The two candidates for mayor of the Town of Herndon have differing visions of how the town will change when Metrorail arrives at its doorstep.
The Town Council approved a master plan in 2012 for the area around the future Herndon Metro Station that would allow the construction of some high-rise buildings along the Dulles Toll Road and mid-rise buildings along Herndon Parkway over the next 30 years.
Mayor Lisa Merkel cites the Metro plan as something critical for Herndon’s future and is committed to moving the current plan forward. For example, she said, it is important that the town make plans to get the infrastructure in place to allow people to access the new stations.
This type of walkable, more urban-style development around Metro stations “is in demand, it is what people want when they live near Metro stations,” Merkel said.
However, her opponent, Vice Mayor Connie Hutchinson, believes that most town residents don’t support that level of development, which is far more intense than anything existing in the town today.
“I don’t think that the majority of Herndon residents want to move toward urbanization as quickly as the mayor has been moving us in that direction,” Hutchinson said.
Merkel is also focused on continuing to move forward on revitalizing Herndon’s historic downtown. During her first term, the council approved new zoning language for the downtown area and a pattern book for architectural designs and approved lighting for the section of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail that runs through downtown.
“My goal is to have dirt turning downtown by the end of my next term,” she said.
The planning for future development aligns with the council’s efforts to attract businesses, Merkel said, including hiring a director of economic development.
“We’ve really focused on attracting new businesses to the town,” she said.
Hutchinson also has concerns about how the downtown plan is progressing, as a potential developer has requested exceptions to the downtown plan, which are now under review by the Planning Commission.
“We spent a lot of time and effort to develop that downtown master plan, she said.
Hutchinson says she would like to see the council more focused on serving the town’s current residents. For example, she said, there are streets without curb and gutter or sidewalks.
“I think we are moving away from really serving our citizens,” Hutchinson said. “We seem to be very concerned about how much tax revenue we bring in.”
Herndon elections for mayor and town council are May 6.