The Town of Herndon plans to close on selling nearly 4.7 acres of its land to Comstock in order to begin the redevelopment of downtown Herndon later this year.
Comstock, the developer of Reston Station, was selected by the town three years ago to redevelop the property into a mixed-use project.
The $85 million redevelopment project includes 273 apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail, a new arts center, public space and a new parking garage for public and private use.
Construction on the project is expected to begin in late 2019.
The town and Comstock have several hurdles to clear before groundbreaking. An application for building permits is pending and an additional agreement to “protect town financial interests” must be determined, according to the town’s website.
The project was approved by the Heritage Preservation Review Board in mid-May.
The town will provide $3.6 million for the project, which is described as a public-private partnership.
Photo via handout/Town of Herndon
The Town of Herndon has appointed a new director of public works. Scott Robinson, a former director of facilities and real estate at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, will begin his new position on July 22.
He replaces Dana Singer, who retired from her position last year.
Robinson, who reports directly to town manager Bill Ashton, will manage the town’s public works operations and initiatives, including maintaining the town’s infrastructure, serving as principal advisor on public works issues, and overseeing capital improvement projects.
The Town of Herndon wrote the following about Robinson’s experience:
Robinson brings to his new position decades of experience managing major construction projects and operations. Most recently, he served as director of Facilities and Real Estate for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a role in which he managed NASA’s 5,300 facilities at 14 major sites in 10 states, providing leadership to 600 engineering and real estate employees. He had oversight responsibility for capital planning as well as the establishment of national policy in facilities operations, design, construction, real estate acquisition, property management and more. Prior to his NASA tenure, he held positions of increasing responsibility at the Naval Sea Systems Command and at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He holds a Bachelor of Science, Engineering, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the University of Michigan and is a registered professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In a statement, Ashton said services provided by the town’s public works department are “almost universally cited as the number one reason people appreciate living in Herndon.”
“Under Scott’s leadership, and by tapping into his wealth of experience and expertise, these services will only flourish and grow,” Ashton said.
Photo via Town of Herndon
The Town of Herndon’s 1.25 percent increase in its meal tax has generated some backlash from local residents — prompting Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel to clarify why the tax was increased from 2.5 to 3.75 percent last week.
In a statement on Saturday (April 27), Merkel said the increase was necessary to cover an unexpected $1 million shortfall in revenue from business professional occupancy license taxes. The estimated price tag for several capital projects also spiked, she said.
The increase could bring around $900,000 in revenue to cover funding for road projects, hiring an assistant town attorney, parks and recreation events, and connecting crosswalks that are unsafe and not ADA-compliant, Merkel said.
“I know raising taxes isn’t popular and it is not a vote that I took lightly,” she said. “If you go back and look at all the discussions, staff reports and PowerPoints, you will that it was not a flippant decision.”
Merkel said her nine years of experience on the council demonstrates that raising taxes is not a go-to approach. Ultimately, the move could generate cost savings, Merkel said. The town currently outsources legal work that the town attorney cannot take on at a high rate, she said.
“With Metro and the growth we are facing in the area the town is dealing with many more complicated legal issues than in decades past when we were a much sleepier little town,” she said.
Merkel’s entire statement is below:
Tuesday night the Council voted to pass our FY2020 budget. For the first time in many years the council raised the meals tax by 1.25%. I understand that many do not favor this decision and I want you to know that I certainly did not make the decision lightly. I think my record on council for the past nine years demonstrates that I am not someone who looks immediately to raising taxes whenever there’s a tough budget before us, so I hope you’ll read along to see my reasoning for my vote supporting this increase.
