Tysons, VA

It’s unclear what he was protesting, it’s unclear why he was protesting, but Vienna has an angry chicken-man.

According to last week’s Vienna Police Highlights, on May 2 around noon, there was a trespassing call for a man harassing customers at Clarity, an American-dining restaurant at 442 Maple Ave E.

Officers responded to the report of a man dressed in a chicken costume harassing customers at the restaurant. Members of a political party were having a private gathering at the restaurant. The man dressed as a chicken was with an opposing political party. The manager of the restaurant trespassed the man from the property. The man moved to the sidewalk in the public right of way to continue his protest.

The police report does not specify the exact nature of the political disagreement, but it clearly ruffled some feathers.

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Blend 111 has evolved since it first arrived on Church Street in Vienna two years ago.

With the Latin fusion restaurant approaching its second anniversary on Saturday (May 8), owner Michael Biddick reflected on the work that went into establishing Blend 111 and refining its menu and style to make it what it is today.

A 20-year resident of Vienna, Biddick started the restaurant in 2019 after selling a successful cybersecurity company that he founded.

He had long been interested in wine but began to seriously learn about it while going through the Court of Masters Sommeliers training. Along the way, he also developed an interest in coffee.

“Through a lot of the traveling I did I had the opportunity to eat at a lot of different restaurants around the world,” Biddick said. “So, I thought it would be great to bring a different type of restaurant to Northern Virginia that focused a lot on international cuisine and [felt like] more of an urban and international city-like restaurant.”

Biddick is now the head sommelier at Blend 111 and a certified French Wine Scholar. He published the book “43 Wine Regions” in 2018 and has contributed to Somm Journal, Food and Travel, and Go World Travel magazines.

To commemorate its two-year anniversary, Biddick says the restaurant is bringing back a few of its more popular drinks, including a very popular spicy margarita, and Executive Chef Andrés-Julian Zuluaga will prepare some surprise dishes that will pop up on the menu come Saturday.

There will also be a special three-course all-day brunch menu for Mother’s Day on Sunday (May 9).

Blend 111 was built in an old furniture and card shop, right down the road from the Town of Vienna’s Town Hall. The name comes from their mission to seamlessly blend food, wine, and coffee from different Latin cultures, along with their address, 111 Church Street.

Although there is currently only one location, Biddick says they are actively looking for other locations to expand in the DMV area.

When designing Blend 111, Biddick made a conscious effort to buy as much local produce as possible and avoid the waste issues that typically plague restaurants.

“One of the things I wanted to do was to have a really minimal waste impact and as little environmental waste as possible,” Biddick said.

Blend 111 has developed relationships with local farms and now specifies what crops need to be grown for main courses, salads, and sides. In addition to supporting local providers, Biddick says cultivating these relationships helps the restaurant develop new flavors.

Blend 111 has a goal to produce only one bag of trash per day. Other leftover items are either recycled or composted through an organization called Compost Crew.

They also are conscious about using organic wine and coffee, and they try to offset anything brought in from outside the D.C. area by investing in renewable energy sources.

“You never reach a finish line with sustainability,” Biddick said. “It’s just something you always have to continually work at and try to improve upon.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit 10 months after it opened, Blend 111 briefly shut down before working to adapt to the new environment.

Putting his information technology background to use, Biddick designed a platform to facilitate carryout and delivery services without having to go through a third party. This helped keep the existing core staff employed and engaged and opened the door for more people to come on board, even as many other restaurants were letting people go.

“I really looked at it as an investment opportunity,” Biddick said. “We found that we were able to make it through the last year, and then, I think once things started to reopen slowly, we then saw business come back significantly.”

Blend 111 brought on a new culinary team in May 2020 that consisted of a new executive chef, a sous chef, and a pastry chef. Biddick says the new team “was able to take the menu up several notches above what we had at opening.”

Blend 111 also benefitted from relaxed zoning rules that enabled the restaurant to convert its parking lot into an outdoor patio space.

“Dealing with a pandemic is really challenging,” Biddick said. “A lot of it comes down to…the individual circumstances that you’re in, but I just try to look at how you can make the best of it and I think we just leveraged everything we could to pull out of that period.”

