Similar gun ban signage in Fairfax County (Photo courtesy of Town of Herndon/handout)

The Herndon Town Council is considering a plan to double down on banning guns on town property.

If approved, the ban would restrict the possession, use, and transportation of any firearms on specified town-owned property, including parks and community centers. It would also apply to any public street, sidewalk, right-of-way, or public place specifically being used for an official town-sponsored event.

Some residents fired off on a similar ban in Fairfax County, which was passed nearly one year ago. Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and other neighboring jurisdictions also have similar ordinances.

As drafted, all violations would be classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. The ordinance does not apply to sworn or retired law enforcement officers, military personnel who are conducting official duties, historical re-enactors, private security hired by the town, and individuals who have a concealed handgun allowed through a valid concealed handgun permit.

Gov. Ralph Northam signed enabling legislation in April 2020 that allows local governments to ban guns on public property and public spaces. The move followed a gun rally in Richmond where thousands of gun owners gathered for a rally aimed to eliminate gun restrictions.

Town officials are wrestling with the best way to enforce the ban — if passed. Officials noted that the ban is only meaningful if it is enforceable in a consistent and effective manner.

An impact analysis by the town anticipates nearly $3 million in costs to amp up security in town buildings, install signs at town parks and trails and install magnetometers. An additional $744,600 is anticipated to staff magnetometers.

“If the goal of the firearms prohibition is to protect council, staff and the public from a firearms discharge on town property, then steps would be required to ensure security,” the impact analysis notes.

A public meeting is planned for today. The public hearing begins at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Council Chambers, which are located at 765 Lynn Street. Masks are required for all attendees and entrance to the council’s chambers will be controlled in order to ensure social distancing, according to town officials.

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A rendering of the proposed electric vehicle charging stations at 413 Elden Street in Herndon. (via Town of Herndon)

The Town of Herndon could soon get a couple more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

Herndon’s Architectural Review Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. today (Wednesday) to discuss the potential installation of four EV charging stations at Herndon Marketplace on 413 Elden Street.

Identified as Stephan Osborne, the applicant has proposed putting the new charging stations in the parking lot of the Safeway that anchors the shopping center, according to a staff report.

The proposed installation includes two masonry enclosures to screen necessary equipment that support the stations. The site will be accessible from Elden Street, Post Drive, and Grove Street.

The proposed stations will include blue and white bollards as barriers from vehicles, and the enclosure will be a block and brick wall with an opaque metal gate.

The landscape perimeter around the parking lot of the shopping center would also serve as an additional visual buffer between the proposed installation and the street.

Town staff say their report that the installation “should not have a major visual impact on the site.” The materials and design of the stations would match the current design of the shopping center. No lighting has thus far been specified for the stations.

Town staff has deemed the proposal compatible with “the applicable standards and requirements” of the town, including design criteria, according to the staff report.

The Architectural Review Board will also hold public hearings tonight on a sign plan and renovations at the Spring Park Technology Center, newly named Marker 20.

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Herndon Municipal Center (via Google Maps)

The Town of Herndon has taken its initial steps toward utilizing federal funding earmarked to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Herndon Town Council approved the allocation of the town’s funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) during a public session on Tuesday (Aug. 10). However, the budgeting of the funds will take place in the future as the town reviews capital projects and other operations and maintenance needs.

“This is the initial [move] just to kind of get the town started,” Herndon Director of Finance Robert Tang said. “We can do future budget amendments and re-appropriations as needed.”

Passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March, ARPA allocated $350 billion to assist state, local, territorial and tribal governments affected by the pandemic, establishing the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

Virginia’s windfall included over $633 million to provide a “substantial infusion to local governments” that are in turn meant to help turn the tide on the pandemic, address economic fallout, and lay a foundation for a strong and equitable recovery, according to Tang.

Herndon received a first installment of $12.7 million, and a second installment of roughly the same amount is expected in summer 2022, giving the town a total of $25.5 million in relief funding.

The funds can be used to address public health expenditures, negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, lost public sector revenue, premium pay for essential workers, and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure investments.

Tang detailed plans for the funding to support operations, maintenance, and capital projects from fiscal years 2020 and 2021 in order to recover and prepare for another potential economic downturn.