The additional revenue generated will be funding road projects for the most part. The town suffered a very unexpected $1million shortfall in BPOL (Business Professional Occupancy License taxes) revenue this budget cycle, and several road projects that have been in the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) for years have had a significant increase in their estimated costs. After a lot of grappling our Town Manager suggested a 1 cent meals tax increase to offset the difference (1 cent meals tax is approximately $900k of revenue.) BPOL is paid mostly by people who do not reside in the town (it is business professional occupancy license fees and is based on gross receipts of the business, the larger the business, the larger the fee. Most of our Herndon businesses are 10 employees or fewer, so you can surmise that a very large company is the reason behind this loss of BPOL revenue) Meals tax is also paid mostly by people who do not live in the town, but use our roads, police, etc. Herndon is an employment center where more than 17,000 people come to work every day, and the biggest portion of our meals tax comes from the M-F lunch crowd.
It was NOT an easy decision for me. The additional .25 that was added was a result of trying to cover some unfunded priorities that were important to the town – some parks and rec events related to the farmers market and family fun days and connecting some sidewalks and completing crosswalks that are currently unsafe and some that are not ADA compliant.
It will also allow us to hire an assistant town attorney which will ultimately save the town money because now we are outsourcing some legal work that the Town Attorney cannot take on, and that is at a MUCH higher hourly rate. With Metro and the growth we are facing in the area the town is dealing with many more complicated legal issues than in decades past when we were a much sleepier little town.
I know raising taxes isn’t popular and it is not a vote that I took lightly. If you go back and look at all the discussions, staff reports and PowerPoints you will see that it was not a flippant decision. Honestly, without the $1million dollar BPOL shortfall I would have likely voted against this increase, because it wouldn’t have been necessary. And I do support the projects these monies will fund. Which is ultimately why I decided to support it.
I understand that not everyone is happy with the meals tax increase; that’s just how these things go. I will still be supporting our local Herndon restaurants because this is home, and I love our local restaurant scene. Did you know that restaurants receive a 6% rebate for remitting the meals taxes they collect on our behalf on time? (This is a fairly typical practice in the commonwealth) and the large majority take advantage of this.
Please remember that since 2010 Herndon’s real estate tax RATE has not increased. In fact we decreased it once in 2011. Every single surrounding jurisdiction has raised their RE rate multiple times during that time frame, even as assessments have increased. I am proud of the fact that Herndon has worked to not put our property owners in that situation.
If you’ve read this entire post, Thank you. If you would like additional information on the discussions and reasons behind this difficult decision I’d be happy to hear from you and share more of my perspective. Thanks again for joining me in caring about our hometown.
Photo via Town of Herndon
Comstock’s redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are heading soon to the town’s Heritage Preservation Review Board.
“A few weeks ago the council asked me at every public hearing to give an update on the downtown even there is nothing to report,” Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton told the Town Council on last night’s public session. “Tonight is not one of those nights.”
Ashton said that the site plan has been approved following months of engineering and zoning reviews.
He added that staff is currently looking at Comstock’s applications to appear before the HPRB, which may happen as early as May.
“That is a major milestone,” Ashton said, adding that he applauds the engineering and zoning staff for their work. “We are on to the next step.”
Comstock’s plan wasn’t the only development on last night’s agenda. The Town Council approved a development plan to change the zoning at 555 Herndon Parkway to allow for Penzance Properties’ proposed mixed-use project, which would create an urban block with residential, office and retail space in three buildings.
“This is the first real transit-oriented development that has come to our 38 acres,” Mayor Lisa Merkel said. “Eight years later, we finally have our first plan.”
The Herndon Town Council appears to be getting closer to finalizing revisions of the code of ethics — a move that some councilmembers say will ensure ethical behavior of future councils and erase a perception that the council skirts rules.
The councilmembers discussed the ordinance that would revamp their current code of ethics at last night’s Town Council work session. “I like the changes that you made,” Councilmember Signe Friedrichs told the town attorney. “They made it more easy to understand where things are.”
