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Letter to the Editor: Opportunity to 'Shift into Drive' in Herndon Elections

The upcoming town election could help move Herndon forward.

The Herndon Town Elections are coming up on May 1st. I encourage everyone to and attend events to learn more about them and their vision for Herndon.

Although I love living in Herndon, I feel like the Town is “stuck in neutral” as far as making any improvements that benefit its citizens and increase the tax base. The last major improvement to the town was the building of the Municipal Center and Library shortly after I moved here 19 years ago. 

Especially during the last six years, there has been a shift away from support for any major projects. Other than a number of consulting studies that have yet to result in anything being implemented, the emphasis has been on public safety with an expansion of the police department and shrinkage of other town services to keep taxes as low as possible.  

Various Town Councils have talked about re-vitalization of the downtown, incentives for metro development and traffic issues, but seem to be stuck in the planning stage. I would like to see a Town Council that is willing to take some risks and forge ahead with implementation. 

Since the incumbent is not running for Mayor this year, we will be electing a new Mayor. The individual elected will provide the leadership to move Herndon forward to make it an even better place to live. I think that Lisa Merkel is the only candidate running who has the drive to make that happen. 

Sheila Olem and Grace Wolf are first-term Town Council members who are running for re-election. They have proven over the past two years that they want to restore and improve town services, spur economic development, improve relations with other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and promote new projects in Herndon. They have my vote. Melissa Jonas has served for the past two years on the Planning Commission and before that representing Herndon on a critical task force. She is now running for Town Council, where she would stand up for our Town while also working to move projects forward. 

Jeff Davidson is a long time Herndon resident who has shown his commitment by attending most of the Town Council meetings over the two years. He is nearing retirement and is running for Town Council to give back to the community by using his extensive management experience. He is promoting a Town Wide Transportation plan that I believe is long overdue. Eric Boll is an engineer raising his children in Herndon and taking an active role in the Community. The actions outlined on his website show that he would be a strong Council member interested in implementing public improvements. Both Jeff Davidson and Eric Boll would be excellent new members of the Town Council and have my vote. 

The candidates that I support all have a bias toward action and a vision that Herndon can retain its community spirit and home town atmosphere while implementing major projects that will benefit the citizens and bring in new tax revenues. I hope that you will consider these excellent candidates when you cast your votes on May 1st . 

