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Ferndale Avenue at the Herndon Parkway intersection (via Google Maps)

Upgrades to Ferndale Avenue and improvements to police infrastructure are among the new projects proposed in Herndon’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for fiscal year 2025-2030.

The CIP is a part of the annual operating budget and includes funding for transportation, sewer and other public facility projects.

At a work session on Feb. 12, the Town of Herndon Planning Commission recommended the proposed draft to the town manager. It includes 36 projects, the bulk of which cover multimodal transportation and enhancements.

In a report, staff noted that the focus of the plan is to “address current facilities and infrastructure from a health, safety, sustainability, and maintenance perspective.”

The town plans to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety along Ferndale Avenue between Herndon Parkway and Park Avenue, adding sidewalks, curb ramps, and crosswalks that meet current ADA standards.

“Preliminary studies indicate vehicular sight distances are inadequate due to vehicular parking and the curvature of the road,” the proposed CIP says. “Studies also indicated the potential need for additional pedestrian crosswalks across Ferndale Avenue. Initial concept plans include the use of curb bump outs as a feature to shorten crosswalks, define parking areas, and narrow the vehicular travel lanes to current standards.”

The total cost of $545,000 is currently budgeted for fiscal year 2030, which would start on July 1, 2029.

Other added projects include a replacement of an aging, rear motorized security gate and overall improvements for the Herndon Police Department’s station to address building accessibility, physical safety and security, and renovations.

The final new project would bring the town in compliance with new Environmental Protection Agency regulations for lead and copper in drinking water by identifying service lines that don’t meet requirements. Expected to start at the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1, the project would implement new testing requirements, including the first-ever ones for schools and childcare facilities, and replace service lines as needed.

The planning commission will hold a public hearing on the CIP on Monday, Feb. 26, and the town manager will release the proposed operating budget and CIP by May 1.

This year, town staff categorized capital projects by their readiness: imminent for ones with an established scope and funding, priority for ones that have a scope but aren’t fully funded, and future priorities for unfunded projects that haven’t been defined in detail.

The plan calls for $205.3 million in total capital costs.

Staff noted that minor adjustments may be necessary when the town manager finalizes the proposed operating budget.

Image via Google Maps

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Vehicles on Herndon Parkway (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Herndon Town Council members remain concerned by cut-through traffic and spillover from development in neighboring jurisdictions following a recently released traffic study.

At a town council meeting on Feb. 13, consultant Gorove Slade reported that cut-through traffic declined overall from 2019 to 2022, but several key intersections are operating beyond their capacity loads.

The study kicked off in 2022 after former council member Sean Regan asked the town to specifically study how the Dulles Toll Road affects cut-through traffic in Herndon. The scope of the study was later expanded to the entire town, Herndon Community Development Director Lisa Gilleran said.

Still, Councilmember Donielle Scherff cautioned that more study is needed to guide meaningful policy decisions.

“It toggles the pandemic, which is just this blip we can’t all explain…I hate to say it but it almost feels like we need to continue this for two more years,” she said, noting concerns about traffic along Spring Street, Van Buren Street and some parts of Herndon Parkway.

She argued the study offers a snapshot in time and should be extended to provide more comprehensive information, particularly as more people return to work and the new Silver Line stations are used more frequently.

Overall, the study found that cut-through traffic exiting and entering the town accounted for 34% of overall traffic in 2019, dipping to 26% in 2022. The most common origin was the intersection of Sterling Road and Old Ox Road, and the most common destinations were Elden Street and Sunset Hills Road.

Overall, cut-through traffic to and from the toll road only accounted for around 8% of all cut-through traffic in 2019 and 6% in 2022.

Gorove Slade also studied capacity between April 25 and May 2 at key intersections. The consultant found that four intersections are operating beyond their set levels of service or queue lengths:

  • Dranesville Road and Herndon Parkway (in the a.m., p.m. and midday)
  • Herndon Parkway and Spring Street (a.m. and p.m.)
  • Van Buren Street and Herndon Parkway (p.m., midday)
  • Sterling Road and Crestview Drive (p.m.)

Burgeoning development at Rivana at Innovation Station in Loudoun County — which is planned for 3,700 residential units and 3.5 million square feet of office space — is expected to increase traffic. Councilmember Keven LeBlanc said the development is concerning since it’s “right on our border.”

Gilleran noted that the town expects to see traffic “increase significantly” on the Old Ox Road portal into town as a result of development.

