Loudoun County zoning administrator Melinda Artman made a determination that a temporary, regulated day-labor site at the former Herndon police station would not be permitted at, or be accessed through Rock Hill Road, in a memorandum last week.
"I have carefully reviewed materials related to this use and have caused an inspection to occur," Artman wrote in the memorandum addressed to Kirby Bowers, county administrator. The memorandum was also sent to Town of Herndon officials.
Based on her review Artman said the short answer is "no," a regulated day-labor site is not permitted under Loudoun County's zoning.
On Aug. 17, the Herndon Town Council approved a conditional-use permit to allow a temporary day-labor hiring site to be run out of the parking lot of the town's former police station.
Submitted by Project Hope and Harmony — a group comprised of Herndon residents, business owners and faith-based representatives — the application included a shelter, office trailer with running water and bathroom facilities, bike racks and a small amount of parking spaces among other things.
The application was submitted in response to the town's growing day-labor population. Currently men waiting for work unofficially gather at the 7-Eleven at the corner of Alabama Drive and Elden Street in Herndon. Because of resident and worker complaints about conditions at the unofficial site, Project Hope and Harmony formed to create a "better solution" that would bring order to an unorganized situation.
THE EXISTING POLICE station is located in Herndon and Loudoun County, with the jurisdictional line running through the middle of the building.
Next to the police station property is also the town's Department of Public Works building, town shop and a recycling center. The recycling center and driveway to access the former police station and the public works building is in Loudoun County.
According to a site plan submitted by Project Hope and Harmony, a suggested entrance point to the day-labor site would be from Rock Hill Road, which is in Loudoun County. The group also proposed using Sterling Road, or Route 606, which is in Herndon as another entrance and exit point.
Approximately 40 parking spaces dedicated to the building are also in Loudoun County. Even though Project Hope and Harmony did not propose using any portion of the Loudoun County property except for the driveway, Artman indicates in her memorandum that there are parking spaces in Loudoun County that would be used by the site.
"If they are counting the police station parking, then they are mistaken," said Herndon Mayor Michael O'Reilly about Artman's review.
Zoned R-1, or single family residential, Artman also found existing zoning violations at the former police station location. Although the county approved the use of half of the building as an elementary school many years ago, Artman said there is no record of "any permits, to include zoning permits, when the use converted to a police station."
She also found there were no permits to allow the recycling center.
Town officials would not directly comment on whether or not the town has the proper permits for the former police station or the department of public works building.
During an Aug. 29 Herndon Planning Commission work session, Henry Bibber, director of community development for the town, informed the commission of the lack of permits for the recycling center. The town zoning staff was aware of the problem and had been working with Loudoun County zoning officials to get the proper permits to allow the use, he said.
ARTMAN ALSO CITED "insufficient parking to accommodate all the site’s uses" in her review, adding for the police station and public works access to be legal in Loudoun County under the R-1 zoning, a special exception must be granted by the county Board of Supervisors.
Because the property is divided by a boundary line, Artman said it is an "underlying rule of law," as well as good zoning practice, that a use on one side of the line be allowed in both jurisdictions.
"This use is not permitted in R-1 district," she said about Loudoun County's zoning. "Consequently, the use can not be established on this site."
Town of Herndon officials are still reviewing Artman's memorandum and determining what impact, if any, her findings could have on the approved site.
There are other factors involved, including boundary line adjustments, grandfathered zoning regulations and possible special permits for zoning exceptions that could impact the final decision, said Robin Runser, Town of Herndon public information officer.
"The town is looking into the possibility of annexation," said O'Reilly.
Because he did not know all the details surrounding annexation, O'Reilly said the "gist" is that "towns have the authority to add additional land," or essentially to move the boundary lines as they grow. In this case, because there is some confusion over where the real boundary lines are between Loudoun County and Herndon, the town may be able to extend its jurisdiction to the edge of Rock Hill Road, he said.
Before the town bought the land for the new police station at 397 Herndon Parkway, O'Reilly said the town had planned to expand the station at its existing location at 1481 Sterling Road.
During that time Herndon and Loudoun County zoning officials were working together to determine land dedications, proffers and other zoning issues to determine how the station could be expanded.
"At no time did someone say 'oh, by the way, you needed to do this 15 years ago,'" he said about the lack of zoning permits cited in Artman's review.
LOUDOUN COUNTY Supervisors Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) and Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) voiced opposition to the site's location on behalf of their constituents during the town's public hearing process in July and August. Chairman Scott York has also attended meetings with O'Reilly and other Herndon officials, as well as supervisors from Fairfax County, within the last six months regarding the town's plan to create a regulated day-labor site at the former police station.
After learning that Loudoun County officials might try to shut off the Rock Hill Road entrance to the site, Herndon's planning staff proposed an alternative entrance and exit.
Because Sterling Road is entirely in Herndon, and there is an existing entrance and exit already in place, Herndon officials said that could be used instead.
In her memorandum, permanently closing Rock Hill Road with the necessary permits from the Virginia Department of Transportation and Loudoun County, was one of Artman's two suggested solutions.
The second suggestion would be for Herndon officials to apply for a special-exception permit for the public works facility and recycling center. This would allow the driveway off of Rock Hill Road and parking within Loudoun County to remain.
The only way for the day-labor site to be legal under Loudoun zoning would be if the Town of Herndon operated the site, she said. If that was the case the town would have
to request a "special exception" for the use from the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors — something supervisors have already said they would not approve.
If Loudoun County officials determine that Rock Hill Road should be blocked off, it would be more of an inconvenience than anything else, said O'Reilly.
Herndon officials are still reviewing the town's options in response to Artman's findings and have 30 days to appeal her determination, he said.
"Would it close down the Department of Public Works? I don't think so," he said about the closure of Rock Hill Road. "Would it stop the day-labor site? I don't think so."