The ordinance would add this preamble:
WHEREAS, the proper operation of local government requires that public officials be independent, impartial and accountable to the citizens, that governmental decisions and policy be made through proper processes, that public office not be used for personal gain, and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government and public officials; and
WHEREAS, as public officials we are charged with upholding the trust of the citizens and with obeying the law and respecting established policies and procedures; and
WHEREAS, as public officials we have taken the oath of office and have pledged that we will support and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia and further that we will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of our office.
NOW THEREFORE, in recognition of our obligations as citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia and as public officials and citizens of the Town of Herndon, we do hereby adopt the following Code of Ethics to guide the Town’s council and council appointed board and commission members.
The rest of the ordinance also adds four more adjectives to describe how members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members should act, including: “faithfully and impartially perform their duties,” “demonstrate… independence” and “treat the public, town staff and each other in a respectful… manner.”
The councilmembers discussed how the new wording balances a need for more specific language with the concern that trying to list every single unethical behavior could end up missing some things.
The ordinance also would add numbered subheads and references to applicable sections of the Town of Herndon’s code and charter and the Code of Virginia. (The code of ethics is currently located in Article I of the second chapter under the Herndon Town Code.)
In addition to the code of ethics, Vice Mayor Sheila Olem said that she is looking forward to seeing social media guidelines.
“I think we have spent a ton of time on this, and we have a nice document here that should be — I feel like after all these discussions — pretty close, if not ready, for prime time,” Mayor Lisa Merkel said.
Image via Town of Herndon
The Town of Herndon revealed its proposed budget today (April 1) along with publicizing two public hearing dates to receive feedback.
Totaling a little more than $53 million, Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget is a 10.9 percent decrease from the adopted FY 2019 budget, according to a press release from the Town of Herndon.
“In a ‘status quo’ economic environment, the proposed FY 2020 Budget funds Town Council priorities, such as the redevelopment of Herndon’s downtown as well as continued planning for the coming of Metrorail,” Ashton said in the press release. “It also recommends continuation of the services and programs our citizens expect and enjoy.”
The town’s FY 2020 begins on July 1 and runs through June 2020.
Here is a quick overview of the proposed budget:
- real estate tax, personal property tax rate and cigarette tax remain the same
- town’s meal plan increases from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent
- motor vehicle license fee remains at $25 for private passenger and other vehicles weighing less than 4,000 pounds and $32 for ones weighing more than 4,000 pounds
- sewer service rate increases from $5.78 to $6.19
- sewer and water availability fees for new, single-family homes and sewer lateral repair and replacement program remain the same
- water service rate increases from $3.06 to $3.16
- recycling fee increases from $16 per year to $32 per year
The public hearings are set for April 9 and April 23 — both Tuesdays — and will start at 7 p.m. in the Ingram Council Chambers (765 Lynn Street). In addition to the hearings, locals can submit feedback online.
Residents and businesses in Herndon can expect to receive a guide to the budget mailed to them.
Photo via Town of Herndon
Now that winter is gone, the Town of Herndon has made plans for its annual spring clean-up.
The town-wide spring clean-up week is set to run from Monday, April 8, to Friday, April 12. Residents will be able to discard large or bulky items on the curb for pick-up on their scheduled trash collection day.
Items that will get picked up include:
- appliances without their doors
- vehicle parts and plumbing fixtures under 50 pounds
- some smaller building materials
Residents should not place loose yard waste, auto parts weighing more than 50 pounds, large quantities of building materials, brick, electronics and household hazardous waste outside — those items will not get picked up.
Photo via Google Maps
The Town of Herndon may slightly increase the fees for facility uses and rentals while eliminating its use of the Fairfax County Park Authority’s fee structure.
Herndon’s Parks and Recreation Department provides for community-use facilities at the Herndon Community Center, which includes a pool, gym, tennis courts, fitness rooms and drop-in child care.
A department review of current services and operational costs prompted the Town Council to rethink its use of FCPA rates.
“Staff is proposing that structure be revised to eliminate the connection to FCPA due to the significant increase in their proposed non-resident rates, which would be detrimental to a large percentage of Herndon Community Center users,” the Parks and Recreation staff report says.