Town Manager Bill Ashton II noted that the town is well aware of the potential impacts of neighboring development on town roads.

Ashton II said state transportation officials are not analyzing the issue from a holistic persepective and instead taking an approach that foucses mostly on Loudoun County. The town is analyzing ways to improve congestion on Sterling Road, he said.

The challenge is that the town is unable to add lanes as easily as Loudoun County — where development is newer and less dense — due to the presence of established neighborhoods, Gilleran said.

“When you come to the town line, of course, we have established neighborhoods, and so, the prospect of adding lanes is not something that the town has ever considered to be a desirable solution,” she said.

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Pradip Dhakal, who has served on the council for three terms, is running for Herndon mayor (via Pradip Dhakal)

Another town council member has thrown his name in the mix in the race for Herndon mayor.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal, who has served on the council for three consecutive terms, is running for the position. His colleague, Councilmember Keven LeBlanc, announced his intention to run earlier this week.

“Herndon deserves a leader who can collaborate with everyone, foster open discussions for new ideas, and introduce initiatives to propel our town forward,” Dhakal said. “I am committed to working tirelessly to make Herndon an even better place for all our residents.”

Dhakal says he has the “majority support from the current town council,” adding that he hopes to champion diversity if elected.

“It’s crucial for Herndon to have leadership that mirrors the diverse background and demography of our community, ensuring inclusivity and representation for all,” Dhakal said. “If elected, I will be the first-ever mayor of color from the town of Herndon and I believe that will be historic milestone for the town.”

His top priorities are increasing affordability and workforce housing, implementing traffic calming initaitives, and increasing overall safety and security in the town.

In his campaign announcement, LeBlanc included a statement of support from current mayor Sheila Olem, state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. Irene Shin and former mayor Lisa Merkel. He said he would be the first person openly from the LGBTQ community to serve as Herndon’s mayor, if elected.

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Entering the Town of Herndon (staff photo by Fatimah Waseem)

The Town of Herndon is officially opening up its coffers to support community cultural festivals.

A Community Cultural Festival Donation Program launched this week, allowing local organizations to request funds for free, public cultural events, the Town of Herndon announced Monday (Feb. 5).

The goal of the program is to “support a variety of events…that celebrate and share the cultures represented in the community, are open and welcoming to all, and bridge parts of the community…to build understanding,” the town says.

The town council approved a policy to create the program on Oct. 23, shortly after agreeing to contribute $2,015 for a Pakistan Heritage Day event. Council members said the town needed clear guidelines and protocols for future funding requests.

Under the newly created program, nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations must meet several criteria to receive funds. The organization must be in good legal standing and funding requests should not exceed 50% of the total event budget or $10,000, whichever number is lower.

In addition, the program is intended for new events, so the requested event can’t have been held in the town within the last five years.

The organization also can’t receive a prior donation within a fiscal year. More information on how to apply is also available on the town’s website.

This fiscal year, the Town of Herndon has allocated $70,000 for the program — an amount that will vary on a yearly basis based on the council’s direction, town spokesperson Anne Curtis says.

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Keven LeBlanc announced his candidacy for Herndon mayor this week (courtesy Keven LeBlanc)

Herndon Town councilmember Keven LeBlanc announced his candidacy for town mayor yesterday (Tuesday).

If elected, LeBlanc says he would be the town’s first-ever mayor to openly be part of the LGBTQ community. No other candidates have officially announced their intentions to run.

Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem didn’t immediately return a request for comment on her future plans, but in his campaign announcement, LeBlanc included a joint statement apparently endorsing him by Olem, state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Del. Irene Shin and former mayor Lisa Merkel.

“As fellow residents who are raising our families here, we care deeply about Herndon’s future,” the statement said. “Keven understands the need to nurture Herndon’s loyal community spirit while bringing fresh economic energy to our town. His integrity and inclusive vision make him ideally suited to lead Herndon into its next chapter.”

LeBlanc said his top priorities are balance and sustainable growth. Building the stock of affordable housing will also be a key part of his plan for the town.

“I am dedicated as Mayor to leading with empathy, while driving us forward,” he said. “My priority is pursuing balanced and sustainable growth that preserves what we cherish most about our hometown, while propelling Herndon into an inclusive and vibrant future.”

He says his background as an executive and engineer makes him well-suited for the position. His candidacy statement highlights his work negotiating tax decreases for residents, pushing for economic development and spearheading events like the Herndon WinterMarkt.

