Homeowners seeking to rent out their basements or other parts of their residence as well as renters and neighborhoods concerned about parking will soon have new rules aimed at helping them.
A revised zoning code for Fairfax County, the first overhaul in around 40 years, becomes effective Thursday (July 1).
In addition to updating the county’s regulated uses with new options like live-work developments and solar farms, the new ordinance loosens some restrictions around accessory dwelling units — independent residential units that share a property with a main dwelling. But zoning officials say they expect a modest increase in homeowners converting parts of their property for other people.
Adopted in March, the new rules replace existing standards for ADUs — now dubbed accessory living units or ALUs — from 1978 and 1983, drop requirements that the occupant of the revamped space have a disability or be 55 years or older, and add parking requirements.
While the changes inspired some strong opinions from community groups, their impact is expected to be relatively small: Fairfax County approved 12 accessory unit applications in 2019, seven in 2020, and two so far this year as of Friday.
County staff previously noted there have been community concerns over whether the code is being enforced. A burdensome special permit approval process also may have been creating problems, the county said.
“Others may be installing ALUs anyway, but then perhaps they’re more likely to be unpermitted construction without the benefit of the permits and inspections,” Carmen Bishop, assistant zoning administrator, said in January before the Fairfax County Planning Commission. “So a less burdensome process may result in better compliance.”
People who have wanted such changes have had to go through a hearing, a process where neighbors could weigh in. Under the new rules, a property owner can add an interior ALU with just an administrative permit instead if they meet certain requirements.
That includes a new measure that adds an extra parking spot in off-street parking. Whether or not there’s an accessory living unit, a detached single-family house on a public street must have two off-street parking spaces or — if it’s on a private street — three off-street spots, according to the county.
“When a house has an ALU, one additional parking space will be required, which means, homes on public streets will need three off-street spaces and homes on private streets will need four off-street spaces to meet the zoning ordinance standard,” Leslie Johnson, the zoning administrator for the county’s Department of Planning and Development, said in an email Friday.
The new standards come as the county’s population exceeds 1.1 million people after rising by over 100,000 people every decade from 1980 to 2010, according to census data.
With housing prices expected to continue rising, proponents of the ALU rule changes argue that they will provide more flexibility for residents who want to stay in the county but can’t afford to live on their own.
Earlier in June, the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority approved a change that made it easier for certain people in a first-time homebuyers program to rent a portion of their owner-occupied homes after a resident made a request.
The switch applies to 38 units and makes the authority’s policy consistent with all other units in county homebuyer programs, county spokesman Benjamin Boxer said in an email.
“Those owners may rent a portion of their home as long as they continue to occupy the property as their primary residence,” Boxer said in an email. “It is worth noting that, historically, we have rarely received any requests from our participating homeowners to rent portions of their homes.”
Courtesy Jeremy Levine/Flickr
When the novel coronavirus arrived in Fairfax County in the spring of 2020, the Tysons shopping center introduced a curbside pick-up program. Now, as the pandemic recedes, property manager Federal Realty Investment Trust wants to build off that momentum by introducing a drive-through restaurant to the plaza.
Federal Realty has filed a special exception application with Fairfax County’s planning department to permit a one-story, pad site restaurant with a drive-through and an outdoor seating area at 8365 and 8371 Leesburg Pike.
“This new use is needed in response to structural shifts in the retail economy that are increasing the reliance on pickup options as part of retail operations,” land-use attorney Greg Riegle wrote in a statement of justification on Federal Realty’s behalf. “Supporting the retail industry and allowing it to logically evolve is critical to maintaining the viability of areas planned and developed with established retail uses and will benefit the County and the Tysons community both economically and from a service delivery standpoint.”
Federal Realty declined to comment on its application when contacted by Tysons Reporter, including on whether a prospective tenant for the drive-through restaurant has been identified.
Current food-related tenants at Pike 7 Plaza include Starbucks, MOD Pizza, Cava Grill, Sakura Japanese Cuisine, and Panera Bread.
“Federal Realty looks forward to making future announcements regarding Pike 7, but as of now, there is nothing to report,” a Federal Realty spokesperson said.
According to plans submitted to the county, the proposed building would be 3,600 square feet in size and 18 feet tall with 16 parking spaces. The drive-through aisle would accommodate 11 vehicles, more than twice as many as required.
