Tysons Corner, VA

The Town of Vienna decided to keep working with the developer to tweak a contentious, mixed-use project along Maple Avenue.

In June, the Vienna Town Council approved the redevelopment, which would add a four-floor building with ground-floor retail and more than three dozen multi-family residential condominium units at 380 Maple Avenue.

Then in July, the Vienna Town Council decided to hold a public hearing on possibly rescinding the rezoning application after some councilmembers pointed to the town’s failure to notify the county about the project — along with other issues — as justification to revisit the project.

The joint public hearing last night (Monday) by the Town Council and the town’s Planning Commission started off with a tense conversation between councilmembers about whether a possible rescission would kick the application back to the Planning Commission or result in a repeal.

“We’re not here to kill the application,” Councilmember Pasha Majdi, one of the councilmembers who originally brought up possibly rescinding the project, said. “We’re here to rescind approval and send it back to the Planning Commission to fix some mistakes that have been made.”

Among the handful of “mistakes” brought up about the project during the hearing, several planning commissioners and councilmembers pointed to a debated road narrowing sparking safety concerns.

Planning Commissioner Stephen Kennedy noted the council’s desire to keep Wade Hampton Road at 36 feet instead of the project’s approved reduction to 32 feet. “It seems to be a contentious point for at least some of the neighbors and [some councilmembers],” he said.

“If we can figure out a way to go forward if the developer or the town is OK with the 36 feet, I think we would be saving everybody a lot of time in the interest of working together,” Councilmember Nisha Patel said. “Can we just make this happen somehow legally?”

Councilmember Howard Springsteen said that keeping the road at 36 feet could create a “win-win.”

Ultimately, the Vienna Town Council voted to negotiate the project’s proffers with the developer until Aug. 5.

Photo via Town of Vienna Planning and Zoning

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There is a new job opening for an economic development manager in the Town of Vienna.

This opening is part of a larger plan to revitalize local businesses. Responsibilities of the manager will include supporting unique and independent businesses, along with working under the town council to execute a new economic strategy.

Vienna Town Council members began discussing the implementation of the new position two years ago, in order to expand economic development and diversity business, Public Information Officer Lynne Coan told Tysons Reporter. She hopes that the new position will expand the opportunity for growth and bring in residents from neighboring communities to shop and dine.

The Town Business Liaison Committee and Vienna Business Association also support the implementation of this position, she said. Coan said the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors takes the two groups’ opinions on such matters into consideration, especially the Vienna Business Association, which is run by a private group.

Though specific tasks will be required of the new manager under the economic development plan, the manager will have room to “build on their strengths,” Coan said.

According to the job listing:

Bachelor’s degree, with major work in economics, business administration, marketing or closely related field; five years’ experience in corporate or municipal administration, economic development or marketing; some experience in commercial real estate, site selection process; substantial experience in interacting with and marketing to senior-level executives.

The pay ranges from $79,475-$127,956, per year, depending on experience. Funding for the new position will come from the general town budget.

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A public hearing tonight (Monday) will determine the fate of a contentious, mixed-use development previously approved by the Vienna Town Council.

The proposed redevelopment would add a mixed-use, four-floor building with ground-floor retail and more than three dozen multi-family residential condominium units to 380 Maple Avenue.

After a long series of delays, the Town Council approved the development in June. A few weeks later, the new Town Council decided to hold a public hearing on possibly rescinding the project’s rezoning application, pointing to the town’s failure to notify the county about the project, along with other issues.

Now, the project faces a joint public hearing by the Town Council and the town’s Planning Commission tonight that will allow community members to give their opinions on possibly adjusting or rescinding the proposal. The event starts at 8 p.m. in the Vienna Town Hall (127 S. Center Street).

The Vienna Business Association will speak out at the meeting against the proposition to revoke the license.

According to a press release from the Vienna Business Association:

The question on July 15th is not whether we support the 380 Maple Avenue development, it’s whether we want to create in our Town the climate and reputation that will ensue from a rescinding vote.

  • The rescind motion also raises many questions:
  • Can businesses and developers be assured that the town is negotiating in good faith, or will negotiations suffer from a concern of “will they rescind this too?”
  • Do businesses and commercial property owners need to take proactive steps to keep their rights from being infringed by adjacent residents?
  • What legal liability does the Town create for itself by rescinding? Is the liability limited to the developer’s costs to date, or to the loss of future potential revenue from the development?

Image via Town of Vienna

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Bey Lounge is at risk of losing its live-entertainment permit after a slew of noise complaints got the restaurant and bar in trouble with the Town of Vienna.

The town’s Board of Zoning Appeals is set to hold a public hearing next Wednesday, July 17, on potentially revoking the Bey Lounge’s live entertainment permit.

