After listening to public testimony, the Herndon Town Council voted to defer the Herndon Metro Station Area Plan for two weeks at its public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Consultants from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., discussed some of the biggest changes in the plan over recent weeks. After errors were found in the initial plan in November, VHB went back and made corrections and changes to it. The newest iteration of the plan was released in mid-December.
The study area for the plan, which began with 190 acres of land surrounding the future Metro station, went from 110 acres to 38 acres. Those 38 acres are now being referred to as the Herndon Transit-Oriented Core, and will have a floor area ratio ranging from 3.8 to 4.3.
Floor area ratio, or FAR, refers to the square footage of the building in relation to the lot, and is a measure of how dense a piece of land may be. For example an FAR of 1.0 would mean the square footage of the building would be the same amount as the square footage of the lot of land it sits on.
Many Herndon residents were concerned about the amount of development the project had been calling for. The newest version of it reduces the number of employees expected to come to the area from about 28,122 to 14,833, the number of residential units from 3,737 to 2,357, and the residential population from 7,474 to 4,714.
All of the intersections will receive improvements, mostly in the form of additional turn lanes, and all have a level of service D or better. Consultants said the level of service isn’t a grading scale, and Metro station areas often allow for more congestion because it slows down traffic, which makes the area better for pedestrians.
The consultants said to minimize the traffic impact and public cost, while maximizing the transit-oriented features and benefits to the town, the development should have a total of 7 million square feet. However, the Fairbrook parcel isn’t included in the plan. It’s what’s known as greenfield, or land without buildings already on it, ready to be developed now.
In early-February the landowners of Fairbrook found out their land was cut from the plan and requested the town consider allocating some of the development to the parcel. Doing so could have required the Council to send the plan back to the Planning Commission.
During the public comment portion a number of people spoke addressing issues with the plan or their support for it.
Steve Mitchell said he sees the town moving forward through this plan, which is a vision of what the town sees for 2035.
Herndon resident Doug Shuster, said the plan is “shockingly out of touch” with what Herndon residents want. He said it’s too dense and out of scale with the rest of Herndon. In the past Shuster has asked the town for better standards in the planning process for Metro.
Kevin East, chairman of Herndon’s Planning Commission, said the plan is mixed use and will increase Herndon’s tax base. He said it will provide an economic return on an investment to the town, as well as an attractive gateway into Herndon.
“I think, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve done what you asked,” East said. “We’ve created something that I think is workable, is workable over time, and something that the town can be proud of. I’m suggesting that this is a good plan. I’m suggesting that, maybe not tonight but eventually, you’ll adopt it.”
Pat Voltmer, a Herndon resident who lives near the future Metro station, said the plan is not appropriate for the town. She encouraged the council to reject it. She said it doesn’t represent the unique character and charm of Herndon.
“The Town of Herndon has history, heritage and charm and should not be degraded by building and urban metropolis along the Herndon Parkway,” Voltmer said. She said the plan still has many issues that may not be addressed for decades.
Georgia Graves, a member board of the Herndon Chamber of Commerce, and Eileen Curtis, president of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, expressed the organizations’ support of the Herndon Metro Station Area Plan. They said the plan will benefit the local economy and business community.
Others who commented expressed concern with the pedestrian and bike portion of the plan, the fairness of the plan, the completeness of the plan and that it lacks consideration for the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.
During discussions, the Council voted against a motion made by Mayor Steve DeBenedittis to reincorporate Fairbrook into the plan and send it back to the Planning Commission. Councilwoman Grace Wolf said the issue of Fairbrook’s property could be addressed after the Council is finished with the plan.