The Town Council now has a proposed resolution that would base the fees on a daily resident/non-resident fee. The change is expected to recover 75 percent of the department’s operating costs through fees and charges for services, according to the Town of Herndon.
The new fee would add $0.50 more to the daily rate for both residents and non-residents.
If approved, the amended fee schedule would go into effect on Sept. 1.
Images via Google Maps and Town of Herndon
Updated at 9:15 a.m. on March 18 — A previous version of this story incorrectly said “Vienna” instead of “Herndon” officials. This has now been corrected.
Some Herndon Town Council members are pushing for more robust ethics guidelines, but there’s disagreement about how best to go about doing that.
While councilmembers have agreed that revising the code of ethics is a positive step toward ensuring ethical behavior of future councils and erasing a perception that the council skirts rules, they have different ideas on what should get changed or added.
At a March 5 meeting, Councilmember Pradip Dhakal suggested borrowing from other codes of conduct, and analyzing omissions in the current code, may solve current gaps. (Councilmembers said they have been looking at the ethics codes from the Town of Amherst and Williamsburg as examples to emulate.)
Breadth and specificity dominated the March 5 debate, with some councilmembers raising concerns that trying to list every single unethical behavior could end up missing some things and creating a policy that no one would read.
For the sake of appearances, having a longer ethics code might raise some eyebrows if it’s overly detailed, one councilmember said.
“I’d be like what kind of crap is going on if they need this level of detail?” said the councilmember, who could not be positively identified on an audio recording of the meeting.
While some of the councilmembers expressed support for the current policy’s simplicity, others argued that a more in-depth code will clear up any confusion.
“We are coming from different backgrounds and sometimes common sense is uncommon,” Dhakal said. “My common sense may not be yours.”
Other possibilities floated at the March 5 meeting included defining “ethical behavior” and adding some definitions and rules that are in the state code. Creating guidelines for social media and online conduct also came up as a possible addition to the code of ethics or as a separate set of guidelines.
Vice Mayor Sheila Olem and councilmembers Cesar del Aguila and Signe Friedrichs have led the effort to revise the code.
Unethical, sketchy, and uncomfortable behavior among Herndon officials are some of the main reasons behind the push to strengthen the code. The councilmembers shared stories of unnamed former town officials who publicly berated staff, grabbed a staffer in a sexual manner, and solicited jobs from other elected officials in the performance of their official duties.
The code of ethics is currently located in Article I of the second chapter under the Herndon Town Code.
Reston Now saved you the trouble of hunting it down:
Sec. 2-5. – Code of ethics for the members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members.
(a) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members shall perform their duties to the very best of their abilities and demonstrate integrity, honesty, and ethical behavior in the conduct of all town business.
(b) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members shall treat the public, town staff and each other in a courteous manner and shall at all times refrain from abusive conduct, threatening or intimidating language or gestures, personal charges, or verbal or written attacks concerning the character or motives of other members of the town council, town boards and commissions, town staff, or the public.
(c) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members shall bring any concerns about the performance of a council appointee to the entire council. Concerns about the performance of a town employee shall be discussed privately with the town manager.
(d) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members should direct significant requests for information or discussions concerning town business to the town manager, who directs the day-to-day operations of the town and its employees.
(e) Members of the town council and council appointed board and commission members shall fully comply with the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, Code of Virginia, §§ 2.2-3700, et seq. and the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act, Code of Virginia, §§ 2.2-3100–2.2-3131, as applicable.
“One of our citizens came to a public hearing and said, ‘Pass it now!'” Mayor Lisa Merkel said at the end of the March 5 discussion. “I don’t think we need to rush into it, but [we’re] making movement in the right direction and making sure it reflects what we all really want to see in there.”
The Town of Herndon is still working on the code. At the town’s public session on Tuesday (March 12), del Aguila said that the code of ethics “is certainly coming to fruition.”
