Post Content
A new trail would connect to the Herndon Metro Station (via Town of Herndon)

With the opening of phase two of the Silver Line expected in October, local governments are preparing public services to connect efficiently to the new stations.

In the latest initiative, the Herndon Town Council is poised to approve a $410,000 contract to build a new trail connection to the Herndon Metro Station. The proposal is set for a vote at a council meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

The 8-foot-wide asphalt trail would run from Worldgate Drive through the existing Metro station pavilion entrance, according to the town’s Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish.

Irish noted that the project has been long in the works as part of the county’s capital improvements plan for years.

“We’ve spend years trying to get easements to construct this,” Irish said.

The project was bid out to A.P. Construction, LLC. The trail would be open to pedestrians and bicyclists. A timeline for construction and completion was not immediately available.

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

Since 1991, people outside the Town of Herndon have been able to take advantage of its parks and recreation scholarship program, which awards fee waivers to participants enrolled in federally-funded, low-income programs.

A proposal before the Herndon Town Council aims to restrict eligibility for that program to town residents. If adopted by the council, the move would align with neighboring jurisdictions that offer fee waivers to residents only.

The program was temporarily put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to Cindy Roeder, the Herndon Parks and Recreation Department director.

If the proposal is approved, participants ages 17 and under would be eligible for a 50% fee reduction and participants 18 and older would receive a 25% reduction.

At a meeting on Tuesday (July 5), council members and staff expressed support for the changes, noting that area jurisdictions have similar models in place.

“That is a good basis for why we wanted ours this way as well,” Roeder said.

Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said jurisdictions throughout the state offer robust programming for residents, giving non-residents many options for recreational programming and services.

“If every single other jurisdiction only gives to discounts to their own residents and we are one of the most highly taxed districts in Northern Virginia, I don’t see why we would not follow suit in that area,” Friedrichs said.

Currently, the town plans to allocate $10,000 to the program for fiscal year 2023.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal, who called the program a step in the “right direction,” suggested upping the cap to $20,000 to meet demand. Staff noted that changes to allocations are flexible.

The town’s parks department has managed the fee waiver program since 2010, including collecting scholarship funds and verifying eligibility. Before then, the nonprofit Cornerstones — then known as Reston Interfaith — handled the program but later withdrew because it didn’t align with the organization’s mission.

Town Manager Bill Ashton II said a discomfort with holding on to other people’s financial records — which is currently required for the town to manage the fund — also motivated the search for a new model.

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

Elections in the Town of Herndon could see some big changes as early as next year.

At a meeting earlier this week, Herndon Town Council began preliminary discussions on changes to elections, including the possibility of increasing and staggering the terms of office and instituting term limits.

Staff are also exploring the creation of town voting districts or wards, but council members said they would need to court significant public feedback before considering possible changes.

Any changes to the elections process could require updates to the town’s charter, town code and an amendment to the state’s constitution.

For example, increasing the terms of office would require amendments to the town charter and the town code, while staggered terms would only require an amendment to the town charter.

Term limits would require an amendment to the town charter and the state’s constitution. Town voting districts only requires an amendment to the town code.

If the town proceeds with any changes, the council will consider moving the legislation to the General Assembly. An ordinance, which must first be adopted by the town council, has to be forwarded to state legislators before Dec. 1 to be considered in the next session.

The earliest changes would go into effect is July 1, and the earliest town council terms would change is November 2024.

Councilmember Sean Regan said he would only want to move forward with the discussion if town residents favor changes. Other council members said they were unsure if it was worth investing town staff and resources into the endeavor.

Overall, the council leaned on exploring four-year terms on a staggered basis.

“We want to go with the voice of 24,000 people,” Regan said, adding that he wants to find out what the “pulse of the people” is on possible changes.

Currently, Herndon has no voting districts. Proceeding with proposed boundaries would require pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most council members were wary of the proposal.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal said he was concerned that proceeding with voting wards may not be suitable for a small town like the Town of Herndon.

“It seems so complicated for a small town,” concurred Councilmember Signe Friedrichs.

She also cautioned that it may be too early to consider changes, given the looming Dec. 1 deadline for submitting legislation.

Olem said separating the town into districts could result in divisiveness, with residents from specific areas pitted against each other.

