Tysons, VA

Many election officers in the county fall in high-risk categories for COVID-19.

The Fairfax County Office of Election is seeking more election officers this year. To assist voters on Election Day, which is on Nov. 3.

The county is the largest voting jurisdictions in the state, with 243 precincts nationwide. Officers must be registered voters.

Training for new officers will begin online in September. Compensation begins at $175.

The application is available online. The deadline is Oct. 10 and mandatory online training must be completed by Oct. 14.

More information is available on the county’s website.

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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

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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

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(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

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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

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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 David Patariu, who is running for a position on the Vienna Town Council. 

Bio: I am an attorney, a Vienna dad with three young children and a Vienna planning commissioner. I’m running to preserve the livability of our neighborhoods and to ensure the residential and commercial zoning code rewrite — foisted upon our town without resident input — does not give away what makes Vienna special.

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

Vienna has its own unique identity as a small town and that identity should not change to match Tysons’ growth. Pasha Majdi (for mayor), Chris Wright, Andrea Dahl, and I (for council) are a group of parents with young kids, and we love Vienna’s small-town feel.

Our platform is focused on YOU and we are working together to (1) address cut-through traffic and preserve the livability of our neighborhoods; (2) address problems from poorly planned development like the MAC; (3) restore Beulah Road Park; and (4) make certain the rewrite of our residential and commercial zoning code does not give away what makes Vienna special.

Maple Avenue is at its traffic capacity during peak hours, and this problem will only get more severe as Tysons grows. We should not make congestion worse by pushing giant high-density condo/apartment buildings with nominal retail on Maple Avenue through poorly planned zoning.

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

The town must listen to residents when they seek relief from cut-through traffic. At a recent Planning Commission meeting, multiple residents requested mitigation from cut-through traffic on Wade Hampton — requests that were marginalized. Residents were told by the town staff studies would have to be performed and given multiple excuses for why cut-through traffic mitigation would not be possible.

Yet it only took one town staff member “from his desk” to approve the narrowing of Wade Hampton by 4 feet for either traffic calming or parking (never got a straight answer on which it was) for the first 380 Maple MAC building project application — street narrowing that allowed the planned building to be larger. This double standard needs to stop.

We need to give greater deference to residents, eliminate the tedious traffic relief petitions that take years to be processed, and go neighborhood by neighborhood to resolve long-standing traffic problems.

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

The town’s misguided $250k effort to re-write residential and commercial zoning, without any public hearings or resident input to date, could cost Vienna its “small town feel.” This is a covert effort to make the high-density giant MAC zoning by-right. At a minimum, the current staff and consultant-driven process to rewrite our zoning code needs to be stopped by the new council, or we risk losing what makes Vienna special. We can make better use of this $250k to help Vienna’s residents and small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

The town has been successful with customized redevelopment plans using exceptions called “site plan modifications” that take into account local conditions. This approach was used with the recently opened Bear Branch Tavern — a huge success story and an example of how we can achieve business growth on Maple Avenue while keeping our small-town feel.

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? 

Restoring Beulah Road Park would be a great first step to help Vienna become greener. I strongly support and have been actively involved in this community driven effort. As a councilmember at our first Town Council meeting in July, I will instruct the staff to eliminate the industrial use of Beulah Road Park as a stinky mulch yard in a residential area; find a new location for mulch processing and storage; amend the Comprehensive Plan and zone this parcel and the 440 Beulah Road property as parkland with a nature center (like Hidden Oaks Nature Center); and work closely with area residents to restore Beulah Road Park.

A second step is prioritizing the purchase of land for use as parks, when those rare opportunities arise.

A third step is developing a comprehensive tree and green space preservation plan for the town.

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

The town’s leadership did not spend enough time talking to people that use the Patrick Henry Library before embarking on its library under a parking garage design. Research shows no other municipality in Northern Virginia has a library built into the first floor of a multi-story parking garage. The focus of this project should be on making a world-class library for Vienna’s children and residents, not on making a giant multi-story parking garage to facilitate overdevelopment on Maple Avenue.

The funding for the garage part of this project also needs evaluation. It has been reported that the town is asking the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) to fund the construction cost of the multi-story parking garage surrounding the first-floor library, with the claim commuters will use spaces in the library-garage. How this use of transportation funds passes muster to build a multi-story parking garage over a library needs examination.

