Tysons, VA

In a record turnout, more than 35% of Vienna voters submitted ballots for yesterday’s election to select their next mayor and new councilmembers.

Current Councilmember Linda Colbert beat her two opponents — also both on the Town Council — for the mayor’s seat, according to the unofficial election results in the town’s press release.

Colbert was first elected to the council in 2014 after serving on the Transportation Safety Commission and a variety of other governmental and local councils, according to her town bio.

Her campaign focused on boosting the town’s commercial areas, preserving the neighborhoods and keeping Vienna a “vibrant walkable town protected from the Tysons sprawl.”

As for the other mayoral candidates, Howard Springsteen will stay on the council until his term expires in June 2021, while Pasha Majdi’s term expires at the end of June.

According to the unofficial results, Colbert received 1,545 votes, while Majdi got 1,172 and Springsteen got 869.

Voters chose three out of the seven candidates who vied for councilmember seats.

According to the unofficial election results:

  • Ed Somers — 1,545
  • Ray Brill, Jr. — 1,472
  • Chuck Anderson — 1,420
  • Andrea Dahl — 1,336
  • Chris Wright — 1,265
  • Roy Baldwin — 1,256
  • David Patariu — 1,214

Majdi, Dahl, Wright and Patariu ran as a group on a joint platform focused on keeping Vienna’s small town feel and reducing congestion.

Originally set for May 5, Gov. Ralph Northam delayed the town’s election by two weeks due to concerns about spreading the coronavirus.

Voter turnout peaked at 36.5% — recent turnout has usually been between 5% and 23% for the town’s elections — and voters submitted 3,371 absentee ballots, according to Fairfax County’s Office of Elections.

“It was an historic election in Vienna,” the election office tweeted.

The new councilmembers and mayor will start serving July 1.

Colbert photo via Town of Vienna, three photos in collage courtesy Ed Somers, Ray Brill, Jr. and Chuck Anderson

0 Comments

The Town of Vienna’s election is underway, and voters have less than four hours to vote in-person or drop off their ballots.

As masked voters file into the Vienna Community Center or drive to the  Fairfax County Government Center to drop off their ballots in a special box, Tysons Reporter is exploring what civic duty looks like during a pandemic.

Voter turnout has typically fluctuated between 5% and 23% for the town’s elections for the last 20 years. But that may change this year.

“Traditionally, for municipal elections, it’s hard to get a good turnout,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen, who is running for the mayor’s seat, told Tysons Reporter.

Starting in March, Fairfax County officials took to social media to encourage Vienna voters to use the “disability or illness” box when requesting absentee ballots, hoping that mail-in ballots would decrease long lines for in-person voting.

The reminders worked. Vienna voters requested more than 3,200 absentee ballots, according to the town.

There are roughly 11,800 registered voters in the town, according to the state election department. If all of the absentee ballots are completed and submitted, that would put the voter turnout percentage around 27% — not including in-person voting.

“I think voter turnout will be higher than we’ve had in a while,” Mayor Laurie DiRocco told Tysons Reporter.

Voters weren’t the only ones urged to do their civic duty by voting from home.

DiRocco, who is retiring when her term ends this June, told Tysons Reporter on Friday that she asked all of the candidates to stay away from the Vienna Community Center today (Tuesday) to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

In previous years, it has been “very much of a social gathering,” according to DiRocco, who added that people would bring picnics and socialize with one another outside of the 40-foot distance line as people prepared to vote.

“I had reached out to the candidates and recommend we do not show up at the election,” DiRocco said. “All of the candidates agreed to that, which I thought was really good.”

But DiRocco sounded frustrated when she told Tysons Reporter that she received messages from people this morning “who were a little nervous” because they spotted mayoral candidate Pasha Majdi outside the Vienna Community Center.

“I don’t know what else to say at this point,” DiRocco said, stressing that it’s important to respect public health and safety concerns for voters.

Majdi told Tysons Reporter that he was about 300 feet away from the community center — “I could not throw a football from across the street.”

