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Power Company Opens Door to Development

Developer proposes 28 townhouses on 2.2 acres.

At the June 21 Planning Commission work session, representatives from Dominion Virginia Power and the Concordia Group proposed development of the 2.2-acres that once housed the power's substation.

"Historically that spot has been community facilities," said Dana Heiberg, senior planner with Herndon Community Development. "The town did work to relocate the substation because Virginia Power was looking to expand, but the town didn't want a station there, they wanted to make it part of residential."

Heiberg said the land in question, located at the corner of Vine and Center streets by the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, is zoned as part residential, or R-10, and part central commercial district, or CDC.

Because Dominion had to move their substation to a new location at a high cost, they are now "in the process of selling" the land, and have spoken with the Concordia Group to work on developing a residential area that will tie the downtown into the single-family, detached neighborhood, Heiberg said.

"We do anticipate that this plan will move forward," said Heiberg. "Assuming the Planning Commission approves and the Town Council approves the Comprehensive Plan, then the developer can apply for rezoning."

THE WORK SESSION was the first time commission members saw the Concordia Group's proposal for the land, and they were quick to point out disparities.

The initial proposal was for the construction of 28, single-family, attached townhouses. The townhouses would range in width from 20 feet to 26 feet, each having a two-car garage and 29 surface parking spots, allowing roughly one guest spot per home, along with some parking along Center Street.

The entrance and exit would be from Vine Street, so that the fa├žade of the development would face Center Street, which Elizabeth Baker of Dominion Virginia Power said would create the transition from the downtown area into the residential.

But, the idea of only one exit concerned commission members.

They were worried about traffic congestion, not only getting in and out, but also in case of an emergency such as a fire. With only one exit, people could become trapped.

Currently Vine Street is a small, unmarked, residential street lined by trees and power lines.

Judy Downer, commission member, suggested they look into offering more senior housing, saying "the last thing Herndon needs right now is more townhouses."

Vi Bateman, Harbor Housing Inc. president, agreed.

"We don't need anymore town homes," said Bateman. "If they could do affordable assisted housing, that's what we need."

Bateman said that the Harbor House, the only senior housing development in incorporated Herndon, has many residents who are helping others that she thinks could be put in nursing homes.

"So many people belong in assisted living, but they don't get it," she said. "If we had enough land we would have asked to put one [by the senior center], but we only had 2.5 acres."

Heiberg said right now everything is in the initial stages.

"We do foresee that it would be developed," he said, adding it would be closer to fall of 2005 before any groundbreaking.

Will Collins, principal Concordia Group, reiterated that it's too early to know what will happen with the land.

"They have asked me to go back," said Collins of the commission's response. "There's nothing firm yet ... I'll go back and try to implement some of the suggestions that the Planning Commission had, and look into the attached, detached production."

COLLINS SAID he would make some changes and meet with the commission in another two to three weeks to see what they think.

"I don't think anything is set in stone," he said of the proposal, "we're just so early in the process."

Heiberg said the tentative next steps would be to make the land an adaptive area, meaning it could be used for "various situations, where the uses are flexible."

The Planning Commission would have to approve a new Comprehensive Plan amendment, detailing the appropriate uses for the land, then the Town Council would have to approve it. From there the developer would be able to apply for a rezoning application, and then the application would be before the Planning Commission and the Town Council, where they would hold a public hearing for residents to express their opinions and concerns.

Tentatively, and Heiberg said optimistically, the dismantling of the Dominion substation could begin in fall of 2005.

"It's still an open question," said Heiberg, "We'll see what develops as we move along."