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If there was a business that helped make the past year more bearable for you, whether it was a restaurant that became a takeout favorite or a yoga studio that kept you centered by pivoting to online classes, now is your chance to give them some recognition — at least if they’re located in the Town of Vienna.

May is Business Appreciation Month in Virginia, and the Town of Vienna Economic Development Office announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it will celebrate by reviving the #ViennaUnited campaign that it introduced last year to support local businesses during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every opportunity to support our business community in a unique and creative way is valuable,” Town of Vienna Economic Development Manager Natalie Monkou said. “Through this initiative, we are aiming not only to spotlight businesses in Vienna, but to also share their unique stories as they continue navigating the health crisis.”

The campaign focuses on two awards, one for businesses and one for employees.

For the #ViennaUnited Virtual Business Awards, residents, visitors, and businesses can nominate local businesses and their owners in three areas: Entrepreneur of the Year, Excellence in Customer Service, the Give Back Award, and Sustainability, a new category for this year.

Last year’s winners were Mo:Mo House for its customer service, Social Burger for the Give Back Award, and Sundown & Rise Up Salon for Entrepreneur of the Year.

Nominations for the Virtual Business Awards are due on May 24, and a new set of winners will be unveiled on May 28.

The town will also highlight employees and staff members of local businesses throughout May with the Vienna Changemaker Awards, which are intended to recognize workers who “have made exceptional contributions to their respective organizations.”

Businesses and community members can submit individuals for consideration until noon on May 24. Winners will be featured on the Town of Vienna’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts over the course of the month.

In addition to the awards, the economic development office is organizing some town-wide activities and encouraging businesses to offer in-store promotions and events.

A local business bingo is currently underway through May 24, with winners scheduled to be announced when ViVa Vienna returns during Memorial Day weekend.

Historic Vienna is also hosting a “Language of the Flowers” virtual tea ceremony at 3 p.m. on May 15.

Packages containing English tea bags, scones, homemade lemon curd, sandwiches, and other treats can be reserved for $40 through this Saturday (May 8). They must be picked up from the Freeman Store and Museum front porch between noon and 2 p.m. on May 15.

More information about Vienna’s Business Appreciation Month initiative can be found on the economic development department’s website.

Photo courtesy Adam Kincaid/Town of Vienna

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) The Town of Vienna’s election concluded yesterday (Tuesday) with all three incumbent councilmembers in contention retaining their seats.

Howard Springsteen, Steve Potter, and Nisha Patel were comfortably reelected in an election that saw turnout plummet after hitting a record high last year, when there was a mayoral race on the ballot and seven candidates vying for three town council seats.

This time, there were just four candidates competing for three seats, with Springsteen seeking his sixth term on the council and Potter and Patel looking to get reelected for the first time. Planning Commissioner David Patariu was the sole challenger.

In a statement to Tysons Reporter, Springsteen thanked voters for the support and vote of confidence.

“I am honored to serve and will always be available to Vienna residents to discuss issues of concern,” he said. “Congratulations to Steve Potter and Nisha Patel on their reelection to council. I look forward to working for the betterment of Vienna.”

In a Facebook post acknowledging the election’s results, Patariu says that, while he fell short of winning office, he believes his campaign helped bring attention to key issues, such as traffic on residential streets, the slow progress on funding sidewalk construction, and complaints about the town’s mulching operation on Beulah Road.

“I brought the Town Council’s focus back to issues facing residents,” Patariu said. “My dissent from the Town Council’s views on many of the issues above should provide a path for future action by residents.”

According to the Fairfax County Office of Elections, which managed the election, the unofficial vote totals are:

The results will be finalized after noon on Friday (May 7), when any remaining mailed ballots must be received.

1,968 out of 11,659 registered voters cast ballots in the election, amounting to a 16.9% turnout compared to the 36.5% of voters who participated in last year’s town election. 1,311 voters went to the polls in person on election day, while 657 people voted absentee, either by mail or in person.