Image via Town of Herndon
The changes are set to start the week of August 5. Recycling days will change to either Monday or Tuesday and some trash collection days will shift to Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.
The types of services will not be affected.
The changes are meant to increase collection efficiency, balance routes, consolidate collection areas, and allow for existing and future development, according to the Town of Herndon.
Town Manager Bill Ashton told the Herndon Town Council at its public session last night (March 12) that public outreach is the first step of the process.
“We have a very comprehensive plan to do public outreach in this regard because it is changing how things have been done for about the past 25 years so that is always a difficult thing,” Ashton said.
Ashton said that Herdon residents can expect a letter in their mailboxes soon from the Department of Public Works outlining the changes.
Image via Sheila Olem/Facebook
U. S. citizenship prep class — Register for tonight’s prep class, which is part of a 12-week program covering the basics of U.S. history and civics. The class from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Herndon Fortnightly Library is for intermediate to advanced English learners only. [Fairfax County]
Man exonerated for 1975 Reston rape — “The Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday cleared an Indiana man of sexual assault convictions in Fairfax County from more than four decades ago… The unanimous court issued a writ of actual innocence for Winston L. Scott, 62, vacating his convictions. He was 19 when a Reston woman was attacked on July 24, 1975. He was sentenced to 14 years on convictions of rape, sodomy and statutory burglary and served about five years before he was paroled.” [The Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Herndon fire Sunday — Firefighters responded to an apartment fire in the 2300 block of Rolling Fork Circle around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. Heavy smoke was reported on the third floor. Crews quickly located and extinguished the fire and conducted salvage operations. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]
Crash closed Herndon Parkway — Herndon Police said they were investigating a crash that closed Herndon Parkway between Crestview Drive and Ferndale Ave around 5 p.m. on Saturday. [Herndon Police Department]
The Town of Herndon wants residents to share their thoughts and ask questions about anything they want at an upcoming roundtable.
The community roundtable is set to take place 9-11 a.m. at the Herndon Municipal Center (777 Lynn Street) this Saturday (March 2).
The town council members will be there to engage with residents. Sleepyheads can expect coffee.
Residents are invited to discuss any and all of their Herndon-related questions. At the Town of Herndon’s meeting last night (Feb. 26), councilmembers encouraged locals to come to the roundtable, along with asking for their input on the budget.
Image via Town of Herndon Government/Facebook
Six submissions later, a Penzance Properties development that was first submitted in 2015 moved forward at the Herndon Planning Commission meeting on Monday (Feb. 25).
The development would create an urban block with residential, office and retail space in three buildings at 555 Herndon Parkway, which is currently home to a suburban-style office building that was constructed in the early 1980s.
A high-rise office building and a high-rise residential tower with retail space and a garage would face a mid-rise residential building with retail space and above and below ground parking.
The plans include a publicly accessible plaza in the center and multi-modal streetscapes.
The development plans to have three entrances off of Herndon Parkway that will lead into a loop road surrounding the property.
The proposed development has been scrutinized at four Planning Commission and two Architectural Review Board meetings just since the start of this year, along with one community meeting. The presentation to the commission on Monday highlighted the changes that addressed concerns and suggestions from those meetings.
Some of the notable alterations include adding midblock pedestrian passages and revising the open space design. The architecture was also changed in response to comments by the ARB — new storefront designs have greater variation in the material use, texture and color and more vertical breaks and architectural elements were added to the previously monotone garage design.
While the mixed-use development hit several design snags and a zoning issue earlier this year, the project’s size and scale posed review challenges for the boards grappling with an unusually large development.
The team behind the project echoed why the project is such “a big deal for the town” — as the commission’s Chair C. Melissa Jonas described it.
“Herndon is a lot of things, but it’s not yet 275-foot-tall buildings,” Kenneth Wire, the land use attorney for the project, told the commission.