Nancy Myers 
Herndon, VA

CriticalVoter April 16, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Valerie, why don't we doesn't Herndon as a Town just cease to exist? According to your statements, why stop with ducking Metro? Why not do away with the police and public works? Why not let the County just do everything? Do you even want to be in the Town? Sure doesn't sound like it to me. Have you even looked at the Metro plan? Sure, let's just let everyone drive to Reston or....park in Herndon, crowd all of the residential streets, tie up traffic, drive up costs and let's see exactly how much the County will "foot the bill' for. Read up, since it's clear you haven't.
Nancy Myers April 16, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Valerie M. I see that we do not agree on priorities for the Town of Herndon. Thankfully that is possible under our form of government. I live on a fixed income as a retiree, but I think I am getting a terrific bargain for my Town of Herndon taxes on my Townhome. I would likely have to pay the same amount just for trash collection if I lived outside of the Town, but get a whole lot more. For example, we have our own police department and extremely fast response times for any call. We also have better and quicker response for snow removal in Herndon. Although I do not equate re-vitalization efforts in Herndon with higher Town taxes, I would not be offended if there was some sort of increase that brought the taxes more in line with the amenities I enjoy in Herndon.
Nancy Myers April 16, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Valerie M. On the topic of whether or not the Town should pursue re-vitalization in the downtown or increased density in the metro area, I can share a few additional thoughts. (1) Infrastructure changes will probably never be less expensive than they are right now, due to the current economic slowdown. Waiting to implement them will result in greater, not less, expense. (2) A "kiss and ride" or other arrangement for cars to drop off metro riders on the North side of the Toll Road is needed if we do not want an even greater traffic nightmare with countless unnecessary trips on the limited number of roads that cross the Toll Road. That is, if people wishing to drop off metro riders would even travel the extra mile or two. More likely they would block Herndon Parkway traffic to drop them off or if enforcement prohibited that, they would drop them off in adjacent neighborhoods. (3) If the Town does nothing to improve the infrastructure to support redevelopment efforts, then it will become a "second tier" locality in Northern Virginia. (4) If the Town had always been as risk adverse as in recent years, we would not have a Municipal Center, Library and Town Green. We would not have Friday Night Live. Instead another locality would have implemented the idea and they would be getting the commerce that FNL brings. I believe that if we want re-vitalization, risks are necessary. Inaction has consequences. If mistakes are made, we can make corrections along the way.
Nancy Myers April 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Valerie M. With regard to your concerns over the anti solicitation ordinance, four council members voted to make a very small change to it. That allowed the Town to get on with other business. I attend many Town Council sessions and consider the amount of time that was devoted to expressions of resident dissatisfaction with that ordinance to have been an log jam holding up progress. Testimony consumed at least an hour of each and every Town Council Hearing. After the change was made to bring the language into line with other jurisdictions, the flood of dissatisfaction being expressed ended. Regardless of how individuals feel about the ordinance itself, I hope that they prefer that their elected officials spend their time on activities that can bring tangible improvements into the Town. And that result was achieved without compromising the intent of the ordinance.
Barbara Glakas April 16, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Rich, I agree with what you said in your second comment above about how some commercial space is vacant because the economy is down, and also with your idea of going easy on taxing businesses. No matter why the commercial spaces are empty, the point is to now attract them back. Top-of-the-line companies will want to locate their businesses in attractive locations, with attractive/modern buildings, that are easy to access, that are located by good transportation nodes, and provide a nice place to live and work for their employees. This is why we need to take advantage of metro and develop a good metro area plan around our Herndon Metro station. As the Silver line gets built, Fairfax County is already working hard to provide the needed infrastructure around the other metro stops. We cannot lag behind and drag our feet to develop ours. If so, the businesses will go elsewhere and we will miss opportunities to get them in Herndon. Although I could not go as far to say we should not tax businesses at all, I can tell you that this current council passed an ordinance this past year that provides a tax break for any new business that comes to Herndon. I agreed with that policy and I think it was a great incentive to attract new businesses to Herndon.
