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Voting at Cunningham Park Elementary School in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated, 3:35 p.m.) With most incumbents running away to victory, it appears that Fairfax County’s voter turnout for the general election this year will fall short of the 2018 midterms.

About 53% of registered, active county voters took part in this year’s midterm elections, per Fairfax County election officials. That’s about 16 percentage points off from the midterms four years ago. It’s also lower than last year’s gubernatorial election, which had a 60% turnout.

In total, 391,361 ballots have been counted so far in Fairfax County, election officials said.

Turnout numbers remain unofficial. Ballots put into drop boxes will be counted today, while additional mail ballots can continue to arrive until noon Monday (Nov. 14).

Absentee mail and in-person voting rose this election cycle compared to 2018, with 130,350 residents voting early this year — just under 18% of active, registered voters in the county. That’s about 44,000 more people than in 2018, when 12% of voters made their decisions early.

Last year, 174,641 county residents, or about 24% of voters, cast ballots by mail or early in person.

With Fairfax County staying reliably blue, the lack of competitive Congressional races on the ballot may have contributed to the lower turnout compared to other recent elections. Based on the preliminary results, all but one local incumbent — Herndon Town Councilmember Signe Friedrichs — appears to have held their job.

Don Beyer (D) secured victory in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District with 73% of the vote with most precincts reporting. The district includes about 282,000 residents of Fairfax County, where Beyer secured 69% of the vote — about three percentage points lower than what he got in 2020 and 2018.

The re-elected Congressman tweeted out a statement just before 9 p.m. last night, thanking voters for “again putting their confidence in me.”

In the 11th Congressional District, Gerry Connolly (D) won his eighth term in office with 66% of the vote overall, with all but two precincts reporting.

The 11th District is almost entirely in Fairfax County, covering about 585,000 residents. That includes Lorton, Burke, Fairfax, Chantilly, Vienna, Tysons, Reston, and most of Springfield and Herndon.

Like Beyer, Connolly didn’t fare quite as well this year in Fairfax County as he did in 2020 and 2018, with 66% of the vote compared to over 70% in both of those election cycles.

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A Fairfax County absentee ballot drop box (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Mayor Sheila Olem will get a second term as mayor of the Town of Herndon after securing a narrow win against council members Sean Regan and Jasbinder Singh in today’s primary election.

According to unofficial results, Olem edged out the race by a little over two percentage points over Regan. Singh received the least number of votes: 16%.

The Herndon Town Council race — which included nine candidates running for six open seats — is extremely close, as is typical in the town’s council elections.

Current members Naila Alam, Cesar del Aguila, and Pradip Dhakal retained their seats, while challengers Clark Hedrick, Keven LeBlanc Jr, and Donielle Scherff secured enough votes to beat out Councilmember Signe Friedrichs.

The following is a breakdown of unofficial election returns for the council race:

  • Clark Hedrick: 3,372
  • Pradip Dhakal: 3,334
  • Keven LeBlanc Jr:  3,164
  • Cesar del Aguila: 3,109
  • Naila Alam: 3,084
  • Donielle Scherff: 2,965
  • Stevan Porter: 2,871
  • Roland Taylor: 2,692
  • Signe Friedrichs: 2,685

It’s not unusual for the outcome of town council races to change once official results are tabulated.

In 2020, for example, a data entry error dramatically changed the results of the mayoral election.

In this year’s midterm elections, Democratic incumbents representing portions of Fairfax County once again maintained a stronghold over their seats in the House of Representatives.

Democratic incumbents Don Beyer (D-8) and Gerry Connolly (D-11) clenched a decidedly confident victory over their Republican challengers: Karina Lipsman, Hung Cao and Jim Myles, according to uncertified election results.

But Jennifer Wexton’s (D-10) win over challenger Cao was significantly closer than her Democratic colleagues.

The incumbent had a 6-point-percentage margin, with 90% of precincts reporting, as of 10:20 p.m.

In Fairfax County, she led by a mere 48 votes, according to Fairfax County’s unofficial returns.

Victories for Beyer and Connolly were far less contentious, with Beyer winning over 75% of votes versus Lipsman’s nearly 23% and Connolly winning 68% over Myles’s 31%.

Beyer said that he was grateful for voters’ confidence in his ability to represent them.

“I will continue to do all I can to earn their trust, and to serve my constituents,” he wrote in a statement today.

