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Votes

Town Council Notes

Council hears comment on downtown redevelopment, approves subdivision plans.

A handful of Herndon residents offered public testimony last week during the Dec. 13 Town Council public hearing regarding the two redevelopment proposals before the town.

Submitted by Clark Ventures LLC and Herndon Station LLC, during prior meetings council members decided to defer the agenda item until a full financial analysis could be completed by the town's contracted consultants.

The town should move forward with the Clark Ventures proposal, said Herndon resident Grace Wolf, president Council for the Arts of Herndon. Now a small-business owner of two General Nutrition Centers, Wolf used to work with finances for a Fortune 500 company, she said. Based on her analysis, she believes the Clark proposal is the best for the town because of the large amount of residential condominium units proposed.

"In a recession, offices are empty, retail shops are empty, but homes are not," she said. "We should focus on neighborly themes because this is home-town Herndon."

For the second time, a group of Herndon seven Herndon residents took a combined approach to read their visions for the downtown. These visions include thriving businesses that offer a mix of store-front retail shops, offices, restaurants and cafes, an Inn and an Arts Center, said Herndon resident Barbara Glakas on behalf of the group.

The Herndon Station LLC redevelopment plan suggests an inn at the corner of Center and Elden streets.

"The addition of the inn would help Herndon capture more regional visitors, enhance the existing entertainment/restaurant base of the downtown and provide much needed revenue to support this project's public investment," said Les Zidel, Herndon resident, for the group.

At a December work session, council members listed the same items — parking and finances — as reasons why they could not make a decision during the upcoming public hearings. Currently the town is in the process of negotiating the purchase or exchange of land at the corner of Center and Elden streets from Bob Ashwell. Since that corner lot is imperative to the downtown redevelopment projects, the town would need to own that parcel before moving forward with the plan, said Mayor Michael O'Reilly.

After hearing additional testimony from the public and representatives from Clark Ventures and Herndon Station, council deferred the item until its Jan. 10 public hearing.

ADDITIONALLY DURING the hearing, council heard comment and voted on the following:

* Approved, 6-0, with Steven Mitchell absent, a preliminary subdivision/construction plan for the Elwardstone subdivision with a waiver. The proposed subdivision is to take one lot at 902 Vine St. and divide it into two. The approved waiver dismissed the requirement of curb and gutter to be constructed along the public street. Other streets in the neighborhood do not have curbs and gutters, so the requirement was waived by council.

During a Dec. 6 work session, Mitchell voiced his disappointment with St. Joseph's Catholic Church. The church has made the development process difficult for Steve Schantz, the applicant of the subdivision, said Mitchell. Officials from the church have voiced numerous complaints about Schantz's development, concerns about storm-water run-off from the site. To work in compliance with the church, Schantz offered numerous times to accommodate their concerns, said Mitchell.

"In the end result, he's done everything he can do to have a good-looking corner," said Mitchell. "I'm just disappointed with the actions and that we didn't get better results from the neighbors."

* After taking a five minute recess to evaluate language in the resolution, council approved, 6-0, a preliminary subdivision plan for the Young Avenue Estates.

This plan requests that two existing lots be divided into eight, with seven lots for single-family-detached homes and the remaining land to be given to the town for open space. The land is located north of the Herndon Parkway, west of Monroe Street and south of Young Avenue. One parcel is located at 1191 Monroe St., the other parcel is not addressed.

Planning Commissioners unanimously approved this plan during a Dec. 5 public hearing, said Craig Mavis, planner with the town. The proposed lots would range in size from 14,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet. Two of the homes would share a driveway and four of the driveways would connect to Young Avenue, said Mavis. The remaining three homes would connect to Monroe Street. During the work session, council members voiced concerns about a proposed dry storm-water management pond, saying developers needed to provide an aesthetically pleasing storm-water management solution.

"I don't want storm-water detention ponds," said council member Carol Bruce during the work session. At the hearing Bruce moved a motion to approve the application, but requested language be removed allowing a dry pond to be built. After a review of the language by Richard Kaufman, town attorney, and an assurance by Henry Bibber, director of community development for the town that a dry pond would be the last option explored, council approved the application.

"I'm not going to say we can do it without a dry pond," said Bibber, "but I think the chances are pretty good we can do it without a dry pond."

* Members unanimously approved a site plan for the Shops at Herndon Parkway that would allow a one-story, 14,000-square-foot retail/restaurant building at 1201 Elden St. The land is to the right of the existing Chevy Chase Bank and the proposed structure faces the Herndon Parkway, said Mavis. The two entrance and exit points would be from the Herndon Parkway and Elden Street.

* Council also approved, 6-0, a conditional-use permit to allow the construction of a single-family residence on a nonconforming lot. The proposed residence would be at the corner of Quincy and Madison streets in the Heritage Preservation District.

To fit with other homes in the district, the house would be placed on the lot 50 feet from the centerline of Madison Street and 56 feet from the centerline of Quincy Street.

During the work session, council member Dennis Husch was concerned about the height of the building, indicating he would like to see restrictions placed in the plan so the house would not be built up on a mound of dirt and tower above other homes on the street.

"We need to add something that gets the first-floor level the same level as the neighboring houses," he said.

At the public hearing, Mavis included height restrictions to the application, ensuring the house would conform with the neighborhood, and not tower over its neighbors.

* An ordinance amending the town code was approved, 6-0, to confirm the town's program for real estate tax exemption for the elderly or disabled citizens that live within Fairfax County.

The town has offered this exemption, mirroring Fairfax County, for the last two years, said Richard Kaufman, town attorney, during the work session. This year, the county has altered the program to change the gradual level of exemption and to increase the net worth cut off, he said. According to the county's plan, seniors and disabled residents who make $52,000 or less a year would be 100 percent exempt from taxes. Residents making $62,000 a year would be exempt from half of taxes and residents making $72,000 a year would be exempt from 25 percent of the taxes. This year's net worth cut off has been raised from $240,000 to $340,000. Currently, 67 residents in the Town of Herndon are taking advantage of this program, said Mary Tuohy, director of finance.

* Council unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the mayor to sign a lease agreement between the town and Del. Tom Rust (R-86) for the space at Town Hall for a constituent service office.

* An ordinance amending the fiscal year 2006 adopted budget was approved, 5-1 with Ann Null opposing, to establish new rates for shift differential pay, holiday pay and language premium pay; to authorize three additional positions for the department of community development including two new zoning inspectors and one part-time employee. The ordinance would also establish an appropriation to furnish and equip the newly expanded space at the Neighborhood Resource Center, said Tuohy.

Because the current zoning inspection office is too small for its number of employees, council also discussed where the office could be moved. After reviewing a number of options, the No. 1 relocation pick is the former Herndon Police Station, said the town manager.

* Council deferred four agenda items regarding the rewrite of the town's zoning ordinance until its first January work session. The next council meeting is a work session, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 7:30 p.m.