The town plans to issue a formal release of candidates in June, following filing deadlines.

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A mausoleum in Herndon’s Chestnut Grove Cemetery (via Town of Herndon)

The Town of Herndon is laying out a new plan for the final resting place of nearly 4 acres of Chestnut Grove Cemetery (831 Dranesville Road).

At a Herndon Town Council work session last Tuesday (Jan. 16), town staff laid out a new plan for the final set of undeveloped land on the property, which was transferred to the town as a gift in 1997.

The town intends to work with consulting firm The Tribute Companies on a revised master plan for the undeveloped northwest corner.

Randy Schell, chief program and project manager, said the new master plan is intended to bring the development up to new trends for burials and customs.

“The cemetery is running out of plots for burials, and burials customs have changed through the years,” Schell told the council at the meeting.

The plan will include an updated stormwater management facility, ground slopes and changes to the road infrastructure to address longstanding drainage issues on residential property west of the cemetery.

The master plan for the cemetery was created in 1999.

Construction on the project would begin in the fall, with completion anticipated sometime in the summer of 2025. Buffer landscaping would wrap up in the fall of that year.

The revised layout increases the number of columbarium spaces from 920 to 1,450 and reduces the number of cremation garden sites from 600 to 190. The number of mausoleum crypts is also significantly slashed from 940 to 352.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Two single-family homes are proposed in a floodplain area on Monroe Street (via Town of Herndon)

The Town of Herndon is considering the placement of two single-family homes in a floodplain on Monroe Street.

First approved in January 2022, the proposal has returned to the Herndon Town Council after the applicant sought to increase the footprint of the proposed residential structures.

Because the homes are in the floodplain overlay district, the units are subject to additional planning and development criteria.

David Stromberg, the town’s zoning administrator, said the applicant wants to increase the footprint of a house at 1317 Monroe Street from 2,200 square feet to 3,500 square feet and a house at 1315 Monroe Street from 2,850 to 3,680 square feet.

Town staff recommended approval of the project at a council work session on Tuesday (Jan. 16), reporting that the plan won’t result in an increase in flood heights or the size of the floodplain.

Stromberg emphasized that the applicant must also maintain a 100-foot buffer from resource protection areas and use the most up-to-date flood information available to guide stormwater management.

Councilmember Kevin LeBlanc said he was curious to see how the development proposal would affect runoff in the overall neighborhood — a criterion generally not evaluated within the scope of this proposal.

“They still have to meet all the stormwater requirements that are out there as far as making sure the drainage doesn’t go onto an adjacent property…and that you are meeting stormwater quality requirements,” Stromberg said.

He noted that the applicant must comply with all additional zoning ordinances and receive compliance approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The special exception request will get a public hearing and final vote before the Herndon Town Council later this month. The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 23.

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

Town of Herndon officials estimate a modest influx of general fund revenues in fiscal year 2025 as work begins on preparing the upcoming budget.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Jan. 2, Director of Finance Marjorie Sloan said the town expects roughly $41.1 million in general fund revenues — down from $47.6 million in fiscal year 2024, which began on July 1, 2023.

Town council members emphasized the need to find ways to maintain the town’s current level of services, given the overall revenue picture.

“My concern has always been our revenues are not increasing that I think that we need to maintain,” said Councilmember Cesar del Aguila.

Still, Town Manager Bill Ashton II said Herndon is likely “one of the best capitalized localities in Northern Virginia.”

So far, occupancy and meals taxes are “trending favorable” in the budget, according to Sloan. Revenue has also been buoyed by higher-than-average interest rates on investments, and the town is able to shed some costs after deciding to discontinue the Herndon Festival.

Despite the town’s relatively strong cash position, however, high staff turnover — nearly 50% for some positions — remains a challenge.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal said he’s concerned about the high costs of onboarding new staff and potential implications for turnover in future years.

“50 percent new hires…To me, that’s a little scary, but I think we’re awesome so we can handle it,” del Aguila said.

Tax increases or increases in some town fees may be inevitable, some council members concurred. Still, Sloan said it was important to consider that the current outlook was simply an estimate.

“The bottom line is you can’t always look at the mid-year update and see exactly where we are,” she said.

The council will review a resolution on budgetary guidance at its Jan. 16 meeting. Work sessions on the budget kick off in February — including discussions of a 7% rate increase by Fairfax Water. The proposed budget is scheduled to be publicly released around March 31, followed by the beginning of public hearings on May 9.