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

The MAC is a misguided attempt to circumvent the 35-foot height limitation on commercial buildings that define Vienna, allowing upwards of 60+ foot 4-5 story condo/apartment buildings on Maple Avenue. We know Maple Avenue is at its traffic capacity and any excess traffic from high-density Maple Avenue Condo/Apt. projects will wind up on our residential streets as cut-through traffic.

This is a classic case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”– robbing residents with cut-through traffic from Maple, increasing school crowding and reducing neighborhood livability and the value of our homes. All so that Maple Avenue property owners and developers can harvest greater profits with bigger high-density condo/apartment buildings on Maple.

The MAC should be scrapped. Maple Avenue is at its traffic capacity, which means we must keep new buildings to below 35 feet (1-3 story buildings) and primarily commercial, or risk severely worsening cut-through traffic across our small town.

People interested in learning more about Patariu’s campaign can check out his website

Photo courtesy David Patariu

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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 Linda Colbert, who is running for the mayor’s seat. 

Bio: I am an independent candidate running for Mayor because I love my hometown and the people who make it so special. I understand and cherish the history of our Town and I will fight to keep Vienna unique amidst a metropolitan area.

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

I do not think the Town of Vienna’s identity should change because of Tyson’s growth. We are a special community and I will fight to keep it that way. Our uniqueness is rooted in our traditions, history and volunteers. Our main street needs to improve. We need to make it more walkable and more vibrant. Vienna should be a place were businesses come and thrive. The town should work with them to ensure our vision for that investment is shared and trusted.

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?

I do not think that the council can bind future councils to a promise like that so it would only be symbolic. Mayors have limited powers as Virginia is a Dillon Rule State. As mayor, I would lead the town in setting an example of being a good steward of its environment.

The town can certainly do things to cut carbon emissions and it should. The physical structure of our buildings have the potential to lock away carbon. The town should retrofit old buildings and require standards for new ones. Types of materials used, green walls and roofs, and green space with trees and landscaping are things that can help reduce carbon.

Parking garages are beneficial in two ways. First, they require less ground covered in concrete than surface parking lots. Second, they could provide a place to park once and walk to nearby destinations as opposed to parking and driving to every destination.

The Vienna Community Center received gold-level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) so that is a goal for future buildings.

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

Keeping traffic flowing on Maple Avenue helps keep cars out of neighborhoods. Real time traffic signaling is being implemented as a way to keep cars moving and the town should continuously be re-evaluating that technology.

As the Vienna representative to the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition, I am continuously working with Fairfax County to ensure the county helps mitigate traffic produced by Tysons. I would work with the town’s new traffic engineer and look into innovative ways to calm traffic and keep it flowing on Maple Avenue.

Providing sidewalks in town also can reduce traffic as it gets people out of their cars. The town received a generous monetary gift from the late Councilmember Maud Robinson, which was designated for sidewalks. I would prioritize the installation of sidewalks on the busiest streets, on streets leading to bus stops, schools, downtown and other places of interest.

How would you work with Natalia Monkou to boost economic development in the town?

Hiring Natalie Monkou as the economic development manager for the town has already proven to be a wise decision. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, she was meeting with town businesses to determine what their needs were and how best to help them.

I would work with her and the finance department and council to develop methods to support our Town businesses who have been impacted by the pandemic. She has also been able to work with businesses and guide them through processes like applying for small business loans.

I would also work with Natalie during the redevelopment plan for Maple Avenue. I would like to look at ways to bring businesses into town as well as help determine ways to support our current businesses.

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

Our town should be a welcoming community where people of all ages want to live, shop, walk, bike and drive safely. I will look for ways to make improvements and to offer amenities and housing options for all. We must preserve and increase green space and trees and I will look for sustainable ways to ensure the health and welfare of our environment and community.

The design for Maple Avenue is very important and I want to bring Vienna together on this topic. We all agree that we want to keep Vienna unique amid a large metropolitan area. I envision a mixture of one to three or four storied buildings with nice architecture. My vision is a walkable, vibrant main-street that is economically feasible and provides a beautiful, safe, and thriving business district that residents will use with pride.

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?

Transparency and trust go hand in hand. Every councilmember needs to follow state requirements for ethics and financial disclosures. The town needs to be transparent and inform and engage residents during the process of making big town decisions.

