(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) The future of two structures built on Elden Street around 1888 is now in limbo.
The longstanding Adams-Green Funeral Home is appealing the Town of Herndon’s decision to deny an application to demolish two homes on 725 Elden Street. The Herndon Town Council will consider the appeal at a work session tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m.
At an April 19 Historic District Review Board meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to deny the application on the grounds that both structures contribute to the historic character of the area and qualify as national and state landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.
The board also noted that both structures are connected with “historically significant” members of the community.
“The demolition of the 725 Elden Historic Structures could adversely affect the historic district as a whole and particularly adversely effect important view sheds of the historic district and the townscapes of Herndon,” the April 19 resolution denying the application said.
But the funeral home argues that the board failed to follow the requirements of the town’s zoning ordinance and take into a consideration a structural engineer’s report.
“The HDRB failed to consider the long-standing business of the funeral home location at the present site which is a fixture in the historic district and which needs to have additional space to continue to operate its business at the current site,” the appeal says.
The funeral home first filed the application to demolish the two buildings in 2020. The filing was completed in January after town staff asked the applicant to file a site plan showing how it would stabilize the property after demolition.
An engineering analysis by Goughnour Engineering found that the “dilapidated” building is “not a candidate for renovation or reuse.”
Both buildings are located in the Herndon Historic District. They were built in the late 1800s by Charles Reed, a prominent member of the community at the time. His family also started the first funeral business in the town.
The Herndon Town Council is poised to approve its capital projects plan.
Known as the Capital Improvement Program (CIP), the six-year schedule sets funding plans for the town’s infrastructure projects and is incorporated as part of the operating budget.
This year’s $25.4 million plan includes new projects like sidewalk improvements along Spring Street and Locus Street. In recent years, residents have called on the town to improve safety and security for pedestrians in those specific areas.
The town is proposing nearly $1.4 million in funding to construct ADA-compliant 5-foot-wide sidewalks and curb-and-gutter along both sides of old Spring Street. The project would also include curb-cuts and crosswalks, extending from Locust Street to the new Spring Street.
The Locust Street project — which would also cost nearly $1.4 million — also includes sidewalks and curb-and-gutter along both sides of Locust Street. It would extend from old Spring Street to Elden Street.
Both projects may need to be constructed in phases, according to the proposal.
The Herndon Town Council is expected to discuss the proposed CIP for 2025-2029 at a work session tonight (Tuesday).
This year’s program continues to benefit from federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.
In a presentation, staff noted that many of the projects included in the plan are “addressing aging and deteriorating infrastructure.” The presentation described the plan as “reasonable,” given the current financial climate faced by the town and throughout the country.
A new project to implement life cycle updates at Herndon Community Center is also on the books.
The life-cycle projects, which would cost roughly $1.4 million, are not yet set in stone. The town plans to complete an analysis of the project’s scope by fiscal year 2029 in order to determine what areas need upgrades and replacement. The proposal notes that the roof needs to be replaced.
According to the proposal:
The racquetball court, fitness room, locker rooms, and gym HVAC units were last replaced in 2005 with a useful lifespan of 20 years. An analysis should be completed in FY28 to determine the project scope, estimated replacement schedule and construction costs. This project will replace and upgrade the units and address any duct and related infrastructure work needed to facilitate the new units.
The town also anticipates replacing the floor of three racquetball courts, which was last installed in 1989, and additional work on the sidewalls.
A revamped version of the Town of Herndon’s website is set to go live this summer.
In the works since last fall, the new site is intended to improve navigation and accessibility for users.
At a Herndon Town Council work session on Tuesday (May 16), town spokesperson Anne Curtis said the town plans to do beta testing before going live with the website this summer.
The new site has fewer menu options on the header and fewer expandable menus in favor of displaying more content directly on the homepage. It also includes several large icons with quicklinks that are popular.
Granicus — the software company the town is working with — also created a mechanism on the site that allows users to switch through a series of drop-down selects to navigate through the site.
For example, a user would be directed to a page on how to pay specific fees and forms based on responses from a drop-down menu.