“We thought it would be a nice gesture to thank people for voting by waving from across the street, several hundred feet [away] from the polls,” he said.

The decision of whether or not to stand outside the polling place was never a dilemma before the pandemic, and it is not the only issue that candidates recently faced as Northern Virginia’s coronavirus numbers continue to rise.

Many of the candidates responded to Tysons Reporter’s inquiry about how the pandemic changed their campaign strategy, saying that social media has played a larger role in getting their messages out.

“My team of supporters and I had to change the game plan,” mayoral candidate and current Councilmember Linda Colbert said.

Colbert said that she started her campaign this year with the goal of getting to “every house in Vienna.” Instead, she ended up writing a letter to every resident instead.

Traditional face-to-face methods of interacting with voters — going door-to-door, attending events and handing out campaign literature — are moot while social distancing guidelines and the stay-at-home order are in effect.

“Voters in Vienna appreciate it when candidates knock on their doors and take a few minutes to answer questions before leaving a pamphlet,” Roy Baldwin, a councilmember candidate, said. “Since early March, none of that has been possible — the last thing I would want to do would be to either pick up or unwittingly spread the coronavirus by such close contact.”

Baldwin said that this campaign is “certainly nothing” like the one he ran in 2016.

“I’ve gone to the phone a lot more, and to email, text messages, and Facebook posts, as well as traditional mailers and print ads,” he said, adding that he’s even done Zoom conferences.

Ray Brill Jr., a councilmember candidate who said face-to-face “was to be the cornerstone of my campaign,” said that he pivoted to social media, word-of-mouth, signs and mailings to reach voters.

Brill also said that sharing his message through candidate essays, like he did for Tysons Reporter, “gave voters the opportunity to compare and contrast each candidate’s position on key issues facing the Town of Vienna so they could make an informed decision before they voted.”

Brill isn’t the only candidate missing in-person communication.

“I much prefer face-to-face. I don’t think you have a dialogue with people on social media,” Springsteen, who is running for the mayor’s seat, told Tysons Reporter. “I don’t get a lot of feedback [from voters].”

He said that he’s relied on boosting Facebook posts and sent out two mailings — a letter and a postcard — this year, adding that he’s put out fewer yard signs to reduce in-person contact.

While he said he’s “getting a lot of hits on my website,” he said that posting online can feel like putting a message out into a void.

Limited traditional campaigning tactics have forced some candidates to get creative.

“I have no idea if it will translate into votes, but my daily bike rides with the Choose Chuck velocipede has at least brought smiles to people’s faces,” councilmember candidate Chuck Anderson said.

Anderson noted that he keeps “at least 20 feet” away from people while on his bike rides down the middle of the street.

“With a number of neighbors strolling the streets, I have been able to get my name out, at least, to a large number of voters,” he said.

Colbert, a mayoral candidate, turned to daily videos.

“One day I posted a video expressing my concerns for town residents and businesses,” Colbert said. “After receiving positive feedback, I did it another day until I was doing it every day.”

Some of the biggest COVID-19 challenges have impacted the candidates’ jobs more than their campaigns.

“My day job is dealing with the coronavirus,” councilmember candidate Ed Somers said. “So I’m certainly busier in my day job… I think the challenge is the balance of doing what I need to do for work and doing the outreach I need to do for the campaign.”

Majdi shared a similar sentiment, saying that he shifted his focus away from the campaign more to his duties as a current councilmember.

“Campaigning has taken a back seat to the COVID-19 response,” Majdi said. “The top priority is public health and safety.”

Still, Majdi is talking to voters over the phone, and Somers is relying on his network to vouch for him.

“I’ve found [the campaign] to be a good experience,” Somers said, adding that he thinks online communication has “made us more authentic… [since] we’re going more off our instincts.”