Valerie M April 17, 2012 at 12:14 PM
"Valerie, why don't we doesn't Herndon as a Town just cease to exist? " Somewhat of an extreme response, but typical. In the long run the Downtown won't really be affected by Metro. Too far from the actual stop. Residential streets won't be affected because the walk will be too long to get to the Metro stop, which, BTW , is in the center of the Dulles Road. Have you started at the Future Metro Stop sign on the Herndon Pkwy and actually walked to the proposed walkway point. Try it. Might give you a whole new perspective. To answer your question, yes, I have looked at the Metro Plan. We will have a pedestrian walkway with , as of now, no direct access by car, and no guarantee that the loop road suggest by staff will ever be built. The Town does not own the property on which the road to access that walkway must be built. Currently none of the property owners have expressed an interest in selling the land needed to the Town.
Valerie M April 17, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Nancy, I am glad you have the financial where with all to be able to afford a tax increase in the Town. Many here do not have that luxury, and are still in danger of loosing their homes to foreclosure. I agree the services are great in the Town, but I am concerned since none of the "slate" candidates, Merkel et al , have come forward with concrete plans to enact their ideas. These lovely, fluffy, feel good ideas are what have the potential to dramatically raise our Town taxes. It is also very concerning that these candidates will not openly engage in the ongoing discussions here on the Patch. As voters we need to know exactly what it is they want to accomplish as members of the Council. Example: they are in favor of public safety, but do not say what they want to do to increase public safety or how they want to do that. Who isn't in favor of public safety? The question is how are they going to increase or maintain public safety? They never say. They have people here on the Patch speaking for them, but they, themselves, never speak.
Valerie M April 17, 2012 at 12:41 PM
"A "kiss and ride" or other arrangement for cars to drop off metro riders on the North side of the Toll Road is needed if we do not want an even greater traffic nightmare with countless unnecessary trips on the limited number of roads that cross the Toll Road. That is, if people wishing to drop off metro riders would even travel the extra mile or two. More likely they would block Herndon Parkway traffic to drop them off or if enforcement prohibited that, they would drop them off in adjacent neighborhoods." Once again, the Town does not own the land on which the proposed loop road needs to be built. If you take a good look at the "neighborhoods" surrounding the proposed sidewalk off Herndon Pkwy you will see that it is the many parking lots of the buildings in those industrial parks that will become the drop off points for those walking to the Metro station via the pedestrian walkway to the actual station if the loop road cannot be built. "If the Town does nothing to improve the infrastructure to support redevelopment efforts, then it will become a "second tier" locality in Northern Virginia. " Great thought, but I would like for the candidates to tell us what their vision is for paying for all of this. The Town foots the whole bill? Ms. Merkel will pay for it with a Grant? It will be privatized? We need answers from the candidates themselves, and we need public answers not one on one answers.
Valerie M April 17, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Barbara, I agree with everything you have said, but we need to hear how this will be accomplished from every candidate running for office in this election. What model used in other cities can we follow? Not one of the "slate" candidates have come forward with anything other than nice "ideas". In another post on Ms. Merkel's blog the she proposed many wonderful ideas, but when pressed for answers as to how she would implement them without raising our taxes she couldn't follow through. If these ideas will raise our taxes we have the right to know what is the projected percentage by which they will need to be raised to accomplish her vision for the Town. The "slate" candidates either have not thought that far ahead or are unwilling to put that out there.
Valerie M April 17, 2012 at 12:54 PM
"With regard to your concerns over the anti solicitation ordinance, four council members voted to make a very small change to it. That allowed the Town to get on with other business." All the Merkel, Olem, Wolf, Singh block had to do was to move on to other issues, to vote with the other three council members not to take up the Anti-Solicitation Ordinance at all. That would have stolen the VNM thunder and they would have crept off to another municipality to wreak havoc. The point here was that the ordinance need not have been changed at all. It was nothing more than a vindictive snipe at the previous council.
CriticalVoter April 17, 2012 at 01:32 PM
