Tysons Corner, VA

The Vienna Town Council will tackle a proposed outdoor music and art festival during its work session tonight (May 20).

Movers and Shakers for Vienna Arts, a nonprofit organization that promotes and supports the arts, wants to hold a two-day festival, which would double as a fundraiser, with juried art vendors, live music, food and beer in 2020.

Unlike the Town of Vienna’s two current outdoor festivals with craft vendors — ViVa! Vienna! and Oktoberfest — the proposed one would require items sold by vendors to be handmade.

“Vendors that make their own products cannot compete with prices of goods sold by vendors that sell buy/sell or imported items,” according to town documents. “The overall quality of items sold at an art show with no regulations is not as high as a festival that requires only hand-made items.”

The document also said that high-quality artists selling handmade crafts may refuse to participate in events that also allow the sale of imported items.

The proposed Movers and Shakers Music and Art Festival returns tonight to the Town Council after its organizers made adjustments based on previous comments from the Town Council.

While town staff said in the documents that limited funding and resources are concerns, they noted that the festival “could generate visitors to Town and additional spending at local businesses.”

The festival has support from the Parks and Recreation director, according to the documents.

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A moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue that was scheduled to expire in June has been pushed to November.

The Vienna Town Council voted on Monday (May 13) to extend the temporary suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zone to November 15.

The moratorium first went into effect last September to allow the town staff time to redesign the town’s guidelines.

Since then, the Planning Commission, the Board of Architectural Review and the Town Council have held individual and joint work sessions on draft design guidelines.

Additionally, the Town of Vienna also commissioned a Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study, which is expected to be received this summer and could be incorporated into the design guidelines.

Final design guidelines and amendments are anticipated to be done by September.

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The Vienna Town Council adopted a $41.2 million budget yesterday (May 13) for fiscal year 2020, which represents a 6.5 percent increase over last year’s budget.

The new budget keeps the town’s real estate tax rate the same for the fifth consecutive year at 0.225 cents per $100 assessed value.

“While the tax rate is unchanged, most Vienna property owners will pay more in real estate taxes next year due to increases in assessed property values,” according to a press release from the town. “Real estate assessments increased 4 percent overall (4.9 percent for residential properties and 0.14 percent for commercial properties).”

The water and sewage rates will increase by about 10 percent — $64 — annually.

The Town of Vienna also expects new programming to bring in increased revenues from parks and recreation fees, more zoning fees from new developments, higher investment interest rates and more cellphone tower rentals, according to the press release.

The budget has funding for new initiatives, including an economic development manager position, several studies, a comprehensive zoning update and more tree maintenance funds.

Mayor Laurie DiRocco said in a press release that the economic development manager position “will help Vienna provide enhanced business-friendly services for existing businesses while also helping to bring to Town additional independent, locally owned businesses that will, collectively, help make Vienna a vibrant destination.”

The budget also provides the 189 employees of the town with a 3 percent merit raise.

FY 2020 begins July 1 and ends on June 30, 2020.

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The Vienna Town Council delayed voting on the proposed redevelopment of 380 Maple Avenue after a resident questioned if the town had notified Fairfax County about the proposed rezoning — the town hadn’t.

Resident John Pott asked during the public hearing last night (May 13) if the town had notified the county about the proposed rezoning since the property is within half of a mile from the county line. Pott said that the notification has to happen before the Vienna Planning Commission hearing.

Turns out, the town had not notified the county yet, Town Manager Mercury Payton said, adding that “this was an oversight on the part of staff.”

“This has not been a practice,” Payton said. “It was not intentionally inaction based on staff to not notify the county.”

“I’m a little bit dismayed we didn’t follow the law,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said, telling town staff that “ignorance is no excuse.”

In addition to the legal conundrum, Springsteen urged the developer and residents to work together — possibly using a mediator — to try to find middle ground on the contentious issues around the proposed project, such as safety, privacy and scale. “I would like to see if we could get a mutual, agreeable resolution to things,” he said.