Wire said that the project will follow in the footsteps of Herndon’s unique identity by building upon the town’s streetscapes and signage. The central plaza will have a focal point, such as art or a water element, and the buildings will have decorative elements, he added.
“This has been a large process for the Town of Herndon to think about this area and what it means for our town,” Jonas said.
The project would take place in three phases of construction. As the proposal moves forward, it is possible that the Architectural Review Board may tackle the site plan for each phase separately.
The Herndon Planning Commission recommended approval of the development plan. Before the vote, Jonas thanked the Planning Commission staff, ARB and the community for their work on “this big application.”
“There is a love of this town and there is a lot of concern for change always for anyone,” Jonas said. “[Penzance] put in a lot of hard work into thinking about what we wanted to see.”
Renderings via Herndon Planning Commission
The queue of proposed projects for the Town of Herndon has two new items — plans for more police storage and a traffic signal along Elden Street.
Senior Planner Dana Heiberg presented the draft Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to the Town of Herndon’s Planning Commission last night (Feb. 25).
The draft CIP spans a six-year period from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2025.
One new addition would give police officers more space to store police bicycles, bulky equipment and other police property. The CIP budgets the creation of the exterior garage at $700,000 from FY 2020 funding.
That isn’t the only police project. Another one would update police radio equipment as Fairfax County moves toward encryption technology.
Meanwhile, the second new project — a traffic signal at Elden Street by the Herndon Centre — originated from a developer proffer.
Heiberg also gave an overview of the 50 projects for this year — many of which he said are on-going ones from the FY 2019-FY 2024 CIP.
For this year, planning and permitting software will is set for implementation. The information technology project is supported by the town’s reserves.
Renovating the Bready Park tennis courts, which will include converting the lighting to LEDs, is a part of the 10 planned park projects.
Nine projects sponsored by community development are set to tackle street improvements; pedestrian and bike trail upgrades, including trails leading to Herndon’s metro station; and wayfinding signs and historic markers.
Public works-sponsored projects include:
- nine street or intersection improvements
- a storm drainage project
- major maintenance for buildings
- a road repaving program
- utility relocation downtown
The Herndon Centennial Clubhouse is also set for an expansion to take place over three phases. Once construction funding is decided upon in FY 2024, the renovation and expansion of the existing structure, which was built in the 1980s, will begin.
The General Fund projects for the six years in the draft CIP total $58.1 million, with about $6 million for FY 2020 General Fund projects. Grant funding will support most of the projects — acounting for 46 percent — while the General Fund will support a little over 20 percent, Heiberg said.
The Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the draft CIP move forward to the Town’s manager.
Photo via Google Maps
The Fairfax Connector is running on a Saturday schedule today.
Metro trains will run every 12 minutes, while buses are on a “severe snow service plan” with only limited service on major roadways.
The Fairfax County Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court are closed as well.
RT @fairfaxhealth: All Health Department offices, public health clinics, WIC, Adult Day Health Care and Community Health Care sites are closed today (Wednesday, February 20) due to the snow storm.
— Fairfax County Government (@fairfaxcounty) February 20, 2019
The county’s Planning Commission won’t meet tonight.
The open house for Lake House for today has been canceled.
The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce canceled its events for today.
HealthWorks in Herndon will be closed.
If you live in Herndon, don’t expect your recycling to get picked up today. Mayor Lisa Markel posted on Facebook that recycling will be collected on Thursday instead.
Items from the Town of Herndon’s previously planned meetings for the Architectural and Heritage Preservation review boards are now moved to the March 20 public hearing.
The Town of Herndon’s offices and the Herndon Community Center are closed.
Town offices, the Herndon Community Center and the tennis bubble are closed today. Recyclables will NOT be collected; they will be collected Thursday. Thursday's trash collection will happen on Friday. Stay safe and warm!
— HerndonVA (@TownOfHerndon) February 20, 2019
— Herndon Police (@HerndonPolice) February 20, 2019
Photo via @billwhe67/Twitter