Reston, VA

Friday Morning Notes

Bechtel Taps New President — “For the first time in four years, Bechtel Corp. will have a new president and chief operating officer. Executives for the Reston engineering and construction company said Thursday that Craig Albert, president of its infrastructure segment, will take the reins as its president and COO, stepping in for current COO Jack Futcher, who is set to retire at the end of 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

Town of Herndon is Open for Business — “The town has launched a “Herndon is Open for Business” promotional video campaign.  The town with the help of HCTV is visiting 10-15 small businesses a month to highlight the unique and variety of  businesses in the community.” [Town of Herndon]

New State Grant Launching Soon — “A new program, Rebuild VA, will open for applications on August 10 to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose normal operations were disrupted by the economic emergency created by the pandemic.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Reston Firm Going Public — “SOC Telemed has signed a deal to go public through a merger with a blank-check company, 16 years after the Reston telemedicine provider launched as a videoconferencing service for hospitals — and as the coronavirus pandemic stimulates unprecedented demand for virtual care.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo vis Marjorie Copson

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For months, the Town of Herndon and Comstock have remained silent on why the long-anticipated redevelopment of downtown Herndon has been delayed.

Both parties have declined to offer any comment on pending paperwork to close on the sale of the 4.7-acre parcel of town-owned land to Comstock. What’s known is that “further agreement” to protect “town financial interests” is needed to begin preparing construction at 770 Elden Street.

Comstock says it is making progress. The company plans to go through the bidding process this summer, according to a spokesperson for the Reston-based company. A spokesperson for the Town of Herndon said the town had nothing to add.

A promotional website and banner offer a tease for 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.

The site itself is ready for construction to begin.

In May, the former car dealership buildings on the site were demolished to prepare for development. Earlier this year, contractors also removed asbestos and other environmental for through a state grant awarded to the Town of Herndon.

Now, the Town and Comstock must work out pending legal issues. Comstock will then apply for building permits and complete its “internal processes” for construction.

Officials originally estimated groundbreaking would begin in late 2019.

Photo via Comstock

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Monday Morning Notes

Reston Association Resumes Youth Swimming Lessons — The association is resting swimming lessons for children between the ages of three and 12. Registration is $80 for RA members and $95 for all others. [Reston Association]

Measuring the Impact of the Silver Line — The Silver Line has caused some riders to change their routes and others to leave Metrorail entirely. Not every Silver Line rider is a new Metrorail customer. Once it opened, some Orange Line riders who frequented the Vienna, Dunn Loring, and West Falls Church stations switched to using the Silver Line for convenience.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Town of Herndon Resumes Inspections — After offering a brief grace period, town officials are resuming the enforcement of motor vehicle safety inspections. The state’s executive order does not apply to local municipalities within the state. [Herndon Police Department]

Around Town: Fairfax County Teachers Revolt — “A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.” [Washington Post]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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The Town of Herndon has been named a bicycle-friendly community by the American League of Bicyclists.  The recognition comes after the Herndon Town Council adopted the Herndon Bicycle Network Master Plan last year.

This year, 38 communities were given the award across the country.

“Undeniably, during the pandemic more Americans ar biking to get around and to experience the joy that comes with being on a bike,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “The League is proud to recognize these Bicycle Friendly Communities where leaders, both in government and advocacy, have committed to building better places for people to ride, whether they are new or seasoned.”

In the United States, 482 communities have met criteria for the award, which honors areas that demonstrate a commitment to making biking better for communities.

Here’s more from the League about the program:

The Bicycle Friendly Community award process considers a range of elements, including a community’s efforts to educate children and adults about how to bike, plan and build bike infrastructure, evaluate success towards getting more people on bikes, and encourage road safety all through the lens of equity. The application process is an educational tool in itself, laying out for communities what steps they must take to be considered award-worthy. As part of each review, the League and applicants also seek input from local bicyclists and active transportation advocates on their experiences and perceptions of bicycling in their community.

The town’s bicycling master plan, which was created by staff and the town’s Pedestrian Bicycle Advisory Committee, offers policy guidance for the town’s bicycle network planning and design, as well as a longterm plan for connectivity and network improvements.

Photo via Green Lizard Cycling

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The Herndon Municipal Center (777 Lynn Street) is opening its doors to the public for the first time since March.

The lobby, which was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will reopen  tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8 a.m.

Visitors must wear masks, which will be provided if needed. Entrances are open through the doors on Lynn Street. For now, entrances from the Town Green and the garage will remain closed. Additionally, the Town Clerk’s office and second floor of the building will remain closed.

Applications for zoning permits, development plans, and other materials that require review by the community development department are for drop-off only. Bins are available in the lobby and near the exit doors.

The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The Herndon Farmers Market also opens on Thursday (June 18). Last week, park amenities in the town — with the exception of basketball Cours and restrooms — reopened.

The Herndon Community Center and Herndon Police Department’s lobby remains closed.

Image via Google Maps

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A number of amenities are now open for public use at county parks as Northern Virginia enters phase two of the COVID-19 reopening plan today (Friday).