The proposed project has received mixed reviews from residents.

While some people have said at previous public hearings that the mixed-use, four-floor building, which would include ground floor retail and more than three dozen multi-family residential condominium units, could revitalize the downtown area, others have argued that traffic, safety and scale issues plague the project.

Dennis Rice, the owner of J.D.A. Custom Homes, appeared frustrated when relaying to the Town Council some of the back and forth changes he’s made to make the development more desirable to nearby residents. But, he reiterated he is willing to keep working with neighbors on the project.

Mayor Laurie DiRocco told Rice to submit a written list of proffers. While proffers have been written down and spoken about at meetings, DiRocco said that Rice needs to provide the town with a comprehensive and clear list.

Town Attorney Steve Briglia advised the council to keep the public hearing open while getting in touch with the county. The Town Council voted to continue consideration of the project at the June 3 Town Council meeting and directed staff to send a notification of the proposed rezoning to the county.

Photo via Town of Vienna Planning and Zoning

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Vienna residents elected three candidates concerned about the scale of new developments planned for Maple Avenue to the Town Council.

Yesterday’s election saw six candidates — two incumbents face off against four challengers — vie for three council seats.

According to a press release, the unofficial results of the election are:

  • Nisha Patel: 1,523
  • Howard Springsteen: 1,475
  • Steve Potter: 1,470
  • Julie Hays: 985
  • Tara Bloch: 775
  • Time Strike: 415

Incumbent Howard Springsteen has been a leading voice in opposition to new larger Maple Avenue developments, saying that the town’s commercial zones need managed growth with low-density residential zoning and modest, appropriate developments.

Local small business owner Nisha Patel has expressed concerns about the impact of high-density mixed-use developments on traffic and schools. Steve Potter is a founding member of the Vienna Citizens for Responsible Development, a group that has pushed for developments that preserve the “small-town character” on Maple Avenue.

Patel, Potter and Springsteen were all endorsed by the Vienna Citizens for Responsible Development.

Incumbent Tara Bloch, who had the second to the lowest number of votes, did not win reelection. Bloch touted the increased number of sidewalks and bike routes, as well as new commercial redevelopments, and she ran a campaign focused on pushing for a pedestrian-friendly business corridor.

Julie Hays, who ran a campaign focused on pedestrian and bicycle safety and protecting residential neighborhoods, and Tim Strike, who expressed opposition to the medium-high density developments and supported more public parking, also lost.

Vienna residents cast a total of 2,411 ballots, according to the press release.

Photos [1, 2, 3] in collage via Facebook

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The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.

We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!

Tuesday (May 7)

  • Town of Vienna Election6 a.m.-7 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street SE.) — There is a competitive race for the Town Council in Vienna, mainly focusing on the scale of new developments.
  • “The Guest Book” Reading and Signing7:30-9:30 p.m. at Barnes & Nobles (7851 Tysons Corner Center) — Sarah Blake, author of the historical novel The Guest Book, will read from the book and sign copies at the Tysons Corner Center Barnes and Noble.

Thursday (May 9)

  • Innovation Breakfast: The Opportunity in Opportunity Zones8-10:30 a.m. at Valo Park (7950 Jones Branch Drive) — The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia is hosting a business breakfast looking at opportunity zones, tracts of land targeted by state and federal governments for economic development. The breakfast will look at where they exist and what can be accomplished with them. Registration is $40 and includes breakfast.
  • Urban Forest Perfume Making Workshop 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Brandbox Lounge (Tysons Corner Center) — For Mother’s Day, the Urban Forest Perfume Company is setting up a workshop looking at the art of plant-based perfumes. Participants will get a class in understanding synthetic versus plant ingredients, perfume notes and basic formulas. Light food and wine will also be served.
  • Vienna Community Brainstorming on Public Parking in Commercial Corridor6-7 p.m. at the Town Hall Council Chambers (127 Center Street S.) — The Town Business Liaison Committee and Mayor Laurie DiRocco will host a community conversation about parking. This is an opportunity to gather further feedback from business owners and refine solutions proposed at the March 14 community meeting.
  • The Civil War in Northern Virginia7:30-9 p.m. at the Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Ave E.) — Historian William S. Connery, author of “Civil War Northern Virginia 1861” will host a discussion of notable events and battles throughout Northern Virginia after the firing on Fort Sumter.