The focus points include addressing the pandemic’s negative economic impacts, supporting safe operations and working conditions for staff, replacing lost public sector revenue, and funding water and sewer projects.

However, Tang told the town council that there are a variety of challenges to meet, including vague and shifting guidance from the US Treasury and the need to follow proper procurement, documentation, reporting, and monitoring requirements.

The ARPA funds are subject to audits to ensure they are utilized for their intended purpose. Funds that are deemed to be improperly utilized would have to be paid back.

Mayor Sheila Olem said that once a spending plan is created for the town, the council will have further public hearings before approving the final allocation of these funds.

The ARPA funds must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and expended by Dec. 31, 2026.

Photo via Google Maps

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Residence Inn at 315 Elden Street in Herndon is the subject of redevelopment plans for a multi-family project. (via Google Maps)

The potential redevelopment of the Residence Inn at 315 Elden Street in Herndon for a multi-family project is now one step closer toward fruition.

The Herndon Planning Commission voted on Monday (June 28) to adopt a motion to amend the town’s zoning ordinance following a public hearing on the matter.

If subsequently approved by the Herndon Town Council, the motion will increase the maximum density allowed in the town’s planned development urban residential district for projects that adapt an existing building for residential use.

The amendment would allow 28 dwelling units per acre for such projects, up from 20 dwelling units per acre. It would also add language defining “adaptive reuse” and requiring the projects to demonstrate no negative impact on water and sewer lines, include by affordable dwelling units, compared to the existing use.

The current proposal to redevelop the Residence Inn is not allowed under the existing zoning districts. The property sits on approximately 6.5 acres with 168 hotel rooms, which would amount to about 26 dwelling units per acre.

“There really aren’t any others out there that have this land-use designation and would be a building with a different use that could be adaptively reused,” zoning administrator David Stromberg told the planning commission.

“A big part of what the commission’s work is going to be over the next one to two years would be, when the comprehensive plan is updated, identifying areas that should get that adaptive area residential designation.”

This amendment is the second of three required legislative steps that have to be taken for the proposed redevelopment to take place. The first step was changing the site’s land-use designation in the town comprehensive plan, a hurdle that was cleared on Nov. 17.

The final step will be a legislative application by the applicant that will provide details about the proffers that the applicant will include in its plans for the project.

Stromberg added that this text amendment is “fairly specific” to this site, but depending on how this project works out, the land-use designation could be used in other parts of the town.

“This ordinance isn’t an affordable dwelling unit ordinance,” Stromberg said. “So, it was crafted a little bit narrowly because we have an applicant who’s indicated that they want to go in and redevelop a property, or reuse existing buildings on a property, and part of that will include affordable housing.”

He noted that the town won’t know how much affordable housing the developer plans to include until the proffers are submitted.

“Potentially, it’s something that could allow the town to get more affordable housing units if this model works,” he said.

The town council will hold another public hearing on the subject before making a determination on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment.

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Herndon Town Council on Jan. 29, 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic (via Town of Herndon)

The Herndon Town Council will resume in-person meetings next month after 15 months of virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first in-person meeting since last March will be held on July 6.

“The Herndon Town Council is resuming in-person meetings due to the greatly improved state of the pandemic in Fairfax County, as the decrease in infections and increase in vaccinations make it safer to gather in person,” said Anne Curtis, chief communications officer for the Town of Herndon.

Seats will be spaced six feet apart, and masks will be required for unvaccinated attendees to comply with CDC guidelines.

Public hearings and work sessions will still be available for viewing via live stream, but interactions via WebEx will be discontinued. Those who wish to address the council must do so in person.

“While I am so appreciative of my colleagues on council, town staff and town citizens for their forbearance during this extraordinary time, I don’t think any of us expected we’d be meeting online for more than a year,” Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said. “I am excited to see faces and to recapture the energy that is only found in person. I hope citizens will come out and participate as we resume our in-person sessions.”

The first in-person meeting will be on July 6 at 7 p.m. at the Herndon Community Center (814 Ferndale Ave.). The first in-person public hearing will be on July 13 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers located at 765 Lynn Street.

More information on upcoming meetings can be found on the Town of Herndon website.

“The council is looking forward to greater citizen involvement in their meetings, as the opportunity for in-person testimony on issues that come before the council resumes,” Curtis said.