Athletic fields, basketball courts, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and other amenities will be open, but with the following restrictions in place:

Athletic Fields – Athletic fields will open for organized and permitted use based on the governor’s and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines pertaining to use of athletic fields.

Basketball Courts – Outdoor courts will open, but users must stay 10 feet apart.

Volleyball Courts – Outdoor courts will open, but users must stay 10 feet apart.

Dog Parks – Dog parks will open with users urged to maintain social distancing.

Marinas – Marinas will open for rentals at lakefront and riverfront parks.

Mini-golf – Miniature golf courses will open at all locations, except Jefferson District Park (due to construction).

Restrooms – Permanent outdoor restrooms and portable restrooms will open systemwide. We encourage visitors to bring hand sanitizer since these facilities are often without running water.

Picnic Shelters – Shelters within parks will open for permitted use with 50% capacity of regular occupancy limits, not to exceed 50 people.

Playgrounds – Playgrounds will open systemwide including Clemyjontri Park and Chessie’s Big Backyard at Lee District Park. There is no special cleaning; visitors should use at their own risk and must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Currently, recreation centers and other Fairfax County Park Authority facilities remain closed, including nature centers, pools and historic sites. The county is expected to allow more openings when the state enters phase three.

FCPA staff have begun implementing the changes at several facilities. Implementation of the latest openings could take several weeks.

In the Town of Herndon, dogs and playgrounds opened today, but restrooms and basketball courts remain closed. No special cleaning will be conducted of any playgrounds in the town or the county.

File photo

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The roster of candidates for Herndon Town Council and mayor have been finalized for the Nov. 3 election.

Sheila Olem, the town’s current vice mayor, is running against Roland Taylor for mayor. Longtime mayor Lisa Merkel said she no will not seek reelection earlier this year. Merkel, the town’s first female mayor, was elected to the position in 2012.

A total of ten candidates are seeking six seats for the 2021-2022 term, including incumbents Cesar del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, and Signe Friedrichs. The new candidates are Clark Hedrick, Syed Iftikhar, Sean Reagon, Naila Alam, Bessie Denton, Stevan Porter, and Jasbinder Singh.

Election Day is on Nov. 3. Polling locations for town council elections overlap with locations for the national election.

Stay tuned for op-eds from each of the candidates in the coming weeks.

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Restaurants in the Town of Herndon must apply for an outdoor dining permit as Northern Virginia’s reopening today opens up the opportunity for outdoor dining.

The move comes as Fairfax County moved to allow businesses to offer outdoor dining without applying for a permit by expanding outdoors at 50 percent of their indoor capacity.

The temporary permit, which was created specifically to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, will allow Herndon restaurants to reopen and operate with outdoor seating if rules are followed.

So far, several restaurants have been approved for temporary permits. More are expected to be ready to go by the wekeend.

  • Some conditions include:
  • Fencing and barriers must be installed
  • The area must be located next to or within 100 feet of the establishment
  • The location cannot “significantly interfere with pedestrian traffic or otherwise constitute a health and safety risk”
  • Hours of operation limited between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
  • No pets are allowed in temporary dining areas

In some cases, outdoor seating may be allowed on town property. No more than ten patrons may be seated as a party.

Photo via Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern/Facebook

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After revisions to its previous proposal, the Herndon Town Council formally adopted its budget for FY2021 this week.

The $61 million budget was scaled back to adapt to economic fluidity and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The town’s taxes and fees, including real estate and meals taxes, remain changed. But the town’s recycling fee doubled from $8 per quarter to $16 per quarter.

Unlike previous budgets, the document includes $11.5 million in immediately sequestered funds, $5.5 million of which will be attributed to the town’s general fund. Overall, the FY2021 budget allocates $38.8 million for the general fund.

Sequestered funds can be spent if the town achieves its revenue targets through the fiscal year. But if revenues fall below projections, the town may need to consider reductions in personnel costs.

 “While the adopted General Fund budget is $38.8 million, in practice it will be considered a $33.3 million budget,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “Sequestered funds may only be released if and when identified targets are met. This gives us latitude to adapt to the unstable and uncertain fiscal environment we are in. It also gives us the best chance to maintain our exceptional workforce.”

The adopted budget will be posted on the town’s website by July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Photo via Herndon Town Council/Zoom

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Local food trucks and food vendors celebrated public works crews (Wednesday) by offering 1,400 free meals throughout the county, including the Town of Herndon.

The initiative, which was made possible by funding coordinated by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, honored public works crews who have quietly continued to perform essential services like water management and trash collection despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

County officials said the program, which was in time for National Public Works Week this week, was a win-win for local businesses and public works employees. Curbside Kitchen and Cureate, two companies that work with local food trucks and vendors coordinated services with FCEDA, which secured funding from a philanthropic couple. Meals were given from 11:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday).

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted local and county departments to change their operations and modes of service delivery. The Town of Herndon, for example, has shifted to more online services, including accepting engineering drawings online.