Staff offered a preview at the May 16 work session, stressing that the work was ongoing. Council members overwhelmingly lauded the new design.
“There’s lot of work still to be done on this website,” Curtis said, adding that departments are now working on populating the pages with content.
A survey of 82 respondents found that residents wanted to see more visible department buttons, better search results and less reliance on drop-down menus.
Based on the town’s analysis, the bounce rates for the site hover around the same levels for most sites with similar content — nearly 61%. Most users appear to use the website for information on meeting agendas, Herndon Community Center, jobs, recreation and the police department’s weekly crime report.
The split between mobile and desktop users was relatively even: 53% for phones and 46% for desktop users.
The translation feature on the website is also rarely used — a feature that may be redundant with in-browser translation that is offered by most browsers or devices.
(Updated at 3 p.m.) The Herndon Town Council voted unanimously this week to reduce the town’s real estate tax rate for the first time in more than a decade.
At a meeting on Tuesday (May 9), the council approved a decrease of the rate from $0.265 per $100 of assessed real estate property value to $0.260 per $100 of assessed value.
“This council’s vote to lower the tax rate is acknowledgement of the higher cost of living many of our citizens are experiencing,” Mayor Sheila Olem said. “Real estate assessments are up. The cost of groceries, utilities, gas — all are up. Our aim in adopting this tax rate decrease is to offer some relief to our citizens in these economic times.”
The half-cent cut is a change from the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget submitted last month by Town Manager Bill Ashton II, who suggested keeping the tax rate flat.
But under the newly adopted budget, water and sewer rates will increase by roughly 1.5% due to higher treatment and commodity costs, according to the town.
The town is also positioning itself to absorb the town’s rising contribution to capital costs associated with water sewer treatment. Other taxes and fees remain unchanged.
Overall, the $62.2 million package represents an 8.6% spending increase over last year.
It also includes market rate adjustments (MRA) to boost employee salaries, particularly for sworn officers of the Herndon Police Department.
“The council’s adopted budget also authorizes a significant market rate adjustment for sworn officers of the Herndon Police Department, giving the town parity among nearby jurisdictions, all of which are competing for qualified law enforcement candidates,” the town said.
According to a town spokesperson, the details for the police MRA increase “are not final,” but non-sworn town employees will get a 1% bump this July, followed by a 2% increase in January 2024.
The adopted budget will be available online by July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.
A major project to improve the accessibility of Van Buren Street in Herndon is officially complete.
Known as a “complete streets project” in transportation jargon, the project widened Van Buren Street along a one-half mile stretch from Old Spring Street to Herndon Parkway.
Complete streets is an approach to designing streets that supports safety and access for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists.
In addition to widening travel lanes to 11 feet, the project added curb-and-gutter and bicycle lanes in each direction. Other upgrades include the addition of 5-foot-wide sidewalks, crosswalks, and traffic signals at Alabama Drive. Overhead utility poles were also relocated and stormwater management facilities upgraded.
Construction on the project started in the spring of 2022.
At a Herndon Town Council meeting late last month, Town Manager Bill Ashton II said the project was substantially complete.
“We have had the contractors out there making some corrections to some elements that we found were deficient to the design,” Ashton said.
He also noted that the project has been in the works for years.
“This is a project that has probably been ten years plus in the making,” he said.
Another round of compensation increases could be on the horizon for some Town of Herndon bodies.
The Herndon Town Council is considering a proposal to increase the compensation for members on the Architectural Review Board (ARB), Historic District Review Board (HDRB), Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, resulting in an annual increase of $20,400 overall.
The increases would go into effect in July, if approved. It’s in the early phases of the town’s review process and, at an April 18 work session, was placed on the council’s consent agenda for future consideration.
Councilmember Cesar del Aguila said the compensation increase might increase the diversity of candidates who apply, though he noted that it was possible that presumption could be “completely wrong on the statistical side.”
“There are segments of our community where $35 is a lot of money,” del Aguila said. “The thinking was if you invest a little bit, you might reach a broader segment of residents.”
Councilmember Donielle Scherff also said it could boost the “diversity of opportunity” for applicants.