ValerieM, you clearly haven't read the rest of the candidate's website, Neither BillTirrellforMayor and SinghforMayor and have spelled out how they plan on implementing any of their plans without impacting taxes. Hmm, check your reading glasses, they appear to be quite skewed. From Billtirrellformayor: "I SUPPORT CREATING A VERSATILE, FLEXIBLE MASTER PLAN NOW THAT FUTURE COUNCILS CAN ADAPT TO CONDITIONS THAT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY EVOLVE OVER TIME. IN MY EXPERIENCE, THE HARD PART OF ANY GOOD PLAN IS THE INITIAL DRAFTING. I’M WILLING TO TAKE ON THAT EFFORT TO CREATE THE START OF THE VISION AND NOT JUST ‘PASS THE BUCK’! " Where's the concrete plan on implementation without raising taxes in that statement? From SinghforMayor: "4. Focusing on Downtown Master Plan (DMP) and Metro: Under our Town’s legislative processes, the Council is often in the dark about the details of vital projects until the very end. To ensure that the Council would be fully engaged continually, I made a motion from the dais to put the DMP and Metro as a standing agenda item for all Council work sessions. The Council accepted my motion by a vote of 7-0. This change has helped the Town to move forward quickly. We approved the DMP in February, and expect to approve some version of the Metro development by the end of the year. Many tough issues remain, but our residents now believe that the Council is and will stay “on the ball” until the Metrorail comes to Herndon."
Valerie M April 17, 2012 at 05:55 PM
"... but we need to hear how this will be accomplished from every candidate running for office in this election. " Read my entire post
CriticalVoter April 17, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Really, in all of your posts, you have asked and only asked why "the so-called "slate" candidates are not addressing the issues that are important to Herndon." Where are your questions for the other defacto slate of Tirrell/Waddell/Kirby/Hutchison/Webster (AKA Campenni's attorney and mouthpiece)? Have they even posted anything at all? Wait, Waddell doesn't even have a website updated since 2010. Yeah, I sincerely doubt you are sincerely interested in hearing from "every candidate". You are just another baiter and agent of naysayers. You have yet to prove yourself otherwise.
Lester Zidel April 17, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Nancy Meyers raises a good point about capital projects. Anyone who has studied municipal financing will tell you that a community should plan for majopr projects while a good portion of the commercial real estate is still being developed. Towns and cities should fund their capital projects while revenues have a likelihood of increasing not because of rates but new development. If these municipalities wait too long to built infrastructure and/or capital projects which are either needed or will soon be needed then they put an undo burden on a non expanding tax base. I am not suggesting doing projects just because you are still growing, obviously each project must stand on its own merit. This is why inner cities have such a hard time turning things around until things get so bad that redevelopment is more likely and thus forms a new higher base. This is not just a town problem, but a national one. Putting off infrastructure projects already needed like rail, electrical grid, bridges, etc. gives a false sense of economy for politicians unwilling to lead.
Dave Webster April 18, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Critical Voter, You state "Have they even posted anything at all?' (referring in part to me.) I responded to a question on my first blog, a series of questions on the What Would You Ask the Candidates Blog concerning the budget and some other items, and have another blog on the Chesapeake Bay Prevention Act. I have a website, a facebook page and a twitter page. It should be obvious to everyone in Herndon that Mr. Campenni doesn't need a "mouthpiece."
Tom Kellner April 18, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Since this past November, I have written several letters directed through the Town Clerk to members of both the Planning Commission and the Town Council in my opposition to the Metro Redevelopment Plan. Chairman East, Mayor DeBendetitis, CM Hutchinson, CM Tirrell, and CM Singh took the time to engage me in some form concerning this issue. Some members agreed and others disagreed, but they in fact responded to me. Now to Melissa Jonas, Sheila Olem, Lisa Merkel, and Grace Wolfe; they did not. Probably the greatest sin of an elected or appointed government official is to not respond to constituents. For me to hear that these individuals respond to all viewpoints has been a great big lie.
Bob Bruhns April 18, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Gee CV, I'm surprised that you haven't seen Mr. Tirrell's posts, because they are in plain sight for all to see. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who has.
Bob Bruhns April 18, 2012 at 03:04 AM
And you haven't seen Mr. Webster's posts? Where have you been?
Bob Bruhns April 18, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Oh - and Mr. Kirby has made a few posts and a clear response - NO - to Mr. Campenni's question of whether he would give town money for an Arts center or a Nature center. You really should pay attention.
Ann H Csonka April 18, 2012 at 07:48 AM