Since the building would be situated in a currently unoccupied corner of the parking lot, Pike 7 Plaza would see an overall reduction in the amount of available parking from 738 spaces to 679 spaces. The site does not have a minimum parking requirement because it is located right next to the Greensboro Metro station.
“The proposed parking is more than adequate for a retail center that relies on both transit and automobile arrivals,” the statement of justification says.
Federal Realty does not expect the project to adversely affect neighboring properties or produce any conflicts with traffic in the shopping center or the surrounding area.
According to the application, the new building is being designed to “minimize the potential for turning movement conflicts and to facilitate safe and efficient on-site circulation.”
The site will also provide pedestrian access from Leesburg Pike and to the adjacent Tysons Square shopping center.
“Vehicular circulation takes advantage of existing access points and fits logically within the circulation framework of the greater shopping center,” Riegle wrote.
A special exception is required to allow a drive-through restaurant in a C-7 commercial retail district, the zoning for Pike 7 Plaza. The application says the new building will not preclude future redevelopment of the shopping center, if Federal Realty decides to pursue that option at some point.
The former Peet’s Coffee and Tea on Maple Avenue is officially going to be converted into a drive-thru bank.
The Town of Vienna Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved Burke & Herbert Bank’s request for a conditional use permit at the conclusion of a public hearing on March 17, allowing the Alexandria-based company to utilize and renovate the existing 2,575 square-foot building at 332 Maple Avenue East.
“I think Burke & Herbert moving from their present location up on the corner down into the middle of Maple Avenue gives them a much better facility,” Board of Zoning Appeals Chair George Creed said during last week’s meeting. “…I think that’ll be an excellent location for them.”
Burke & Herbert Executive Vice President of Marketing Terry Cole confirmed to Tysons Reporter that the bank’s existing Vienna branch will be closed, and operations will be relocated to the new site once the renovation is completed.
Constructed in the 1980s, the building at 332 Maple Avenue originally housed a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise until Caribou Coffee took over in 2012. The shop was rebranded in 2013 after the Peet’s Coffee owners bought Caribou.
Peet’s permanently closed the Vienna shop and another location in Tysons Station last summer after they shut down in the spring on what initially appeared to be a temporary basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Burke & Herbert submitted a proposal to the Town of Vienna to convert the building into a drive-thru bank on Dec. 30, stating that the change in use would benefit the town by allowing the now-vacant facility to be refurbished and reducing traffic on Maple Avenue.
A traffic impact analysis conducted by a consultant hired by Burke & Herbert found that the proposed facility would generate an estimated 27 trips during morning peak hours and 57 trips during evening peak hours — 222 fewer morning peak-hour trips and 64 fewer evening peak-hour trips than Peet’s Coffee.
“I think the conditions will probably be significantly different than they were when this was a coffee restaurant,” said Walsh Colucci land-use attorney Robert Brandt, who represented Burke & Herbert at the public hearing. “Just the nature of the bank drive-thru use tends to get a little less of that drive-thru demand than a coffee restaurant, so the bank is very comfortable with the conditions on the site as proposed.”
Brandt says Burke & Herbert plans to make “significant improvements” to the interior and exterior of the building, but no expansions will be needed, and the existing drive-thru facility will largely be left intact, aside from moving a speaker from the back of the facility to the left side.
The bank has committed to making some accessibility improvements, including the addition of sloped sidewalks and restriping to create wheelchair-accessible parking spaces. The parking lot’s asphalt surface will also be repaved in places where it’s “in a little rough shape,” according to Brandt.
According to a report by Vienna’s planning and zoning staff, the proposed hours of operation for the new bank are between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. on Saturdays. The facility will be closed on Sundays. Four to five employees are expected to be on site at any given time during business hours. Read More
The 7-3 vote — with Supervisors Walter Alcorn, Daniel Storck, and Pat Herrity dissenting — serves as the culmination of a four-year Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project, or zMOD, that began in 2017 to update zoning laws codified in 1978.
Although the updates to the document were sweeping in scope, three proposed changes drew a great deal of public attention and comment. These included proposals to loosen restrictions on accessory living units and home-based businesses and revise size and height regulations for flags and flag poles.
“There are…very few issues receiving much attention,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “I believe that demonstrates that, given everything that we’ve done, it was a fair and transparent process.”
Storck, who represents the Mount Vernon District, said he supports many aspects of the 614-page draft, but a few areas surrounding the accessory living units and the home-based businesses, including the permit process and enforcement, give him pause.
