Tysons, VA

The Vienna Town Council has delayed consideration of giving up certain alleys due to concerns over buffers between residential and commercial areas.

Earlier this week, the council was set to vote on requests for alley vacation for property adjacent to 108-110 Church Street NE and behind 207 Center Street N.

Mayor Laurie DiRocco said at the meeting on Monday that the town staff does not need the land for public use. However, several council members raised objection to considering the fate of the alleys.

“People are upset about development and they want to see some buffers,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said. “Do we want to give up these buffers?”

The conversation about buffers recently ignited when Wawa cut down trees it wasn’t supposed to. Residents said the trees would have been a buffer between the residential area and the upcoming store at 245 Maple Avenue W.

“I’m really reluctant to give up alleys right now,” Springsteen said, saying that the Wawa incident has raised issues about having buffers between commercial and residential areas.

The alley for Church Street is between commercial areas, while the Center Street one is between commercial and residential areas.

Town Attorney Steven Briglia urged a delay on the vote to allow for more time to discover the property records for the alleys.

“Some of the old alleys, we’re not sure how we got them,” Briglia said.

“We don’t have a plan or idea of how or to what extent in what manner any given alley or easement is specifically useful to the Town of Vienna in whole,” Councilmember Douglas Noble said.

Noble said that the town needs a systematic approach for retaining or selling the undeveloped sections of right-of-way.

“We need to have a larger conversation about this before we start knocking off one property here, one property there,” Noble said.

Councilmember Pasha Majdi requested that the council postpone the proposal until after Town Manager Mercury Payton provides an update on an internal review about communication with residents about construction incidents.

Image via Town of Vienna

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Two Vienna Town councilmembers plan to run for the mayor’s seat in the spring election.

Councilmembers Linda Colbert and Howard Springsteen announced their campaigns at the council meeting last night.

Colbert has been on the council since 2014 and has previously served on the Transportation Safety Commission and Hunter Mill Transportation Advisory Council, according to her town bio.

“I care about the future of Vienna, and I am going to run for mayor,” Colbert said. “I am looking forward to meeting and listening to as many residents as possible.”

Springsteen was first elected to the Town Council in 2009 and has served on the Transportation Safety Commission for eight years, according to his town bio. He currently works for Fairfax County.

Springsteen said last night that he is running to maintain the “small town feel” of Vienna.

“I have a reputation for getting things done and focusing on residents’ concerns and issues,” he said. “I think Vienna should be determined by tax paying residents and not non-tax paying developers.”

Colbert’s term expires in June this year, while Springsteen’s expires in June 2021.

Current Mayor Laurie DiRocco announced in December that she will not seek re-election. She was first elected to the Town Council in 2009 and has been the mayor since 2014.

The Vienna election is May 5. Voters will elect three councilmembers and the mayor this year.

Images via Town of Vienna

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Proposed ideas for how to improve transportation along the Maple Avenue area are set to be discussed at the Vienna Town Council’s work session tonight (Monday).

Town staff is slated to present recommendations from the Maple Avenue Multimodal Study — a study by Kimley-Horn meant to suggest near- to mid-term solutions regarding transportation along the corridor.

“Staff expects a draft of the final report from Kimley-Horn the week of Dec. 9,” according to town documents.

According to town documents, the staff’s top priority recommendations include:

  • redesigning the intersection of Church and Mill streets
  • redesigning the W&OD Trail crossings at Maple Avenue, Church Street and Park Street
  • changing crossing signals so pedestrians have extra time to cross
  • adding a local circulator route between Maple Avenue and Church Street destinations
  • installing  concrete sidewalks along segments of Church Street, Glyndon Street and Courthouse Road

Additionally, the staff would like to see the following studies and strategies done:

  • study of parking supply and demand
  • traffic impact analysis guidelines
  • Bicycle Master Plan to develop a bicycle network for the town
  • Streetscape Master Plan and Design Guidelines

The Vienna Town Council is expected to provide feedback on the list of projects to staff.

Image via Town of Vienna 

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After dozens of meetings on proposed changes to the zoning ordinance, a Vienna Town official proposed a solution to speed up the process.

Earlier this year, the Vienna Town Council extended the moratorium on the MAC zone to June 30 — after pushing the deadline several times.

Councilmember Steve Potter called the work on updating the zoning ordinance a “log jam” and brought forward a motion for a comprehensive reorganization and update of Subdivision and Zoning Ordinances, Chapters 17 and 18 of Town Code, by using a consulting firm.

“It is time for a process check,” Potter told the Town Council last night.

“There have been approximately 75 Town Council and Planning Commission meetings and work sessions plus six MAC ad hoc committee meetings and two community workshops on proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance since 2016,” he said.

Potter’s motion:

I move to direct planning and zoning staff to expand the scope of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone and other proposed commercial zone amendments, as directed by Council to date, to include: request for proposal preparation for the comprehensive reorganization and update of Chapters 17 and 18 of the Town Code; consultant interviews and selection recommendations for consulting firms with national and Virginia experience; and determination of a realistic moratorium period for the MAC zone based upon the scope of work identified.

