Newsletter
Town of Vienna sign on Maple Avenue (file photo)

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.

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Toby’s Ice Cream found viral success in summer 2021 with limited-time cicada sundaes (courtesy Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream/Facebook)

Hold your cicada sundaes, Vienna. Despite the rumors that have been flying around town, Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream has not opened its new shop yet — at least not officially.

As reported yesterday (Thursday) by Patch, the Arlington-based ice cream eatery hopes to officially open its location in the Cedar Park Shopping Center (280 Cedar Lane SE) this May, with no exact date determined yet.

If you pass by at the right time, however, you might get a scoop, as some visitors discovered this past weekend (April 23-24).

“We hope to open with regular hours about mid-May,” Toby’s co-owner Toby Bantug told FFXnow. “Right now we are soft opening on the weekends, and during the weekdays we’re making ice cream, working out the menu and procedures and training staff, in addition to running the Arlington shop.”

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Vienna Police SUV (via Vienna Police Department/Facebook)

In a sequence of events that could’ve been ripped out of a pulpy crime thriller, a man in Vienna was reportedly taken for a ride and robbed at gunpoint — potentially by a trio spotted patronizing a local gun shop earlier that day.

Around 2:40 p.m. on April 9, the man was picked up by three men in a vehicle, one of them an acquaintance, at the Giant shopping center (359 Maple Avenue), according to the Vienna Police Department’s recap for the week of April 8-14.

“While they were driving around, the three men displayed handguns and announced a robbery, taking the citizen’s belongings,” police said. “The men allowed the citizen to exit the vehicle on Cabin Road where he ran to the nearest residence for assistance.”

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Vienna police car (via Vienna Police Department/Facebook)

A driver began yelling and acting aggressively to another man walking a dog around 6:45 a.m. on Feb. 9, Vienna police say.

The incident allegedly occurred in the 1400 block of DeSale Street SW. Police report that it began when a resident was on the sidewalk, waiting for a vehicle to pass so they could cross the street.

Per a police summary:

The driver of the vehicle was agitated and began yelling at the resident, then drove away. A few minutes later, the vehicle returned. The driver parked in front of the resident’s home and continued to act aggressively. The driver grabbed a hatchet from the trunk of his vehicle and began chasing the resident.

Tensions were quelled when family members came out of the home, and the driver got back into the vehicle and drove away.

Police said they advised the dogwalker of the warrant process if he wished to pursue charges.

Warning about Car Thefts

In other news, the Vienna Police Department continues to warn that the D.C. region, including the Northern Virginia area, has seen increased vehicle thefts and tampering incidents.

The department received a number of vehicle theft reports over the past week. In one incident on Feb. 13, a worker found that the rear window of her vehicle, which was parked behind Taco Bamba (164 Maple Avenue W), had been smashed and her purse stolen.

Items reported stolen in other vehicle larceny incidents include a Swiss army knife, a piece of jewelry, and coins.

The VPD advises community members to lock doors of residences and garages and to report suspicious activity or persons at 703-255-6366 or, in the event of an emergency, 911.

Photo via Vienna Police Department/Facebook

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After years of debate and stagnation, construction has become a common sight along Maple Avenue in Vienna.

Among the most visible of the ongoing projects, thanks to a crane towering over the low-lying commercial corridor, is the Sunrise Senior Living facility emerging at 380 Maple Avenue — just one building east of the redeveloping Vienna Wolf Trap Hotel and Tequila Grande.

Construction on the assisted living facility began with a groundbreaking in June and is expected to be completed in 2023, according to Andy Coelho, the senior vice president of construction, facilities, and design at Sunrise Senior Living.

“Potential residents and community members will be able to get a first look at the offerings when the off-site sales gallery opens in late 2022,” Coelho told Tysons Reporter.

Approved by the Vienna Town Council in January 2020, the project consists of an 82,000 square-foot building with 85 assisted living units and 950 square feet of space on the ground floor for a cafe or restaurant.

The new building will be 54 feet tall with four stories. In addition to assisted living, it will have a “Reminiscence Neighborhood” that serves residents with memory care needs as well as options for short-term stays, Coelho says.

The road to last summer’s groundbreaking was long and convoluted for Sunrise, which originally proposed building the facility at the Center Street corner but faced concerns about parking and the planned retail space.