He worries that some of the proposed changes to require only administrative permits could lead to a lack of engagement and that enforcement, which he calls “the bread and butter of public confidence,” is not going to be swift or strong enough to stop zoning violations.
Approved changes to the regulations for accessory living units include allowing interior units with an administrative permit and removing the requirement that only those 55 and older or disabled people can live in them. However, the owner must live in the main home, can only operate one ALU in which up to two people can reside, and must provide a parking spot.
To operate a home-based business, people will need to get special exception permits to have customers visit between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless they provide instruction to fewer than eight students a day and up to four at a time.
Acceptable businesses include retail — as long as sales and delivery occur online or offsite — as well as exercise classes, repair services for small household items, hair salons, and clothing tailors. People can also operate an office or as a music, photography, or art studio out of their home.
Residents can have up to three flags, and flag poles can be up to 25 feet tall when in front of a single-family home or up to 60 feet tall on other lots. Property owners can apply for a special permit to extend the height of a pole.
The board opted not to adopt any regulations limiting the size of flags.
In voting for the final draft of the plan, Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said the document represents a compromise that goes “further than some would like to go, but not as far as others would like.”
The supervisors highlighted the Herculean effort that went into overhauling codes for a county as large as Fairfax and taking into account community input. Foust said that the most recent draft, which was subject to a public hearing on March 9, “includes revisions that significantly improve the initial package that we considered.”
Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Penelope Gross said that home-based businesses and accessory living units are both “already here,” so the changes help clarify what is allowed and set guardrails to preserve neighborhoods and allow people to work from home.
“I know there’s a lot of speculation about what will happen. Speculation is usually just that: speculation,” she said. “It sometimes is fear.”
Palchik said she does not discount the people who expressed legitimate concerns, but she argued that many of those have been addressed during the zMOD process. She aargued that many of the changes are similar to, if not “much more modest” than policies that are already in place elsewhere in the D.C. area, including in Montgomery County, D.C., Arlington, Loudoun County, and the City of Alexandria.
“While there are many changes to the zoning ordinance, I do believe it’s critical in seeing that our housing market is under pressure and costs of living continue to rise, especially for those who struggle to live here,” she said. “While accessory living units do not fix all of these problems, the added flexibility for our most vulnerable residents and additional options for those who want to remain in their homes can be part of the solution.”
Photo via Fairfax County
Changes to parking standards and codes could be on the horizon in the Town of Vienna.
The Department of Planning and Zoning is assessing a variety of parking issues through the Code Create Vienna process, a comprehensive effort to review and update the town’s zoning and subdivision codes.
No specific changes have been proposed yet, but the town’s limited availability of public parking, particularly in the commercial corridor around Maple Avenue, has been a topic of discussion for years.
“We are currently still working on residential zoning standards and defining the boundaries of the non-residential districts,” Vienna Deputy Planning Director Mike D’Orazio said in an email. “When we get to parking, our lead consultant ZoneCo, along with Nelson/Nygaard, will be assisting us in the review and potential update of parking standards.”
During a “Lunch & Learn” online discussion on March 5, D’Orazio detailed the parking standards that are under review, including the number of parking spaces required for different types of uses, design standards — such as landscape and lighting standards — and dimensional standards related to parking.
The review of parking space requirements will include examining on-site shared parking, such as multi-tenant or multi-use buildings.
The dimensional standards refer to the minimum dimensions for parking spaces, the width of aisles, and other spatial aspects of parking.
“Even though we updated it recently, it’s worth kind of looking at best standards and what other jurisdictions are doing for their parking,” D’Orazio said during the Lunch & Learn discussion.
Landscaping and lighting will also be considered during the parking portion of Vienna’s zoning code update. Currently, landscaping is required five feet between public street and parking areas.
The town also plans to establish bicycle parking standards for the first time in the new zoning ordinance, along with rules regulating electric vehicle charging stations.
“This is something that’s going to be increasing or trending right now as electric vehicles become more popular and adopted,” D’Orazio said. “There’s shopping centers and public spaces that are adding these EV stations. We don’t really have much in the code right now regulating those. So, that’s something that we’ll really have to look at updating.”
The estimated timeline for the code update as a whole is between 16 and 18 months.
The Department of Planning and Zoning does not have a date for when a complete draft will be ready for public hearings before the planning commission and town council. However, based on the estimated 16-18 month timeline, D’Orazio said the department anticipates that may happen in fall or winter this year.