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After a year of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fourth of July fireworks displays will return to Fairfax County.

Lake Fairfax Park will once again host a fireworks display on Saturday, July 3. Fireworks will begin at dark, around 9 p.m., but attendees are encouraged to arrive by 8 p.m. to find a place a park and a spot to watch.

Tickets for the event are now available online for $10 per car and will be $15 on the day of the event. Ticketed entry begins at 10 a.m.

Food trucks will be on the site throughout the day for attendees.

The following day, on July 4, the Town of Herndon will host a free celebratory fireworks display for the public at 9:30 p.m. from the Herndon Centennial Golf Course.

The town’s suggested viewing spots are around the Herndon Community Center and the softball field at Bready Park. The town will have event parking and access to Bready Park starting at 8 p.m., but the park’s turf field will be closed during the event.

Parking will be available at Herndon Middle School, Herndon Community Center, and the municipal parking lot on Center Street. People may also park at the Station Street municipal parking lot and watch the display from the Herndon Municipal Center Town Green.

Cars parked in the Herndon Community Center and Bready Park lots will not be released until the fire marshal and Herndon Police declare the area safe.

Due to the display and parking, traffic in the town may be rerouted beginning at 7:45 p.m.

Herndon’s July 4th Celebration will not have food concessions or other entertainment this year, and spectators in and around the park are encouraged to maintain physical distancing while watching the display.

Pets, alcohol, glass containers, grills or cook stoves, and personal fireworks — including sparklers — are not allowed. For safety reasons, the fire marshal also prohibits any persons on the golf course or in its parking lot from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

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Herndon town officials and Fort Meyer Construction project manager Cesar Casanova (second from the left) participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Elden-Center street intersection project (Staff photo by Scott Fields)

Construction on improvements to the intersection of Elden and Center streets is now underway.

The Town of Herndon held a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday (Monday) to celebrate the initial steps of the project, which will realign the intersection, provide a new traffic signal, and add a turn lane.

“The two primary goals of the project is to signalize the intersection and to align the roadway on both sides of the road,” Richard Smith, a senior civil engineer for the town’s Department of Public Works, said. “And we’re accomplishing that by adding a right through turn lane on the south side of the intersection.”

The project also entails upgrades to the existing storm drain system and enhancements to the intersection’s pedestrian facilities, including improved crosswalks and new ADA signals. It is being coordinated with Comstock’s plans to redevelop downtown Herndon, which will encompass 4.7 acres adjacent to the Elden-Center street intersection.

Smith said there will undoubtedly some interruption to traffic during construction, but the town will do its “best to minimize any of those impacts and advertise those the best we can.”

The town council awarded a contract for the project on May 11 to Fort Meyer Construction Corporation with a low bid of $863,000 from five bids submitted.

Up to 50% of the construction contract will be covered by reimbursement funds through a revenue-sharing agreement between Herndon and the Virginia Department of Transportation. The costs not supported by the revenue-sharing agreement will come from local funds from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

Town manager Bill Ashton confirmed that the project is currently projected to come in under budget at around $1.4 million. It is scheduled to be completed in spring 2022.

The Elden-Center street project is one of several capital projects in the works for Herndon’s downtown area.

The town council recently awarded a contract for pedestrian improvements at the Elden and Monroe street intersection, and a third phase of streetscape improvements is expected to start construction this year.

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The Town of Herndon is moving ahead with plans to explore a potential ordinance that would prohibit firearms on town property.

During a work session on Tuesday (June 1), the town council agreed to schedule a pair of public hearings on Sept. 14 and 28 to discuss the proposal.

The September dates were chosen after council members decided it would draw more participants compared to the summer, when many residents might be away on vacation.

Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said that holding two public hearings would encourage a more thoughtful discussion on the subject.

“I would really like people to think through more than just saying, ‘Well, it’s an ordinance and it’s opposed to guns, and therefore I want to pass it, ‘ as opposed to ‘It’s an ordinance and it’s damaging my right to carry my weapon, so I’m against it,'” she said.

The ordinance was first brought to council for general discussion on Sept. 15, 2020 and subsequently returned for further review on April 6. The council deferred action on April 13 to allow for additional consideration of the fiscal impacts of adopting a gun ordinance.