Fairfax County hit a 45% turnout rate for the midterms, as of 3:50 p.m., but that number does not account for three hours of voting that remained at the time.

Still, the number appears shy of 2018 midterms when 59.5% of registered voters cast a ballot. In 2014, a mere 41.6% of registered voters voted.

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Town of Herndon government offices (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Town of Herndon is exploring the creation of a new business incubator.

The project is intended to promote e-commerce and establish the town as a tech-savvy area.

Partnerships could include George Mason University, Virginia Small Business Development Center, and Office Evolution, an office space rental agency based in Herndon. Overall, the incubator would offer education and training for entrepreneurs and small business in an effort to boost business growth and overall independence.

The project is in the early planning phases.

“The Town Council has not yet adopted a resolution authorizing the incubator project; that is anticipated to come before the council at its December meeting,” town spokesperson Anne Curtis wrote in a statement to FFXnow.

At a meeting in mid-October, the town council explored the possibility of the project.

Office Evolution would act as the incubator for the project. Mason Enterprise Center Services, a business development service affiliated with GMU, would offer programatic support, including access to its mentor team, discounts for recruiting and payroll services, and access to capstone students and interns.

The project could also include counseling and training services, along with information on marketing, sale, financing and financial management.

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Town officials are working through the town’s first rebranding effort in ten years (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Town of Herndon officials are mulling the town’s first rebranding effort in ten years.

The move — last discussed at a Herndon Town Council meeting earlier this month — comes as phase two of the Silver Line opens by Thanksgiving.

The rebranding package characterized the town as a “next generation small town.”

Mayor Sheila Olem said the placemaking nature of the new Herndon Metro Station provides an opportunity for the town to position itself as a rivaling area to others in the Commonwealth.

“With Metro coming in, it’s the perfect time,” Olem said at the Oct. 19 meeting.

Anne Curtis, the town’s director of communications, said distilling the town’d “distinctive attributes” was key in developing its brand strategy.

Curtis offered the following brand positioning statement:

A next generation small town pulses on the edge of Fairfax County. Turn off the highway and find yourself in a place that welcomes innovators, risk-takers, history seekers and family-keepers. This is where the roots of history help to grow the ideas of tomorrow.

The town’s logo also emphasizes “on” in the visualization of Herndon, with the font connecting “o” to “n.”

But council members concurred that more discussion and research is needed before any changes occur. The proposal was presented in response to the council’s strategy initiatives planning meeting earlier this year.

Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila suggested that the brand strategy move out of relying on the town’s reputation as a small town.

“There are dollars out there to be had that we should position ourselves to grab,” del Aguila said, noting that the town must put itself on the regional map and move out of a “small town charm mentality.”

The town launched a brand identity development effort in 2012. Consultant Trialogue Studio worked with the town to launch the strategy.

In the most recent effort, the town held five focus groups, more than 20 interviews with key community and corporate leaders, and launched an online survey that yielded 400 responses.

From that effort, town features like “great location, “small town” and “Hispanic,” were salient.

Staff will continue to work on the proposal. A visualization exercise is planned for early next year.

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A driver lost control of their vehicle earlier this year on Spring Street (Photo by Stephanie Frye)

Town of Herndon officials are studying improvements to the Spring Street area in response to residents’ concerns about walkability and safety.

After completing a speed study in September, Town Manager Bill Ashton II said the town has installed a speed sign between Wood Street and Bicksler Lane. The town plans to conduct a follow-up, three-day study in the first week of November to determine the impact of the sign.

The move comes after residents expressed concerns about walkability and crashes in the area.

Other improvements could be on the horizon, Ashton told the Herndon Town Council at a meeting on Oct. 11.

Town officials are also looking into traffic patterns on Alabama Drive to determine the feasibility of changes there.

“We are very cognizant of the fact that this is part of a larger transportation network,” Ashton said at the meeting.

Among the changes being contemplated on Spring Street is a three- or four-way stop sign. Town staff determined that Wood Street is the most appropriate place for the stop sign, but the town will have to remove two crepe myrtle trees that would block the sign.

“We are assessing what we are going to do when we move those crepe myrtles,” Ashton said.

The town will also move a 25 mph speed limit sign that’s covered by trees north closer to Bicksler Lane.

After a few months, the town will address other needed improvements, including striping crosswalks.