“The Code Create Vienna process is an iterative process, and we seek community input throughout the project, not just during the public hearings,” D’Orazio said in an email.
Staff photo by Angela Woolsey
Some big changes are coming to McLean, and Dranesville Supervisor John Foust says he supports many — but not all — of them.
During a “Good Morning, McLean” breakfast hosted by the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce yesterday morning (Thursday), Foust highlighted ongoing redevelopment work to the downtown area and Chain Bridge Road, but expressed caution about proposed zoning changes.
He repeated his support for the McLean Commercial Business Center revitalization plan despite some vocal opposition, saying it encourages development while protecting those who do not want McLean to become the next Tysons. The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan on April 28, and it will go before the Board of Supervisors on May 18.
Foust also spoke favorably about Tri-State Development’s proposal to build a 35-unit senior living facility with townhouses on a Chain Bridge Road site that would otherwise fit nine single-family homes. Earlier this month, the planning commission deferred a decision on the plan until next Wednesday (March 17).
“It’s exactly what McLean residents are looking for who want to downsize but don’t want to leave McLean,” Foust said. “Fundamentally, it’s a good application, and I think it’ll probably get approved.”
The project has received some pushback from nearby residents who say the project extends the business district into their residential area and will cause transportation and parking problems.
Foust acknowledged these complaints, adding that a dedicated left turn lane at the Chain Bridge and Davidson Road intersection could be needed to account for car and foot traffic. Ultimately, though, he believes it is better than the alternative for developers.
“Building nine houses would’ve been miserable,” he said.
McLean is also bracing for the potential impact of Fairfax County’s Zoning Ordinance Modernization project. Most of the changes proposed by county staff are “non-controversial” and will simplify frustrating ordinances, Foust said.
But he opposes a few elements that have also consternated the public, including proposed regulations on flags and changes to the permits required to operate a business from home.
Foust says loosening customer and signage rules for home-based businesses could lead to more businesses in residential areas.
“Staff prepared, I think, a very liberalized version,” he said. “I’m not excited about the direction staff is trying to take this.”
Outside of development and zoning issues, Foust says that, as chair of the Board of Supervisors’ economic initiatives committee, he has been focused on how Fairfax County will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic once it’s over.
The committee will receive a presentation on Tuesday from a consultant that the county hired last year to develop recommendations for its road to recovery. Right now, about $15 million are earmarked for implementing recovery programs, but Foust predicts “that number will increase dramatically” when Fairfax County receives federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.
According to Fairfax County, that sum could be $222.56 million, although the exact amount has not yet been confirmed by the federal government.
“We’re getting through it,” Foust said. “…I get so frustrated sometimes with the failures we’ve encountered, the bumps in the road, but when I step back and look at what staff and others are accomplishing, it’s just amazing.”
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to defer a vote on adopting a new county zoning ordinance after hearing roughly five hours of testimony at a public hearing on Tuesday (March 9).
The fate of the 614-page document will now be decided at 4:30 p.m. on March 23.
“We’ve been at this for a long time,” Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith said toward the end of the public hearing, which featured 71 speakers. “…By deferring for two weeks, that gives the board more time to consider what we’ve heard before we move on this on March 23.”
The additional time will let the board review input from the community and the Fairfax County Planning Commission, which put forward amendments last week related to flags and flag poles, home-based businesses, and accessory living units (independent housing on the same property as a main residence).
“I think we might have a fairly long mark-up on this, because my guess is there are going to be a number of issues, as a board, we might need to talk through,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said.
Launched in 2017, the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance Modernization project (zMOD) aims to update the county’s 40-year-old zoning code by making it easier to comprehend and incorporating new activities, such as electric vehicles and community gardens.
Proposed regulations on ALUs, home-based businesses, and flags have emerged as the most hotly contested changes, though speakers at Tuesday’s public hearing raised concerns about everything from food trucks to vehicle storage.
Fairfax County staff agreed with the planning commission that the draft should have a requirement that home-based businesses be approved by the county health department if the property has a well or septic system and a standard limiting the amount of hazardous materials they can have on site.
They also revised their recommendation for flags to allow maximum sizes of 50 square feet on lots with single-family dwellings and manufactured homes or 150 square feet for all other uses. Staff previously recommended limiting flag sizes to 24 square feet on single-family home lots and 96 square feet for other uses.
Community members took stands on both sides of the debate around ALUs. Some voiced support for looser regulations to enable them as an affordable housing option, while others worried about the potential impacts on traffic, parking, and public facilities.