Councilmember Jasbinder Singh — who originally pitched the idea — said the redevelopment of downtown Herndon takes up too much focus from the town and that more representation for other parts of town is needed.

“The energy is taken by the downtown,” said Singh.

Town Attorney Lesa Yeatts cautioned that opening the charter for amendments could result in other changes at the hands of General Assembly members.

“Sometimes, the General Assembly can take liberties and they can amend in ways that once its open, it’s open,” Yeatts said.

However, she noted that it’s much more likely that the General Assembly would deny or accept the proposal, not offer major changes.

0 Comments
Town of Herndon police (courtesy Herndon Police Department)

The Herndon Town Council is exploring ways to improve safety and security in the town, possibly through increased police presence.

The idea, pitched by Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila at a quarterly strategy meeting late last month, could involve more foot patrols in the community, primarily an effort to curb traffic-related issues.

Del Aguila says that for a small town like Herndon, safety and security can be enhanced with visibility and is less contingent on policing and enforcing.

“The bigger question is, if this is truly a desired need for us, how many police officers would we need? What would that entail?” he said.

But it’s unclear how increased visibility would shake out in a department that is already struggling to hire police officers amid a national labor shortage.

Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said a “culture of impunity” is particularly problematic on the town’s roads, pointing to “drag racing along H-mart.”

The town is limited in its ability to install red light cameras and other similar traffic-calming methods by statute, according to town staff.

In light of the town’s limitations, Councilmember Sean Regan said Herndon could also explore installing more devices that indicate the vehicle’s speed.

According to del Aguila and other council members, part of the challenge to making law enforcement approachable is that the police officers are interacting with a growing Spanish-speaking population, which can lead to barriers born out of communication gaps.

Police Chief Maggie DeBoard said she is aware of the issue and recently hired Hispanic police officers. The department also encourages officers to undergo language training.

Overall, Mayor Sheila Olem said the town’s police officers are generally very “well-received” in the community.

The Town Council’s discussion will be followed by a staff analysis looking at next steps, including how many police officers would be needed to expand the department’s presence and what such an initiative would entail.

The council discussed other priorities at the quarterly meeting, including the possibility of making some motor vehicle services more permanent.

0 Comments
Leone Lane off of Herndon Parkway (via Google Maps)

Residents of Leona Lane in Herndon are seeking the town’s help to rectify long-term parking issues in the area.

The neighborhood is constrained by limited curbside parking, limited space for emergency vehicles, sight line issues, and trash and litter, according to residents. They also say they’ve had trouble getting town services like trash, recycling, and snow and leaf removal.

After investigating the matter, Town Manager Bill Ashton II said he discovered residents of an adjacent neighborhood have been taking up most of the available parking space along Leona Lane from the intersection with Marjorie Lane and its associated cul-de-sac.

An April petition from the Runnymede Manor Homeowners’ Association with 14 signatures made its way to the town, asking officials to consider creating a residential parking permit zone on Leona Lane. The Herndon Town Council is considering the proposal — which would restrict parking from midnight to 7 a.m. daily — at a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

“Staff will work with the homeowners to implement the program in the affected areas and will watch carefully to determine if additional action should be taken,” Ashton wrote in a statement.

The town’s engineering staff found that restricting parking is necessary for safety reasons. They recommended removing 13 spaces to improve sight lines and access for emergency vehicles as part of the parking zone.

The implementation of the parking zone is the first planned step in rectifying ongoing issues in the neighborhood.

Ashton said town staff will monitor the area to determine if implementing parking restrictions shuffles issues to another section of Leona Lane.

The zone would only apply to Leona Lane from its intersection with Marjorie Lane to the cul-de-sac where Leona ends.

A vote is expected on June 14.

Photo via Google Maps

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

Down the road, Herndon residents may not have to travel as far to access services by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The Herndon Town Council is exploring the possibility of bringing permanent DMV services to the town — an initiative that was broadly discussed at the council’s quarterly strategy meeting late last month.

It’s not the first time council members have floated the idea.

At a strategy meeting earlier this year, the council directed staff to research the possibility of more permanent services in the town.

