than May for Fairfax County, according to the latest local and state health department data. As of Aug. 10, cumulative cases stand at 16,445. There have been 529 total deaths and 1,939 hospitalizations.” [Reston Patch]

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Awarded Grants — “FCFRD was awarded $78,738 under the Grant Programs Directorate’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program – COVID-19 Supplemental (AFG-S). The funds will be used to purchase critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” [FCFRD]

No-fee Bulk Pickup Extended — “The special collection service available to residents for bulky items that do not fit within their refuse containers (such as furniture and appliances) is free through September 18. Pickups are by appointment only.” [Town of Herndon]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Penzance, a DC-based real-estate firm, is offering a peek into its revitalization plans for Spring Park, an office park located at 455 and 475 Springpark Place.

The office park is located within a mile of the company’s planned major mixed-use neighborhood near the future Herndon Metro Station. The firm acquired 10 single-story buildings for $75 million nearly one year ago.

In an Aug. 5 presentation to the Town of Herndon’s Architectural Review Board, Penzance indicated it is looking into “revitalizing the whole site” and improving its connection to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

So far, Penzance has pitched exterior changes to four buildings: 450, 455, 465, 470, and 485. New exterior materials — like terraces with synthetic wood flooring and trimming, buffed cultured stone, and repainted entrances — are planned for several buildings. New signage and wayfinding are also planned, including a new monument sign at the main entrance.

The building that has the most visibility from Spring Street — building 450 — will have the most substantial changes, including a new terrace, metal cladding over parts of the building, a pergola, and new lights.

Building 485, which is located on the southeastern corner of the site, will also include a new terrace, metal awning, and other structural changes. Other modifications to the remaining buildings are minor, according to the application.

Penzance is also moving forward on its new mixed-use project at 555 Herndon Parkway. A suburban-style office building will be transformed into a high-rise office building with a residential tower. Retail space and a garage are also planned.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Officials from the Town of Herndon and Comstock have declined to disclose information on why the development of downtown Herndon has been delayed from its expected groundbreaking late last year.

In a statement posted on social media yesterday (Monday), Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel offered some insights on what has led to delays. She pointed to market conditions and COVID-19 as reasons that have led to delays.

Comstock and the Town of Herndon have not yet closed on the project. The town’s manager, the town’s attorney and Merkel met with Comstock’s senior staff, including its CEO Chris Clemente late last week to “address a number of outstanding items required prior to closing,” Merkel said.

Both parties are working on strategies to address the pending issues, Merkel said.

She also added that Clemente and his staff stressed their commitment to “expeditiously” move forward with the redevelopment project.

“Both Comstock and the Town are committed to this project and my personal goal as your major is to see these actions completed during this calendar year,” Merkel said.

A promotional website and banner offer a tease regarding what’s to come on the site, which will include 273 apartments, 17,00 square feet of retail, and arts center, and a 787-space parking garage. The $85 million project is a joint venture between the town and Comstock.

More information is expected next month.

Photo via Comstock

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