This story was updated on April 20, 2012.
Although the Town Council has approved redevelopment plans for Herndon’s Metro station area and downtown, future plans for those areas remained a hot topic at a candidates’ debate Wednesday night.
All of the candidates — nine for town council and three for mayor — support some redevelopment of those areas. However, the most evident differences are between incumbent council members who want to keep pressing full steam ahead and those who want to take a step back.
Mayoral candidate Lisa Merkel, a one-term councilwoman and current vice mayor, said she is proud of the work done so far on the Metro station area plan. She said she wants to see the town move ahead on preparing the guidelines for the look and feel of the potential redevelopment zone. She also supports action on the master plan for downtown.
“We need to move forward with our downtown plan and our master plan in a careful way,” Merkel said.
Her two opponents in the mayoral race, current councilmen Bill Tirrell and Jasbinder Singh, also suggested caution, but both implied the Metro station area plan might need some more work.
Tirrell said he supports “well-considered Metro area development,” but that it is premature to vest development rights when the plans to build the Metro station are not final.
He also thinks the downtown plan should be a more immediate priority.
The funding partners for the Dulles Metrorail extension still are finalizing a funding agreement for the $3.2 billion second phase of the rail line, which includes a stop at the edge of the town’s boundaries.
Singh also said he thought the planning process for the station area had been rushed, and took credit for pointing out an error in a town consultant’s traffic study that led to scaled-back plans in the station area.
“We do many things on an ad hoc, seat of the pants basis,” Singh said, saying the council should be more deliberate.
The three mayoral candidates also had slightly different takes on the need for bus service in the town. Merkel has proposed an internal circulator system to help connect the future Metro station area with downtown and other areas.
She said she first wants to work closely with Fairfax County, which runs the Connector bus service, “so that we have reliable, frequent bus service on opening day.”
Tirrell and Singh both said the town has a ways to go before it clearly demonstrates demand for an internal bus system run by the town.
“If you look at internal bus systems in towns, they don’t work,” Tirrell said. He would leave it to Fairfax Connector to determine bus service.
Herndon’s town election is May 1.