In response to that directive, Town Manager Bill Ashton III told the council on May 26 that a partnership to bring the DMV to Herndon Fortnightly Library was underway — similar to services provided prior to the beginning of the pandemic.

“This location is ideal because of the ample parking conveniently located in downtown right off the [Washington & Old Dominion] Trail and it has an adjacent bus service to the library,” Ashton said.

Ashton noted that this option was less costly and provided services without the need for other resources.

But Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila said he thought the council was seeking more permanent offices for DMV, possibly on town-owned property.

“That was my understanding of what was requested,” del Aguila said.

Ashton said he thought the council was seeking a more short-term alternative and would look into the matter.

Councilmember Signe Friedrichs encouraged her colleagues to ensure that prioritized initiatives discussed during council meetings were clear and did not leave room for interpretation by staff.

“We need to be a lot more specific on these things…Do we really want to do this?” she said.

The discussion on the issue is preliminary — a feature that Councilmember Sean Regan emphasized is a part of the “iterative” process the town must pursue before long-term planning.

He noted that key information — including whether there is an unmet need and the DMV’s input on the issue — are needed before the possibility of a vote is considered.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal encouraged town staff to explore the issue further.

“If we have something consistent and predictable, people will know and start following,” Dhakal said.

0 Comments
Residence Inn could shift into a multi-family housing project (via Town of Herndon)

Herndon will have to wait a little longer to see whether the local Residence Inn will be redeveloped into residential units.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Tuesday (May 24), the council deferred a decision on the project, which converts the aging facility into a 170-unit project with at least half of the units set aside as workforce housing.

The applicant’s representative, Ken Wire, said the deferral was necessary because the applicant was not able to sufficiently gather formal feedback from neighboring residents and stakeholders. Wire said some notices about the project were not sent out in time.

The issue was caused by a planning fluke, Wire told the council.

The council has been working with the applicant to sort through a number of details, including beefed-up proffers, for the project. The plan includes 72 new bicycle spaces, a new cycle station facility, and improvements like ADA-friendly crosswalks and $10,000 for bus stop improvements.

Wire said the applicant first came to the Town of Herndon with this project in 2019 to redevelop an asset that was built 32 years ago and “doesn’t fit its purpose.”

“The good news about this sister is that it does lay out quite well for housing units,” Wire said.

Roughly half of the units will be available to residents who earn up to 80% of the median area income.

0 Comments
The anticipated groundbreaking for the downtown Herndon redevelopment has been pushed back several times (via Comstock)

A groundbreaking date for downtown Herndon’s pending redevelopment has been as elusive as the regional transportation that’s intended to help activate it: the opening of phase two of the Silver Line.

Developer Comstock Companies is working with the town to transform 4.7 acres of land into a mixed-use town center with 273 residential apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail space, an arts center and a 726-space parking garage.

Comstock has submitted a new schedule for the project, which was expected to break ground this spring after being pushed further out from last year.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Tuesday (May 10), town manager Bill Ashton II said attorneys for Comstock and the town are negotiating the schedule and financing package.

“They are on the cusp of going to lending but there are some things they need to iron out before they can get there,” Ashton II said at the meeting.

The town is actively working on this issues, which were not publicly discussed. Comstock has also required some changes to a building permit based on site plan revisions that will be submitted to the town.

Comstock told FFXnow in a statement that no updates were available to share.

Ashton provided the update at a meeting following questions from Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila.

“There’s a lot of rumor mill and conspiracies out there,” del Aguila said.

The cost of the $101 million project increased by $25 million due to issues related to materials, labor, and workforce restrictions caused by the pandemic.

When asked about the project, a spokesperson for the town deferred to the discussion at the meeting.

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

The Town of Herndon has held the line on its real estate tax rate as the council approved its $57.3 million budget for fiscal year 2023.

The budget, which represents a nearly 3% increase over last year, includes the first pay raises for the Herndon Town Council in nearly 15 years.

The real estate tax remains unchanged at $0.265 per $100 of assessed value, but property owners will see hikes in tax bills in the next fiscal year due to big jumps in real estate values.

The town also increased water and sewer rates from $6.28 to $7.16 per 1,000 gallons for sewer and $3.21 to $3.31 per 1,000 gallons for water along with an increase in fees for the Herndon Centennial Golf Course and Chestnut Grove Cemetery.