In the public works department, crews are more spread out, with one person riding a vehicle instead of two or three individuals. Shifts are now also staggered in some cases, according to Scott Robinson, the Town of Herndon’s public works director.

Robinson says he expects that some changes in how services are provided will continue in a post-COVID-19 world.

For example, the town may consider offering more online services, in addition to in-person services.

“Our town manager said it best. We want to serve customers the way they want to be served,” Robinson said.

So far, he is incredibly proud of how public works’ employees have handled their jobs amid concerns about safety and health. “These folks are literally out there keep the town running and they’ve done it happily and without complaining,” he said. “I’m really proud of the work the department has been doing.”

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Although the groundbreaking of the Town of Herndon’s downtown redevelopment project has not been formally announced, Comstock Companies is offering a peek at what the new $85 million Historic Herndon District will look like.

A fence in front of the former Subaru dealership on 770 Elden Street now bears promotional signage about the project, which has been delayed by several months.

“The revision of Herndon’s historic downtown will bring heart, life, and opportunity back to the neighborhood,” according to a recently released sales brochure.

The project, which is financed through a public-private partnership with the town, features 273 residential units, a new arts center, public space, and new retail options. An eight-level parking garage and 18,000 square feet of boutique, restaurant, and cafe space are also planned.

Comstock says that its apartments — which include studio, one, and two-bedroom apartments — “marry classical elegance with a bohemian twist.”  The company also described the community as a “lifestyle destination that appeals to everyone, from foodie to dog walkers.” Promotional material states the Herndon Metro Station will open in 2020, although it is likely the new station will open next year.

Officials for the Town of Herndon and Comstock have declined to provide specific reasons for why the project has been delayed.

Environmental remediation on the site is currently underway in order to prepare the site for redevelopment. Although a development agreement between the town and Comstock has been signed, the stakeholders have not yet closed on the property.

Images via Comstock

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The Town of Herndon’s proposed budget for next year is slated for major changes, according to Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting last night (Tuesday), Ashton said that town officials are closely monitoring current expenditures and revenues. The revised budget for fiscal year 2021 will be released on May 1.

“We are making some very dramatic changes to it,” Ashton said, adding that the town’s revenue streams are doing “a little better” than town staff originally projected.

The Herndon Town Council will review the budget at work sessions on May 5 and May 19,  followed by public hearings on May 12 and May 26.

All sessions will be held online due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. The town will release more information on how to make live public comments during the public hearing. Residents can also submit comments on the proposed budget by emailing [email protected].

Image via Town of Herndon

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Town of Herndon residents and businesses now have more time to file real estate property and transient occupancy taxes.

The Herndon Town Council approved two measures at a meeting earlier this week to extend due dates due to financial hardship created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first installment payment for real estate property taxes is due on August 28 instead of July 28. Transient occupancy taxes shifted based on the following schedule

  • March 20 payments are now due on June 20
  • April 20 payments are now due on July 20
  • May 20 payments are due on August 20
  • June 20 payments are due on August 20

If individuals are having trouble filing a meals tax return or paying the meals tax before the 20th day of the month, the town encourages residents to contact the county’s finance director at [email protected] for help.

Councilmember Cesar del Aguila voted against the extension for transient occupancy taxes, the financial burden of which he said would likely be absorbed by the parent companies of local hotels at the expense of delayed revenue for the town.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Like other jurisdictions across the country, the Town of Herndon is shifting to essential and core services, according to town manager Bill Ashton.

At an online Herndon Town Council meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Ashton said that the town ‘s top priority is continuing essential services like police, water and sewer, road networks, and public safety.

“Our focus has been on the continuity of core services throughout this crisis and beyond so that we have the ability to serve the community,” he said.

The town is encouraging staff to telework when possible. Staff who must interact directly with the public are practicing social distancing measures and taking protective measures.

“We just want to make sure that we are staffed to meet these needs,” Ashton said.

The town has also suspended hiring unless related to public safety and frozen capital expenditures unrelated to grant-funded projects. Private home visits are also restricted unless they are related to public safety. A moratorium is in effect on overtime as well.

The council is also considering plans to delay real estate tax due date to August 28 and delay transit occupancy taxes for hotels

Photo via Town of Herndon/Facebook

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The Town of Herndon is considering a plan to extend the due date for property taxes from July 28 to August 28. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a similar proposal at its meeting on March 24.

The move is expected to cause some financial strain. The town’s cash flow relies significantly on property taxes, which amount to roughly 31 percent of the town’s general fund revenue.

“Extending the due date delays a significant cash flow for the town,” wrote Jennie Tripoli, the town’s finance director, in a memo. “The town’s debt service payment schedules were established to coincide with cash inflows from real property taxes.”

Tripoli also noted that the town would be able to cover a third-day delay in the revenue stream. Beyond that time frame, delays in additional general fund revenues could “interfere with the town’s ability to fund core services.”

The town government has not announced any furloughs, a town spokesperson told Reston Now in a statement. But part-time, seasonal and temporary positions related to currently suspended programs are under review.

The Herndon Town Council will consider the proposal at a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7 p.m.

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