Photo via Fairfax County Votes/Twitter

Ashley Hopko contributed to this story, photo (2) courtesy Chuck Anderson

0 Comments

Vienna Election Day — Today, voters will pick the new councilmembers and mayor. Here’s our guide to who the candidates are and how to find out more about them. [Tysons Reporter]

Helping Hand — The McLean Little League and the Deevy Group at Compass will deliver food to Inova’s ICU and ER departments today at 6:30 p.m. [Patch]

Some Shoppers Spotted at Tysons Corner Center — “A few stores, such as Kay Jewelers, Forever 21 and Altar’d State, were open. According to Northern Virginia resident Dorothy Gundy, who provided the photos to WTOP, stores were asking shoppers to line up in the concourse and letting a few people in at a time.” [WTOP]

0 Comments

Polling Patience — “[T]hose who will be voting in person at the Vienna Community Center will have to jump through a few more hoops and will not have the chance to mingle with the candidates on-site. Voters should be patient expect a slower-than-normal process, election officials said. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.” [Inside NoVa]

Summer School — “Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will continue distance learning for students during the summer along with targeted intervention services. Virtual learning for students this summer is based on current Fairfax County Health Department guidelines for social distancing and guidance from the state that school buildings remain closed in July.” [FCPS]

State Data No Longer Includes Antibody Tests — “On Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health announced they would no longer include the results of antibody tests in their overall data, though officials stressed that its inclusion did not significantly alter the trends that aided the governor in making the decision to reopen. About 15,000 antibody tests had been included, making up about nine percent of the overall testing number.” [DCist]

Public Libraries to Soon Offer New Services — “FCPL is preparing to begin offering contactless pickup of holds or staff selections on Monday, June 1.” [FCPL/Facebook]

0 Comments

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 in the order we received the responses. 

Featured here is Andrea Dahl, who is running for a position on the Vienna Town Council. 

Bio: I’m Andrea Dahl and I’m running for Town Council because I believe I can make a positive impact. As an energetic mom and community volunteer with 20 years of corporate experience, it’s always my mission to come up with creative ways to do things better, for less money.

Nearby, Tysons is urbanizing. How do you think the Town of Vienna’s identity should change in response to Tysons’ growth?

I recognize that growth is inevitable and welcome much of it. However, I think that we can do a better job managing it to preserve our small-town feel and strengthen our sense of community. New growth needs to include comprehensive planning, looking at the full impact on our roads and class sizes, but also protecting the overall quality of life of our current residents. What is right for Tysons is not necessarily right for our town nor what most residents of Vienna want.

I don’t think we need another storage area in the heart of historic downtown Vienna, but there seems to be some consensus that residents would like a vibrant downtown filled with more mom and pop restaurants, taverns, outdoor cafes, galleries, and unique shops where residents can safely walk and bike around. These small businesses help differentiate our town from Tysons and would be welcomed by most residents.

Prior to this pandemic, I supported the town making strategic land acquisitions as key property becomes available because I recognize that land in the town is finite. In my opinion, the purchase of commercial property to create the Town Green was one of the best decisions ever made by the Town. Given today’s environment, we will need to look at the full impact of this pandemic on our economy and the residents and businesses within our town before moving forward with any discretionary expenditures.

What are your solutions to Maple Avenue congestion and cut-thru traffic in neighborhoods?

Maple Avenue is already at capacity when it comes to traffic. This means that any extra traffic from Maple Avenue spills over to our residential streets. While I’m not opposed to development on Maple Avenue, I think that any future development has to make sense taking into consideration the full impact on our roads, schools, and town services. To ease cut-thru traffic and slow vehicle speeds, I support installing traffic calming measures like speed humps, speed cushions, and realigned intersections.

It would make sense for the town to work with Dominion Power to install sidewalks on certain streets at the same time that Dominion Power is burying their lines. This collaboration will save the town money and make our neighborhood streets safer, prettier, and our power service more reliable. This also helps many local home builders because Dominion Power is absorbing the cost to bury our power lines instead of developers paying to do this with any new construction.

