Newsletter

Morning Notes

Political Anxieties Drive Tensions at McLean Bible Church — “The leaders of McLean Bible, one of the D.C. region’s largest and most high-profile evangelical churches, are facing attempts from its own members to spread disinformation to take control of the church, Pastor David Platt warned the congregation in a sermon earlier this month…Platt said he believes the recent controversy has been a collision of several things, including racial tensions and political tensions.” [The Washington Post]

Vienna to Hold Meeting on Nutley Shared-Use Path — “Property owners were notified Monday about an upcoming meeting to discuss design of the Nutley Street shared-use path and Hunters Branch stream restoration projects. The Town of Vienna’s two projects are in design and focus on the area of Nutley Street south of Maple Avenue. A virtual meeting on both concepts will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4.” [Patch]

Fairhill Elementary Announces New Principal — “Grateful to have been on hand this afternoon when Mr. Cooper was announced as the new principal of @FairhillES. Looking forward to seeing him put his proven track record of success to work at this amazing Blue Ribbon School! #GoTigers” [Karl Frisch/Twitter]

Meet Internet Inventors Vinton Gray Cerf and Robert E. Kahn — “The indisputable inventors of one of the greatest planet-changing instruments of all time live a few minutes apart in McLean and have lived in Northern Virginia for four decades…The impact of the internet on life as we know it is profound and ongoing, but did you know until right now whom to credit — or blame?” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Northrop Grumman Hires Sustainability Chief — Northrop Grumman Corp. has hired Michael Witt as its vice president and chief sustainability officer, effective Aug. 9. Witt was most recently working at Dow, serving in several executive positions. Northrop Grumman didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry seeking comment. [Northrop Grumman]

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Plum Street (via Google Maps)

For much of Plum Street, pedestrians can travel on a sidewalk along one side of the road. But once it hits Cottage Street, pedestrians continuing southeast face a difficult choice: walk in the street or trespass on nearby lawns.

At a meeting on Monday (July 19), the Vienna Town Council authorized $388,000 in funding to resolve the dilemma once and for all and install sidewalks along Plum Street SW, Holmes Drive SW, and 503 & 505 Park Street SW. The Town Council also authorized $30,000 for a concrete maintenance contract for the new sidewalks.

The funding includes a 15% contingency in case costs run over during construction. The funding comes from former Councilmember Maud Robinson, who died in 2019 and set aside much of her estate in a trust to help the town she served complete its sidewalk network.

One casualty of the Plum Street sidewalk expansion will be a large oak tree on the street. Councilmember Howard Springsteen asked if the tree could be saved, but staff explained that the owner would not agree to an easement that would bypass the tree by going further into their property.

The street is also considered too narrow to bump the sidewalk out into the street without creating a traffic hazard.

The town also considered working around the tree with rubber sidewalks but determined that these would not be ADA compliant. The work would also ultimately end up irreparably damaging the roots of the tree the rubber sidewalk was ostensibly there to save.

The council unanimously approved new sidewalk construction, but Councilmember Nisha Patel said the town needed to consider focusing the sidewalk efforts around streets closer to downtown Vienna.

“We still have quite a few sidewalks in the heart of town that could use some improvements and upgrades for safety issues,” Patel said. “When we approach this Robinson Trust money, I would like us to prioritize sidewalks adjacent to Maple Avenue and one or two blocks out before we delve into smaller, safer streets that don’t necessarily need a sidewalk as badly.”

Mayor Linda Colbert noted that while downtown sidewalks definitely need work, the town also needed to consider which streets are routes to schools or connected to bus stops, making them likely for pedestrian use.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Police Investigate Offensive KKK Flyers — Bigotry-filled flyers aimed at the Fairfax County School Board were found earlier this week in the Springfield and Sully Districts, apparently distributed by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. School board members and local leaders, including Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and the president of the county’s NAACP chapter, denounced the flyers, which are under investigation by county police and the FBI. [Patch]

County Government Observes Juneteenth — Fairfax County government offices are closed today in recognition of Juneteenth, which falls on Saturday (June 19). Fairfax County Public Library branches are closed, as is the McLean Community Center, but many park facilities are open, and the county’s trash collection services will proceed as normal. [Fairfax County Government]

Athletic Training Facility Opens in Falls ChurchCapital City Sports Academy will hold a grand opening ceremony from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) for its new, 4,500 square-foot sports training facility at 3431 Carlin Springs Road. Attendees can meet the owners and coaching staff, take a tour of the facility, and win two months of free classes. [Capital City Sports Academy/Instagram]

Volunteers Clean Up Vienna Park — “As Vienna Little League prepares to host Virginia’s Little League Major Baseball State Tournament in July, George C. Yeonas Park is getting a facelift with the help of two dozen sweaty and hard-working volunteers. On Thursday, around 25 volunteers who work for Dominion Energy showed up at Yeonas Park to tackle projects to improve the fields and other facilities.” [Patch]

Great Falls and North West Street Sidewalks Extended — “After much effort by @fairfaxcounty and @FallsChurchGov staff, and local residents, today we celebrated completion of the NW Street and GF Street sidewalk extensions. It was a beautiful day and I am so glad we were able to gather together in person!” [Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust/Twitter]

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The Vienna Town Council voted Monday night (April 26) to authorize sidewalk engineering studies for nine stretches of streets throughout town.