@Fredricks 11:43 am Apr16 “We don't have to be in such a rush–“ @Valerie M 11:43 am “…would love to see revitalization of the Downtown, but not… my taxes rising.” INFRASTRUCTURE. A municipality is responsible for providing infrastructure. That can also attract needed development. However, many new roads, traffic lights, stormwater management and trail connections associated with developments may be paid for BY developers–not out of your pocket. Then they pay taxes. THE “METRO AREA PLAN” is long-range and depends on being implemented by private property owners over a long period of time, with countless reviews. However, it will not START unless the town proceeds with zoning revisions for that area so that property owners can consider investing in redevelopment. If the Town can't even take the first steps to implement a plan by doing zoning ordinances to control HOW it develops, investors will go elsewhere. There are plenty of other places they can go without a lot of hassle and confusion in Herndon. We need to shape development, through zoning regulations and review. Some have strong feelings about what should be in the plan, but plans will change more times as private owners have ideas, too and take initiatives. Ideals being expressed today can become binding IF the plan can move into the Zoning phase and include those details. Without "shifting into drive" and moving forward, nothing will happen (or is that the real goal of some?).
Ann H Csonka April 18, 2012 at 07:52 AM
TAXES & DEVELOPMENT. Higher density transit-oriented development (TOD) adjacent to the future Herndon station—along with improved retail and service areas throughout town— are the economic engine for the Town. If Herndon gets a good tax return from those zones, it helps cover town operating costs while SUSTAINING the small-scale, small-town atmosphere of the central "Downtown" core. And with a healthy commercial tax base, residents’ real estate taxes are more affordable. Besides, single-family residential taxes DO NOT cover their services. Years ago, an informal study showed that the total household Town real estate tax bill was about the SAME amount as County residents paid just for their commercial trash services. For our town taxes, we get rapid Police response, effective community policing and specialized 287(g) work, outstanding refuse/recycling/special cleanup and snow removal services. PLUS all the activities on the Town Green, the Farmers’ Market and programs in Summer. Herndon citizens also have the opportunity to participate more directly in creating and sustaining the type of Town we are proud to call home. BTW, we are retired on a fixed income and do fine paying both town and county taxes.
Ann H Csonka April 18, 2012 at 08:00 AM
DOWNTOWN >1985: a plan to revitalize the core, much talk before that, many more plans and it still stagnates. DECADES OF DYING PLANS. >Early 1990s: Excellent “Town’s downtown share”--the Herndon Municipal Complex was built. Leaders took the initiative to DO IT and include the Library in cooperation with Fairfax Co. Mayor Rust, Vice M. De Noyer, Carol Bruce, Bill Tirrell, PC’s Charlie Allen & Les Zidel, Staff + many citizens collaborated. They stopped work on a bad consultant design (at a cost), but still came out ahead—left over $$ built the “green” below-grade Council Chambers. DURING A RECESSION when costs were low, DECISIVENESS DID IT ! >>2008: HIGH-QUALITY PLAN LOST. Excerpt from our letter: “The Town Council’s Sept. 23 decision to deny the Diamond Element Hotel application is the most foolish, unjustifiable, and destructive decision made in this town in the past 35 years. Herndon’s business community needs a critical mass of high-quality enterprise—not only to thrive, but to survive. Diamond WAS an exceptionally good fit in Herndon’s extremely small downtown core area. It provided a lot of value at reasonable scale in a relatively small space.” >>We don’t want to go back to negative mindsets (Mayor Steve, D. Husch, 2012 candidates Hutchinson & Waddell) that killed the Diamond opportunity. >>DOWNTOWN NEEDS DECISIVENESS. The “”Merkel slate” are not pushovers; they’re also not auto-naysayers who will study in excess for years!
Tom Kellner April 18, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Ms Csonka, I am appalled that you did not even acknowledge the fact that the sitting officials, Jonas, Merkel, Wolf and Olem did not even show the courtesy of acknowledging correspondence directed to them. As for the decisiveness of the team and their rush to action; if it were not for the naysayers, this group of officials would have forced down our throats a flawed Metro development plan that had to be withdrawn by the Planning Commission and Town Staff because of a major mistake in the traffic analysis. This flaw was identified, not by a member of Town Staff or Planning Commission (including Ms Jonas), but rather by one of these pesky naysayers.
