Council Discusses Funding Infrastructure for Downtown Master Plan
Under the current comprehensive plan amendment for the DMP the town may have to find $24 million to $28 million for infrastructure improvements
The Herndon Town Council heard from consultants at Alvarez and Marsal that the infrastructure gap for the Downtown Master Plan could be between $24.1 million and $28.8 million at its work session Tuesday night.
The process for the Downtown Master Plan has been underway for more than a year and includes a downtown area with buildings being between one to three stories. The plan includes uses such as retail, residential and public uses.
The issue the town has been tackling since the fall is what it will cost the town and taxpayers to be able to pay for infrastructure improvements in the downtown that will be necessary with redevelopment.
The Town tasked consultants Alvarez and Marsal with figuring out how large of a monetary gap there might be for the improvements, which include structured parking, utility undergrounding, intersection realignments, streetscapes and more.
The Planning Commission came up with a number of ways to help cover the costs of the needed improvements. Those include bonds, service district funding, which would tax those within the district for infrastructure costs, grants and other means.
Councilwoman Grace Wolf said some projects within the downtown already have planned funding sources, which may skew the results of the consultant's study by a few million dollars. She said that information should be included.
Councilwoman Lisa Merkel said the future arts facility, the project Wolf referred to, is different than other projects in existence so it may be hard to find a comparison. The Herndon Foundation for the Arts intends to develop an arts center without using public taxpayer money.
Councilman Jasbinder Singh asked why more information wasn't included in the study. The study results include a lot of numbers but not the way of how those numbers came to be, he said. Consultants said they don't give out their models because other consulting firms might use them.
Councilman Bill Tirrell said what was being presented by the consultants was simply a snapshot of what the numbers might look like now. He said the values are dictated by the marketplace and will change over time.
"It's not static," Tirrell said. "Nothing in here is static. My takeaway right now is that depending on the option, we're looking at a $15 to $20 million gap depending on a few things."
Tirrell said the bottom line is that most financing will probably have to come from the taxpayers. He said aiming for a low density means the developer may not be able to achieve what they want or get all they want.
Dana Heiberg, a senior planner for the Town of Herndon, said the plan is of modest density, which meets the desires of the community. Lisa Gilleran, director of community development, said there is a lack of proffers in the plan.
Proffers are when developers agree to fund infrastructure improvements in areas surrounding the development, such as paying for a portion of a parking structure, when coming to an agreement for development with a municipality.
Merkel said the town has spent a lot of time talking with the public about what they want in the Downtown Master Plan. She said if they were considering 10-story buildings, the infrastructure gap might not be there, but they are following the desires of Herndon residents.
Merkel said the town now has to hear what the public has to say about finding the funds to support redeveloping the downtown. She said residents will need to decide if they want to stick with lower density knowing the town will have to find ways to pay for it, or would they rather consider increasing density.
Consultants from Alvarez and Marsal said if town eliminates the improvements for the parcel of land that Jimmy's Old Town Tavern sits on the number gets much smaller, about $12 million.
The Town Council will consider the comprehensive plan amendment for the Downtown Master Plan at its next public hearing, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11 at the Mary Ingram Council Chambers, 765 Lynn St. Members of the public can voice their opinions during the public hearing and will be given three minutes to speak.