I will improve communication between the town and its residents both by providing easily accessible information and upgrading how the Town receives feedback from the community when making town decisions. I want every resident to know that their voice is being heard. As your mayor, one of my top priorities will be to ensure that we are One Vienna, working together to make our town stronger and even more vibrant. Our decisions are not black and white. I do not ever want to divide our town. I want to unite our town. #OneVienna

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

Photo courtesy Linda Colbert

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(Updated 4/27/2020) 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 Ray Brill, Jr., who is running for one of the councilmember seats. 

Bio: I spent a lifetime solving difficult issues with practical, common-sense solutions as a corporate CEO, the COB of a Salvation Army chapter and a church leader. My leadership experiences are ideally suited to solving issues facing Vienna. I graduated from Air Force Academy, served as Air Force pilot, earned MBA /UCLA, JD/Florida, MDiv/VA Theological Seminary.

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

We do not want to be a mini-version or extension of Tysons. Every effort should be made to maintain the small town character of Vienna — well-maintained and safe residential areas, parks, walking and bike trails, sports and community activities, and thriving small business community.

The development along Maple Avenue should be modest in scope and provide a sufficient buffer to residential neighborhoods nearby. Appropriate modifications to the Town Code will ensure our small town character is maintained. It is what sets us apart and makes us such a desirable place to live. We consistently rank in the top three of the best places to live in Virginia and our future decisions must insure that doesn’t change.

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

The town needs to complete the installation of traffic light sequencing system using adaptive signal controller technology that provides better sequencing of lights and movement of vehicles through our 14 light signals along Maple Avenue. We should ensure the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and neighborhoods by using traffic calming measures and enforcement as needed.

We should also consider:

  • Reducing or relocating commercial driveways and curb cuts of which there are more than 100.
  • Permitting inter-parcel connections so cars can drive to adjoining commercial areas without having to travel on Maple Avenue.
  • Traffic calming on residential streets to reduce traffic cutting through neighborhoods.
  • Restricting turns into traffic during rush hour Monday-Friday from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.

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

The MAC should be replaced, and the Town Zoning Code should be reviewed and modified as needed to remove inconsistencies and ensure that residential neighborhoods are preserved and that reasonable and realistic height, density, and buffer requirements are incorporated in new developments. The input of residents is essential in this process.

I support a three-story height limitation, less dense development along Maple Avenue, and increased green space. There needs to be a buffer between the residential areas and commercial development. Developers should consider a terrace effect on the side of the development facing the homeowners.

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? 

Vienna has been designated a Tree City by Tree City USA for more than 15 years. Our trees are an essential part of our neighborhoods and are a priority. A new tree should be planted for every tree that is removed. When new homes are built, developers should save as many existing trees as possible. Sec. 17-15.1.A of the Town Code states the preliminary plat shall provide a plan for the planting and replacement of trees that are removed during development. A 20% tree canopy of mature trees is required within 20 years in the RS-16, RS-12.5 and RS-10 zones.

There appears to be a major exception in Sec. 17-15.1.E which states “The Town Council may grant reasonable exceptions or deviations from the requirements of this section when strict application of the requirements would result in unnecessary or unreasonable hardship to the developer.” The Town Council should use this power sparingly.

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

I want the new library to look like a library and not a 220 foot long box-like structure 25 feet from the road that dominates the corner of Maple Avenue and Center Street. We do not need another massive building on Maple. Most of the new Fairfax County libraries have exterior designs that are innovative and creative. The design drawing I saw has neither.

We must get it right because it will be there for 50 years. No one has shown there is a demand for 84 public parking spaces in addition to library parking (option 1: two levels $4.5 million), much less 188 spaces (option 2: three levels $9 million) in the next 15-20 years. There is a third option; namely, build a charming, small town library with 90 parking spaces. Vienna should not spend money on parking located blocks from most businesses. We must be practical and realistic.

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

I support a three-story height limitation and less dense development along Maple Avenue. There needs to be a buffer between the residential areas and commercial development.

When I led the mediation effort between the developers of the 380 Maple Avenue project and homeowners, I proposed a terrace effect on the side of the development facing the homeowners. That approach has been incorporated in the Sunrise development on that same piece of property.