Roundabouts at select intersections, flashing lights for pedestrians to cross busy intersections as well as adding trees and vegetation next to busy roadways are other options we can use to effectively slow traffic and make our roads safer.

Additionally, I support working with local sports leagues to minimize practices that require driving children to school practices across town, especially at the elementary school level.

Should Vienna keep its “small town feel”? If so, how? If not, why and what do you propose?

According to the Collins Dictionary, “small town is used when referring to small places… where people are friendly, honest, and polite.” Small towns tend to have their own special characteristics. Since people tend to know one another and look out for each other, people living in small towns often feel safer and happier. This has never been more evident than now.

During this pandemic, I have seen all kinds of people in our town step up to help others in so many creative ways that I am proud to call Vienna home. In my opinion, the Town of Vienna is a type of oasis in the middle of the Northern Virginia sprawl. Its close knit community is what gives Vienna its small town feel and we should want to preserve that.

To best keep Vienna’s small town feel, we should continue to do things that promote building a strong sense of community as this is what differentiates Vienna from neighboring areas. Community events like the annual Halloween Parade and the Church Street Holiday Stroll are favorites that everyone looks forward to.

At a minimal cost, Vienna could offer additional events like weekly summer outdoor movies, indoor winter movies at the Community Center for kids and seniors, more concerts on the Town Green, and even a Dog Jog & Walk fundraiser to further strengthen our sense of community.

Vienna has a long history of being named a “Tree City USA.” What steps would you like to see Vienna take to become greener and more sustainable/environmentally-friendly?

I am very passionate about preserving our parks, trees, and green space. I would like to strengthen our town’s involvement in the “Tree City USA” Program by displaying a higher level of commitment to urban forestry.

With all the new construction, we’re losing our big old trees at an alarming pace. Often homeowners are forced to spend thousands of dollars to cut down their trees that have died primarily as a result of new construction bordering their property. Last fall, the town arborist shared with me that this is happening all over Vienna.

Our residents and our trees should be better protected. We need to develop and implement a town tree policy that replaces trees that die. Residential lot coverage requirements should remain at 25% to promote green space. We need to encourage more open space, green space, and setback requirements on all new commercial projects.

Additionally, I have a background developing and implementing recycling programs with companies nationwide which I plan to use to improve recycling in our town. We can do a better job educating our residents on what is recyclable and what is not. With China no longer taking our trash, the reality is that many recyclables are landfilled if there’s no market for them or if they’re too contaminated. We can do better.

What do you want to see happen for parking at Parking Henry Library?

I believe that these are two separate issues. Our town desperately needs a parking garage which ideally should be somewhere on Maple Avenue close enough to the Town Green and W&OD Trail. A new parking garage would eliminate the overflow parking and congestion on our neighborhood roads every time there is a community event downtown.

We also need a complete renovation of our existing Patrick Henry Library. It is too small and does not meet the needs of our community. When my children were in preschool, I would actually drive to Great Falls for programs offered at their local library because our Vienna library could not offer similar programs due to space limitations. Sadly, we are lucky if we visit the Patrick Henry Library here in Vienna more than a couple times each year.

What are your ideal height and building sizes for developments in the Maple Avenue Ordinance?

I support limiting our height and building sizes on Maple Avenue to three stories since Maple Avenue is already at capacity for traffic and any excess traffic spills over on to our neighborhood roads negatively impacting our residents. Where possible, I encourage site modifications and repurposing existing buildings rather than replacing them similar to what has been done with the new Bear Branch Tavern. I support enforcing setback requirements on Maple Avenue and adding green space for beautification and to slow traffic.

One of my greatest concerns is what will become of the Giant-anchored shopping center in Vienna. Around northern Virginia we are seeing large, mixed-use developments with hundreds of expensive apartments like the new Scout on the Circle project at the corner of Route 50 and Route 29. This type of development lacks setbacks, green space, and doesn’t fit our small town. Under no circumstances do I want to see anything similar where our Giant currently sits.