Turnout for Vienna’s elections typically fell anywhere from 5% to 23% before the May 2020 election, which served as a prelude to a general election in November that also saw robust participation.

This election was notable, however, for being the last one that the Town of Vienna will ever hold in May. A bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly in February and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam on March 12 shifted all municipal elections in the state to November, starting on Jan. 1, 2022.

State Sen. Chap Petersen, who represents Vienna, and some town leaders took issue with the change, arguing that separate, town-only elections allow voters to focus on local issues, but the Fairfax County Office of Elections says the move will increase voter participation and save Vienna money, since the town currently has to reimburse the county for some election-related costs.

“The Turnout in future elections held in November will be much higher — as much as four-fold,” Fairfax County General Registrar Scott Konopasek told Tysons Reporter by email. “Whether or not that will change winners and losers remains to be seen.”

Photo courtesy Town of Vienna

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Morning Notes

FBI Agent Fired Weapon During CIA Security Incident — “Law enforcement sources tell ABC News that at least one FBI agent opened fire on a suspect outside CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia Monday. The suspect has been transported to a local hospital. His condition is unknown.” [ABC7 News-WJLA]

Vienna Holds Town Council Election — Today is Election Day in the Town of Vienna. Residents can vote in person from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Vienna Community Center. Four candidates are on the ballot seeking to fill three town council seats. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Dranesville Supervisor Surprised by New Police Chief’s History — Supervisor John W. Foust says he was not aware of new Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis’s involvement in two past use-of-force incidents before they were reported by NBC4. He calls the alleged misconduct “very disturbing” and says it should’ve been disclosed to the board. [The Connection]

Region Urges COVID-19 Vaccinations with Media Campaign — Northern Virginia’s health districts, including the Fairfax Health District, launched a new media campaign on Friday “to encourage everyone in the region to get vaccinated. The campaign encourages broad vaccination across the region while also focusing on various audiences who remain vaccine hesitant.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Local Residents Lobby for Leaf Blower Ban — A new citizens group called Quiet Clean NOVA is calling on Virginia lawmakers to prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, critiquing the noise and air pollution they produce. Del. Kaye Kory, whose district includes southern Falls Church into Annandale, says she will introduce legislation this fall that encourages the use of quieter electric and battery-powered blowers. [ABC7 News-WJLA]

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One of the fun aspects of local elections is the interesting intersection of national issues — like helping businesses recover from the pandemic — with hyperlocal problems, such as a too-loud mulch machine.

In a forum earlier this month, the four candidates running for Vienna Town Council met virtually to discuss top issues of importance, the first being the industrial mulching operation on Beulah Road. Candidates were asked whether they support removing the facility over the next two years.

David Patariu, a lawyer who was appointed to the Planning Commission in October 2019, came out swinging against the mulch operation.

“Two years is too long,” Patariu said. “It should have been removed last year.”

Patariu said with students learning from home in nearby residences, the 89-decibel operation sounds like a jet engine running in their neighbors’ back yard.

“We have to get rid of that right now,” Patariu said. “This is not a financial issue, it’s a moral issue. Residents in that part of town have suffered long enough.”

The other three candidates — incumbents Nisha Patel, Steve Potter, and Howard Springsteen — recognized the operation’s nuisance but said more work needs to be done to study the impact of shutting it down.

“Leaf collection is an important service, but mulching has raised concerns,” Patel said. “I’m hoping to get more information when we get a report from a consultant later this month. If leaf mulching is not cost effective, I would prefer to remove this aspect.”

Similarly, Springsteen said there’s more to consider that comes along with shutting down mulching.

“Do we buy or lease a new site, eliminate leaf collection, and transfer responsibility to residents, truck leaves for disposal, or leave as is?” Springsteen said. “I want us to look at the numbers. I know we’ve reduced [the noise] and that’s a step in the right direction.”

Potter said that for all its challenges, it’s important to recognize some of the benefits to local residents of leaf mulching.

“Leaf collection has been around for about 30 years now and a lot of citizens appreciate the service,” Potter said. “We must come up with a solution that is economical, ecologically sound, and move from there.”