Friday (May 10)

  • Young Adult Dungeons and Dragons — 3:30-6 p.m. at the Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Ave E.) — A group of players are putting together an all-experience levels Dungeons and Dragons group aimed at grades 7-12.

Saturday (May 11)

  • All the Way Live — 1-2 p.m. at the Alen Theatre (1234 Ingleside Ave.) — The history-through-hip-hop children’s show is coming to the Alden Theatre in the McLean Community Center. Tickets range from $10-$15.

Sunday (May 12)

  • Mother’s Day Brunch — 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Cheesetique Mosaic (2985 District Ave.) — Cheesetique in the Mosaic District is hosting a Mother’s Day event featuring a mimosa bucket, green eggs and ham, french toast, and lobster mac and cheese. The shop will also be open with special gifts for mothers. Reservations are encouraged.
  • Mother’s Day Brunch — 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Inca Social (2670 Avenir Place) — Inca Social is hosting a Latin-style brunch on Sunday with cocktails and special brunch items. Children under 6 years old eat for free.
  • Listen to Your Mother’s Jokes5-7 p.m. at Tysons Biergarten (8346 Leesburg Pike) — In a special comedy show, the Tysons Biergarten is hosting local standup comedians who are also mothers. Seating starts at 5 p.m. with the show starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Photo via Facebook

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Maple Avenue development is in the spotlight for Tuesday’s (May 7) Vienna Town Council election, with two incumbents facing off against four challengers for three council seats.

The Vienna Voice, the official town newsletter, recently profiled the Vienna Town Council candidates. Several of those profiled said they are concerned about the scale of new developments planned for Maple Avenue and are running to preserve Vienna’s “small town feel.”

The following candidates are listed as their names will appear on the ballot:

  • Howard Springsteen — An incumbent who was a leading voice in opposition to new larger Maple Avenue developments. Springsteen said managed growth with low-density residential zoning and modest, appropriate developments for the commercial zones are critical for the town.
  • Julie Hays — Pedestrian and bicycle safety and protecting residential neighborhoods are centerpieces of Hays’ campaign. Hays is a former member of the Transportation Safety Commission and chair of the Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
  • Steve Potter — Potter is a founding member of the Vienna Citizens for Responsible Development, a group that has pushed for developments that preserve the “small-town character” on Maple Avenue.
  • Nisha Patel — Patel is a local small business owner who has expressed concerns about the impact of high-density mixed-use developments on traffic and schools. Patel, Potter and Springsteen are all endorsed by the Vienna Citizens for Responsible Development.
  • Tim Strike – Strike is a vice president of a local technology service company who has expressed opposition to the medium-high density developments while fast-tracking local businesses through the process. Strike has also said increasing public parking, reducing vacancies and improving traffic need to be town priorities.
  • Tara Bloch — Bloch is an incumbent Vienna Town Council member and preschool teacher. Bloch has said pushing for a pedestrian-friendly business corridor is a priority of her campaign and touted the increased number of sidewalks and bike routes, as well as new commercial redevelopments, as part of her accomplishments.

Local residents who are registered can vote at the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street SE.) from 6 a.m.-7 p.m.

Photo via Facebook

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The Vienna Town Council now has a new strategic plan.

“This plan builds on the town’s previous 2013-2015 strategic plan,” Lynne Coan, the communications and marketing manager for town, said at the Town Council’s meeting Monday night. “Goals, strategies and action steps are outlined in the plan to provide a roadmap for the town’s ongoing services and priorities over the next five years.”

