The Central Herndon Area Commission will meet Aug. 7 to recommend ways to develop vacant or underused land in Herndon's downtown so that it can be transformed into a thriving area with retail, office and government buildings amid plazas and walkways.
The commission last October came up with a broad outline of what it believed would be the ideal way to develop the town's core. The report called for intensive growth that would include construction of offices, stores and plazas.
The commission will begin the process of putting the plan into action at next month's meeting.
The plan, backed by the Herndon Town Council in April, was requested as a response to development pressures on Herndon -- which, as part of the booming Dulles corridor, is blossoming economically.
Commission member Anne Dame, who owns a business in downtown Herndon, said the plan could not have come soon enough. She said developers are already trying to buy out many businesses in town. "Just about everybody down here has someone asking for our businesses," she said.
After holding open meetings for a year to design the plan, the commission will now recommend guidelines on zoning and construction, and on possible financial incentives the town can adopt to encourage development that would fit into the plan.
The Aug. 7 meeting is expected to be attended by Herndon planners and council members. Developers and citizens are invited to attend.
"We're having a brainstorming session followed by meetings with the Planning Commission to flesh out the plan," said Herndon Planning Director Bill Keefe.
Keefe said the commission and planners will then write a second plan describing "the broad land uses, how they should work together." That plan will be presented to the public and Town Council in a hearing in September, he said.
Developers will present their individual zoning petitions after the council approves an overall plan, Keefe said.
Commission member Richard Downer, who lives in downtown Herndon and owns a business there, gave an example of one concern the commission might address in implementing the plan. "If someone wants to save an old building, the fire code insists you gut it and renovate it," he said, adding that such work is expensive and discourages investment.
"We've got to make it economical to upgrade some of these buildings" to accommodate the plan's call for attractive, preferably restored Victorian architecture, he said.
"Nobody wants buildings that dominate the area. Then you get that Rosslyn-Tysons Corner look," Downer said. He said he advocated that the council pass several ordinances recommended in the plan that call for low-level, non-high-rise construction.
Dame said she hopes the commission can recommend what she called an "antidestruct" ordinance ensuring that no residents or businesses will be forced out by developers. But she also said the automobile dealers and service busineses downtown "should clean up -- hide the parking lots -- or move" because some are unsightly.
The commission report acknowledged the difficulty of tailoring development to fit a comprehensive plan, but suggested that the town enact the zoning changes, ordinances and tax incentives necessary to implement their vision. The plan also proposed the formation of a public-private development corporation.
Patrick Kane, who worked as consultant to the commission when it wrote its growth plan, is now a consultant to four Herndon property owners with development plans. He said the developers are enthusiastic about complying with the plan because of "the manner in which the plan evolved. It's a negotiated process with citizen support."