Mayor Sheila Olem, however, noted that some people may not simply seek specific positions due to life circumstances. Prior to her role as mayor, she served on the town’s appeals board because meetings were on a monthly basis and did not interfere with her family commitments, she said.
For ARB and HDRB members, compensation would increase from $100 to $250 per month, $175 to 250 per month for PC members and $50 to $75 per month for Board of Zoning Appeals members.
Last year, the council instituted its first pay increase in 15 years.
The move — which passed as part of the budget with one dissenting vote — increased annual pay from $4,000 to $10,000 for council members and $6,000 to $12,000 for the mayor.
No property tax rate increases are proposed in the Town of Herndon’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2024.
The $62.5 million budget, submitted by town manager Bill Ashton II, represents a 9% increase over last year’s budget.
Ashton said the town was able to hold the line on its real estate tax rate despite the pressures of inflation and a tight labor market.
“Nevertheless, and through careful fiscal management, the proposed FY 2024 Budget allows for continuation of the programs and services town citizens expect and enjoy, as well as funding for new initiatives, chief among them preparatory work on the town’s Comprehensive Plan,” Ashton said in a news release.
But he cautioned that a mixed level of continued recovery is forecasted in the current economic environment.
“With significant levels of inflation, rising interest rates, and a looming national economic recession, the extent to which these pressures will affect the town’s revenue projections is unknown,” Ashton wrote in a letter with his budget proposal. “While we experienced significant revenue declines during the pandemic, we saw many revenue categories start to recover last year.”
Higher tax bills are expected still for most property owners because of rising real estate values. The real estate tax rate will still remain the same at 26.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
But increases are proposed for water and sewer rates. The sewer service rate will go from $7.16 to $8.28 per 1,000 gallons of water consumption, and the water service rate will increase from $3.31 to $3.47 per 1,000 gallons of water consumption.
All water consumed during peak periods behind the average in the preceding two winter-quarter billing periods will be charged at a higher rate: $5.91 per 1,000 gallons.
The town also plans to use remaining funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to complete deferred maintenance projects, vehicle purchases and water-sewer infrastructure projects.
The Herndon Town Council will adopt the proposed budget on June 30 following a series of public hearings and work sessions.
The public hearings are slated for Tuesday, April 11 and Tuesday, April 25 at 7 p.m. in the Ingram Council Chambers.
By the end of the March, the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be declared an emergency in the Town of Herndon.
The move follows efforts by neighboring jurisdictions to end formalized states of emergency.
“All emergency actions in response to COVID-19 have been taken and the public health emergency triggered by COVID-19 has diminished to the point that it no longer necessitates a state of local emergency and disaster,” the draft resolution says.
Fairfax County voted unanimously last month to end its state of emergency on March 1, marking a major public health milestone. Loudoun County, Prince William, Alexandria, and Arlington all took that step last year to end their states of emergency.
Here’s more from town spokeswoman Anne Curtis:
Like other jurisdictions, the COVID pandemic triggered the town’s enactment of a local State of Emergency legislation in March 2020. This enabled the town to adopt a Continuity of Governmental Operations Ordinance, giving us the flexibility and authority to adapt operations and adopt practices that enabled us to weather the emergency, like outdoor dining and fully virtual meetings. The Continuity Ordinance expired by law in late 2021. The act of “formally” repealing will have no effect on the daily lives of town citizens.
The end of the declaration comes exactly three years after the town was in the thick of the pandemic.
The item is up for consideration at a Herndon Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. today (Tuesday).
Currently, community level transmission in Fairfax County is low.
A traffic improvement plan along Spring Street may come with some challenges for local businesses owners at Herndon’s Sunset Business Park.
Some business owners say the improvement plan institutes changes that will limit the accessibility and visibility of the office park. Currently under construction, the $11.5 million project is expected to boost service levels along Spring Street and Herndon Parkway at their intersection and approaches.
Specifically, closing the median on Spring Street cuts off the park to customers as well as truck deliveries from the westbound direction. The limited ability to complete a westbound U-turn from Spring Street at Herndon Parkway also makes it challenging for customers to enter the park, some business owners say.