Another issue facing Vienna is the continued need for improved water infrastructure. All four town council candidates said improving the town’s stormwater sewer infrastructure has to stay the top priority — along with traffic improvmeent.

“Getting water and sewer infrastructure organized is very important, but I also think traffic along Maple Avenue is another issue that needs to be dealt with,” Patel said. “[We’re] looking at infrastructure to be able to support [smart lights].”

Patel said the town is currently working on a project to synchronize lights on Maple Avenue, which could help improve traffic on the busy street.

“As far as water pipes are concerned, we need to replace the water pipes,” Patel said. “They were built in the  ’50s and ’60s. We can’t continue to have water main breaks like we’ve been having.”

Because the pipes are so old, Springstreen said Fairfax County had no interest in taking over Vienna’s water infrastructure, so the town will have to handle it themselves.

“This system is not supported by taxes, but by user fees,” Springsteen said. “We need to replace our pipes. We have 63 miles of pipes, and we need to replace them as a pretty progressive rate. We need to make sure we don’t turn ourselves into Texas.” Read More

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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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Morning Notes

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause Lifted — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration determined Friday (April 23) that the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine should resume. Its use was halted on April 13 due to reports of rare blood clots in 15 cases out of the 8 million people who have received the vaccine. [Patch]

Smoking Materials Caused Vienna Fire — A building fire in the 100 block of Church Street in Vienna on April 22 was the result of improperly discarded smoking materials. The fire caused about $18,750 in damages, but no one was displaced or needed medical assistance. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]

Bijan Ghaisar Case Moved to Federal Court — A federal judge decided on Friday that the case against two Park Police officers who shot McLean resident Bijan Ghaisar after a vehicle pursuit in 2017 should be moved from state to federal court, where the defendants’ attorneys hope to have the case dismissed. A Fairfax County grand jury indicted the officers on manslaughter charges in October. [DCist]

McLean District Police Report Commercial Burglaries — The Fairfax County Police Department reported three commercial burglaries in the McLean District in its most recent weekly recap. The incidents occurred at CosmoProf (2976 Gallows Rd.) on April 16 and at Merrifield One Hour Photo (2833 Gallows Rd.) and Tobacco Plus 1 (7640 Lee Highway) on April 17. [FCPD]

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Morning Notes

Early Voting Begins Today — At 9 a.m., Fairfax County voters can start casting their ballots for the June 8 Democratic primary. Early voting has expanded from previous years, with all registered voters now allowed to participate and the county immediately offering three locations with Saturday hours. [Fairfax County Government]

McLean Downtown Plan Public Hearing Pushed Back — The Fairfax County Planning Commission will defer a public hearing on the McLean Community Business Center study that was scheduled for next Wednesday (April 28). A new date for the public to comment on the much-debated draft plan will be announced on April 28. [Fairfax County Planning Commission]

I-66 West in Dunn Loring Closed Tonight — “All lanes of I-66 West approaching I-495 will be closed during the overnight hours Friday, April 23, to allow for continued installation of bridge beams for new ramps at the I-66/I-495 Interchange. All I-66 West traffic will be detoured around the closure via Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) West and I-495 South.” [VDOT]

Man Arrested for Capital Beltway Crashes — Virginia State Police arrested a 26-year-old man yesterday (Thursday) for allegedly crashing into two vehicles around the 53-mile marker of I-495 in Fairfax County and punching the drivers in an attempt to carjack their vehicles. The suspect is in custody in Maryland with charges pending as he awaits extradition to Virginia. [WTOP]

Fire Temporarily Closes Vienna’s Church Street — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units responded to a fire in the basement of a building on the 100 block of Church Street NE in Vienna yesterday. The fire was extinguished with no reported injuries, but the activity temporarily closed the road between Center and Mill streets. [Patch]

Capital One Airport Lounge Coming to Dulles — “Capital One Financial Corp. plans to open its Dulles International Airport lounge sometime in 2022 and we now have renderings that show what the 9,100-square-foot space could look like. The Dulles location will be the second of a network of lounges the McLean-based financial giant is branding, Capital One (NYSE: COF) announced Monday.” [Washington Business Journal]

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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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