Redeveloping Herndon's central business district and improving its parks and recreation facilities are high-priority issues for the 10 candidates running in the May 6 Town Council elections.
The two polling places, which will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., are at Herndon Elementary School, 231 Dranesville Rd., and Herndon Intermediate School, 901 Locust St.
Mayor Richard C. Thoesen is running unopposed for his second term. The other nine candidates are campaigning to fill the remaining six seats on the seven-member council. Town officials' terms are for two years.
Thoesen said he supports a recent proposal to revitalize Herndon's sagging downtown district with new commercial and retail businesses in an effort to draw more spenders to the town's central area. The redevelopment plan, a result of two years of study by the council-appointed Central Herndon Committee, includes recommendations on improving traffic flow, upgrading public services and preserving the town's turn-of-the-century architecture.
Thoesen, 41, said that although it is important to create a healthy tax base for the town of 15,500, he does not want to disturb the area's quiet, almost rural nature. "I'm not going to bulldoze my way into anybody's living room," he said.
William J. Des Rochers, who served on the downtown redevelopment committee, said town officials should work to bring in new businesses and implement the growth plan as quickly as possible. "Too often we end up with reports that go on the shelf and nothing happens," he said.
Des Rochers, 39, said the Town Council also needs to focus on upgrading some of the area's major intersections and roads. He cited Elden Street between Herndon Parkway and Alabama Avenue and a poorly timed traffic signal system as sources of traffic congestion.
Lloyd Johnson, a resident of Herndon for 15 years, who is running for his fifth council term, said he favors bringing more recreational and cultural activities into town. Johnson said it is up to council members to push for a local theater, a dance troupe or a larger public library.
"We need to look at a more balanced recreational program for the whole community . . . something to include activities other than sports events," Johnson said.
Christopher J. Riddick, 29, said it is vital for Herndon to build up its aging downtown area with attractive new commercial and professional offices, plus an assortment of retail shops, to bolster the town's image and economic base.
"The area downtown is not in a condition that will attract businesses," said Riddick, who is chairman of Herndon's Board of Zoning Appeals. "There are a lot of pretty old and decaying properties there . . . . It all needs to be improved to attract businesses into the center of town."
Riddick added that the town's athletic fields need to be improved and kept in better condition for sporting events.
Vice Mayor Pamela S. Tennyson, the election's only write-in candidate, said town planners need to reexamine Herndon's roads. She said that many are "grossly overstressed and overused" and that better coordination is needed between Herndon and Fairfax County transportation officials.
Tennyson, 39, said the downtown redevelopment plan would help make Herndon a "flourishing economic area and, at the same time, retain its small-town flavor."
One of the best remedies for Herndon's traffic troubles, said Haley M. Smith, is the Herndon Parkway, a small beltway being built with state and local funds that will ultimately encircle the northwestern Fairfax town.
Town officials said the parkway is designed to channel commuter and cross-county traffic off of Herndon's streets and ease congestion on the town's two- and four-lane main arteries.
Smith, 68, is running for his eighth council term.
Candidate Douglas D. Walker said he would support building an indoor community swimming pool that would be accessible to handicapped persons, local swim teams and residents.
Walker, 45, also wants to upgrade the town's storm sewer system to handle more rainwater. "The downtown area has problems with flooding . . . and we are not able to build there because of the lack of adequate storm sewer control," he said.
Herbert O. Whitten, 70, also mentioned an indoor swimming pool as high on his list of campaign priorities. He said most of the town's recreational facilities need to be improved.
Whitten said the Town Council should pay more attention to untangling Herndon's daily traffic tie-ups at key intersections around the area. He also said more sidewalks are needed in many areas "where town planners have never taken the trouble to build them."
As Herndon expands its light industrial and commercial base, said Gerald A. Yates, town officials need to ensure that existing residential neighborhoods are well-protected with landscaped buffers.
"Everybody is starting to wonder when the industrial growth will stop," Yates said. "Most of the growth had been fairly well isolated . . . . Now it's coming closer and closer to residential areas."
Yates, 48, also said he was concerned that an anticipated building boom would pave over the town's ball fields. "We need to take a good solid look at our future and long-range recreational needs for the town," Yates said. "Most of the vacant land is being bought up."
Sheila O'Leary, who served on Herndon's Council from 1978-80, said the town's planners need to provide more buffer space between existing residential areas and new commercial and light industrial developments being built near them.
"The buffer zones might aid along the way toward helping the people change their negative attitude toward the commercial development here," said O'Leary, 41. "We need to make [development] work for the residents, not against them."