Lesa Yeatts, the Herndon town attorney, advised the council that “it would be prudent” to start additional discussions about the ordinance as it existed in April.

The currently proposed ordinance stems from Virginia’s adopted legislation that allows localities to institute ordinances prohibiting firearms on their public property.

If passed as currently written, the ordinance would prohibit the “possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof” on town property. There would be a few exceptions for law enforcement personnel and educational activities, such as historical reenactments.

“Will this solve and prevent everything? No. But it’s a step to a more secure town in terms of our facilities, in terms of our parks, and just the community in general,” Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila said.

The council agreed to move forward with the discussion of the ordinance, but since the existing language largely replicates the ban passed by Fairfax County, they expressed a desire to get a clearer understanding of the legal implications and how much room there would be for tweaks based on feedback from the public hearings.

“I think when we just flatly say that ‘I’m for guns’ or ‘I’m against guns,’ then we’re missing something important, which is nuance,” Friedrichs said.

Photo via Thomas Def/Unsplash

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) A Herndon car wash that discharged green liquid that ended up in Sugarland Run Stream received a formal notice of violation on Friday (May 28) from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, a regional official says.

Flagship Carwash Center of Herndon at 632 Grant Street does have a permit to discharge, according to both a car wash representative and DEQ.

However, the green liquid was being discharged into a storm sewer that goes into Sugarland Run due to a malfunctioning of the car wash’s water reclamation system malfunctioning, says DEQ official Mark Miller, who manages regional enforcement and pollution response for Virginia’s northern region.

Miller says the presence of the discharge in Sugarland Run has been observed multiple times by both DEQ officials and town staff members.

As a result, the business will be notified that it is in violation of its general DEQ permit. The discharge is believed to be a mix of water and car wash detergent, but it is not thought to be harmful to the stream.

“Staff from the town, Fairfax County DPWES, Fairfax County Fire Department, and the Virginia DEQ all performed independent tests on the discharge and did not find any contaminants in the stream that are known to be harmful to the environment,” Town of Herndon spokesperson Anne Curtis told Reston Now by email.

Curtis says DEQ is now in charge of the investigation and is “in contact with the property owner to resolve the illicit discharge.”

This issue was first brought to the public’s attention during a Herndon Town Council work session on May 18. In the work session, Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish noted that town staff were aware of the situation and had recently observed the discharge themselves.

Flagship Carwash Center of Herndon managing member Guy Paolozzi told Reston Now that the business is currently conducting its own investigation to determine why the discharge is green.

Until both the car wash and DEQ complete their investigations, Paolozzi says, the car wash will stop discharging.

Flagship Carwash Center currently has five Virginia locations and 10 locations across the region.

Miller says the notice of violation was drafted and sent out last week. The intent of the notice is to get the problem fixed under a timeline. These types of violations are not uncommon, and they can end with the business fixing the issue without any further consequence.

However, a civil charge (a fine) could be imposed depending on the findings of DEQ’s investigation.

A section of Sugarland Run south from where the discharge has been observed is about to undergo a restoration. The long-running project was first approved in August 2018.

Work includes replanting vegetation, placing in-stream structures, and installing brush mattresses.

Construction and restoration is expected to be completed in early 2022.

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Herndon is moving forward with another capital improvement project.

The Herndon Town Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday (May 25), with Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila absent, to award a contract to the Ashburn Construction Corporation for the Elden Street and Monroe Street Intersection Improvement Project.

The intersection project is similar to other projects in the town’s Capital Improvement Program in that it will include brick crosswalks and sidewalks as well as ADA compliant curb ramps. The project will also bring a new traffic signal and storm drainage improvements.

Ashburn Construction Corporation beat out one other bidder to win the $1.1 million contract.

Half of the funding for the construction costs is available for reimbursement through revenue-sharing funds collected from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The NVTA funds come from the 30% local distribution revenue given to localities for transportation projects through House Bill 2313, which was passed in 2013.

According to the Town of Herndon’s Fiscal Year 2021-2026 CIP, this project will link the East Elden Project, the Downtown Streetscape Project, and the Elden-Monroe private development project, a reference to the now-completed Junction Square mixed-use development.

