Council Addresses Commerce Bank Issues

Council Addresses Commerce Bank Issues

Council Notebook

During an Aug. 9, 2005 public hearing, Herndon Town Council members approved a conditional use permit to allow a 4,101-square foot bank building to be constructed at 1228 Elden St. Known as the Commerce Bank, the structure at the end of the Marketplace shopping center raised some eyebrows during the Planning Commission's review of the land-use. Ultimately, commissioners denied the plan 4 to 2, stating the traffic in that area, just off of the Herndon Parkway and within the parking lot, would not permit easy access to the bank.

During the council's Tuesday, Jan. 10 public hearing, Steve Teets, representative for Edens & Avant the applicant, addressed council concerns about the proposed site plan.

"We are doing a significant upgrade of landscaping of the entire frontage of parking on the property," he said. "We do believe with all the work with Mark [Duceman] and then Henry [Bibber], with all these changes, we have a plan now that will work."

Included in the landscape upgrade will be the relocation of trees and additional islands in the parking lot. The shopping center will also begin to require its employees park behind the structure that includes Giant Foods. After 9:30 p.m. employees would be allowed to move their cars to the front parking lot due to safety concerns, Teets said. The shopping center will also step up its security patrols, to ensure people do not park in fire lanes, among other things.

While the council had little say over the application, because they approved the conditional use permit and the site plan is in accordance with all the requirements, council member Steven Mitchell expressed concerns over complications with the South Elden Street improvements.

Teets confirmed once the site plan was approved, the portions of the road that would fall within the shopping center's property would be dedicated to the Virginia Department of Transportation. The dedication paperwork had already been submitted and was waiting to be processed, Teets said. Once given to VDOT, the sidewalk and necessary property would belong to the commonwealth for the much-needed improvements.

Noting her opposition to the application, Council member Carol Bruce did not agree with the traffic impact.

"I continue to have concerns about traffic motion, automobile safety and pedestrian safety," she said. "I cannot in good conscience support it."

While in agreement with Bruce, councilman Harlon Reece said he had no choice but to support that application because it met the proper requirements.

"I don't think anybody up here is keen on the idea of having a bank in that center with the issues of traffic that have been raised," he said. "But since this site plan differs very little from the GDP [general development plan] for the CUP [conditional use permit], this has basically already been decided."

Council ultimately approved the application 5 to 2, with Bruce and councilwoman Ann Null opposing.

OTHER ITEMS heard during the Jan. 10 public hearing included:

* A unanimous approval of an ordinance granting the vacation of land along the Longhorne Courts Subdivision. Initially dedicated as a public street, the small strip of land behind the K-mart shopping center currently is wooded and looks as though it once was a pedestrian path. With the exception of a 15-foot wide public storm drainage easement, the approved Winchester Homes subdivision will gain the sliver of property, where a newly formed trail currently exists.

* Council approved, 7 to 0, an ordinance granting the vacation of a pedestrian walkway located along Summerfield Drive and Rock Hill Road. By vacating the property, J. David Huffman and Gay Johnson-Huffman will gain the land. An abandoned walkway, when council approved the regulated day-labor hiring center, neighboring residents were concerned the path would be used as a shortcut to the former police station. To eliminate that possibility, the town granted the land to the Huffmans so it would be private property. The town also removed the existing cement that lined the path and replaced it with grass.