Redevelopment Moving Forward?

Redevelopment Moving Forward?

Council reviews redevelopment proposals, land acquisition in closed session.

During the Town Council's Feb. 14 public hearing Mayor Michael O'Reilly announced the elected body would likely have to reject two applications proposing to redevelop the existing downtown.

At the request of both applicants and council members Steven Mitchell and Carol Bruce, the agenda item was deferred for two weeks. Bruce indicated she wanted to further discuss the council's options during a Feb. 21 work session before permanently closing the door on the downtown's future.

For the last few months council has held closed sessions with Bob Ashwell, the property owner of the corner lot off Elden and Center Streets. During those closed land negotiations, it became clear that a purchase agreement could not be made between the town and Ashwell, O'Reilly said at the Feb. 14 hearing. Because of this, the town could not offer the key parcel of land that both development teams use in their conceptual designs.

Ultimately, if Ashwell's property cannot be purchased, there is a possibility that the two proposals will be denied.

During the work session, council held little discussion regarding the proposals. Following the public portion of the meeting another closed session was held. During this meeting council discussed land acquisition options with Ashwell, again.

"There is still a possibility about the [land] assemblage," O'Reilly said. "There is a possibility that we can pull this together and move forward."

During it's Feb. 28 public hearing, the council deferred the item until its April 11 public hearing. During the next few weeks the town will continue its negotiations with Ashwell, hopefully coming to a resolution that pleases all parties involved, he said.

"Nobody wants to reject them unless we have to," he said. "I'm a lot more positive this week about moving forward than I was last week."

ALSO DISCUSSED during the Feb. 21 work session were proposed increases to golf fees and the inclusion of an annual pass at the Herndon Centennial Golf Course.

Cart rates are scheduled to increase 50-cents for 9-holes and $1 for 18-holes due to increasing gas prices, Gene Fleming, director of golf, said.

For the first time the course will offer an annual pass for frequent users. The cost will be $2,000 for residents, $2,900 for non-residents. While the Herndon Centennial Golf Course is open to the public, Herndon residents are offered cheaper fares.

The new rates will take effect March 15. The increases were proposed because the golf course has seen a decline in play by 4,000, 18-hole rounds in the last year. This equates to a 4 percent decrease in revenue, Fleming said. Other golf courses across the region have experienced the same decline, so Herndon's increased rates reflect changes made at other courses.

"Our rates are very competitive," said Fleming. "We are at, or less than, other public facilities in the area."

During the meeting council received its monthly update on the effect of the Herndon Official Workers Center. In a memorandum prepared by Elizabeth Hagg, director of neighborhood resources, items of interest from mid-January to mid-February were addressed.

In response to citizen complaints of increased pedestrian cut-through, the Herndon Police Department monitored Summerfield Drive at Winterhaven Place and Spring Knoll Drive, Summerset Place, Crestview Drive and Autumn Place. During their surveillance, the police saw little activity, according to the release. Of those observed, there was "no indication that the subjects were day workers or that the foot traffic is related to the day worker site," according to the memorandum.

To date, three warnings have been issued under the town anti-solicitation ordinance. These were given to homeowners attempting to hire workers outside of the official site, according to Hagg. Town officials have met with representatives from the Fairfax Connector bus service and are in the process of having the bus stops at Alabama Drive, near the Elden Street intersection, relocated to Elden Street. This will hopefully clear up confusion along Alabama as to who is waiting for the bus, or who is waiting for work.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, the site saw its largest number of hires, with 45 workers being employed, according to Project Hope & Harmony volunteers.

OTHER ITEMS discussed during the work session included a report by Mary Tuohy, director of finance, on projected revenues during fiscal year 2007. Fairfax County Real estate assessments increased 22.16 percent this year, according to Fairfax County's residential analysis by zip code. Herndon's average assessment went up from $417,279 in 2005 to $509,728 in 2006, according to the report.

Area businesses, including the hotel and restaurant industry, are beginning to see an increase in revenue for the first time since the 2001 terrorist attacks, said Tuohy.

Following her presentation, Mitchell expressed his desire to diversify the town's tax base this year during annual budget discussions. Last year Mitchell pushed diversification of the town's tax base. This could be achieved by increasing the town's meals tax and the transient occupancy tax, he said. This year he proposed the council consider increasing these tax rates to shift the tax burden from residents who pay real estate taxes to the town and Fairfax County.

During its Feb. 28 public hearing, council was scheduled to approve three resolutions, including the golf course fee increase. The other resolutions included the authorization for Richard Kaufman, town attorney, to file an injunctive suit against Mark W. Blake for running an unpermitted business from his home. Blake has not filed for the appropriate zoning inspection permit or business license to run the business from his home, Kaufman said. The town has held numerous discussions with Blake since their 2000 finding of his violation and the department of community development has done everything in its power to make him comply, he said.

Council was also scheduled to approve a contract for the purchase of an asphalt paver from Rish Equipment Company for $62,488, and a resolution that would appoint and empower the Chief of Police as the director of emergency management in a state of emergency. The chief or the town mayor would be able to control or regulate commodities, goods and services during a local emergency, under this resolution.

The council's next meeting is a work session, scheduled for March 7 in the council chamber, 765 Lynn Street.