Herndon residents continue to square off concerning the town’s plans to develop an area near a future Metro station.
On Sept. 26, the Herndon Planning Commission heard redevelopment proposals and resident comments surrounding the Herndon-Monroe Metro station, scheduled for construction in 2016.
The town plans to allow developers to rebuild the area as a considerably more dense and urban community that offers places to live, work, shop and dine, all within walking distance of the station.
The station will be built in the median of the Dulles Toll Road, about where the Herndon-Monroe Park-and-Ride currently sits. A pedestrian bridge will connect the station to Herndon across the Dulles Toll Road.
A study area that includes 188 acres north of the station is targeted for infrastructure improvements and future commercial development.
Within that area are several neighborhoods consisting primarily of older, single-family homes with spacious backyards. Although many living there are excited about the changes that transit-oriented development will bring to their subdivisions, others are taken aback by the scope of the proposals.
Last year, Herndon hired consulting firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., to come up with a planning concept designed to both attract developers to the area and keep them within certain boundaries in terms of construction density.
Via slideshow at the Planning Commission meeting, VHB consultants illustrated the newest details of their proposals compiled from two plans previously vetted by residents during a series of public hearings.
The newest plan calls for dense development across from the proposed station in between the toll road and Herndon Parkway, which already is a commercial area. According to the latest plan, buildings consisting of 15 stories will be allowed in that area, with the allowable density tapering off considerably as it approaches residential neighborhoods.
The development levels planned for the station area, from the south side of Herndon Parkway to the station area near Monroe and Van Buren streets, will be “quite a bit more substantial than anything we have in Herndon,” said Kay Robertson, a senior project planner for the town’s Department of Community Development.
“Fulfilling this vision does not just mean building larger buildings. It also entails making it easier and more attractive for people to travel by foot and by bike in that part of Herndon,” she said.
For the south side of Herndon Parkway, the town is considering adding a two-way “cycle track,” in lieu of on-street bike lanes, between the lanes of car traffic and new, wider sidewalks for people traveling on foot. Trees and other plantings would liven up the street and be used as a buffer between cyclists and pedestrians.
But for Pat Voltmer, a systems analyst for J.P. Morgan, no number of bike lanes or pedestrian walkways will make up for the encroachments the new development will bring into her neighborhood, she said.
“I believe the Town of Herndon should focus its energy and resources not to create an ‘urban metropolis’ that mirrors Reston Town Center, but to create a Metro station that represents and promotes Herndon’s small-town community spirit,” she said Sept. 26. “None of my neighbors with whom I’ve spoken have expressed any desire to have 12- to 15-story buildings lining the Herndon Parkway.”
Voltmer told commissioners that she also thinks new development proposals as outlined by VHB will compete with downtown development, something she favors.
But other residents disagree, and also spoke up at the public hearing.
“Our downtown will never be the economic engine of Herndon. The Dulles corridor will be that engine,” said community activist Barbara Glakas, an educator with Fairfax County schools. “Herndon is not a farm any longer.”
The Herndon Planning Commission will continue its public hearings on this issue at 7 p.m. Monday in the Mary Ingram Council Chambers, 765 Lynn St.