The East Elden Project is being designed and constructed by the Virginia Department of Transportation, which plans to widen Elden Street into a six-lane divided section between Herndon and Fairfax County parkways and a four-lane section from Herndon Parkway to Van Buren Street. The project will also include streetscape and median enhancements.

The Elden/Monroe project will provide a transition when the street narrows down to two travel lanes west of Van Buren Street and approaching Monroe Street, according to the CIP.

The Downtown Streetscape project entails widening and enhancing streetscapes with brick sidewalks, grated tree wells and other features. Construction on the project’s third phase is expected to begin this year for an anticipated completion in 2022.

Image via Town of Herndon

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The Herndon Town Council is nearing approval of its fiscal years 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Program, which includes newly added projects like a traffic signal along Herndon Parkway at Sunset Park Drive and a possible expansion of the Herndon Police Department’s parking lot.

The updated CIP was reviewed and discussed during the town council’s work session on Tuesday (May 18) in anticipation of a public hearing and the document’s potential adoption on May 24.

Every year, the Town of Herndon updates its six-year schedule for public improvements known as the Capital Improvement Program. The projects scheduled for the upcoming fiscal year —  in this case, FY 2022 — are adopted along with the budget, while the rest of the program is adopted separately.

CIP projects have been limited the past two fiscal years due to budget constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, going forward, the town hopes these new projects will proceed on the proposed timeline.

The CIP has 49 projects, six of which are added in this year’s version, including:

  • New Herndon Parkway traffic signal at Sunset Park Drive. This project will also add new street lighting, signals for bikes and pedestrians, and crosswalks to improve safety and traffic circulation access to Sunset Business Park. It has an anticipated completion date of FY 2025 and an estimated cost of about $4.5 million.
  • Herndon Police Department parking lot expansion. The first step is to initiate a study to determine how many more parking spots are needed and an estimated budget for construction. Both the study and construction are expected to happen in fiscal year 2023.
  • HVAC and roof replacements at 1481 Sterling Road. First installed around 1986, the roof and four HVAC units at the town facility on Sterling Road have far exceeded their lifespans. These are “emergency” improvements, Herndon Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish noted Tuesday, and they’re estimated to be completed in fiscal year 2023.
  • Energy conservation project. The town will utilize energy audits done in 2017 to inform decisions about replacing equipment, lighting, heating systems to make town buildings and infrastructure more energy efficient. While the project is expected to cost about $22,000 upfront in fiscal year 2023, it could reduce the town’s energy bills by over $380,000 annually. “[It] will essentially fund itself by the savings the program identifies,” Irish said.
  • Fuel tank replacement at Town Shop facility. The two underground 10,000-gallon tanks used to fuel all town-owned vehicles are nearing the end of their lifespans. A study will be done in FY 2022 to identify any environmental concerns before the tanks are replaced in FY 2023.
  • Herndon Community Center pool pak replacement. “This is a critical piece of equipment for the conditioning of the water and also the air that circulates in the natatorium,” Irish said. The units are reaching the end of their life cycles. Design work is set to be completed this year, and then, the roughly $500,000 replacement is expected to happen in FY 2023.

Overall, town staff is recommending just over $150 million in CIP projects over the next six years, with a large portion of the funding coming from the general government fund.

Irish noted that a number of transportation projects are expected to undergo construction and be completed soon, so they will likely not be in next year’s version of the CIP.

Photo via Bill Ashton/Facebook

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Another capital improvement project is moving closer to completion in the Town of Herndon.

The Herndon Town Council unanimously voted in favor of awarding a contract to Fort Myer Construction Corporation for improvements at the Elden and Center streets intersection during its public session on May 11.

Fort Myer submitted a bid of $863,000, the lowest of five bids that the town received for the project.

The project will reconstruct and realign the existing intersection “to incorporate additional turn lanes as well as a new fully operational traffic signal,” Herndon Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish says.

According to the project description, the lane and signal changes will be installed in conjunction with improvements to the existing storm drain system and enhancements to pedestrian facilities located at the intersection, including the addition of brick sidewalks.

The project description states that these enhancements “will assist with the existing and future mixed-use residential development on Center Street which places greater traffic volumes in this project area.”

The project is expected to be completed by 2023.

Up to 50% of the construction contract will be covered by reimbursement funds through a revenue-sharing agreement between Herndon and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Irish told the council during a work session on May 4 that the cost fell below the $930,000 that had been budgeted for the project.

