The Town of Herndon is instituting uniform sign standards in an effort to manage consistent design that fits its character and architectural context.
The proposal, which was adopted by the Historic District Review Board yesterday (Wednesday), would also streamline the number of cases that go before that board and the town’s Architectural Review Board.
“These standards give direction on the ways in which signage can serve practical needs while contributing to Town character and appearance,” the new design standards say.
Specific standards laid out for the town’s Historic District Overlay area say signs should typically follow a consistent design palette and ethic. The rules also discourage the use of standardized designs and colors that clash with the overall aesthetic of buildings.
“Creative and artistic designs are encouraged to enhance liveliness and visual interest,” the design standards say.
The guidelines also detail considerations for projecting signs, wall signs, free standing signs, canopy signs and awning signs. Similar standards are considered for the town’s Architectural Control District.
At a previous work session, board members said the design standards were too broad and not restrictive enough.
But in a March 15 memo, Herndon Deputy Director of Community Development Bryce Perry said that the board did not provide additional comments on possible changes.
“Staff is open to suggestions on how to add further specific to the standards,” Perry said, adding that additional specificity is included in other documents like the downtown pattern book.
He said the guidelines are crafted “purposefully to cover broad design considerations that could be applied to all sign cases.”
The toll lanes on I-66 outside the Capital Beltway have been open for over three months now, but some drivers are still getting tripped up by the accompanying signage.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed staff on Tuesday (March 7) to prepare a letter asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to clarify the information on its signs about toll prices and exit locations.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who requested the move, said his office has continued to receive complaints from confused constituents.
“The signage used on these newly opened Express Lanes is not as clear as the signs on I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes,” Herrity said. “The signage does not provide total cost information for the entire length, and it does not give clear information to drivers on locations of exit ramps to general purpose lanes, which is important for drivers deciding whether to pay additional tolls.”
Covering 22.5 miles from the Beltway (I-495) in Dunn Loring to Route 29 in Gainesville, the westward extension of the I-66 Express Lanes became fully operational on Nov. 22, though portions of the overall $3.7 billion project are still under construction.
The signage was developed in accordance with federal guidelines and approved by the Federal Highway Administration, but both VDOT and I-66 Express Mobility Partners (I-66 EMP), the private company that operates the toll lanes, acknowledged that this is “a learning period” as drivers adjust to new signs and traffic patterns.
“We are looking at areas in the corridor where we might enhance or clarify the signage in an effort to help drivers,” VDOT Northern Virginia’s megaprojects section said in a statement.
Because of their length, the new lanes are split up into three eastbound segments and four westbound segments, charging drivers for each segment they take. Signs for the lanes currently show only toll prices for specific sections, rather than the whole corridor.
Nancy Smith, the corporate affairs director for I-66 EMP, says the operator is “aware” that this approach “may present particular confusion” at spots like the I-495 interchange that are complicated to navigate, but it’s ultimately more effective.
“This system provides our drivers with the most accurate rates as well as greater flexibility to determine when to get on and off the lanes,” Smith said. “An end-to-end rate wouldn’t accurately reflect conditions in the furthest segment by the time a driver gets there. Again, it will take time for all drivers to completely familiarize themselves with our segmental tolling system.”
According to I-66 EMP, the average weekly toll lanes usage increased from about 3% to 5% of I-66 users over the past month, suggesting drivers becoming more accustomed to the lanes.
“That’s a very encouraging growth trend,” Smith said.
I-66 EMP has an online trip planning tool that provides toll estimates. Its customer service center at 1-833-643-2867 will also answer questions, Smith said.
Despite his concerns about the signage, Herrity called the I-66 Express Lanes project an “impressive feat” that provides new transportation choices and “a quicker commute due to the additional capacity from the toll lanes.”
“I thought a letter from the board might help VDOT encourage the contractor to get that signage done,” Herrity said.
Fairfax County is seeking public feedback to reduce the chances of future residents and visitors confusing Tysons Corner Center with Tysons Galleria, among other potential mix-ups.
The county launched a Tysons Wayfinding and Signage Survey on Feb. 14 in partnership with the Tysons Community Alliance, which formed last fall as the next-stage evolution of the nonprofit Tysons Partnership.
“We are excited to be working with the County on this important initiative,” Tysons Community Alliance acting CEO Rich Bradley said. “Wayfinding is the first touch point for many people as they enter and move around a place. It should be welcoming and reflect the area”s sense of community and as such we want people to participate in the survey and provide their ideas.”