The town council rejected that plan in July 2019, prompting Sunrise to sue the town. The lawsuit was resolved in March 2020 after the project relocated to 380 Maple Avenue, which had been set for a mixed-use development that encountered similar skepticism.

Sunrise’s Vienna facility will be its 22nd in Virginia, joining existing sites in Tysons, Falls Church, Reston, and more.

Coelho says Sunrise of Vienna will support not just its residents, but also the surrounding community.

“This community will provide a high-quality senior care option to the surrounding area while building strong connections with that region through partnerships and events,” he said by email. “As we continue through the construction phase of this project, we look forward to sharing more about the differentiators of this property.”

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Collection truck (via Fairfax County)

Same-day deliveries have become increasingly popular, thanks to companies like Amazon and Uber Eats, but that convenience could come at a cost for local governments.

The Town of Vienna’s sanitation division operating budget — which includes collection workers, landfill fees for waste and recycling, and other costs — has remained around the same in recent fiscal years: $1.850 million in 2019, $1.925 million in 2020, and $1.871 million in 2021.

However, Vienna Town Council representative Steve Potter told the Virginia Mercury last month that the uptick in shipping has meant additional costs for governments due to the amount of nonrecyclable packaging as well as the need for personnel and facilities to recycle cardboard boxes and other materials.

Del. Mark Keam, whose district includes the Town of Vienna, and other state legislators tried to intervene with bills that would have required businesses to pay an environmental fee based on packaging, but the proposals failed to go forward in a House subcommittee.

Potter didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services shared a similar sentiment.

“It is intuitive that the increase in home delivery services over the past few years has had an impact on waste generation and composition,” department spokesperson Sharon North said in a statement.

Even if people want to recycle, there are still setbacks. Most of the plastic packaging in which customers get items isn’t recyclable in the region, according to Fairfax County.

While the pandemic shifted people away from workspaces, reducing commercial use, future annual reports from the state could provide a clearer look at the trash and recycling habits of residents and businesses.

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More than two years after it was vacated, Tequila Grande in Vienna has been reduced to rubble.

Demolition work began last week on the former restaurant, which occupied the corner of Maple Avenue and Nutley Street for roughly four decades. The property will become 444 Maple Ave., a much-debated mixed-use building that will also take over the adjacent Vienna Wolf Trap Hotel.

All buildings on the site are expected to be knocked down by the end of March, says Chris Bell, the senior vice president of acquisition and development for 444 Maple developer Hekemian & Co., Inc.

“After that, we’ll start construction sometime in late spring, early summer,” Bell told Tysons Reporter yesterday (Tuesday).

The Vienna Town Council approved the proposed redevelopment in October 2018, despite opposition from many community members and a moratorium on additional mixed-use development projects imposed just a month earlier.

444 Maple Ave. will replace the restaurant and hotel with a four-story apartment and retail center. The developer intends to build 151 multifamily rental units on top of approximately 20,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

Fencing went up around the site last year, with hopes that demolition would begin this past fall. However, supply-chain and cost issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic convinced the developer to push pause on the project, according to Bell.

Though Bell didn’t specify what prompted the project’s resumption beyond that “now seems like a better time,” Hekemian recently selected Tysons Service Corporation as a general contractor, and it received a demolition permit from Fairfax County on Jan. 19.

Vienna’s Board of Architectural Review approved final designs on Oct. 21.

Bell declined to confirm marketing materials that suggest the development has already landed a few tenants, including the pizza chain Mellow Mushroom.

“We are working with several tenants, but we don’t make any comments until the leases are signed,” he said.

After the anticipated start in a few months’ time, the overall timeline for construction gets hazy. Bell says a project of this kind typically takes 18 to 20 months to build.

“We’re just looking forward to getting it started and getting it built,” Bell said. “It’s been a long time coming, and we’re excited about it.”

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Vienna’s lone drive-through COVID-19 testing site is officially no more, but the town is moving to make it easier to establish similar facilities in the future.

The Vienna Planning Commission unanimously approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance on Feb. 9 that would allow for temporary medical testing sites during public health emergencies. Such facilities are currently prohibited by the town.

The proposed amendment was brought up by Councilmember Chuck Anderson at the Vienna Town Council’s Jan. 24 meeting.

“This all sort of has evolved out of Covid and the like, where there were a lot of emergency provisions that had to be put in place,” Anderson said.