“There is no guarantee that ALUs will equal affordable housing, but eliminating the current requirements will tax our already burdened public facilities,” McLean Citizens Association President Rob Jackson said. “…Adding more people without additional public facilities will degrade the quality of life.”
Many speakers urged the Board of Supervisors to follow the planning commission’s recommendation of retaining a special permitting process for interior ALUs, saying that allowing administrative permits would shut out citizens and neighbors.
“We really need more genuine outreach to engage the public in making land use decisions that directly affect communities, and not less,” Falls Church resident Kathryn Cooper said. “Residents do not want their involvement in land use decisions to be excised, as will occur under zMOD.”
Also a Falls Church resident, Coalition for Smarter Growth Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager Sonya Breehey argued that the county should go further in encouraging ALUs and that continuing to require a special permit for interior units, as recommended by the planning commission, would delay efforts to address housing affordability challenges.
“Accessory living units can offer less expensive housing options than renting or buying a single-family home because of their smaller size, and they provide housing opportunities in communities that might otherwise be too expensive,” Breehey said. “…As a homeowner in a single-family residential neighborhood, I want you all to know that I see ALUs as an opportunity to provide greater inclusivity in my neighborhood that I love.”
A luxury townhome developer wants to supplant an office complex on Leesburg Pike in Tysons with more than 100 units of housing.
EYA Development has submitted a rezoning application and development plan to Fairfax County seeking to build 104 single-family, attached dwellings on a 6.7-acre site at 7700 Leesburg Pike that is now occupied by a 150,000 square-foot commercial building that was constructed in 1976. The property owner, S.C. Herman & Associates, is also listed as an applicant.
Existing tenants include the Ismaili Cultural Center, the weight loss service SimplySlim Medical, the accounting firm Gilliland & Associates, a telecommunications contractor called McEnroe Voice and Data, and the private Standard College of Nursing.
Submitted on Dec. 15 and accepted by the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning last Friday (March 5), the application proposes rezoning the commercial site to the planned development housing district.
Under a PDH-16 zoning, the site would have a maximum density of 16 dwelling units per acre and require 281 parking spaces, which EYA says would be provided with two garage spaces for each housing unit and 73 surface spaces.
According to the conceptual development plan, the development would exceed open space requirements with 93,688 square feet of open space, including 38,688 square feet of recreational open space.
The plan features three dedicated open spaces on the north end of the site: a central courtyard with a pergola and terraces called The Green, a fitness area, and a playspace with a cherry tree grove, rain gardens, and birdhouses.
In terms of infrastructure, the development will include internal private roads with an exit to the south onto Leesburg Pike, and the site plan envisions 10-foot crosswalks across George C. Marshall Drive and a future road to the property’s east side that is included in the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan.
EYA notes in the plan that illustrations showing the future road are to demonstrate that the proposed development can accommodate the road but “is not a commitment for the applicant to construct the future road or infrastructure.”
The developer also says its proposal would not preclude any potential widenings of Leesburg Pike, and it plans to dedicate a portion of the site area for future road improvements introduced by a Route 7 bus rapid transit system.
“To the best of our knowledge, the proposed development will not pose any adverse impacts on adjacent properties,” the applicants say in the development plan.
Photo via Google Maps
The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday (Mar. 3) to recommend that the county replace its current zoning code with a new draft resulting from the Zoning Ordinance Modernization Project (zMOD) that has now been underway for almost four years.
The 12-0 vote came after more than an hour of debate over the county’s proposed regulations for accessory living units (ALUs) — independent residential units located on the same property as a primary dwelling — and home-based businesses, which have emerged as two of the most contentious components of the 614-page document.
“The zMOD result on ALUs and home-based businesses, I believe, misses the mark,” Mason District Commissioner Julie Strandlie said. “It does not incorporate community concern and avoids a significant opportunity to make a real difference in housing policy. If we want to successfully expand housing options, we need community input, involvement, and buy-in.”
Released on Feb. 17, the draft zoning ordinance crafted by county planning staff and the consultant Clarion proposed allowing ALUs for single-family detached dwellings with an administrative permit if they meet certain requirements, including a maximum gross floor area of 800 square feet or 40% of the principal dwelling and that an occupant be at least 55 years old or have a disability.
Citing an “exceptional amount” of public opposition to that proposal, including at a public hearing on Jan. 28, the planning commission recommended that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors instead utilize a special permit review process for all ALUs, which requires property owners to notify neighbors and make their case at a public hearing.