The Town Council adopted the plan at its April 29 meeting. The plan focuses on a variety of areas, including safety, mobility, fiscal responsibility and environmental sustainability.

Some of the goals targetted for this year include:

  • Incorporate wider sidewalks in areas of high pedestrian use
  • Identify locations for bicycle parking and bike-sharing stations
  • Issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for consultant to lead zoning code update
  • Implement quarterly budget reporting

Town staff started discussing the plan with the assistance of Craig Gerhart, a faculty member at the Virginia Institute of Government and former Prince William County Executive, in 2017. Councilmembers have worked on the plan since January last year, Coan said.

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Funding for two positions to help alleviate two very different crises in Vienna was salvaged by last-minute savings.

Digging around the proverbial sofa to find extra funds for previously unfunded priorities is a time-honored local budget tradition. In Vienna, that took the form of $400,000 recovered from transferring repaving to a cheaper system and changes in the town’s health insurance structure.

In response, Town Manager Mercury Payton proposed $383,000 worth of items that were not funded in the budget that could be financed by the found-funds in the final budget.

The largest item among the unfunded priorities was $144,600 for an economic development manager — a long-discussed idea in Vienna.

Despite more businesses opening than closing in the town, Vienna is still struggling with rampant closures from small businesses. The manager would help assess problems facing local business and develop strategies to help keep businesses in town. Vienna is currently the only locality in Northern Virginia without a person working specifically in an economic development role.

The list of unfunded priorities also includes $50,000 for an economic development and market study.

The other crisis addressed in the list of priorities is handling the town’s massive wave of tree deaths. Over the last few years, every ash tree in Vienna has been killed by the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive parasite that’s devastated North America’s ash tree population.

But the town is also dealing with the still-unsolved mystery of what is killing the town’s Norway maples. The death tally reached 30 earlier this year, and Town Arborist Gary Lawrence said the killings were so similar to the Emerald Ash Borer deaths that at first the deaths were mistaken for that infestation.

The list of unfunded priorities includes $69,364 for an assistant arborist and $20,000 to help handle tree maintenance.

A public hearing on the tax rate is planned for April 29 and adoption of the budget is scheduled for May 13.

File photo

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A moratorium on new development applications for Maple Avenue was scheduled to expire in June but could be pushed back to October, marking over a full year of no new applications.

On the agenda for tonight’s (Monday) Vienna Town Council meeting is a request to schedule a public hearing for May 13 to discuss extending the suspension of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) Zone from June 27 to Oct. 31.

Last year, the town was roiled in controversy as citizens and Council members argued back and forth over whether a new mixed-use development replacing the Vienna Wolf Trap Hotel was too large for Maple Avenue.

“If we’re going to have a project there, this one is not ready for primetime,” said Councilmember Howard Springsteen at the August meeting. “I think the developer has done a horrible [public relations] job and has created a firestorm of concerns around town. This is probably one of the most divisive things that has come to this town in 20 years.”

In September 17, the Town Council voted to suspend the MAC Zoning while town staff redesigned the town’s guidelines.  The redesign process has been conducted throughout the winter and into spring. Two community workshops to solicit public feedback were held on March 29 and 30.

But the agenda item notes that staff needs more time to work on putting the suggestions from the public and Vienna officials into new guidelines:

Staff recommends extending the suspension of the MAC Zoning regulations to enable completion of proposed new design guidelines and incorporate potential recommendations from the multimodal transportation study into the amendments to the MAC Zone regulations.

The agenda item notes that a joint meeting of the Town Council, Planning Commission and Board of Architectural Review was held on March 20 but the meeting was continued to May 1.

Additionally, the Town of Vienna also recently commissioned a Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study whose results are expected to be received this summer and could be incorporated into the design guidelines.

File photo

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