The town also plans to work with a traffic engineering and consultant to study cut-through traffic patterns on Locust Street. Another study is also in the works on pedestrian use of Nash Street.

Ashton said the town could leverage Safe Routes to School funding, a federal program, once it resumes next year.

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The Herndon Town Council could allow the consumption of alcohol in select areas of downtown Herndon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The possession and consumption of alcoholic drinks could be allowed in some public areas in the Town of Herndon.

The Herndon Town Council is considering legislation that would allow the town to create Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORAs) in the Downtown Herndon Arts District. Businesses will need licenses for outdoor refreshment areas from the ABC.

Town staff met with Downtown Herndon restaurants in July to explore the idea, according to Dennis Holste, the town’s economic development manager.

So far, the fiscal impact of the project is unclear, Holste wrote.

“These resource commitments will include such budget categories as labor, most likely overtime or contractor support, vehicles and equipment used for road closures, and increases to insurance premiums. A non-profit taking over as the DORA sponsor would help to reduce the town’s fiscal commitment,” he wrote.

Any alcohol within the area must be purchased from an ABC-licensed vendor within the designated DORA.

Each licensee is limited to certain conditions. For example, businesses cannot have more than 16 events where alcohol beverages are sold in the DORA area. Each event also cannot exceed three consequence days.

If the proposal is approved, the town would install signage along public sidewalks near the DORAs. Each sign will delineate where alcohol consumption is not allowed or restricted between midnight and 10 a.m.

Any private property owner within the DORA could prohibit the consumption of alcohol on their property. People also won’t be allowed to consume alcohol within town-owned buildings or facilities — unless otherwise approved — or on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

The Herndon Police Department plans to patrol the DORAs to monitor compliance and ensure enough security is present for special events within those areas.

If passed, the legislation won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2023. The state recently enacted legislation allowing localities to establish DORAs.

The council plans to discuss the matter a meeting tonight (Tuesday).

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The anticipated groundbreaking has been pushed back several times (via Comstock)

Market conditions remain unfavorable for the redevelopment of Downtown Herndon, a public-private partnership that is led by developer Comstock and the town.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting earlier this month, Town Manager Bill Ashton II said Comstock remains committed to pausing the development for up to two years. Currently, Comstock is unable to approve financing for the project and conditions remain economically unfavorable for the project to proceed.

The redevelopment seeks to transform five acres of land into a mixed-use project. The cost of the $101 million project increased by $25 million due to materials, labor, and workforce restrictions caused by the pandemic. It’s unclear what the current estimate is.

Comstock announced the project pause in mid-July.

“They want to be ready to go the moment they think the economy is right for them to move,” Ashton said at the Oct. 11 meeting.

He said Comstock stands to lose money on the deal if they proceed as is. Ashton also emphasized that town officials meet biweekly with Comstock for status updates on the project.

Ashton noted that the redevelopment project is governed under the Virginia Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, bringing different conditions and requirements from a typical design-build contract.

The town’s comprehensive agreement with Comstock was amended in 2020. Ashton II said the agreement contains protections that would kick in if the project does not proceed.

“If nothing is happening within two years, the deal could unwind,” Ashton said.

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Herndon will work with Fairfax Water to add a pump station next to the police station (via Town of Herndon)

A pump station proposed for the Herndon Police Department site will be able to process 10 million gallons of water per day, town staff say.

The station is part of a broader retooling of Herndon’s Utility Master Plan, which outlines how the town will bolster its water infrastructure in preparation for development around the downtown and future Metro station.

Presented to the town council in 2017, that plan anticipated the town would need to increase its water capacity by an additional 1 million gallons per day by 2025. The town purchased new storage in 2018, bringing its total capacity to 5.7 million gallons per day, according to a staff report by the Herndon Department of Public Works.

However, a shift in development trends in favor of residential construction over commercial led staff to revisit its earlier estimates and conclude that a new pump station would make more sense than the previous plan to add two transmission mains.

“This would allow us to get the additional capacity that we will need in a much more economical and reliable fashion than our previous plans estimated,” Herndon Deputy Director of Public Works Tammy Chastain told the town council during a work session on Tuesday (Oct. 4).

The new pump station will be on the police station property at 397 Herndon Parkway, where it can be connected to an existing 24-inch-wide pipeline that runs parallel to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

The town council is slated to approve a pending agreement with Fairfax Water for the project on Tuesday (Oct. 11), kicking off the design process.