In response to some residents’ and councilmembers’ concerns that the increases were too high, Town Manager Bill Ashton noted that costs of maintenance for both systems have increased between 2011 and 2018.

“We weren’t covering over that period the money that would cover that operational capital expenditure,” Ashton said, adding that maintenance issues like pipe replacement are becoming more commonplace.

Not everyone was amenable to pay increases for the Herndon Town Council and mayor. Councilmember pay increased from $4,000 to $15,000, and the mayor’s pay increased from $6,000 to $16,000. The increases will go into effect in the 2023-2024 term.

The measure passed with Mayor Sheila Olem casting the lone dissenting vote Tuesday night (April 26).

“It’s too big of a raise…especially for this time,” Olem said, adding that she had hoped to examine more modest pay increases for all boards and commissions instead of a big hike for the council.

Others said the move incentivizes more candidates to seek office.

Councilmember Signe Friedrichs said that, while she was conflicted about her support, the raise simply “doesn’t look good in a time of inflation.” Still, she joined the rest of the council in voting for the proposal.

“Sometimes you have to make concessions to make sure that something gets done,” she said.

Former mayor Lisa Merkel said that, while the salary increase for the mayor was appropriate, councilmembers should not receive a similar raise due to the differences in the mayoral and council roles.

“I am aware that there is a considerable difference in time and responsibility between serving as a council member verses serving in the mayor role,” Merkel wrote in a letter to the council. “The mayor signs all leases and legal documents, contracts, plats, and many other legally binding documents.  While Councilmember’ records and emails remain on the record and FOIAable for 7 years after their final term ends, the Mayor’s records remain on record and FOIAable in perpetuity.”

The first proposal included more modest increases — $10,000 for council members and $12,000 for the mayor.

The council will approve the town’s Capital Improvement Plan next month.

0 Comments
An outdoor tent set up on Lynn Street in Herndon (via Google Maps)

Outdoor dining became a go-to option during the peak of the pandemic for downtown Herndon businesses, but it may not just be a thing of the past anymore.

The Herndon Town Council is considering a proposal to permit outdoor dining and seating in public areas. The move comes after temporary licenses to allow outdoor dining expired in November.

After the state and town declared a state of emergency, multiple downtown businesses took advantage of relaxed regulations — including those involving serving alcoholic beverages — to allow outdoor dining on sidewalks, parking lots, and on-street parking spaces.

Earlier this year, Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila asked staff to look into the issue.

The proposal formalizes how businesses operated during temporary regulations. Outdoor dining could be allowed in the public right of way, on-street parking spaces, and off-street, public shared parking spaces once applications are approved by staff.

Dining would only be allowed on unallocated spaces in public parking lots and would be limited to two on-street spaces in front of the businesses.

The proposal also has a list of other requirements intended to minimize the impact on parking and traffic safety. The change would only apply to Lynn, Pine, Station, and Center streets.

An annual application fee of $100 is required, with the maximum permit term lasting from March 15 through Oct. 31.

At a meeting on Tuesday (April 19), Herndon Zoning Administrator David Stromberg said businesses would also be required to pay $10 per square foot of affected public space — a number selected based on how other jurisdictions have handled the issue.

Mayor Sheila Olem said some non-restaurant-related businesses are concerned about a possible shortage of parking spots.

Stromberg emphasized that the ordinance is written in a way that would not allow a large number of parking spots to be eligible for outdoor dining. On average, each business could utilize around two parking spaces.

Staff noted that the town must also consider what is the best use of public property — dining, rideshare, parking, or food pickup and deliveries. Businesses would have to reapply annually.

Del Aguila also encouraged town staff to step up enforcement of parking limits in the downtown area.

“We really need enforcement in the downtown area,” he said.

Councilmember Jasbinder Singh said he was concerned outdoor dining would impact pedestrian accessibility. He suggested considering further limits on outdoor dining, such as the time of day.

Others said that the ordinance — which may include design requirements like adequate drainage —  may be too cumbersome for businesses to follow.

“This is crushing them in regulation because it makes it a much more challenging decision for the business owner to do,” said Councilmember Sean Regan.

Photo via Google Maps

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list