Vienna allowed the provider Personic Health Care to set up a drive-through testing site in the Emmaus United Church of Christ parking lot at 900 Maple Avenue in early 2021 under an emergency ordinance that waived zoning regulations for certain outdoor, commercial activities.

However, the ordinance could only stay in effect for up to six months after the end of Virginia’s statewide emergency declaration for the pandemic, which was allowed to expire on June 30, 2021.

The Personic site was scheduled to shutter at the end of last year, but with COVID-19 cases surging in Fairfax County at the time, Town Manager Mercury Payton authorized a “wind-down” period on Dec. 31 that kept the facility open through the end of January.

While cases have declined in recent weeks, community transmission of Covid remains high in Fairfax County. The proposed amendment would allow testing facilities in the town during any future surges in this pandemic or other health crises.

“A lot of this has to do with public confidence, because we’ve had a lot of criticisms about this,” Anderson said during the Jan. 24 meeting. “I want to provide the public with the confidence that we’re aware of this and we’re doing something about it.”

If approved by the Vienna Town Council, the amendment would give authority to the town manager to approve licensed temporary medical testing sites when a public health emergency has been declared by local, state, or federal government agencies.

An operator would have to file a conditional use permit application with the town and approved by the town manager before the site can go online. The town manager would also set operational conditions for these facilities, including dates, hours of operation, and how to set appointments.

Appointments came into consideration after issues arose at the Personic testing site this past winter. According to town planner Michael D’Orazio, demand for testing was so high that the lines blocked traffic on Maple Avenue.

Under the amendment, sites where temporary medical testing sites would be permitted include churches and other places of worship, along with public schools and colleges.

Private schools are not included, since Vienna would be required to get permission to use those sites for testing.

The amendment will now head to the Vienna Town Council for its approval. A public hearing is expected to be held on the matter when the council meets on Feb. 28.

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Native Earns Super Bowl Ring — “Years before making it to the most elite game in football, Nick Scott, the starting safety for the Rams, suited up for Fairfax High School, where he wowed fans, connected with coaches, and made lifelong friendships.” [FCPS/Inside NoVA]

Vienna Reexamines Leaf Collection Practices — The Vienna Town Council will hold a public hearing on March 21 to get feedback on potential changes to the town’s practice of collecting leaves and turning them into mulch. Alternatives proposed by a contractor would eliminate mulch delivery and the use of a controversial facility on Beulah Road. [Sun Gazette]

Valentine’s Cards Delivered to School Employees — “7,000 personal valentine cards were delivered to FCPS staff members in more than 40 schools last week as a part of the @VolunteerFFX annual #Valentines Challenge. Thank you @GrandInvolve & all who supported the effort!” [FCPS/Twitter]

Masks No Longer Required in Falls Church City Schools — Falls Church City Public Schools now allows parents to opt their children out of wearing masks, following through on a plan announced last month as COVID-19 cases continue to fall. Students who aren’t wearing masks and haven’t been vaccinated are required to participate in weekly PCR testing screenings. [WTOP]

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Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano is now open in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Chef Roberto Donna has officially arrived in the Town of Vienna.

As promised, Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano opened its doors at 144 Church Street NW last Tuesday (Feb. 8), and owner Nancy Sabbagh, wife of the once-troubled star chef, says the first week of business has been a success.

“We’ve gotten such amazing support from past patrons,” Sabbagh told Tysons Reporter today (Monday), while preparing for what she anticipates to be a busy Valentine’s Day.

that the new restaurant has already gotten customers from as far away as D.C. and Bethesda, Maryland.

Inspired by the couple’s experiences traveling in Italy, the menu posted in the restaurant’s front window primarily features seafood and pasta dishes, along with desserts and espresso.

Online ordering isn’t available yet, but the website indicates it will be coming soon. While not required, Sabbagh recommends that customers reserve a table, since the dining room is limited in size, and she wants to be able to give adequate attention to each patron.

Reservations can be made online or by calling 703-223-5336.

Roberto’s is currently open from 5-9 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays and from 5-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sabbagh says they decided to close the restaurant on Sundays to give staff “a uniform day off.”

Donna rose to acclaim with the popular D.C. restaurant Galileo in the 1980s but ran into legal troubles with the shuttered Bebo Trattoria in Crystal City. Aside from a stint at Al Dente D.C., Roberto’s is his first full restaurant since an ill-fated attempt at a comeback in 2011.

Hat tip to Liz Sues on Twitter for the alert about Roberto’s opening.

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