All pertinent work accomplished to date by staff, committees, commissions, boards, and Council, as well as relevant results from public comments, surveys, and workshops shall be retained and shared with the winning consulting firm for use in development of the aforementioned reorganization and update.

“I think this gives us a chance to kind of fix things correctly,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said.

Potter’s motion aims to make the regulations organized and easy to understand by using plain language, charts, tables and illustrations, along with consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan.

“The project is funded, up to $240,000, through the FY 2019-2020 budget from currently allocated funds and prior reserves,” according to town documents.

The Vienna Town Council approved the motion, which Councilmember Linda Colbert called “a great way to end 2019 and a good way to start 2020.”

Image via Town of Vienna

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Starting next year, motorized scooters will be able to go up to 8 miles per hour in the Maple Avenue and Nutley Street corridors.

The General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year allowing localities to regulate motorized scooters and skateboards before Jan. 1.

The Vienna Town Council approved last night (Monday) a one-year pilot program for shared mobility devices, which include motorized scooters, ahead of the end-of-year deadline.

The devices will be able to go up to 8 mph on the Nutley Street and Maple Avenue corridors and in areas adjacent t0 schools, parks and recreation centers. On side streets, the devices will be able to go up to 20 mph.

Town staff said that it is anticipated that people will use the devices on the sidewalks on Nutley and Maple and in the road on the side streets.

Each operator will be required to pay a $5,000 fee to the town and be capped at 150 vehicles per the mode of transportation — motorized scooters or bikes — for each company.

Currently, the town has not capped the number of companies.

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The Town of Vienna recently bought the property of the late former mayor — and may possibly turn it into a park.

The town was the winning bidder of the Nov. 22 auction hosted by McGuire Group, LLC for the property at 124 Courthouse Road SW for $1,438,500, including a 5% buyer’s fee, according to a press release from the town.

The property was once the home of former Mayor Charles Robinson and former Councilmember Maud Robinson.

“Both of the Robinsons had an outsized impact on the Town of Vienna and contributed an enormous amount of their time, energy, and heart to creating a more personally connected and livable community,” Mayor Laurie DiRocco said.

More from the press release:

Following discussion in a closed session earlier in November, Town Council authorized Town staff to bid on and purchase the property at a cost not to exceed a certain limit. Last night Town Council officially authorized the purchase.

The nearly three-quarters of an acre property includes a single-family house and outbuildings. The property was made available via auction by the executor of Maud Robinson’s will; Robinson passed away March 11 this year at the age of 96. Her husband served as Vienna’s mayor for 24 years, from 1976 until his death in 2000…

The Town tentatively plans to use the property as parkland, but additional uses will be considered as well.

“Maud Robinson was a champion of parks and conservation,” DiRocco said. “The town felt it appropriate to keep her and Charlie’s property ‘in the family’ and to utilize it for the benefit of the entire community.”

Image via Google Maps     

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Sunrise is eyeing the site of an approved mixed-use development after the Vienna Town Council killed plans for a Sunrise facility farther up Maple Avenue.

Now, Sunrise wants to open an assisted living facility at 380 Maple Avenue, according to a Nov. 1 submission to the town.

That spot is currently the site of a contentious, approved redevelopment, which would add a four-floor building with ground-floor retail and multi-family condominium units at 380 Maple Avenue.

From Families to Seniors

The Vienna Town Council approved the plans for 380 Maple Avenue in June. But after new councilmembers joined in July, the Vienna Town Council decided to hold a public hearing on possibly rescinding the rezoning application.

In September, Dennis Rice, the owner and developer behind the development at 380 Maple Avenue, told the Vienna Town Council that selling the project to an assisted living facility could address neighbors’ lingering concerns.

“I think the town needs an assisted living facility, and it’s a good location for it,” Rice told the council in September, adding that having the development house seniors instead of families would eliminate concerns about the number of new students going to local schools.

First Proposed Facility Faced Backlash

Sunrise’s original plans to bring a facility to the Maple Avenue and Center Street received a myriad of concerns from residents and councilmembers over parking, retail and the downtown location.

In June, outgoing Councilmember Tara Bloch put forward a motion to approve the project, which would have needed five “yes” votes to pass because of a protest petition, and the Town Council ended up rejecting the proposed 82-unit facility with a 3-4 vote.

A month later, Sunrise Senior Living decided to sue Vienna officials for $30 million, alleging that the Town Council’s rejection violated the Virginia Fair Housing Law by discriminating against seniors and people with disabilities and that the Town Council treated Sunrise differently from other developers seeking rezoning under the Maple Avenue Commercial Zone.

The Town of Vienna disputes the allegation that the council violated the Virginia Fair Housing Law, according to Town Attorney Steve Briglia.

Next Steps 

Town officials will soon look over Sunrise’s new plans.

The Board of Architectural Review is scheduled to discuss the facility at its work session tomorrow (Friday) at 8 a.m.

