Herndon Farmers’ Market and Arborist Program Celebrates 30 Years of ‘Keeping Green’

The Town of Herndon is celebrating 30 years of keeping green with its Herndon Farmers’ Market and the town’s arborist program.

Although the local farmers market has gotten slightly smaller over the years, the weekday market has seen an increase in the variety of products sold, including empanadas, fresh pasta and pickles. Other vendors are not offering different types of fruits, vegetables, meats and breads. Nearby competition from other markets has strained the reach of the local market.

John Dudzinsky, the town’s community forester, says the town is looking to find “value added” vendors as well as more organic options.

Last week, the town distributed reusable totes and coasters to celebrate the milestone.

The town is also celebrating Dudzinsky’s position, which aims to maintain the health of the town’s trees and urban forest. Although this duty has remained the forester’s central task for the last three decades, the forester now manages the market, offers horticulture services to town residents and helps with environmental tasks like stream monitoring.

The Town has also maintained its Tree City status, which is given to comunities that meet standards of sound urban forestry management.

“The Town’s leadership has always been supportive of the Community Forestry program.  Along with the support of our town citizens.  With everyone’s’ support and assistance the Town has been able to maintain our Tree City USA status,” Dudzinsky said.

The designation is given by the Arbor Day Foundation, which is a nonprofit conservation and education organization founded in 1972.

The market is held on Thursdays from April to November from 8 a.m. to 12:30 on Lynn Street. Information about this year’s vendors is available online.

Photo via Town of Herndon/Facebook

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Town of Herndon Launches Comprehensive Plan Review Process

Town of Herndon officials have launched a process to review the town’s comprehensive plan, a planning document that guides current and future development.

The comprehensive plan, which state law states must be reviewed by the local planning commission at least once every five years, will head to the town’s planning commission for review.

Although dates have not been announced, the commission plans to review public input and make suggestions on changes to the plan. The commission will then draft a resolution for the town council that states the plan’s priorities and direction. By law, the Herndon Town Council is not required to take action on the resolution.

In previous years, the town has incorporated major changes to the plan, including planning for downtown Herndon and areas near the Herndon Metro Station.

The following amendments have been approved in recent years since the original plan was adopted in 2008:

  • Downtown Master Plan
  • Downtown Streetscape Map
  • Metrorail Station Area Plan
  • Cycle Track on Herndon Parkway
  • South Elden Area Plan

Changes to the future plan could include updating the parks and recreation chapter, sustainability policy, multigenerational planning, and economic development.

Residents interested in submitting their comments and suggestions on the plan can email [email protected].

Image via Herndon Planning Commission

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State Funds Sought for Elden Street Sidewalk Improvements

Town of Herndon officials are seeking state funds to complete sidewalk improvements between Center Street and School Street.

The $1.8 million Elden Street project would improve a critical pedestrian area to improve accessibility and walkability, especially as Comstock kicks off the redevelopment of downtown Herndon later this year.

Planned improvements include wider sidewalks, landscaping, new curb ramps, new crosswalks and new accessible pedestrian signals at the intersection with Grace Street.

The town is seeking federal funds administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Projects are approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The town’s Planning Commission is set to consider a resolution for the project today (Monday). A public hearing will begin at 7 p.m.

Currently, this particular area along Elden Street has limited pedestrian connections. Pedestrians must walk along a narrow sidewalk. here are little to no crosswalks.

“It is an uncomfortable and unsafe environment for any pedestrian, and is unusable for someone with a stroller or someone in a wheelchair,” according to a staff report.

Here’s more from the report:

The improvements will include reconstruction of the existing sidewalk to a continuous 5′ wide sidewalk with brick pavers, construction of a grass strip between the sidewalk and curb, and the addition of ADA-compliant curb ramps., High visibility crosswalks and accessible pedestrian signalization will be provided at all intersection approaches at Grace Street . The grass strip is expected to add a minimum 3′ wide separation between the sidewalk and the curb and travel lane. This buffer may be increased to 4′ or 5′ and include trees, dependent on final engineering and design.

The end result is expected to offer a safer, more comfortable facility for pedestrians that is separated from vehicle traffic and accessible for all users. This project is not expected to require right-of-way acquisition since the curb will be moved north into the existing eastbound travel lane. To accommodate this, the existing roadway, which consists of a travel lane in each direction, separated by a stamped concrete median and dedicated turn lane, would be reduced in overall width. The travel lanes would be 11.5′ wide and the median/turn lane would be 12′ wide. With those lane widths, there is no expectation of impacts to vehicle mobility.

The segment of Elden street is within walking distance of shops, restaurants and civic facilities. It also connects directly to downtown Herndon and is a short block from Herndon Middle School and St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

In order to receive funding from VDOT’s set-aside program, the town must request funding by passing a resolution.

Photos via Town of Herndon/handout

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With First Bicycle Plan, Town of Herndon Seeks Award for ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’

The Herndon Town Council is looking to move forward on its first bicycle master plan this month.