Located at 303 Mill Street, Bey Lounge offers Lebanese cuisine, hookahs and live music. Over the last several months, the lounge received a number of noise complaints.

Town Attorney Steve Briglia told the Town Council on Monday, July 1, that a General District Court had found Bey Lounge guilty of three noise violation cases, ordering the hookah bar to pay $1,500. Briglia said that the cases won’t be appealed to the Circuit Court.

Zoning Administrator Frank Simeck filed an application to revoke the hookah bar’s live entertainment permit, prompting the public hearing next week, which starts at 8 p.m.

Photo via Google Maps

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Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park may soon get a makeover with new lighting, landscaping and better access.

In a unanimous vote on last Monday (July 1), Vienna Town Council members decided to proceed with a grant application for Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park updates.  

The 45-mile-long park is popular with runners and cyclists. Rooted in history, the park follows the old path of the railroad which closed in 1962.  

Director of Parks and Recreation for the town Leslie Herman presented a proposal to the council before the vote.

Herman brought forth safety concerns over four main crosswalks and lack of suitable light in the evenings. She also introduced an idea to remove invasive foliage in the area and replace them with native plants. 

Though Herman was not sure if improvements would increase the use of the trail, she said updates would improve safety for community members who regularly use the path. 

A few of the councilmembers expressed concerns over potential problems with light pollution disrupting neighborhoods along the trails. In response, Herman and the councilmembers bounced around ideas of dimmable LED lighting and motion censored lights. 

“Ambiance is extremely important, especially when we are talking about a trail that people seek out because it has a natural feel to it,” said Councilmember Pasha Majdi. 

The first section of the trail to be updated would start at the community center and move toward Ayr Hill. 

The Recreational Trails Program Grant is modeled after an 80/20 matching reimbursement program. The Parks Department plans to match the required 20% through the Capital Improvement Plan.

Though the maximum amount of money given to a singular grant is $500,000, Herman suggested the town could reapply in order to complete other sections if needed. The next step in the application process is to get a final estimate of costs.   

Photo via Wikipedia, map via NOVA Parks 

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After voting a little more than two weeks ago to approve plans to redevelop 380 Maple Avenue, the Vienna Town Council has decided to hold a public hearing on possibly rescinding the rezoning application.

Back in May, the Town Council delayed voting on the proposed project after a resident questioned if the town had notified Fairfax County about the proposed rezoning, which the town hadn’t, and then again at the beginning of June to allow residents and the developer more time to try to reach a consensus through a mediation process.

The Town Council approved the redevelopment, which would add a mixed-use, four-floor building with ground floor retail and more than three dozen multi-family residential condominium units, during its June 17 meeting.

At the latest meeting on Monday (July 1), Town Manager Mercury Payton said that Councilmembers Howard Springsteen and Pasha Majdi requested in late June that a motion to rescind the rezoning application be placed on the agenda for the Monday meeting.

During the Town Council’s meeting Monday night, Majdi shared some of the underlying reasons to revisit the project and, instead of having a motion to rescind, Majdi suggested a joint public hearing with the Planning Commission to review the issues.

“For the rezoning application, I think there were some mistakes made, and I think there are some changes in circumstances we need to recognize,” Majdi said.

First, Majdi said that there was an open question about whether Fairfax County ever received proper notification about the rezoning in a timely fashion. Additionally, Majdi said that safety concerns about the narrowing of Wade Hampton Drive and a new state law about proffers for rezoning applications as reasons for considering rescindment.

“Proffers are probably the most important of a rezoning application,” Majdi said. “The proffer law has changed effective today [July 1].”

The council voted 5-2 — with Mayor Laurie DiRocco and Councilmember Linda Colbert voting no — to hold the public hearing on Monday, July 15.

The meeting on Monday also saw two newcomers sworn onto the council — local small business owner Nisha Patel and Steve Potter, who is a founding member of the Vienna Citizens for Responsible Development.

Photo via Town of Vienna Planning and Zoning

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After an earlier work session decried the building design as boring, designers of the Vienna Market mixed-use project came back with a slightly more spiced-up project.

Criticisms of the original designs included notes that the building did not offer interesting or unique street faces on every side of the project. The new redesign of the project was presented at the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) Work Session on Friday, June 14.

Most of the distinctions are fairly subtle, but enough to excite architecture wonks on the BAR. Members of the Board praised the new bay windows — glass spaces that project forward from the main room — as a new visually distinctive feature of the project.

The proposed project is planned to replace the Marco Polo building that was destroyed in a fire last year. The project would add 44 condominiums and 8,200 square feet of retail space to 245 W. Maple Avenue.

Representatives of Northfield, the site developer, said at the meeting that a focus of the work between the last work session and this one was rustication, giving the building a more rough-hewn look as compared to the more clean-cut original design.