Focused on how to “improve the experience” of getting around Tysons, questions in the survey deal with modes of transportation used for traveling, ways people describe Tysons, and the usefulness of digital signage for sharing information.
The survey will be open until Monday, March 6 at 11:59 p.m.
Survey responses will play an important role in informing the development of a Tysons-wide wayfinding strategy. Be sure to submit your feedback before the survey closes on Monday, March 6 at 11:59 p.m.
— Dalia Palchik (@SupvPalchik) February 14, 2023
Officially created on Oct. 13, 2022, the Tysons Community Alliance serves as an advocacy organization for residents, businesses and other stakeholders in the area, overseeing the implementation of the county’s comprehensive plan.
The group has been tasked with developing branding for Tysons, supporting its economic growth, placemaking, and improving mobility. Its funding comes from the county budget and an economic opportunity grant, though it will likely be supported by a special tax in the long term.
In addition to conducting the wayfinding survey, the alliance is getting ready to launch an updated logo, website and social media accounts, all of which will be formally unveiled tomorrow (Wednesday), per a media alert.
“Bookmark this page to discover why the time is right to join the vanguard of stakeholders who are committed to the ongoing evolution of Tysons, a thriving 21st century destination for business, retail and families,” the page at tysonsva.org says. “Our new website is launching soon!”
A program that enlists Fairfax County Adult Detention Center inmates for litter pick-up, landscaping and other maintenance services will be put on hold.
The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office told county leaders on June 16 that it will temporarily suspend its Community Labor Force (CLF) effective Sept. 12 “due to critically low staffing levels,” according to the sheriff’s office.
“By doing this, the agency will be able to redirect staff to the core functions,” Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Andrea Ceisler said.
The office is currently down 72 sworn positions, or 14.5% of its staff, according to Ceisler.
The agency reported in April that it had a vacancy rate of nearly 15%, despite additional recruiting efforts. The fiscal year 2023 budget that the Board of Supervisors approved in May included salary increases for sheriff’s office staff and other public safety workers, starting on July 1.
According to the sheriff’s office, the CLF provides public services that would otherwise require county staff or contractors:
The CLF services over 300 county bus stops, shelters and park-and-rides by collecting the trash, doing light landscaping, removing graffiti and performing general maintenance when needed. The crews service many of the county’s stormwater management facilities, including over 1,300 dry ponds that temporarily hold and filter water in neighborhoods and at businesses. They also do landscaping, litter pick-up and emergency snow removal on public lands.
The force consists of work crews of up to five “well-screened” incarcerated individuals, each overseen by a deputy. Participants can reduce their jail time by volunteering for the program, which currently has 11 inmates.
Alternatives Needed for Sign Removals
Due to the CLF’s impending halt, the county board directed staff yesterday (Tuesday) to review potential options for handling the affected services — specifically an effort to remove signs from street curbs, medians and other areas in the public right of way.
The county has relied on the CLF to remove thousands of signs from 100 designated roads under a July 1, 2013 agreement between the sheriff’s office, Board of Supervisors, the Department of Code Compliance and the Virginia Department of Transportation. In 2016 alone, the group collected 23,264 signs, according to the sheriff’s office.
“The number of signs in our right of way today compared to what we used to deal with has made a significant difference not only in visibility, but in public safety, certainly for the environment and litter clean-ups,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We cannot afford to have a gap, not even for one day in this service.” Read More
Fairfax County is examining its signage rules to possibly allow bigger and brighter electronic signs.
Staff discussed the matter yesterday (Tuesday) during a Board of Supervisors’ land use policy committee meeting.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust questioned the goal of the review, which has been underway since March 2019, according to a staff report.
Staff told him the county’s existing ordinance is old and shopping centers want to be competitive. Casey Judge, with the county’s Zoning Administration Division, suggested that easing an application process could help businesses too.
The county has proposed simplifying and consolidating three application processes into one for nonresidential areas.
“We have an awful lot of sign pollution already,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “I’m really concerned about some of this.”
She noted that even signs within buildings, such as lighted “open” signage, can distract drivers and other road users.
Businesses are also already allowed to install electronic signs in residential areas, according to the county.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, the committee’s vice chair, said his office has received complaints about existing electronic signs in residential neighborhoods.
Alcorn said he’s not as concerned if a sign is in the middle of a commercial district, but he wants to find out more about how to manage issues near or adjacent to neighborhoods.
The committee’s chair, Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith, directed staff to return with further recommendations for the board to consider.
A draft of changes could be developed this summer or fall. Public hearings are tentatively expected this winter or in early 2023 on any modifications to the county’s rules.
Photo via Google Maps