I support rewriting commercial codes to make them easier for everyone to understand. I also support developing a vision for future development on Maple Avenue to preserve how we want Vienna to look in the years to come.

When I worked in Michigan, I frequently represented my franchisees at town planning meetings to get approval for construction projects including signs advertising their businesses. Vienna needs to develop a vision with resident input for our commercial development to set the framework for how we should move forward.

People interested in learning more about Dahl’s campaign can check out her website.

Photo courtesy Andrea Dahl

0 Comments

Fairfax County is “urgently” looking for people to help out at the polls for the primary on June 23.

While the county is strongly encouraging voters to absentee vote by mail for this election, election officers are still needed — especially bilingual people in Falls Church who speak Korean or Vietnamese, the county says. Bilingual speakers are also needed in Annandale and Centreville.

The county has taken to social media to find at least 200 election officers for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives primary.

More from the county on measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at the polls:

To protect election officers and voters, the Office of Elections will take precautions that include:

  • Providing face coverings, gloves and hand sanitizer for every election officer.
  • Limiting the number of voters in the room at the same time.
  • Requiring voters to maintain a social distance of six feet from each other and election officers.

Election officers help to set up voting equipment, check photo IDs, provide assistance to voters and tabulate results.

People who are registered to vote in Virginia can sign up online by next Friday, May 15, and can choose to volunteer their time or earn at least $175.

0 Comments

(Updated 5/11/2020) The Town of Vienna’s upcoming election is now set to take place on May 19.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday (April 24) a two-week delay for local elections, including Vienna’s.

Because of the altered date, absentee ballot applications are now due May 12, according to a tweet from town officials. Fairfax County officials are strongly urging absentee voting to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Three councilmembers are vying for Mayor Laurie DiRocco’s seat, while seven candidates running for council seats.

Due to the coronavirus, in-person debates were canceled and replaced with virtual debates — one for the mayoral candidates and the other for councilmember candidates — hosted by the North East Vienna Citizens Association and Vienna Business Association.

Tysons Reporter offered the candidates the opportunity to respond to a Q&A with topics ranging from climate change to height limitations for commercial development along Maple Avenue.

Here are the published Q&As, listed in alphabetical order by first name, that have been published so far:

Mayoral candidate Q&As:

Councilmember candidate Q&As:

Inside NoVa also published several candidate profiles.

Photo by Element5 Digital/Unsplash

0 Comments

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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

0 Comments

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 Roy Baldwin, who is running for a position on the Vienna Town Council. 

Bio: I have been a homeowner in Vienna for 40 years. I am married to Sharon, who for many years taught voice to area students in her studio in our home. I am a father to Nathaniel, who attended Vienna Elementary, Louise Archer, Madison High School and went on to William & Mary and West Virginia Law School, and is now one of my associates in The Baldwin Law Firm in Oakton, where I concentrate on estate planning and administration and family law cases.

I have been a parishioner of the Church of the Holy Comforter for many years, serving on the Vestry, as a Sunday School teacher and as a lay reader. I was a board member of the Vienna-Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce but then decided to switch to the Vienna Business Association several years ago.  I have served in several capacities in the Town of Vienna, where I am chairman of the Board of Architectural Review (member for 14 years).

Nearby, Tysons is urbanizing. How do you think the Town of Vienna’s identity should change in response to Tysons’ growth?  

I like Vienna just as it is and don’t feel obliged to change just because Tysons becomes more densely developed. Vienna should continue to be a convenient, lower cost option for people who work in Tysons and who want a single-family house or townhouse as opposed to a high rise. Our shops, restaurants, and activities can prosper as Tysons’ population grows, if we as a town take good care of them and allow them to offer experiences that are different from those that can be had in Tysons.

What are your solutions to Maple Avenue congestion and cut-thru traffic in neighborhoods?