I support a review of the MAC (currently suspended) and our zoning code to insure that reasonable and realistic height, density, and buffer requirements are incorporated in new development. The input of residents is essential in this process.

People interested in learning more about Brill’s campaign can check out his website.

Photo courtesy Ray Brill

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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 Howard Springsteen, who is running for the mayor’s seat. 

Bio: With 11 years on the Vienna Town Council, 30 years of public administration and extensive community involvement, I bring a record of accomplishment and a promise of action and not just talk. I am proud of my reputation for demanding accountability and transparency and for being responsive to citizen concerns.

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

The pressures of being a town in the shadow of Tysons Corner are very real, with implications on commercial rents, traffic, parking, housing prices, and demand for town services. But we are not Tysons, and we need to manage and control our own destiny in terms of residential building and commercial development.

Vienna residents have made clear that the protection of its residential neighborhoods is a top priority and key to maintaining a “small-town” feel. However, we also need to have realistic conversations the economic vitality of our commercial districts. These are complex and important conversations. As mayor, I pledge that my door will be open to all in the Vienna community as we work through this very difficult issue of how we set a direction for the future of Vienna.

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?

The town’s Conservation and Sustainability Commission produced a study in this area and has put some great options on the table for consideration. The study identified three areas of energy use — electricity, natural gas and vehicle fuel — and suggested achievable goals to reduce both consumption and cost. I want to include these goals into the town’s next comprehensive plan, which will be updated later this year.

We have already taken significant action to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. The Vienna Community Center received its Gold LEED certification. We will see similar design features in the new police station. We have made progress replacing florescent lighting with LED and incorporating energy efficiency into purchasing decisions.

I look forward to working with the town staff to see how we can bring additional energy reduction goals to the town and work toward carbon neutrality by 2045.

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

Maple Avenue is a major transportation corridor with up to 35 percent of cars just passing through town. One of my top priorities is to keep traffic off our side streets — that means using modern technologies to time lights so that traffic moves along Maple Avenue.

We need to continue to use a combination of traditional traffic calming measures, police enforcement and innovative technologies to keep up the battle against aggressive driving. And that needs to be coupled with pedestrian safety measures, particularly sidewalk construction around schools. And finally, we need to understand the implications of new development on traffic flows and ensure that we are not adding to gridlock on Maple Avenue.

How would you work with Natalia Monkou to boost economic development in the town?

I was one of the first councilmembers to advocate for an economic development manager. I did not take the decisions to add to the town’s payroll lightly, but believed very strongly that it was a worthwhile investment in our future.

Ms. Monkou was brought on-board in December 2019. Her work with our businesses and advice to the town manager as well as the mayor and town council in response to the coronavirus crisis has been invaluable.

I will continue to support her efforts and work for the funding and resources that she needs to do her job. She is currently working closely with the business community to come up with options to assist and help them get through these trying times. I look forward to her advice and counsel as we address the crisis, and over the longer-term, take action to make this town more business friendly.

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

My record speaks for itself — I have not pivoted because of an election. I support projects that protect and improve the quality of life in Vienna. The allowable heights and densities in the current MAC do neither of these things. That is why I have consistently voted against MAC projects and for extending the
moratorium.

I have advocated for buildings with:

  • varying heights and densities that do not overload our infrastructures and traffic, and buffer zones that adequately protect the abutting neighborhoods
  • adequate parking to prevent crowding of other businesses or spillover into neighborhoods

This is not an anti-development stance — it is a pro-Vienna stance. I stand by my record — new buildings should fit into Vienna and not overshadow existing properties. We must have adequate buffers between commercial and residential development.

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?

Transparency in governance is critical. Vienna advertises all council meetings and work sessions in advance and broadcasts all council sessions both on the web and cable TV. The town publishes a monthly newsletter and posts daily on the town’s website and on social media.

The public has always been able to and does comment on proposals. I have seen numerous occasions in my 11 years on the council where both oral and written statements have resulted in changes to proposals being considered.

However, I do understand that many have concerns about transparency in governance — we need to address that concern and explore additional channels of communication and community engagement and create additional opportunities for provide input. As mayor, I will lead the council in efforts to set high-quality standards, provide clear guidance and demand transparency and accountability.

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

Image via Town of Vienna

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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 Ed Somers, who is running for one of the councilmember seats. 