The building still has a ways to go before approval. Another work session is planned for next Friday (June 28), prompting one BAR member to remark that his wife was getting suspicious of the number of “work sessions” he was attending for the project.

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Along with other legislative items, Vienna is working to kill a statewide requirement to advertise in local newspapers.

Virginia code currently requires local Planning Commissions to publish notice of plan, ordinances and amendments in “some newspaper published or having general circulation in the locality” before those plans are approved.

The idea of the ordinance is to require localities to give the public time to see what’s planned and the opportunity to speak to their representatives about it, if necessary.

But Vienna staff argued that many localities no longer have local newspapers to advertise in and those that do are seeing it as an unnecessary cost.

“A lot of newspapers distribute their news online,” said Town Attorney Steven Briglia. “I think these provisions for legal advertising requirements, they’re expensive. Any time you have a hearing it has to be advertised by the clerk and it adds up… it becomes a question of: is that the best way to get the news out?  Newspaper associations fight it, it’s advertising money for them, and I don’t think it’s that the town is against newspapers, but we’re losing options.”

This isn’t the first time localities have tried to have the ordinance overturned, but the proposed amendments have been consistently defeated.

“We have the Sun-Gazette, we’re fortunate, but a lot of localities don’t have that,” Briglia said. “There’s a lot of newspapers going under, and [localities] are having to turn to regional papers where people aren’t going for local news.”

Other legislative items proposed in the docket include a push to get the town a voting seat on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

“We have a good relationship [with the NVTA] but we don’t have a single vote,” Briglia said. “The City of Falls Church has a vote, but a smaller population than many towns. I’m not sure we’re ready to throw tea into Boston Harbor over it yet.”

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The Vienna Town Council is entering the first stages of a process to bring electric scooters and dockless bicycles to town.

According to staff at a Town Council work session on Monday, June 10, a potentially shared mobility pilot would include both electric bicycles and scooters as “self-propelled vehicles,” but more still needs to be determined.

For starters, where will people ride electric scooters in Vienna? Council members expressed concerns about having them either on Maple Avenue or the adjoining sidewalks, which are typically only 5 feet wide and include planter boxes that narrow the sidewalks considerably. But elected officials seemed equally concerned about the prospect of having electric scooters complicating the already notoriously dangerous and congested Maple Avenue.

The discussion of a potential pilot program comes after a feasibility study for a regional bike-share network — commissioned by the City of Fairfax — was completed last fall. The Vienna process follows in the footsteps of the City of Fairfax, which Vienna staff said has launched a pilot program running from this June to next year.

Both staff and officials expressed some misgivings and frustrations with the prospect of bringing in electric scooters. Staff said that a story had come out this year that Lime Scooters would be coming to Fairfax City and Vienna, prompting a tense series of phone calls from Fairfax and Vienna staff advising Lime that they had not gone through the proper approval process.

Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough also referenced a Washington Post story that only 7 percent of regional residents reported using e-scooters as their preference for getting from one place to another.

The next step for the scooter approval process is a work session planned for sometime in the fall, which the Town Council said will likely include meeting with the Transportation Commission.

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Vienna’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR) decried plans for the Vienna Market project as rigid, plain and unbecoming for Maple Avenue.

At a work session on May 24, the BAR met with the developers of the project set to replace the Marco Polo building and other surrounding properties. The proposed project would add 44 condominiums and 8,200 square feet of retail space — along with a 32-space underground parking garage — to 245  W. Maple Avenue.

While the project’s architects discussed adding “rustification” and more brick to the building, BAR members expressed frustration with how bland the project appeared.

“My main concern here is the overall feel has gone [away] from all four sides offering something of interest and unique in the town,” Laine Hyde, the vice chair of the BAR, said. “I look at all four sides and I see flat. I’m not seeing the detail and mix of materials. I’m not seeing the variety of individual buildings; just sameness on all sides.”

Paul Layer, the chair of the BAR, said that earlier towers and variance to the rooftop gave the building some prestige on the Maple Avenue side.

“I think Maple Avenue deserves more than this building next door,” Layer said.

But the designers of the building noted that the project is trapped between ambitions from the BAR and a community that regularly rallies against projects that don’t fit with existing buildings on the street.

“We are trying to keep the building grand,” Bill Foliaco, a representative from Lessard Design, said. “It’s going to be large. But we wanted the storefront to feel like more than standard suburban town center. We want this to feel like it’s been here a while, not brand new. My concern is not financial, but in the current world we live in, I’m afraid it won’t come out the way we imagine it.”

The BAR concluded that another work session will need to be held at an unspecified date for it and the developer to continue working together to find something that will not only satisfy both parties but is likely to be approved by a Vienna Town Council with a new, decidedly anti-outsized development bent.

Image via Vienna Board of Architectural Review

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