Ahead of the Town of Vienna’s election, Tysons Reporter asked the candidates to answer the following questions and also submit a short biography. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. We are publishing the Q&As this week in the order we received the responses.
Featured here is Pasha Majdi, who is running for the mayor’s seat.
Bio: Vienna is my hometown. I grew up playing VYS and VYI as a kid at Louise Archer. I went to TJ, Duke, and George Mason Law, and came back home to raise my family here. Our family has four generations in Vienna because we love this town and everything it stands for. I am the senior director for U.S. Policy and Government Affairs for Conservation International, and I’m the only legislative and policy professional serving on Vienna’s Town Council.
Nearby, Tysons is urbanizing. How do you think the Town of Vienna’s identity should change in response to Tysons’ growth?
Vienna’s identity changed forever in 2010 when Fairfax County established its development plan for Tysons. Maple Avenue is now a throughway to Tysons, whether we like it or not.
For the past 10 years, the town has attempted to ignore this reality, disregarding recommendations from VDOT and not cooperating with the county. Through the MAC (which I voted against), the town took the wrong path and tried to change Maple Avenue from a commercial district into a housing district.
We need to adapt to reality. Let’s use it to our advantage: the 30,000+ cars that drive through Vienna each day are all potential customers who can support our local businesses and make our town prosperous. As your mayor, I will collaborate with the county and with VDOT on a transportation plan that keeps traffic moving on Maple and out of our residential neighborhoods.
As mayor, would you pledge to A) declare a climate emergency and B) support a council vote for the Town of Vienna to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045?
Declaring an emergency implies that sacrifices are necessary. As the senior director for U.S. Policy and Government Affairs for Conservation International — a global leader on conservation and climate policies — my experience has shown that green policies are actually beneficial in the long-run. We don’t need to declare an emergency in Vienna, we just need to apply smart policies.
As your mayor, I would use my professional policy background and skills to reduce our carbon footprint while also saving taxpayer dollars. The best way to save money while helping the environment is to transition to electric vehicles and invest in on-site charging stations. I have already pledged to do so by 2030.
On Town Council, I am leading the effort to bring microtransit (i.e., on-demand, personalized transit) to Vienna. With your vote, I will continue to deliver cutting-edge environmental policies to the Town of Vienna as your mayor.
What are your solutions to Maple Avenue congestion and cut-thru traffic in neighborhoods?
Tysons growth creates congestion on Maple and cut-through traffic in our residential neighborhoods. To keep our quality of life, we need sidewalks, speed humps, and crosswalks throughout the Town. And we also need to develop a regional transportation plan in partnership with the county. Last month I asked Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay to commit to working with the town on a transportation plan for Maple Avenue — he enthusiastically agreed.
For the past decade, Vienna’s plan for growth has been to overdevelop on Maple Avenue and deal with the traffic impact later. I was the only councilmember who voted against that plan (i.e., “the MAC”). I recently voted against hiring a consultant to rewrite the MAC for the same reason: we still don’t have a plan for traffic.
The town is repeating the same mistakes from 10 years ago. I’m running for mayor to fix that.
How would you work with Natalia Monkou to boost economic development in the town?
As your mayor, I will prioritize supporting small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic recovery. That’s why I have called for a dedicated fund to support distribution of masks, gloves, and PPE for our commercial centers, and a zero interest micro-loan program for small businesses.
Vienna must also allow local businesses to grow and adapt by relaxing outdated rules on a case-by-case basis — a method known as “site plan modifications.” We used site plan modifications for Bear Branch Tavern to attract and accommodate this new business that fits Vienna.
As your mayor, I will work with local businesses and town staff to implement site plan modifications throughout town to attract businesses that fit Vienna and to help our local businesses grow.
What are your ideal height and building sizes for developments in the Maple Avenue Ordinance?
Residents want smaller buildings to keep Vienna’s small-town feel. I’ve been leading the charge on this issue for six years. Other mayoral candidates followed suit when it was politically convenient, whereas I spoke up for residents first and took a stand. Right now, that’s the type of leadership we need.
For Maple Avenue, residents want three stories or fewer with larger setbacks and more green space. We don’t want big box buildings that fill up the entire lot and tower over neighborhoods.
Mayor Robinson intentionally blocked redevelopment on Maple Avenue for 20 years. We don’t need a density incentive to spur development — we merely need to stop blocking it. If we simplify, clarify, and update our commercial zoning code it will attract real estate investors at a height and size that fits small-town Vienna.
There’s a reason why local developers applied for MAC projects and then immediately sold them to outside companies: only local developers understand our code. That’s the real problem.
Some residents are concerned about town officials’ transparency and the public’s ability to comment on proposals. Do you think this is an issue? How will you ensure people understand what is going on and are able to engage on topics that matter to them?
I’m taking clear positions on the issues to be transparent and give voters a choice. I’m not offering platitudes or pledging to hire consultants to answer the most important questions a mayor will face. As a voter, you should know:
- I do not support a rewrite of our residential zoning code because we risk losing why people come to live in Vienna: our green space and small-town feel. Leave our residential neighborhoods alone!
- I support making a few, simple updates in the commercial zoning code that reinforce our small-town feel: primarily commercial buildings, three stories or less, larger setbacks, and more green space.
- We should not spend $250,000 on a consultant to rewrite our residential and commercial zoning code during a pandemic. Those funds should be redirected toward public health and basic services until we recover.
That’s where I stand and that’s what I’ll do as mayor. Please vote Pasha Majdi on or before May 5.
People interested in learning more about Majdi’s campaign can check out this website.
Photo courtesy Pasha Majdi