He added that the plan to make up the half of the costs not supported by revenue-sharing funds is to use local funds collected from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The NVTA funds come from the 30% local distribution revenue given to localities for transportation projects through House Bill 2313, which was passed in 2013.

The Elden-Center Street project is one of 48 capital projects included in Herndon’s FY 2021 – FY 2026 Capital Improvement Program that was adopted June 9, 2020. Irish says this is the first of several capital improvement projects that will be brought before the town council in the next few months.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Fans of Friday Night Live! can breathe a little easier now.

The Herndon Town Council voted on Tuesday (April 27) to approve a budget for fiscal year 2022 that includes an additional $20,000 to support the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce’s popular free summer concert series, which is now tentatively aiming for a delayed start date of July 2.

“This is one of the things I think we need to build and grow upon,” Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said. “[Friday Night Live’s] got a lot of good things around it. It’s a good foundation to build an even better atmosphere for including more people.”

The vote came after a public hearing with several earnest speeches by supporters of the annual event, from longtime attendees and volunteers to an Ashburn resident whose band has performed on the Town Green as part of the series.

Speakers praised Friday Night Live as an attraction that draws both town residents and outside visitors to downtown Herndon, giving local businesses and restaurants a boost that could be especially critical now after a year of upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s an advertisement for the Town of Herndon that costs much less than the revenue it brings in,” Herndon resident Mindy Thunman said. “Dollars aren’t the only way to measure the value of Friday Night Live. There are so many other intangible ways, the most important one being the sense of community it brings, and you simply can’t put a dollar figure on that.”

After pivoting to an online-only format last year, Friday Night Live organizers hope to bring the event back in person this summer, but their ability to stage the concerts hinges on the Town of Herndon funding support services like police security and public works staff and equipment.

The possibility that Friday Night Live would be unable to go on inspired “an outpouring” of support for the event from citizens, Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton told the town council on Monday.

According to FNL founder Doug Downer, who spoke at the public hearing, more than 90 letters of support were sent to the town council as part of the community input process for the FY 2022 budget. Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said that they received more comments on the concert series than any other issue she has voted on since joining the council in 2017.

Ashton said that he had approached FNL funding in his proposed FY 2022 budget with the expectation that the town would get federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act in May, but it turned out that the money needs to be appropriated by the state and won’t be available until July.

Because the budget was already advertised at $55.7 million, Ashton proposed offsetting the $20,000 increase in expenditures for FNL by decreasing appropriations for a retiree health benefit program that the town ceased using for police employees in 2017 and is in the process of phasing out for all other government workers.

“What we did is we took the money from there to move to Friday Night Live,” Ashton said. “We’re going to monitor the retiree system moving into next fiscal year. Again, if we need to add additional money in there, I can under my authority maneuver up to $100,000 from one account to another.”

The town council approved the Alternate B fiscal planning resolution to adopt the FY 2022 budget by a 6-0 vote with Councilmember Naila Alam absent for the motion. Read More

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A potential review of the Town of Herndon’s zoning ordinance for accessory dwelling units is gaining momentum.

Planning Commission chairman Michael Romeo penned a letter to the town council recommending a full review of the town’s zoning ordinance to potentially update its rules for accessory dwelling units, which are smaller, independent residential units located on the same property as a primary residence.

If the council approves a review, the planning commission would compose a draft ordinance amendment for the council’s consideration.

“We’re not taking a position on any of these different areas of the ordinance,” Romeo said during the planning commission’s work session yesterday (Monday). “It’s really just a matter of saying these are items that we’d like to take a look at, and if the town council feels appropriate, they’ll institute [an amendment] when it’s up to them.”

The move to update the ordinance falls in line with similar moves by local jurisdictions, including Fairfax, Loudoun, and Arlington counties as well as the City of Alexandria.

Fairfax County’s zoning code update sparked debates over whether to relax regulations for ADUs, with proponents arguing that it would provide a housing option for people who might otherwise not be able to afford to live in the county and opponents worrying about the possible impact on single-family residential neighborhoods.

The county’s board of supervisors ultimately approved a new code that lifted existing age and disability requirements and enables property owners to apply for an administrative permit instead of having to go through a special review process.

