Vienna residents’ next property tax bills won’t be quite as high as anticipated, even as the town commits to raising employee salaries and other additional costs.
The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously last night (Monday) to adopt a $48.7 million budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 with a real estate tax rate of 20.5 cents per $100 of assessed value — a 1.75-cent cut from the current rate. The new budget will be in effect from July 1 through June 30, 2023.
This will be the 10th consecutive year that the town has reduced or maintained its real estate tax rate, according to a news release.
The Vienna Town Council unanimously voted Monday (Feb. 7) to borrow $12 million to fund capital projects, including improvements of roadways, sidewalks, and the recently acquired Faith Baptist Church building.
Of the $12 million in bond funding, $6.7 million will be repaid with meals taxes, $3.9 million repaid with water and sewer fees and $1.2 million repaid by the general fund, Director of Finance Marion Serfass told the council at its Monday meeting.
About 44% of the money will go toward construction improvements to streets and sidewalks, and 33% for water and sewer projects. The remainder of the costs are for smaller facility improvements, like parks and recreation projects, public-use vehicles, and bond issuance costs.
“I do want to say for the record that the town does not undertake borrowing $12 million lightly,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said. “We have a stellar financial record and that money is cheap, and we’re using these funds for capital improvements that are much needed, so this is actually a very fiscally smart and responsible thing to do.”
Councilmember Ray Brill responded that “money is never cheap” and “there is a cost to the money.”
Serfass told Tysons Reporter that this morning (Thursday), credit rating agencies Moody’s and S&P both reaffirmed their AAA rating of the town, the highest possible rating, because of the town’s likelihood to pay back the debt.
Projects from the $26.5 million 2022 Capital Improvement Plan that will get some of the bond funding include:
- Glen Avenue sidewalks ($1.9 million)
- Asphalt and mill overlay ($1.65 million)
- Glyndon Road SE improvements from Locust Street to Valley Drive ($725,000)
- The Freeman Store and Museum roof replacement ($95,000)
- Glyndon Park playground and parking lot replacement ($300,000 each)
- Faith Baptist Church property improvements ($300,000)
“A good use of the American Rescue Plan Act money is capital projects, one-time projects that don’t require additional funding going forward, so not a new program,” Serfass said at the town council’s Jan. 24 meeting when it approved the CIP. “That really is a benefit to us as a town and is going to allow us to take a little pressure off our debt capacity and off our water and sewer rates.”
Bond funding, including premiums, accounted for $37.6 million of the town’s 2020 CIP, which included about $15 million for the police station renovation, and $9.2 million of the 2018 CIP.
Say goodbye to Wade Hampton Drive, because by July, the name will be a relic like Jefferson Davis Highway.
The Vienna Town Council voted unanimously after a public hearing last night (Monday) to rename the Maple Avenue side street Liberty Lane, removing the moniker of Confederate Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton III.
The council also decided to reimburse the residents living along the road for the issues the renaming will cause and set a date for when the changeover will be complete.
The consensus among the Wade Hampton residents who spoke at the public hearing was that while a name change would be disruptive, requiring them to file address changes with various governmental and business entities, they understood and supported the move.
“It was a wrong done many years ago, and the Town of Vienna has to take some blame for it, and it should be righted,” Wade Hampton resident Sharon Pott said of naming a street after Hampton.
Identifying herself as a resident of Wade Hampton for close to 42 years, Pott said she supports renaming the road but noted that “it’s going to require quite a lot of effort on everybody’s part.”
Several Wade Hampton residents advocated for changing the name to Roland Street, which would connect it to an existing road in the neighborhood, but others objected to that name as well.
DeArmond Carter, a member of the nonprofit Historic Vienna who initiated the push to rename Wade Hampton Drive, expressed opposition to the potential namesake of the road, J.B. Roland, saying he held racist views and sympathies to the Confederacy.
“Continuing Roland Street would be an insult to Vienna’s African American community,” she said, recommending that the road instead take her family’s name in recognition of their 160-year history in the community.
Other residents preferred Liberty Lane as the replacement, citing the Town of Vienna’s role in getting Virginia to ratify Liberty Amendments Month as an annual celebration.