Since Maple Avenue congestion at rush hours is caused overwhelmingly by commuters from the west using it as a short cut to get to and from Tysons, I don’t think we should try to make Maple Avenue more attractive to them. If we do so, they will just come in greater numbers. I favor timing traffic lights to allow traffic to cycle through town, so that town residents will be able to move about more freely.

As for cut-through traffic, I feel deeply for residents along Church Street, Ayr Hill, Locust, Windover, and similar streets and am willing to explore solutions with them, up to and including making them one way streets that would switch direction twice a day to be always against the flow of rush hour traffic.

Should Vienna keep its “small town feel”? If so, how? If not, why and what do you propose?

My hope is that, in 20 years or so, when you get in your flying car (yes, we will have them by then) and make your way over Northern Virginia, you’ll see the towers of Reston Town Center to the west and the 500-foot-tall skyscrapers of Tysons to the east and in between you’ll see this little town that looks like it’s in a valley between two mountain ranges. It’s Vienna’s small town feel that attracted Sharon and me back in 1980, and we want the same for everyone who lives here.

Vienna has a long history of being named a “Tree City USA.” What steps would you like to see Vienna take to become greener and more sustainable/environmentally-friendly? 

I want to take advantage of the recent legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor that hopefully will make it more feasible for homeowners to install solar panels. I would like to explore the possibility of switching to a “super can” system of trash collection. Once our current contract for recycling expires, I would like to see a return to recycling of glass.

I continue to be distressed by wholesale destruction of established trees when an older home gets bulldozed — I would like to strengthen our tree ordinance along the lines of Arlington County’s ordinance, which allows their county arborist to nominate special trees for protection (with the consent of the landowner in the case of private property, of course). I would like to see real bike lanes installed on Park Street, Beulah Road, Courthouse Road, and other arterials.

I was really impressed with how Denmark has integrated bike lanes on a recent trip. For a number of reasons, I do not think it would be a good idea to allow homes to cover more of their lots than is currently allowed, including because doing so would increase runoff into local streams after rainstorms.

What do you want to see happen for parking when Parking Henry Library gets moved and rebuilt?

When the county is ready to decide what to do with the Patrick Henry Library (which may not be for a long time given the lasting effect of the coronavirus emergency), I want the town to get the most parking spaces we can for the best price possible. On the Board of Architectural Review, we were just beginning to review the options, which included as many as three floors of parking, when the pandemic shut everything down.

When things pick up again, I want to advocate for a design that doesn’t monopolize the block or scream “parking garage.” The parking facility in Williamsburg is a good example of what would work here, with some modifications. Our Maple Avenue and Church Street merchants deserve and need this facility and, after letting two other sites slip away, we should do our best to make it happen this time. It’s not an ideal site, but I don’t see any better one available.

What are your ideal height and building sizes for developments in the Maple Avenue Ordinance?

I am ready to sit down around a table with my fellow Vienna residents to arrive at these ideals (when we can again do that sort of thing). Heading into such meetings I will not try to dictate my personal views or to impose them on others. I am not in favor of just doing away with the Maple Avenue Corridor (“MAC”) Ordinance, because many of our fellow Vienna residents worked long hours for many years to bring it into being. Our experience with the first several developments under its terms haven’t been satisfactory, but that’s a reason to fix it, not to abandon it.

If we as a town still believe that mixed-use developments are appropriate along Maple Avenue, we must give the owners of those parcels the incentive to do what we want them to do. If four story buildings are allowed, their top floors should be set back from the street to avoid a “canyon” like feel.

People interested in learning more about Baldwin’s campaign can check out his Facebook

Photo courtesy Roy Baldwin

0 Comments

Ahead of the Town of Vienna’s election this year, 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 Chris Wright, who is running for a position on the Vienna Town Council. 

Bio: Chris Wright has lived in the Town of Vienna since 2004. He lives with his wife, Calli, and two boys who attend Vienna Elementary School. Born and raised in Lynchburg, VA, he graduated from James Madison University with a BBA and currently works as a partner in a local consulting firm based out of Merrifield. Chris volunteers with Shelter House and coaches in Vienna Little League, I9 Sports, as well as Vienna Youth Basketball.