Herndon’s current ADU ordinance has not been updated since it was adopted in 1983.

Herndon Director of Community Development Lisa Gilleran described the proposal for an amendment as an opportunity to “create diversity of housing types [and] give people more options” while creating more affordable units.

The ordinance sections that Romeo specifically cites in his letter as areas that should be reviewed and potentially revised include:

  • Requirement for a special exception;
  • Size of the accessory dwelling units;
  • Removal of accessory dwelling unit improvements if the occupancy standards are no longer met as well as the evaluation of the appropriateness of the occupancy standards;
  • Inclusion of accessory dwelling units in single-family detached and/or single-family attached dwelling units;
  • Amount of parking required for an accessory dwelling unit and if a more nuanced approach to parking that accounts for proximity to transit or on-street parking in the historic district should be considered; and
  • Possible review of affordability or financing provisions in conjunction with accessory dwelling units.

“I think this letter is just to get a response from the town council to direct us to do something,” Planning Commissioner Kevin Moses said. “Looking into the details at this point, I think, is a little ahead of itself until the town council says, ‘yes, we’re going to do this’ or ‘no, we’re not going to do it.'”

Photo via BeyondDC/Flickr

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Like other localities across Northern Virginia, the Town of Herndon is taking a cautious approach to its budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, which was made public this morning (Wednesday).

Requesting $55.7 million in total expenditures, the proposed FY 2022 budget calls for a 8.7% decrease in spending compared to FY 2021 and reflects the financial toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on local governments in a demanding, unpredictable year.

“The fiscal year we are now concluding has been, to put it succinctly, a year like no other,” Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton said. “The COVID-19 pandemic upended all aspects of daily life. Town services and programs were significantly impacted, as were revenues across the board.”

According to the budget document, Ashton developed his proposal around a 1.7% uptick in assessed property tax values, including new construction and improvements. Gains in residential values, which account for 56% percent of the town’s real property tax base, were offset by dropping commercial real estate values.

The proposed budget maintains the town’s current real estate tax rate at 26.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.

While the town projects a “modest” increase in revenue from business and professional and commercial licenses, business closures and restrictions necessitated by the pandemic are expected to continue affecting revenue from Herndon’s meals and transient lodging taxes during the first half of the coming fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

Herndon saw a 20% year-over-year decrease in meals tax receipts during FY 2021 and a 75% drop in transient lodging tax receipts, according to the FY 2022 budget proposal.

Ashton says the budget “reflects the austerity under which we are still operating.”

“It focuses on core services — public works, public safety — as well as pandemic-related relief that is in the town’s jurisdiction to provide,” Ashton said. “It anticipates an improving economy, but any recovery will likely be gradual. This budget outlines a prudent response to a fiscal crisis that is very much still with us.”

While the town is anticipating “a mild recovery” in the second half of FY 2022 as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widespread and public health restrictions lift, Ashton says he asked town departments to submit budget requests at 5% and 10% reduction levels in recognition of the “fiscal uncertainty that still lies ahead.”

The proposed budget says “several essential items” had to be deferred to the next fiscal year to maintain a balanced budget, though the town council could authorize additional spending in the future depending on the town’s finances and the arrival of new federal stimulus funds.

Areas where the town plans to significantly cut back on spending include professional services, tree maintenance and removal, recreational programs, mowing, special events, and office supplies.

The proposed budget also decreases capital expenditures by 57.4% from the adopted FY 2021 budget. It suggests making no major capital expenditures until revenues are collected late in the fiscal year, unless there is an emergency.

The budget maintains a hiring freeze on non-essential staff positions and omits market-rate adjustments for town employees for a second consecutive year. Herndon still hopes to give all of its workers a 3% pay-for-performance increase, unlike Fairfax County, which has proposed freezing worker compensation increases.

“Though in a funding shortfall situation, it is critical for the town to recruit, retain and develop employees to remain competitive in the marketplace,” Ashton’s budget says.

Projects in the proposed FY 2022-2027 Capital Improvement Program include alignment of Center Street, Elden and Monroe Street intersection improvements, vehicular and pedestrian access to Metro and Van Buren Street improvements, according to the town news release.

The Herndon Town Council will hold public hearings on the proposed budget at 7 p.m. on April 13 and 27.

Photo via Google Maps

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