With the unanimously approved motion, the town council agreed that residents living on that road should be reimbursed $500 for the inconvenience, and that the changeover should go into effect on July 4.
“I didn’t want to go too cheap and I didn’t want to make it look like we were paying the residents off to make the change,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said when some council members questioned the amount of the reimbursement. “I wanted to have a number that would start a conversation. It’s going to take time to find out what needs to be done to make the transition of changing the name.”
City staff will work with residents over the next four months to help them with the change.
Photo via Google Maps
Vienna will help pay for the project to build a modernized Patrick Henry Library and accompanying parking garage.
The Vienna Town Council passed a motion yesterday (Monday) to pay $663,000 to Fairfax County for RRMM Architects to design a new library and parking structure.
The town and county agreed in 2020 to partner on the demolition and construction project, divvying up costs. A development agreement caps the town’s design costs at $850,000 (or 30% of the design costs) and 19% of construction costs, not to exceed $4,200,000.
“In the end, we get a new library, which Fairfax County pays for, and we get parking, which we pay for,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said at the town meeting yesterday (Monday). “That’s actually not a bad deal.”
While parking will be reserved for library purposes during the day, the garage will have 209 total spots available to the general public for non-library uses when the library is closed, according to Anderson.
The project calls for replacing the 13,800 square-foot building, which was last renovated in 1995, with a 21,000 square-foot library, creating a modern branch with a larger children’s section that could be ready by 2024.
Andrew Jinks, a transportation engineer with the town, helped the town partner with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to provide $2.3 million.
Town spokesperson Karen Thayer says that amount is considered part of the town’s share in the project, and it’s still working with NVTA to develop a commuting option from the library to D.C.
The project’s fixed construction cost is $17.2 million. Voters approved a $90 million bond referendum in 2020 for four library projects, including $23 million for Patrick Henry.
FCPS Superintendent Search Underway — The Fairfax County School Board discussed the process and timeline for hiring a new superintendent to replace Scott Brabrand, who will leave the position on June 30. The Fairfax County Public Schools community will be able to provide input in an emailed survey next week and focus groups scheduled for mid-January. [FCPS]
Vienna Refines Plans for ARPA Funds — “Vienna officials are leaning toward spending millions of dollars on capital-improvement projects to make the most of an infusion of federal COVID-relief funds…Town officials in the next three to six months will need to devise a final plan for the ARPA funds, which must be spent by 2024, Finance Director Marion Serfass told the Vienna Town Council at a Dec. 13 work session.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Local Hyatt House Officially Rebrands — “The Hyatt House in the Mosaic District of Merrifield officially changed hands Wednesday and donned its new Archer Hotel Falls Church name. As part of the acquisition, Archer Hotel will be conducting a design overhaul of the former Hyatt House Falls Church/Merrifield, with a spring unveiling of the luxury boutique hotel.” [Patch]
Pickleball Study Formally Endorsed — “The Fairfax County Park Authority Board endorsed the Park Authority Pickleball Study Report at their regular meeting on Dec. 8, 2021. The report will serve as a guiding document for Park Authority pickleball site planning criteria, design and operations of pickleball facilities.” [FCPA]
Annual Hiking Photo Contest to Return — “First Hike Fairfax returns with even more award categories, including a new Best in Show (Pets) award. This year, First Hike Fairfax will be a two-day weekend event (Jan. 1-2, 2022) to help promote social distancing and prevent crowding on the trails on one day.” [FCPA]
Local Libraries Get More COVID-19 Tests — Fairfax County Public Library started distributing an additional 10,000 COVID-19 rapid testing kits yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon after its initial batch ran out in an hour on Friday (Dec. 3). The system is now advising people to only take a kit if they need one immediately, since the tests expire at the end of December. [FCPL/Twitter]
First-Ever GW Parkway Overhaul Planned — “The National Park Service announced [Monday] that it had awarded a $161 million contract to rehabilitate the Parkway from Spout Run in Arlington to the Capital Beltway in McLean. After a design process in 2022, construction is expected to take place between 2023 and 2025.” [ARLnow]
Dolley Madison Library Display Criticized — FCPL removed a display from McLean’s Dolley Madison Library that featured the books “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” alongside the Bible after resident Stacy Langton complained. Langton previously got Fairfax County Public Schools to pull the two LGBTQ-focused books from their libraries until they were reinstated last month after a review. [Associated Press/WTOP]
Vienna Approves Surplus Fund Allocations — “The Vienna Town Council on Dec. 6 unanimously approved a budget carry-forward that will allot $280,000 for a fiscal year 2023 real-estate-tax decrease, $270,000 to address employee turnover and retention, and $120,000 to correct pay compression the does not differentiate sufficiently based on employees’ work experience or skill levels.” [Sun Gazette]
Supreme Court Shares Possible Redistricting Map — “One of Virginia’s two battleground congressional districts would become a safe Democratic seat in the midterms under a redistricting proposal released by the state Supreme Court late Wednesday afternoon — but it has been moved completely into another region of the state.” [The Washington Post]
Originating north of Cottage Street and cutting through Southside Park, the stream has experienced “major erosion and stream bank failure,” according to project documents.