Fairfax Water would be responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the facility, while the Town of Herndon would cover the design and construction costs.

“They are the ones that are going to have to upgrade it and maintain it,” Chastain said. “If it needs major repairs, we’d probably be helping in funding that. It’s only for us right now, which is why we’re paying the full cost.”

Right now, the estimated cost is nearly $5 million — higher than what town officials suggested before initiating an engineering study in 2019 but lower than the over $6 million that would’ve been needed for two transmission lines, according to Chastain.

The funding will come from the federal COVID-19 relief that the town was allocated by the American Rescue Plan Act, which included water and sewer projects as a viable use of the money, Town Manager Bill Ashton confirmed.

“This is good news because we’ve been planning for this for years,” Mayor Sheila Olem said. “Unfortunately, we went through Covid, but now, we’re getting this funding for something we knew we were putting in anyway. This is great.”

The pump station is “a step amongst several” in Herndon’s utility plan, Ashton said. At some point, the town will also replace its storage tank on Alabama Drive with two smaller tanks that the pump will fill.

Since the station will be right next to the W&OD, Councilmember Sean Regan questioned how it might affect the greenery alongside the trail and whether anything will need to be replaced.

Ashton responded that the potential impact on green space is “a design consideration we would certainly look at.”

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The town is accepting a bid to restore more than 1,000 feet of the stream (via Town of Herndon)

The Town of Herndon is moving forward with a multi-million-dollar contract to restore more than 1,000 feet of Sugarland Run Stream.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting tomorrow (Tuesday), the council is expected to vote on awarding a nearly $964,000 contract to KBS Earthworks, Inc. to complete the project.

Public bidding on the project closed on Sept. 9. The lowest bidder — Geomorphic Restoration — did not respond to the town’s request for additional documentation.

“The next lowest bidder KBC Earthworks, Inc., has been found to be responsive and responsible,” John Irish, deputy director of the town’s public works department, said in a statement.

The project includes restoring 1,100 linear feet of the stream, along with 250 linear feet of three tributaries on the town’s property. The design also includes pedestrian access to the east side of the project.

The trail will remain open during restoration, but the portion of the trail central to the site will be replaced during the construction project.

“Stream restoration will include but are not limited to constructed riffles, rock cross vanes, rock toe revetments, plunge pools and rock outfall channels,” a staff memo says.

The project has been in the works for years. Stream restoration creates a stable channel using natural materials to restore the function, dynamics and structure of the stream to the maximum extent possible, according to the town.

A project timeline was not immediately available.

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A major piece of the Town of Herndon’s vision for development around the Herndon-Monroe Metro Station has officially been approved. 

The Herndon Town Council unanimously voted to approve Lerner Enterprises’ proposal for the Parkview development, which would bring a little over one million square feet of development to the north entrance of the Herndon-Monroe Metro Station.

Town of Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem said she was confident that the project brings the town vision for its transit-oriented core to life. 

“You always put really high quality facilities in,” Olem said to the development team.

The plan includes three buildings that could take two possible forms: a mixed-use development with two residential towers and an office tower or three office towers.

In the first mixed-use option, both residential towers would be oriented towards Herndon Parkway and Worldgate Drive, standing 225 feet and 275 feet tall. The office building would be 275 feet tall.

Both options include between 10,000 and 12,500 square feet or retail.

The office-only option would include three office towers that are 225 and 275 feet tall. 

A major feature of the plan — and the subject of vigorous discussion — was creating a pedestrian-centric environment. A central plaza will connect the three towers in both development options.

The proposal has been in the works for years. After an initial filing in 2019, the development team pared down the project with less density and reduced building heights.

The 5-acre site is currently home to an office building that was built in the 1980s and surface parking.

Lerner is one of two developers that will contribute funds to help construct the Herndon Promenade, a planned public open space that will usher Metro users into the town.

Lori Greenely, the development’s land use attorney, said that the project was “challenged by significant transportation structure on all four sides” of the property. 

“It either furthers the vision adopted by the council or it furthers the ability of pedestrian or bikes to get to Metro or is furthers the traffic,” Greenly noted. 

She said the development team incorporated transportation infrastructure improvements to ensure the project was pedestrian-friendly.

Discussions will continue on how to best establish a sense of place in the development.

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