Editor’s Note — Tysons Reporter is running Q&As with the candidates who qualified for this year’s Vienna Town Council election on May 4. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
David Patariu is one of four candidates running for the three Vienna Town Council seats up for election this year. A practicing attorney and Vienna planning commissioner, Patariu is seeking his first term on the council after also running last year.
Interviews with fellow candidates Howard Springsteen, Nisha Patel, and Steve Potter — all incumbent councilmembers — are also available.
Why did you decide to run for election?
Residents asked me to run this year because they felt their voices were not being heard by Vienna’s Town Council. The story of how I got on the ballot is a good example of the residents-first, can-do attitude we need on Town Council.
I figured that going to 125 to 150 homes to gather in-person ballot petition signatures during the pandemic would not be safe and would show a real lack of judgment regarding the safety of the residents.
Meanwhile, other Virginia office-seekers had filed cases to have the ballot signature requirement modified because of the pandemic. So, I filed a court case (Patariu v. Scott) and obtained a court-approved consent decree to make this process safer in the Town of Vienna, allowing candidates to use a form that does not require the circulator to personally witness the signature of each voter.
I saw other Virginia municipalities were being smarter about voting in a pandemic and put in the time and was the only candidate to use the modified ballot petition process. And I am running at the request of many residents to bring this kind of good judgment and concern for every resident to Vienna’s Town Council.
How well do you think the town has handled its pandemic response?
Because of the pandemic, households and businesses across the country are conserving resources, spending less money, and deferring large projects. The Town Council, however, has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on arguably unnecessary consultants, started construction on a $14.5-plus million police station to replace a roughly 25-year-old police station, and opened up all residential and commercial zoning to a rewrite when residents cannot meet in person.
The town needs to hit “pause” on many of these non-essential projects and re-focus on pandemic recovery efforts directed toward residents and small businesses who have suffered the most.
What are your thoughts on how the zoning code rewrite has gone so far?
Residents cannot use the traditional channels of meeting in person and standing up at Town Council meetings to express their opinions. Surveys are drafted and interpreted by pro-development town staff, distributed in a non-random way, and presented as if they show what all Vienna residents want.
The town must wait until in-person meetings are once again possible, and hire an independent company to do a true random-sample survey of residents on any proposed zoning code changes that will affect their property values.
Before we move ahead with the residential and commercial zoning code rewrite, we need a Maple Avenue traffic study signed by a professional engineer — who did not have a possible conflict of interest for simultaneous work on behalf of Maple Avenue developers — to inform our decisions related to traffic impact and the zoning code rewrite.
What issues do you see as a priority in terms of what you want the zoning code update to address?
The zoning code update must focus on what is best for every resident and small business. It must not give away what makes Vienna special to facilitate the short-term financial interests of developers. The update needs to acknowledge that Maple Avenue has been at its max traffic capacity for more than ten years, and any updates must prevent further harm to the livability of our neighborhoods from cut-through traffic avoiding Maple Avenue.
I have called for a pause to the residential and zoning code update because residents cannot meet in person to express their opinions during the pandemic. A three-year moratorium on any significant zoning code updates is appropriate to allow our community to recover.
The town should have started with its comprehensive plan update, and then if necessary (it was not), work to update the zoning code. Making sure the comprehensive plan reflects sound policies for what is best for every resident and small business in Vienna should be a first step and goal of the zoning code update process.
What are your environmental goals for the town?
First, the town must eliminate its leaf mulching operation in a residential area at the 8-acre Beulah Road Park. Other facilities will accept our leaves for mulching.
Second, sidewalks are crucial to making Vienna an environmentally friendly, walkable town. A different approach to spending the $9 million Robinson bequest to the town for “new sidewalk construction” must be explored. Instead of building new sidewalks where they are sorely needed, sidewalks are only being built where there is existing “curb and gutter.”
Third, the Town Council should focus on making the new Patrick Henry Library a world-class library for Vienna’s children and residents, not putting it underneath a large concrete parking garage to facilitate overdevelopment on Maple Avenue.
Fourth, the town should use the former Faith Baptist Church property for a new sports field or park to meet a critical need for more parks in Vienna.
Fifth, Vienna should explore a public-private partnership with a residential composting pickup service like Sequential Soils. This is preferable to the scuttled plan to put several unmanaged 55-gallon garbage drums at Glyndon Park for bulk pickup of food scraps for composting, a plan I and many other residents opposed.
If elected, what would be your top priorities?
- Providing pandemic relief
- Promoting sidewalks and safer streets
- Thoughtful planning
- Adding parks and sports fields
- Stopping water bill increases
What do you think can be done to address traffic on Maple?
Traffic management is just one casualty of the sustained focus by town staff and council on developers’ wants over the needs of residents. Despite multiple promises by Town Council and staff to address light timing issues, there has been no improvement.
The town’s principal focus is on boosting development along the Maple Avenue corridor. Revising zoning to encourage considerable medium-density housing directly on Maple will almost certainly make traffic issues worse.
As Maple Avenue/Virginia State Route 123 is a primary state highway, the town should submit its final zoning code rewrite plans for a traffic impact analysis by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Are we going to turn Vienna into Tysons South, or will we maintain Vienna as a special and unique place for every resident? Our town’s future is in your hands. Please consider sending a strong message to Town Council on the issues I outline above by voting just for David N. Patariu.
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