This portion of the project aims to restore approximately 1,900 linear feet of stream banks from Cottage Street SW down to I-66, running parallel to Patrick Street SW and George C. Yeonas Park.
The project will use natural channel design techniques to reduce sedimentation and improve the stream’s water quality while stabilizing the eroded banks.
The town council voted on Monday to approve an agreement to committing Fairfax County to providing half the funding for the project, which carries an estimated cost of $2.52 million cost.
The other half of the funding will be covered by a stormwater assistance grant that Vienna applied for from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in November 2019.
The grant, which has now been awarded, comes from the state’s Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF), which gives matching grants to local governments for stormwater management efforts that address cost efficiency while committing to reducing water quality pollutants.
“As we have with all of our stream restorations, we are partnering with Fairfax County through their storm water funds,” Vienna Director of Public Works Mike Gallagher said during Monday’s meeting. “And they are funding 50% to match the DEQ 50% to make a full project.”
Funding for the first phase of the project was approved by the Vienna Town Council in August 2019 and by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in September 2019.
After receiving nine proposals and reviewing three finalists, Vienna awarded a design contract of up to $427,003 to Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions on July 6, 2020.
A survey of the site subsequently began in July 2020, and a citizen meeting was held on Dec. 15 to present and discuss concept plan design.
Following the Vienna Town Council’s vote on Monday, the county still needs to approve the new funding agreement before the project design is finalized and built.
“We’re probably talking at least 18 months from now to have something installed, implemented, between design and starting construction,” Gallagher said.
Vienna restaurants that have set up outdoor dining spaces will be allowed to keep them for the next six months.
After formally extending an emergency ordinance to its last possible end date of Dec. 30, the Vienna Town Council unanimously approved an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance on Monday (Dec. 6) that enables businesses with temporary outdoor dining permits to continue those operations until June 30, 2022.
Councilmembers said they will use the extra six months to develop rules for permanently easing regulations around outdoor dining that balance the interests of businesses with potential concerns from neighbors, particularly related to noise and parking.
“This is a temporary measure while COVID is still a reality to help these businesses and help the residents a little bit,” Councilmember Ed Somers said. “But we would charge ourselves and the staff to work on these complicated and important issues. We’re not going to wait until June to restart this conversation.”
Applicable to any business that has obtained a permit by Dec. 31, the measure adds some conditions to the outdoor dining activities that have been allowed on an expanded basis since June 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the revised ordinance, restaurants can continue to serve diners on an outdoor patio or in off-street parking spaces if they comply with the following rules:
- Use no more than eight seats per parking space
- For businesses with outdoor dining facilities within 60 feet of a residential property, limit occupancy to 9 a.m.-9 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m-9 p.m. on Sundays, and 9 am-9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays
Those conditions are intended to address noise complaints raised at a public hearing on Nov. 15 by residents who live behind the Church Street restaurants Bazin’s and Blend 111.
Town staff initially presented a draft that applied the time limits to restaurants in 50 feet of a residential property line and allowed them to operate until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, but the council questioned whether that would be sufficient.
