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Vienna Town Council Works to Ditch Public Advertising Requirement

Along with other legislative items, Vienna is working to kill a statewide requirement to advertise in local newspapers.

Virginia code currently requires local Planning Commissions to publish notice of plan, ordinances and amendments in “some newspaper published or having general circulation in the locality” before those plans are approved.

The idea of the ordinance is to require localities to give the public time to see what’s planned and the opportunity to speak to their representatives about it, if necessary.

But Vienna staff argued that many localities no longer have local newspapers to advertise in and those that do are seeing it as an unnecessary cost.

“A lot of newspapers distribute their news online,” said Town Attorney Steven Briglia. “I think these provisions for legal advertising requirements, they’re expensive. Any time you have a hearing it has to be advertised by the clerk and it adds up… it becomes a question of: is that the best way to get the news out?  Newspaper associations fight it, it’s advertising money for them, and I don’t think it’s that the town is against newspapers, but we’re losing options.”

This isn’t the first time localities have tried to have the ordinance overturned, but the proposed amendments have been consistently defeated.

“We have the Sun-Gazette, we’re fortunate, but a lot of localities don’t have that,” Briglia said. “There’s a lot of newspapers going under, and [localities] are having to turn to regional papers where people aren’t going for local news.”

Other legislative items proposed in the docket include a push to get the town a voting seat on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

“We have a good relationship [with the NVTA] but we don’t have a single vote,” Briglia said. “The City of Falls Church has a vote, but a smaller population than many towns. I’m not sure we’re ready to throw tea into Boston Harbor over it yet.”

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