The Herndon Planning Commission voted 5 to 2 Monday to recommend denial of a plan to build a five-story office building on Herndon Parkway.
The proposal by developer Les G. Jones to build a 140,000-square-foot building in the Parkway Trade Center has been the subject of controversy since it was disclosed last month that Town Manager David Larsen accepted a preliminary site plan submitted by Jones in January without informing the Town Council or the Planning Commission. Larsen, who is also the town zoning administrator, may accept a preliminary site plan, but the plan must be submitted to the Town Council for final approval after review by the Planning Commission.
The town planning director in February drafted a letter rejecting the site plan because it fell short of landscaping requirements. However, the letter was never sent, Larsen said. Larsen overruled the planning department's rejection. Planners then asked the developer to make landscaping revisions in the plan.
Larsen's decision to accept the preliminary site plan as it was filed in January is critical because in February, the Town Council increased the required amount of parking space for office projects. Had Larsen rejected the January plan, the developer would have been required to add about 90 parking spaces under the new parking space law. Jones submitted a new site plan in April embodying landscaping additions requested by the planners. The plan lacked 108 trees needed to meet landscaping requirements.
At Monday's meeting, several planning commission members questioned the validity of Jones' January site plan and said his April plan was considered a totally new plan and subject to the new, more stringent parking requirements.
"This is an issue of submission, as to whether there was a valid submission made in January," said commission Chairman Charles E. Allen. "I think the first submission was invalid, incomplete, inaccurate."
"The facts are pretty clear," said commission member Les Zidel. "The plan was not in conformance, particularly the landscaping."
Commission member William J. Des Rochers, who also serves on the Town Council, argued that because the original site plan was accepted by the town, it must be considered valid. He acknowledged that the original plan had major flaws but said that most plans are flawed and revised. Because the original plan was submitted before the parking law was passed, the project is not required to add parking space, he said after the meeting.
"I respect the zoning administrator," Allen said. "But from our perspective, the majority of the commissioners believe the submission that occurred in April was a new submission."
Jones, who attended Monday's meeting, declined to comment after the Planning Commission's vote. His attorney, Lester O. Nyce, said the April site plan was a revision and was not subject to the new parking requirements.