Bryce Perry, the town’s Deputy Director of Community Development, discussed the plan at the council’s meeting in August.

Perry said the town’s plan is modeled after the county’s initiative and is intended to offer policy guidance on bicycle network planning and design.  It was drafted in coordination with the town’s pedestrian and bicycle advisory committee and the town’s planning commission.

Staff indicated the plan would “serve as an important guiding document for the town,” giving that the town is one of the few jurisdictions in the area that does not have an adopted plan for its bicycle network and facilities.

The plan is also part of the town’s efforts to seek a Bicycle Friendly Community Award, which is a nationally-recognized program that awards localities to localities that excel at providing bicycle programs, services and infrastructure to their communities. The award is administered by the League of American Bicyclists.

The town plans to incorporate the plan — which will also remain as a standalone document — into the town’s 2039 comprehensive plan.

Discussions on the plan are expected to continue this month.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Ahead of 2020 Opening, Herndon Metro Station Sign Installed

It’s official: the Herndon Metro Station is nearly complete.

This week, a sign marking the station was installed by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials.

Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel met with WMATA officials on Monday, August 5 as part of a Silver Line bus tour.

The station is expected to open in July next year.

The town is working with the county to determine new bus routes with the Fairfax Connector once Metro trains are up and running.

Photo via Town of Herndon/Facebook

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After Major Water Main Break, Crews Work to Repair Pipe in the Town of Herndon

Local crews are working to replace a 25-foot section of corroded pipe after a water main break left more than 230 homes without water over the weekend.

On Saturday, August 3, a one-foot waterline that runs under Crestview Drive ruptured. Water was restored that night.

The town’s Department of Public Works said the waterline ruptured as a result of corrosion.

This week, local crews are working to replace a 25-foot section of corroded pipe and repair the section of the road that was damaged by the burst.

A smaller water main break also left 15 homes on Lisa Court without water on Tuesday.

Crews will replace a water valve on tomorrow (Thursday). Crestview Drive will be limited to one lane near Mistyvale Street, according to the Town of Herndon.

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New Trash Collection Schedule in the Town of Herndon to Begin in August

After more than 20 years of business-as-usual, changes are underway to the Town of Herndon’s trash and recycling collection schedule.

Beginning on August 5, recycling collection days will change for all residents, while trash collection days will change for some residents.

The changes are “needed to increase collection efficiency, balance routes, consolidate collection areas, and allow for existing and future development,” according to the town’s website.

No changes to the level of service offered by the town’s curbside collection program are proposed.

All recycling days will change to either Monday or Tuesday. Trash collections days will be on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

Residents can visit the town’s website to see their new schedule. All containers must be at the curb by no later than 6 a.m. on the scheduled collection day.

More information about the changes are available online. Residents with questions can contact the town’s Department of Public Works at [email protected].

Photo via Patricia Valerio/Unsplash

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Poll: How Should the Town of Herndon Handle Affordable Housing Policies?

As we reported last week, two new Town of Herndon council members are exploring ways to beef up the town’s affordable housing policies for new development.

With several new major developments already approved by the town and more than 600 units in the pipeline, no units are set aside as affordable or workforce housing.

Town officials are beginning preliminary conversations to explore how and if the town should beef up its affordable housing policies.

Council members Cesar del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal say that one of the most lucrative options is for the town to seek state-enabling legislative that would gave it the statutory authority to administer an affordable housing program similar to the county’s process.

Others, however, caution that the administrative burden is far too hefty for the town to shoulder, especially since town officials already maintain the town’s existing affordable housing stock.

What policy instruments do you think the town should explore? Let us know in the poll below.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Sugarland Run Photo Wins Herndon Town Calendar Competition

Photographer Mike Madigan’s photograph of Sugarland Run has won the Town of Herndon’s 10th annual calendar photo competition.

Attendees at a recent ArtSpace Herndon meeting selected the photo as the “people’s choice” winner. The photo, along with other photos submitted by professional and amateur photographers, will be featured in the 2020 Herndon Town Calendar.

Entries for the next year’s competition will be accepted in June. More than 11,000 calendars are printed for distributed to town residents and businesses.

The “people’s choice” award is given to the photograph that best represents Herndon. Special consideration is given to entries that depict people representative of Herndon’s diversity, culture, and seasonal community events.

The competition is produced by ArtSpace and the Town of Herndon.

Photo by Mike Madigan

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Downtown Herndon Redevelopment Construction Likely to Begin in Late 2019

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

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Town of Herndon Appoints New Director of Public Works

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

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Merkel: Meals Tax Increase Not An ‘Easy Decision’

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

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Comstock’s Downtown Herndon Plans Heading to Heritage Preservation Review Board

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.”

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Herndon Town Council ‘Pretty Close’ to Finishing Ethics Code Update

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

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Town of Herndon Unveils Proposed Budget, Schedules Public Hearings

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

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