The studies — and construction costs down the road, if the council approves the projects for implementation — will be funded by the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust. Robinson, a former councilmember, left more than $7 million to the town after her death in 2019 to pay for sidewalks.

The vote raised the number of Robinson-funded projects in the design phase to 14. In addition, two projects were approved for construction, and the town will seek the thumbs-up for construction on another two projects in less than a month, according to Department of Public Works Director Michael Gallagher.

The approval comes as town officials and pedestrian advocates call for more action on sidewalk projects, pointing to the dwindling time the town has to spend the bequeathed funds. Vienna has until fall 2024 to use the bequest.

“Time is ticking,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.

As of early 2020, the town had roughly 85 miles of sidewalk. The Robinson trust focuses on filling in missing patches of sidewalks that weren’t already planned or likely to be funded through other grants.

Public opposition previously led the Vienna Town Council to defer six projects. This time, the council forged ahead despite a number of speakers who voiced concerns.

More than 30 people participated in the council’s public hearing on the Robinson trust initiative. The attendees were split on the issue, voicing broad concerns — losing lawn space or mature trees — as well as ones related to specific stretches of road.

With the exception of Councilmember Nisha Patel, who abstained, the full town council joined Colbert in voting to approve the following streets for sidewalk engineering studies:

  • Alma Street SE: even side from Delano Drive SE to Follin Lane SE ($60,000)
  • Birch Street SW: odd side from Battle Street SW to Plum Street SW ($70,000)
  • Blackstone Terrace NW: even side from Lawyers Road NW to Holmes Drive NW ($40,000)
  • Charles Street SE: odd side from Locust Street SE to Branch Road SE ($25,000)
  • Cherry Circle SW: both sides from the cul-de-sac to Cottage Street SW ($30,000)
  • Elmar Drive SE/SW: west side from Park Street SE to Desale Street SW ($60,000)
  • Oak Street SW: odd side from Center Street S to Birch Street SW ($70,000)
  • Symphony Circle SW: both sides from the cul-de-sac to Melody Lane SW ($65,000)
  • Timber Lane SW: odd side from Tapawingo Road SW to Harmony Drive SW ($50,000)

The town also approved construction spending for sidewalks along Pleasant Street SW from Courthouse Road to Maple Avenue and on Cabin Road SE from Branch Road to Glyndon Street.

Colbert said the town will continue accepting written comments and will work with residents. She described sidewalk projects as part of the government’s obligation to support public safety, since they help many residents travel, from people with strollers to older individuals and people with limited mobility.

“A community with sidewalks is healthy. It’s friendly. And most importantly, it is safe,” Colbert said. Read More

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When former Vienna Town Councilmember Maud Robinson died in 2019, she set aside much of her estate to pay for sidewalks throughout town.

At the time, town staff projected that the money would fund 22 stretches of sidewalk totaling about 3.3 miles. Vienna would front the costs for these projects and accept the trust in the form of reimbursement.

Two years later, the town council has approved four eligible roads but have deferred six others in response to objections from neighbors, who have argued that the sidewalks are unnecessary, would encroach on precious driveway space, affect their trees, or place a burden on residents to maintain them.

At this rate, those close to the initiative are feeling the pressure of a deadline. Vienna has until fall 2024 to use up the Maud Ferris Robinson Charitable Trust.

Town staff estimate it could take up to two years after a street is identified to complete a project, and no construction has started, meaning no money can be transferred. A few town council candidates have also highlighted the importance of using the bequest.

“We are remaining optimistic [but] we do know we need to hit the accelerator button on that a little bit,” Vienna Public Works Director Michael Gallagher said.

The town is poised to take a step forward soon, with several sidewalk projects set to go before the Vienna Town Council next Monday.

Two are designed and ready for construction, which would cost nearly $320,000 combined, and there will be a public hearing for nine other projects.

Those nearing the construction phase are Cabin Road SE from Glyndon Street to Branch Road and Pleasant Street SW from east of Maple Avenue to Surveyors Court. Another two could be ready for final approvals in May, according to Gallagher.

The nine slated for a public hearing and the first round of approvals are:

  • Alma Street SE — Delano Drive to Follin Lane
  • Birch Street SW — Battle Street to Plum Street SW
  • Blackstone Terrace NW — Holmes Drive to Lawyers Road
  • Charles Street SE — Locust Street to Branch Road
  • Cherry Circle SW — Cottage Street to end
  • Elmar Drive SE/SW — DeSale Street to Park Street
  • Oak Street SW — Birch Street to Center Street
  • Symphony Circle SW — Melody Lane to end
  • Timber Lane SW — Tapawingo Road to Harmony Drive

Even though it seems like it’s moving slowly, Andrew Jinks, Vienna’s transportation engineer, says the timeline will still be shorter because the town will not have to do the time-consuming work of navigating state and federal regulations.

