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Vienna Amends Town Code With Sidewalk Construction Mandate

The Town of Vienna has expanded a push for more sidewalks.

The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously yesterday (Monday) for an amendment that will require developers of single-lot properties to construct a sidewalk regardless of whether an adjacent sidewalk exists.

The approved amendment to Sec. 17-67.2 of the town’s code also permits the director of public works, in consultation with the town attorney and town manager, to waive the construction of a new sidewalk in exceptional circumstances.

“This is exciting, I think, to make Vienna more walkable. This just gets us a little closer to that goal,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.

The amendment to the town’s code comes after the Virginia General Assembly revised Sec. 15.2-2242.9 of the Code of Virginia in July 2019. The state’s revision allows jurisdictions to require construction of sidewalks even when there are no existing sidewalks adjacent to the property.

“I think this is a great idea. I know if we had this 10 or 15 years ago, it would solve a lot of problems,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said. “But I think things have changed. I don’t think 10 or 15 years ago we could have done this. The fact that they changed in Richmond has really given us a great start in that.”

The amendment to the town’s code does not change an existing requirement for the dedication of land for public use.

Town Attorney Steve Briglia clarified for the council that the only change being discussed at Monday’s meeting was requiring a sidewalk regardless of whether there are adjacent sidewalks. He also said that the amendment couldn’t require a curb or gutter to be the responsibility of the developer.

He added that, since the mid-1960s, the town has required property developers to dedicate land and build a sidewalk unless the council waived it. Even if the requirement was waived, a right-of-way was always dedicated and owned by the town for public use.

“It’s a legal issue in the sense that we already require the dedication. This is not new. 17-67.1, which is not before the Town Council for an amendment, already requires the dedication,” Briglia said.

“If you develop a lot in Vienna, teardown single family or a subdivision — we’ve always done it for subdivisions — you have to dedicate the land on the frontage of the street for sufficient right-of-way for sidewalk, curb and gutter,” Briglia added.

The council also discussed addressing the language elsewhere in the town code, specifically Sec. 17-67.1 and Sec. 18-203, to clarify issues on the dedication of land for sidewalks and nonconformity for the dedication of land for public use, respectively.

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