Next Wednesday (Nov. 13), the Planning Commission’s work session is set to focus on a proposed proffer amendment and conditional use permit for Sunrise.

Image via Town of Vienna, map via Google Maps

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The Vienna Town Council now has until the start of next summer to redesign the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone.

The moratorium was put in place last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines. The moratorium has been extended several times and most recently was scheduled to expire later this November.

While one female resident spoke in favor of the extension during the public hearing last night (Monday), resident C. John Pott told the Town Council that he wants to see an outside consultant share how other places are handling commercial and residential challenges.

“I think it’s very important we get a consultant with national experience and knowledge,” he said, adding that the Town Council also should have a financial analysis regarding the ordinance and affordable housing guidelines included.

Last night, the Vienna Town Council voted unanimously to extend the moratorium to June 30.

Councilmember Douglas Noble said he does not want the Town Council to miss another deadline for revamping the guidelines.

“If we were a business, we would not be doing very well,” Noble said, adding that he wants to see the town update its code and commercial zones by next spring.

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Some parts of the design plans for the Vienna Market project are heading back to the drawing table.

Back in the spring, Vienna’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR) called the proposed plans rigid, plain and unbecoming for Maple Avenue and continued working with the developer to tweak the plans.

The project plans to replace the Marco Polo building and other surrounding properties with 44 condominiums and 8,200 square feet of retail space — along with an underground parking garage — to 245  W. Maple Avenue.

The BAR approved the project in chunks, with the final approval on Sept. 19.

Appeal Attempt 

Residents Charles and Laura Anderson sought to get the Board of Architectural Review’s approval of the rear architectural designs and plans for the Vienna Market appealed.

In a letter dated Oct. 1 to the town clerk, the Andersons claimed that the approved plans violate the Maple Avenue general design criteria and the Town Code, saying that the facades of the rear are not consistent with the front and side facades.

“As approved, the rear facades of four of the five townhouse rows along the proposed Vienna Market Lane consist almost entirely of siding material with no brick; whereas the front and side facades consist almost entirely of brick with no siding,” the Andersons wrote.

The Town Council considered the appeal at a meeting on Monday (Oct. 21).

“Since the structures won’t be coming out of the ground, I’m told, until November or December at the very earliest, there’s time to do this and get it right,” Charles Anderson said at the meeting.

Anderson’s concerns seemed to resonate with many residents and some of the councilmembers.

“I’m concerned that [if] I lived back there I would want to be looking at something halfway decent,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said.

Public’s Input 

The Vienna residents who testified during the public hearing about the project on Monday stressed that all of the sides of the buildings can be clearly seen.

“It’s seen from all sides,” one resident testified. “There is really not a back to this building in my opinion.”

Residents asked that the Church Street facade have the same attractiveness as the Pleasant Street and Maple Street facades.

“This is right across the street from the historic district,” another resident said. “We get one chance to get this right.”

Several residents, including the Andersons, said that town officials might be able to avoid future controversies if residents have more opportunities to provide input.

“The citizens of this town need to brought into these conversations in an earlier stage,” Charles Anderson said.

Motion to Move Forward 

After the public hearing, Councilmember Pasha Majdi suggested a motion to reverse the BAR’s decision on Sept. 19 to approve Vienna Market. Repand to BAR

“I have no interest in cutting a deal tonight or making architectural designs,” Majdi said. “I think that’s a poor way to make decisions way outside my expertise.”

After Majdi presented his motion, the developer proposed a compromise that would wrap brick on the rear of two of the four rows of townhomes.

Nisha Patel said that she would like to see a compromise, but wants to see renderings of the proposal.

“I would be really cautious to undo the entire approval that happened at the Sept. 19 because there were a whole bunch of other things that were approved,” Councilmember Douglas Noble said.

Majdi then amended his motion to modify the BAR’s decisions Sept. 19 and Aug. 15 and to direct the BAR to consult with the Town Council before Town Council’s next scheduled meeting on the project.

When Noble proposed an amendment to Majdi’s motion to keep the modification specific to the four rear facades of the townhomes parallel to the Bank of America property and facing Market Square.

The Town Council approved both Noble’s amendment and Majdi’s motion.

“I do think we should move on this as quickly as possible,” Mayor Laurie DiRocco said.

Renderings via Town of Vienna

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Vienna residents will have the opportunity to share their input on the Vienna Town Council possibly extending the moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue.

The Vienna Town Council requested Monday night (Sept. 16) that staff schedule a public hearing on Nov. 4 to discuss extending the suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) Zone from Nov. 15 to June 2020. The Planning Commission will also hold a public hearing.

The Town Council first put the moratorium in place last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines. So far, the Vienna Town Council has approved four MAC projects and rejected one.

Councilmember Nisha Patel said that while she supports extending the moratorium, she would like to see the Town Council vote on new MAC guidelines before June. Mayor Laurie DiRocco said that town staff aims to have the plan go before the council by February.

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