Bio: I am running for town council to focus on priorities related to transportation safety, community engagement, and balanced development. I have 30 years of experience fighting for local governments at the national level and want to apply what I have learned to my home — Vienna.

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

Vienna’s identity does not need to change as a result of Tysons. Yes, we will have to work with our neighboring communities to mitigate traffic as much as possible. But what I would also like to ensure is that Vienna does not simply become a “pass through” for people on their way to somewhere else. I want people to spend time in our Town, spend money in OUR stores and OUR restaurants, and generate business tax revenue to offset OUR property taxes.

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

As for Maple Avenue, much can be done with signal timing and reducing the number of entrance and exit points to businesses that will help move traffic smoother through our major artery. Cut through traffic is a trickier issue, in that efforts to limit traffic on one person’s street can result in more traffic on someone else’s street. So, the entire Vienna street network must be evaluated as an interconnected system. Where needed and based on solid data, traffic calming should be employed.

But my top priority remains making sure that people who want to walk, bike or run in our town — especially children — can do so safely. Sidewalks and modern street crosses tools should be installed wherever possible — as we have prioritized during my time as chair of our town’s Transportation Safety Commission — with engagement and community support.

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

I am not sure Vienna has been a “small town” in the traditional sense for some time. We are not a country village surrounded by farmland. I believe that many people have stayed in Vienna, or recently moved to Vienna, because it is a town with a good “balance.” We have houses of various sizes, nice sized yards, condos and apartments, shopping, restaurants and entertainment that people can walk to, and what amounts to the “river” that connects us — the amazing W&OD Trail.

I remember when some fought against having a Town Green — and now I bet many would say it is one of our best assets. The key is maintaining the proper “balance” and I believe this can be done, while still moving our town forward and NOT ending up with more vacant properties that are not generating business taxes for our town or providing the services we would like to have in our town.

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?

Let me answer that question in two parts.

First on the issue of tress, I remember a discussion we had in the Transportation Safety Commission regarding a sidewalk petition from residents. They were united for a sidewalk and our commission agreed their street needed it — until they learned that trees would have to come down. Then they changed their mind about wanting the sidewalk. I say this to point out how important trees are to our residents.

The trick I think is to have a long-term vision for tree installation and to remember that you can’t “build” a tree like you can something else. We need to invest in trees that match our ecology, can thrive in our climate, and will not need to be cut down because they were planted in the wrong location or became overgrown. This is why we have a town arborist and we need to listen to both the desires of town residents and professional advice. And we must ensure that all new construction requires tree installation.

But to the bigger question of how me make Vienna a more environmentally friendly and sustainable community, consistent with everything I have said, we MUST design a town the encourages and helps people to not use their cars whenever and wherever possible.

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

Let me just say this. What I know I do want is for people to have a place to park their cars and then walk in Vienna — on Maple Avenue, on Church Street, to the Town Green, and so on. It bothers me greatly when I see cars driving from shopping center to shopping center. This is not good for traffic, and it is not good for the environment.

Some kind of integrated parking solution for our main shopping and entertainment district must happen. Not having been on the town council or planning or zoning boards, I simply can’t say what the design should be. But I know that many towns have dealt with this very issue, and I plan to call on my network of experts to help us design parking solutions that are appropriate for Vienna.

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

Again, not having been on town council or the planning board, I can’t exactly say what I think the maximum limit should be. Having studied the excellent survey that the town sent out to all residents to get their input — something I think must be replicated for other big issues the Town needs to address — my general feeling is no more than four stories.

I want to make sure there is plenty of sidewalk space, and I would like the designs to both encourage outside eating and gathering and have the proper rear designs to protect as much as possible people who live behind these new developments. I believe that consensus can be found on this issue — and much like the Town Green that many fought against — if done correctly, we really will have a vibrant Main Street that is appropriate for Vienna and that our residents will use and love for generations to come.

And I also know this. If we do not come together with a consensus plan for Maple Avenue that engages the current land owners in the process, we will end up with more “one off” construction projects and will look back with regret at a missed opportunity to help design a comprehensive, unified approach to Maple Avenue development. Just saying “no” is not enough. We must work together to get to a “yes” that benefits all who live in our town.

People interested in learning more about Somers’ campaign can check out his website, Facebook and Twitter.

Photo courtesy Ed Somers 

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