Moving Forward

Moving Forward

As the new year begins so do new visions for the town.

While Herndon Town Council members followed through on many of their promises made at the beginning of 2005, many things still need to be checked off of the town's "to do list."

Included in those are the following ground breaking and ribbon cutting events, as well as other planning decisions to be made to get projects moving in 2006.

The Herndon Community Center, which broke ground for its phase four improvements during the summer, is on schedule to be completed in 2006, said Steve Owen, town manager. The renovation and construction will give the community center more space to host classes and community activities.

Renovations and upgrades to the Chestnut Grove Cemetery are also slated to begin in 2006, Owen said. Included in the upgrade is an administration building and a maintenance building to store the various equipment needed for the cemetery. Having the administration building on-site will provide even more customer service to residents wishing to purchase plots at the cemetery, Owen said. Currently, the cemetery director and staff are located at the Herndon Municipal Center.

Constructing a nature center at Runnymede Park is an item that has been on previous year's "to do lists" but has always been set aside — until now.

After removing funding from the budget for the nature center's construction last year, council members have replaced the money and are already moving forward with the project, Mayor Michael O'Reilly said. The park is also scheduled to have some changes, including reducing its public facilities and activities to keep the park a natural habitat.

"We should be underway with Runnymede Park improvements, including the nature center," said Owen in his projections for 2006. "Actually, that project is well underway within the design and planning phases."

ADDITIONAL PROJECTIONS for 2006 include moving forward the downtown streetscape improvements. Because a grant was awarded to fund the improvements, the town has to move quickly to ensure the money does not run out before the completion of the projects.

The improvements will include lighting changes, parking changes, the moving of fire hydrants to create more parking and significant landscaping, said Owen.

Other streetscape improvements include completing the various storm water management projects that have been on-going through town. One of the more noticeable projects is the Monroe Street construction which continually blocks off the street from its Elden Street and Park Avenue entrances.

Council members also hope to move forward with the two downtown redevelopment proposals, submitted by Clark Ventures LLC and Herndon Station LLC, O'Reilly said.

Because both proposals are drastically different, council members are taking their time to ensure their final decision — to possibly go with one company over the other — is the right decision. Council is also reviewing the financial plans with each package, trying to determine which would be the best fit for the town and it's budget.

Mirroring an item from its "to dos" of 2005, the council plans to continue its monitoring of the Rail to Dulles plans. Council members hope the plans for a Metro stop at Monroe Street would include the town through a walkway over the Dulles Toll Road, O'Reilly said.

Planning Commissioners and council members will also continue their review of the town's zoning ordinance. Having begun at the start of 2005, the estimated completion date of the ordinance rewrite is for March of this year, O'Reilly said.

"Once we're finished with that we'll roll right into the Comprehensive Plan review," he said about the document that outlines a timeline for upcoming town projects.

"We need to look over all of the plan, but we will focus on the specific area around the proposed rail station," he said. "We need to discuss how much, and what we think is appropriate density around a rail station."

OTHER AREAS of interest include continuing to increase the enforcement and penalties of overcrowding violations, trying to reduce the town's tax rate, which currently is 25 cents per $100 assessed value, and Elden Street improvements are also slated to begin to help widen the road and improve traffic flow.

With the recent debates and divisions over the approved day-labor hiring center, the new year could also mean change for Herndon's boundary line.

Due to a recent zoning decision by Loudoun County, that the Rock Hill Road entrance — which is in Loudoun County — cannot be used by vehicles going to the hiring center, the town has shut down the entrance. Town officials are currently filing for the proper permits to use the driveway for Public Works vehicles and residents using the recycling center. In preparation for the zoning hearing on the site's entrance, Richard Kaufman, town attorney, and council member Steven Mitchell made it public that the town's boundary line is actually in Loudoun County. For more than 50 years, the boundary line of the town has been paired with the Fairfax County and Loudoun County line. But, through 10 years of research, Kaufman found that the town's boundary line actually lies in Loudoun. If a judge finds this to be correct, the Loudoun zoning determination would be moot and Herndon would gain additional town residents, O'Reilly said.

"I think that the issues with Loudoun County surrounding the driveway and the boundary line adjustments," he said, "ultimately they'll be resolved to our satisfaction."

Again partially due to the day-labor debate, a possible change of elected officials could occur, concerning those whose two-year terms are up this spring.

"Every election there is always an effort to get more people to vote," said O'Reilly about local community activist groups promoting certain candidates.

While rumors are flying about who will run, and who may not be re-elected, citizens need to remember whomever they elect will have to decide on more issues than just the day-labor debate or national immigration reform, O'Reilly said.

"If you elect someone on a single issue then they will only represent you on a single issue," he said.

Regardless of who is voted in or out of office, the current council has already made its impact on 2006.

"Everyone has downplayed the issues surrounding the downtown redevelopment," said O'Reilly. "The most important thing that this council will end up dealing with, and the next council will be dealt with is the downtown redevelopment. And that impact is huge."