Ann H Csonka April 19, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Sorry, Mr. K -- if you think I missed something. I did not read your post about lack of response. (in a hurry, got home late &had to get some sleep to up later in the morning). RE DECISIVENESS--that was in reference to the DOWNTOWN PLAN. Businesses in the downtown are hostage to inaction or screw-ups for too many years. The Downtown Plan also benefited from having an excellent consultant. i agree that the faulty traffic analysis for Metro was inexcusable -- including that staff might have noticed that degree of mistake. And the worst player in the several Metro scenarios is that consultant of dubious credibility. IMHO, with that type of inadequate performance, a contractor should be in default of contract (but I'm not a contracting specialist at all, so that's just a simplistic personal opinion). BTW, a number of people had a good sense of the bad traffic analysis for some time (earlier, as well) but neither the time nor expertise to critique it. Glad people did pursue it.
Richard Downer April 21, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Folks - There is a possible solution to getting our residents to and from our north side Metro station and also connect the Metro station area to our downtown. It's called "HITS" - Herndon Internal Transit System. A copy of the HITS map and Q&A is now at the top of the article. Our proposal is to work with Fairfax County to determine the feasibility of a HITS approach as part of the total transportation plan the County is already working on for Phase 2 of the Silver Line. At least two of the mayoral candidates have made their position clear on this proposal...one for and one against. You can decide which one you feel is correct.
Bob Bruhns April 22, 2012 at 08:26 AM
In the HITS Q&A, I don't see any mention of any study or model that shows how the cost of HITS might be paid by its users. The first sources of funding that are mentioned are the Town of Herndon and Fairfax County, which are in turn funded by our tax dollars. Will HITS turn out to be yet another reason why there is no economy of scale in municipal development? We keep seeing growth, with the alleged goal of economic advance - but then somehow we keep seeing more and more tax per capita. I submit that something is not working.
Richard Downer April 22, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Bob - Question 7 reads as follows: Q. What are some of the issues to be explored in a transportation study of the HITS concept? A. Ridership potential, route locations, mini-bus stop locations, frequency of service, available equipment types (Including acquisition and maintenance expense) and labor costs are some of the major study issues. A professional study will be needed before any final action. A PDF of the HITS proposal map and Q&A is attached to this article.
VIcky Dorman April 22, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Send your whole name and your Herndon address to the candidates or on the Patch.d. Otherwise, I don't blame any of them for not responding to you. No one has any idea who you are or where you live.
Bob Bruhns April 23, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Richard, I think it would be very valuable to have public transportation so that people can use it and get from all over Herndon, and the surrounds, to the train station, and back again. And all over the town too. I hope that the whole bunch of us, and people and the businesses in the Town and area, and Fairfax County, can come up with something that works, that isn't too expensive so it pays for itself overall, and that makes the Herndon area great. I think that involves good development in the center of town that people might go to and enjoy and find work, etc, that overall produces revenue that more than pays for the service. I am convinced that this can come and not bend Herndon out of shape, if it is done right. I believe it can be done fairly. I think it will take the collaboration probably of all of us here, and of a lot of other people, and it will mean that we all have to listen to each other and let good ideas take form. For this to work, I think that the winners and losers in this election and the elections to come, should work together when the elections are over, and make it happen. That seems hopelessly utopian, but what else can be done. I don't want a system that just burdens us, and I don't think anyone else does either, but that could happen. That is my worry.
George Taplin April 25, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Mrs. Meyers - You said: "A "kiss and ride" or other arrangement for cars to drop off metro riders on the North side of the Toll Road is needed if we do not want an even greater traffic nightmare with countless unnecessary trips on the limited number of roads that cross the Toll Road." I have searched all over but have been unable to find any research results or survey that describes the projected ridership of the metro from the Herndon-Monroe stop. It is very possible that there would be LESS ridership from this stop than there currently is from the bus station due to the increased number of stops available on the Silver Line along the Toll Road. Your assumption that there will be a great influx of ridership from Herndon is simply wishful thinking until a VALID ridership survey is completed and validated. You are putting up a strawman argument with no empirical evidence to support it. And I add my voice to the voices who want PUBLIC statements form the slate candidates on the matter. Or is this another exercise of, ". . . we will have to pass the bill to find out what is in it?"

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