“That is a significant benefit,” he said. Read More

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The Town of Vienna is funding a sidewalk project that aims to make the town a little more pedestrian-friendly, but walkability remains a big topic throughout the car-heavy Tysons area.

With coronavirus shutting down most international travel, more emphasis was put on traveling by foot around neighborhoods. In Tysons, that led to temporarily closing a section of Tysons Blvd last year to accommodate more pedestrian traffic.

At the northern end of the area, McLean is also in the process over updating some of its busted sidewalks to help make walking around downtown less of a chore.

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The Town of Vienna plans to add sidewalks along Park Street NE between Ayr Hill Avenue and Albea Court. (Photo via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Town Council authorized funds for two sidewalk improvement projects last week, paving the way for the town to create a more integrated sidewalk network.

First, the council voted unanimously on March 22 to approve an additional $61,000 for the town’s Park Street NE sidewalk project, which will close an approximately 850-foot gap between Ayr Hill Avenue and Albea Court NE with five-foot-wide concrete sidewalks, including curb and gutters.

In the works since at least 2016, the project’s total estimated cost of $855,104 is being funded by a Virginia Department of Transportation transportation alternatives grant. The grant requires a 20% local match, which Vienna is providing through its Northern Virginia Transportation Authority funds.

The additional $61,000 is needed to pay a contracted construction management firm Whitman, Requardt & Associates for right-of-way services. The project will require 10 temporary property acquisitions to accommodate construction, according to a scope-of-work document from the town.

Vienna Director of Public Works Mike Gallagher says the town previously expected to be able to handle the right-of-way process on its own or with “limited consultant help.”

“For town and state projects, we’re very fortunate in the town. The citizens and adjoining property owners routinely sign temporary easements if it’s necessary,” Town Attorney Steven Briglia said. “Most times, we just use right-of-way agreements so it’s not recorded and a cloud on their title.”

However, this project requires more formal right-of-way agreements, even though the takes aren’t permanent, because the VDOT grant includes federal funding. That means it has to adhere to the “complicated and time-consuming” process set by the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act, Vienna town staff say.

Gallagher assured the town council that the public works department will not need any more money for the Park Street sidewalk project, stating that the new funding request is likely for more than they will actually need.

“I know that the project is budgeted higher than what we projected the cost to be, so there’s sufficient funds,” he said.

The Vienna Town Council also approved a $1.4 million construction contract for a project to replace an existing asphalt trail on Old Courthouse Road with approximately 500 linear feet of concrete sidewalk, closing a gap between Gosnell Road and Pine Valley Drive.

The project will also add curbs and gutters with drainage improvements to eliminate a ditch alongside the roadway.

The contract went to Sagres Construction, which submitted a bid of roughly $1.2 million, the lowest amount out of the six vendors that responded to the town’s invitation to bid. The approved funding includes a 10% contingency.

Initiated in 2013, the Old Courthouse project is divided into two phases since a portion of the road extends outside of town limits into Fairfax County. The Vienna Town Council approved an agreement with the county to get $2.3 million for construction funding in January 2019.

The Town of Vienna has prioritized filling in gaps in its sidewalks to improve the town’s walkability. A gift from the late Councilmember Maud Robinson enabled the town to establish a dedicated fund for sidewalk construction, though the Park Street and Old Courthouse projects don’t qualify since they are getting funding from elsewhere.

The town council also voted in February to require developers of single-lot properties to construct a sidewalk regardless of whether sidewalks exist on adjacent lots.

Map via Google Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Foot traffic in McLean will soon have a clearer path thanks to a new project updating several sidewalks.

Around 13,000 square feet of sidewalk at 250 locations around McLean will be updated, according to a press release. The updates are a part of a McLean Community Revitalization District project.

Backing the project, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said walkability is one of his priorities.

“These repairs will extend the useful life of our infrastructure and make it safer for our community to conduct business, run errands, recreate, and enjoy exploring downtown McLean,” Foust said in a press release.

The area around the intersection of Old Chain Bridge Road and Old McLean Village Drive is one of the places slated to receive a sidewalk facelift, according to the press release.

Sidewalks were chosen for the project based on criteria including excessive cracks, severe cross slopes and missing sections.

“Over the last few years, several other infrastructure improvements have been made in the area to make McLean a more walkable and bikeable community,” the press release said.

Construction was expected to begin in April and will likely be finished by the end of June, depending on the weather, according to the press release.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County

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Leesburg Pike in Tysons is getting new sidewalks and pedestrian ramps.

The work is a part of the Silver Line Phase 1, according to the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

“This work includes the installation of underdrain, sidewalk crack repairs, manholes and other drainage structure repairs, and ensuring pedestrian ramps meet the latest ADA code standards,” the project update said.

Work has already been finished on the eastbound side, and now crews are working on the westbound side of Leesburg Pike before starting similar work along Route 123 near Tysons Blvd.

While the work is underway, pedestrians are asked to use temporary detours and drivers can expect signs and barricades.

“Large, slow moving vehicles may be exiting and entering the highway at various times,” the update said.

Photo courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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