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Herndon Festival 2023 at night (via Herndon Festival/Facebook)

A plethora of administrative and logistical issues led to the Town of Herndon’s decision to permanently put the Herndon Festival to bed after a 43-year run, staff say.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 12), Town Manager Bill Ashton II laid out several issues that nearly derailed the festival in previous years and ultimately prompted the permanent cancellation of the four-day event, announced earlier this week.

“In my mind, the question was, ‘Should we spend these countless hours planning and preparing, or could this be an opportunity?’” he said.

According to Ashton, last year, town officials scrambled to find a security company to conduct bag checks during the festival.

Two companies abruptly cancelled their commitments — one of them just a day before the festival was set to begin. Staff scrambled to ratify a contract with a company just 1.5 hours before the festival’s gates opened. Local police officers are prohibited from checking bags at the festival without probable cause.

“It was that close,” Ashton said.

Ashton also said the Herndon Police Department must pull every officer that is not on actively watch for rotating shift. Like other public safety entities, the department has faced hiring and recruitment challenges in recent years, and the town can also no longer rely on regional partners to bolster the police presence at the festival site.

Ashton also noted that, in the event of a significant public safety emergency, the town would have no choice but to cancel the festival if a police force was required outside the festival.

“If we have a significant incident…we would have to shut the festival down to adequately put crime scene [officers] and detectives on site,” he said.

Town staff also struggled to secure dedicated volunteers for the event, which relies heavily on volunteer manpower from key organizations and community partners. Many of those groups cited a major dip in volunteerism in general, particularly as key volunteers age out.

Ashton said volunteers are critical to the event, even with staff putting in thousands of hours of work.

“Everybody’s leave gets cancelled or disapproved. Everybody has to be there,” he said. “If you aren’t there, you better have a doctor’s note.”

The Town of Herndon has major knowledge gaps as well. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the parks and recreation department has undergone 100% turnover, and its director, Cindy Roeder, recently retired.

A major construction project to improve Spring Street is set to kick off this spring near the Northwest Federal Credit Union, where the festival would have taken place.

As part of the project, a state contractor will be working on the intersection of Spring Street and Herndon Parkway, requiring lane closures and changes to pedestrian access. Ashton said the town is not an a position to delay the project, which has already seen cost overruns in utility relocation and land acquisition.

Ashton said the community should instead see the cancellation of Herndon’s staple event as an opportunity to pursue more micro-events in the future — similar to the approach adopted last year for the Celebrate Fairfax! Festival. He noted that Fairfax County is open to partnering with the town.

The Fairfax County Times reported that Celebrate Fairfax Inc., the nonprofit organization that organized the county’s annual festival, has officially ended the event after a “private decision” by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, citing a tweet from Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity.

Photo via Herndon Festival/Facebook

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Multimodal improvements are planned on Sterling Road in Herndon (via Town of Herndon)

Town of Herndon officials are seeking $1.5 million in federal funds for major improvements along Sterling Road.

At a Herndon Town Council work session on Dec. 5, town staff noted that no local match is required to proceed with the project. The town is also requesting $500,000 for ADA-compliant sidewalk and trails improvements throughout Herndon.

Jaleh Moslehi, a project engineer for the Town of Herndon, said the Sterling Road project will include additional lane capacity improvements at the Herndon Parkway intersection, along with safety measures for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“The objectives for this project are to increase safety, to incorporate cycling and pedestrian improvements, reduce congestion, enhance connectivity and circulation, and also doing all of this, but retaining the residential character of the Sterling Road corridor,” she said.

Once completed, the project would reconfigure Sterling Road from Elden Street to Herndon Parkway in order to “reflect the town’s current plans for traffic management and circulation in residential areas,” according to the town’s budgetary documents.

The project will begin with a concept design and traffic impact analysis, determining whether there is a need for a signalized intersection at Crestview Drive. The study will also determine the feasibilty of a bicycle facility between Elden Street and the town limits.

In the second project, town-wide sidewalk and trail improvements are planned based on Herndon’s Pedestrian Plan and Bicycle Network Master Plan.

Funds for the Sterling Road project would come from a federal Regional Surface Transportation Planning program, while funding for the other improvements is through the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program. Both projects are administered by Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA).

Councilmember Cesar del Aguila noted that he and others in the community were happy to hear that the Sterling Road project is moving forward.

Anne Curtis, a spokesperson for the Town of Herndon, said the Sterling Road project is on pause, initially as a result of “COVID delays but also due to need for additional funding.”

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