Paul Olsen, co-owner of local coffee shop and roastery Weird Brothers Co., said the project will continue to disrupt traffic flow over the next several years.
“This change to the primary entrance and traffic disruption will negatively impact these businesses dramatically, Olsen wrote in a statement. “This comes in the wake of our local businesses recovering from the negative impacts of the pandemic, operating under historically high inflation, and the current economic recession. Local small business is the backbone of any community, and it is especially true in the Town of Herndon.”
Anne Curtis, a spokesperson for the Town of Herndon, said the town will keep business owners and the public advised, as officials explore ways to improve access via the Herndon Parkway entrance.
“The project will improve congestion and increase safety, and to achieve these benefits there are necessary changes to the access to Sunset Business Park,” Curtis said.
Curtis also noted that a U-turn on Spring Street is allowed except during the evening from from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., “contrary to erroneous reports.”
Olsen’s letter to the council, which was drafted with other business owners and discussed at a town council work session earlier this month, calls on the town to complete a comprehensive and holistic analysis to explore changes to the plan to help small businesses in the parks:
The plan diverts all west bound traffic south on Herndon Parkway to the North Driveway, which is complicated with a small traffic circle and little visibility. This intersection is currently insufficient for current traffic volumes entering and exiting the business park on Herndon Parkway and will be exasperated by the increased traffic diverted from Spring Street. It is not intended to be the primary traffic ingress or egress for fifty businesses and Herndon’s small business core concentration. The majority of customer traffic to the Sunset Business Park comes from the east. Additionally, the business park does not have direct visibility or ownership of real estate on Herndon Parkway which complicates matters regarding the options for signage.
The town and the Virginia Department of Transportation first fielded similar concerns from area businesses in 2018.
At the time, officials noted that allowing vehicles to conduct U-turns at westbound Spring Street at Herndon Parkway would cause “significant conflict” with the northbound right-turn overlap. Backups would then possibly occur on Herndon Parkway.
The topic of pay for the Herndon Town Council is on the legislative body’s docket again.
After instituting the first pay increase in nearly 15 years for the 2023-2024 term, the council is considering the possibility of reducing pay to previous levels.
The move, pitched by Vice Mayor Clark Hedrick, is in response to fiscal constraints and the current economic climate. The discussion is in the early phases of the legislative process.
“The Town of Herndon is facing continued challenges in maintaining its labor force, which could, in part be addressed through retention bonuses, incentives for prospective employees, higher cost-of-living adjustments, and base pay increases,” meeting materials said.
The memo also flags “significant revenue uncertainty” rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic to the town’s tax revenue streams. Specifically, the proposal cites rising energy costs, record-high inflation and the increase of tax bills across the town.
The proposal would put council pay at $4,000 for council members and $6,000 for the mayor through Jan. 1, 2025. After that, pay would return to $15,000 per year for the mayor and $10,000 per year for council members, according to the proposal.
Hedrick argues that the proposal would not significantly impact the quality of candidates that run for open seats.
“The Council is made of up public servants and recent Town elections have seen no shortage of qualified candidates seeking the office of either mayor or council member,” the memo says.
Before pay increases went into effect this year, the council was among the lowest paid bodies across local jurisdictions — even those that are somewhat smaller than the town’s population of roughly 24,300 people.
Before the salary increases approved last year, council members were paid $4,000 per year — a little over $6,000 below the average of jurisdictions in Virginia. The mayor received $6,000 per year — also $6,000 less than the state average.
In comparison, the City of Fairfax — which has a comparable population of 24,000 — pays $12,000 a year to council members and $13,000 for the mayoral position, according to town materials.
Legislators in the City of Manassas have the highest pay — $15,579 for council members and $20,000 for mayor — although the city’s population stands at more than 41,000.
Hedricks did not return a request for comment from FFXnow. The council is expected to discuss the matter at a meeting tonight (Tuesday).
Mayor Sheila Olem cast the lone dissenting vote against last year’s proposal to increase council pay, calling the plan too big of a raise.