“I’m trying to give a little reprieve for the neighbors there,” Councilmember Nisha Patel said. “…Even after people vacate the patio, there is going to be wait staff out there. They’re going to have to clean up. They’re still going to be making noise. So, keeping it to 10 is really saying we’re going to let noise until 10:30.”
Councilmember Steve Potter pushed for a provision requiring restaurants by residential properties to submit a noise abatement plan as part of the permitting process, but others said it would be too complicated to decide how to identify and enforce noise violations with a measure that will only last six months.
“The six months was to look at, ‘Do these two things help?'” Mayor Linda Colbert said. “I think a noise mitigation plan would be very good, but I don’t know how that would be judged, and I don’t think we have those answers tonight.”
The council ultimately settled for a clause requiring acknowledgment of Vienna’s existing noise ordinance, including a prohibition on live entertainment without a conditional use permit.
Town staff proposed an ordinance in October that would permanently allow outdoor dining with administrative approval, streamlining a permitting process that typically requires public hearings and a $1,500 fee.
The draft gained the support of Vienna’s Planning Commission, but at last month’s public hearing, the town council decided it needed to take more time to work out details, such as criteria for when a permit should be approved and an appeals process.
Vienna has issued 22 temporary outdoor commercial activity permits while its emergency ordinance has been in effect, according to town staff.
Town of Vienna leaders agreed to replace dozens of trees on Nutley Street after a citizen raised concerns about several invasive ones there.
The citizen, who wishes to remain anonymous, is giving $20,000 to the town, which agreed yesterday (Monday) to replace 27 Bradford pear trees (also known as Callery pear trees). The trees, which produce white flowers and can reach 60 feet in height, frequently choke out native plants when birds eat and spread their fruit.
“South Carolina…actually offers a bounty on people…bringing Bradford pears in,” Bob Robinson, a member of the town’s Conservation and Sustainability Commission, told the Vienna Town Council during the meeting.
The town will replace the Bradford pear trees with trees native to Virginia, including black gum, honey locust, and willow oak.
Vienna Parks Maintenance Superintendent Jeremy Edwards said the replacement trees will start with a height of around 7 to 9 feet, noting that other smaller trees planted there two years ago are now about 10 feet tall. Once they adapt to the soil, the newcomers will grow much larger, he said.
Town officials also discussed putting up signage when crews replace the trees to help inform the public.
According to Leslie Herman, the town’s parks and recreation director, it will take about a month in between removing and replanting trees. The town will replace the trees by the end of fiscal year 2023.
The money will be used to “dismantle and remove the existing Bradford/Callery Pear trees that are currently located on the Nutley Street median. The donation will then be used for stump grinding, purchase, delivery, and planting the native trees, mulching, and other services,” according to town staff.
Tysons Area Hit With Spree of Gas Station Burglaries — One or more individuals forced entry and took merchandise from three different gas stations in the Tysons area between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. last Thursday (Nov. 18), according to the Fairfax County Police Department’s latest weekly recap. A fourth station — a Shell at 2084 Chain Bridge Road — experienced a break-in, but nothing was taken. [FCPD]
Vienna Town Council Approves Election Changes — “It was a pill they didn’t want to swallow, but Vienna Town Council members approved a resolution Nov. 15 asking the General Assembly next year to alter the town’s election schedule so all Council members’ seats will be up for two-year terms starting in November 2023.” [Sun Gazette]
Man Arrested in Falls Church Sexual Assault — “City of Falls Church Police said that Alexander McKnight, 31, was arrested in Maryland on Thursday night. McKnight has been charged with rape and malicious wounding, among other charges, police said. He has no fixed address, a news release stated.” [Patch]
Wolf Trap National Park Releases Environmental Assessment on Improvements — “To better meet the needs of current and future visitors, we’ve proposed several changes to the park’s general management plan — the plan that guides park management decisions. You’re invited to submit your feedback from Nov. 18 through Dec. 30.” [National Park Service]
Tysons Library Book Sale Seeks Volunteers — “Volunteers are being sought to assist with the Tysons Library Friends quarterly book and media sale, to be held Dec. 3-5 at Tysons Pimmit Regional Library. Donations of books and media for the sale also are being solicited, with proceeds benefiting the library and related activities.” [Inside NoVA]