Nearby, Tysons is urbanizing. How do you think the Town of Vienna’s identity should change in response to Tysons’ growth? 

In short, I will do everything I can to ensure that Vienna’s identity does not change as a result of Tysons’ urbanization. Vienna’s small town charm is what attracted many of our residents to live and raise families here. I do not think it’s necessary to construct hundreds of condos/apartments in Vienna to compete with other D.C. areas such as Tysons or Mosaic as some have suggested in the past. The council needs members that can pro-actively and effectively work with Fairfax County and Tysons developers to ensure our current and future interests are represented.

What are your solutions to Maple Avenue congestion and cut-thru traffic in neighborhoods?

Minimizing cut-thru traffic in our neighborhoods is not an easy task and all ideas should be on the table. I would posit that the individuals most motivated to tackle this problem are the candidates that currently have young children who are most at risk by cut-thru traffic.

In addition to safety concerns, I can say with certainty that I have never seen the roads in Vienna in this bad of shape. The intersection of Echols and Berry streets SE being one of many examples.

The obvious solutions to mitigate the safety concerns are more speed calming measures as well as finally prioritizing sidewalks. I would focus on a more pedestrian friendly town, not only with sidewalks, but also with more access to businesses via the W&OD trail, bike lanes, and incentives to encourage residents to leave their cars in the driveway.

Another idea is a small toll on Maple Ave on commuters as they travel between Oakton and Tysons with an exemption for town residents. Given the volume of traffic on Maple Ave, all options should be explored and not simply dismissed as “that’s not possible.”

Should Vienna keep its “small town feel”? If so, how? If not, why and what do you propose? 

“Elections have consequences” is a phrase applicable to every level of government. A couple of years ago it looked as if the Town of Vienna was headed the way of Tysons, Falls Church, Mosaic, etc. The D.C. area has many communities where someone can find that type of lifestyle.

I would argue that Vienna is extremely unique in that it does have a small town feel just a few miles from DC and it’s something that I want to preserve. Vienna should work to mordernize and encourage new vibrant businesses to settle here, while working diligently to understand the impact of that development. Then it must be effectively communicated to residents affording them the opportunity to provide feedback.

Vienna has a long history of being named a “Tree City USA.” What steps would you like to see Vienna take to become greener and more sustainable/environmentally-friendly?  

Whether it’s residential or commercial, we continue to see new development replacing old all over town. The obvious downside to this is that many of our trees are removed. I would advocate that for every one tree that development knocks down that two new trees are planted to continue Vienna’s tradition of being named a “Tree City USA.” I would also work to bring more green spaces and parks to Vienna. I would support converting Beulah Road Park, which is now an industrial mulch yard, to its original intent of a park for all of Vienna to enjoy.

What do you want to see happen for parking when Parking Henry Library gets moved and rebuilt? 

Vienna is going to have to recalibrate the need for a number of costly projects like a parking garage below Patrick Henry Library given the impact that COVID-19 will have on our community. That having been said, I believe that ensuring we have the best library possible combined with centrally located parking is an obvious win for the town.

Before committing substantial money and resources to a project like this, we must first understand what improvements need to be made to the existing library, approximately how many parking spaces are needed now and for the foreseeable future, and that the new structure fits in architecturally with our town.

What are your ideal height and building sizes for developments in the Maple Avenue Ordinance? 

Given the existing traffic and school populations in Vienna, the existing height restrictions should remain in place as a rule. I do believe there are exceptions to every rule that can be evaluated on a case by case basis. Before making exceptions, Vienna should understand the traffic impact, school impact, and surrounding neighborhood impact of proposed new development. Additionally, the need for the proposed development/business should be weighed before exceptions are made and broadly communicated to our residents.

People interested in learning more about Wright’s campaign can check out his website and Facebook.

Photo courtesy Chris Wright

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list