“This [administrative] process — what I’m seeing and what I’ve personally experienced — it pits neighbor against neighbor, or potentially could put neighbor against neighbor,” Mount Vernon District Commissioner Walter Clarke said. “I think it’s only fair, and we owe it to the citizens of this community, to have a process whereby they still can be engaged.”
The commission also recommended lifting the requirement that an occupant have a disability or be 55 years or older when an ALU is approved with a special permit, and allowing units to fill a basement or cellar based on its existing size on the date the new zoning ordinance becomes effective.
The commission also recommended amending the draft to prohibit on-site customers for home-based businesses approved through an administrative permit, except in cases involving instructional activities at a “specialized instruction center” — i.e., private tutoring or music lessons — or a health and exercise facility.
Instruction centers and health and exercise facilities could have up to four students at a time and eight students in a day. Other home-based businesses could have customers if they obtain a special permit.
In addition, all home-based businesses will have to be approved by the Fairfax County Health Department if there is a well or septic tank on site, a provision that was already proposed for ALUs.
While acknowledging that ALUs could help people who otherwise might not be able to afford to live in Fairfax County, the majority of commissioners ultimately expressed reservations about loosening restrictions across the entire county without getting a clearer sense of the potential impact on traffic, parking, and other issues, especially in high-density areas.
“While I do believe that accessory living units can provide an opportunity for additional living space in our very expensive county, I believe additional time is needed for study of the proposed countywide applications of accessory living units by administrative review,” At-Large Commissioner Timothy Sargeant said.
The commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors direct the county planning department to convene a task force that will study ALUs and home-based businesses for 18 months and deliver a report with any recommendations for further changes to the zoning ordinance.
Earlier in the meeting, the commission shot down a proposed zoning amendment that would have altered regulations for flags and flag poles, calling it “a solution in search of a problem.” The county’s only existing regulation for flags is a limit of three per lot.
Fairfax County launched its zMOD initiative in March 2017 with the goal of simplifying and updating a document that had not undergone a comprehensive revision since it was first adopted 40 years ago.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the new zoning ordinance on Tuesday (Mar. 9). If the ordinance is adopted as it was approved by the planning commission, it would take effect at 12:01 a.m. on July 1.
Image via Town of Vienna
Businesses in the Town of Vienna will now have more leniency for outdoor dining and other commercial activities until at least Sept. 1, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to constrain indoor activities.
The Vienna Town Council unanimously voted last night (Monday) to extend an emergency ordinance temporarily waiving zoning regulations on outdoor commercial operations that was scheduled to expire on Mar. 31.
This is the fourth time that the council has adopted the ordinance, which enables the town manager to grant temporary permits to businesses so they can operate outside without necessarily meeting all of the town’s usual requirements.
Vienna first adopted the measure for a 60-day period on June 1, 2020 in recognition that “COVID-19 constitutes a real and substantial threat to public health and safety,” as stated in the ordinance, which was extended on June 15 to Sept. 30, 2020 and again on Aug. 31 to Mar. 31, 2021.
With scientific evidence suggesting that the novel coronavirus spreads more easily in enclosed, indoor settings, many restaurants and retailers pivoted to offering outdoor activities last summer so they could keep operating under capacity limits imposed by state guidelines. While Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam loosened some restrictions starting this month, dining establishments are still limited to 10 indoor patrons, and capacity for all businesses is limited by the need for at least six feet of social distancing.
Under the emergency ordinance, Vienna is waiving requirements in the Town Code related to business activities that occur “outside of a wholly enclosed building, use of onsite sidewalks, and required parking areas for outdoor commercial activity.” Town Manager Mercury Payton
Town of Vienna Director of Planning and Zoning Cindy Petkac told the town council on Monday that the town has issued temporary permits to 32 businesses so far.
While the extension was approved quickly, Councilmember Chuck Anderson noted that, with the weather about to warm up and public health restrictions easing as COVID-19 cases decline, town officials should start considering what to do once more people start spending time outside of their homes.
“As more and more people get the vaccine and people start going out, the demand for those parking spaces, which has been pretty low, is going to increase,” Anderson said. “I don’t have any good ideas myself right now. It’s just something I thought we should keep on the radar screen over the next several months.”
Mayor Linda Colbert agreed that the town will need to prepare for potential conflicts between businesses that want to maintain outdoor operations and drivers looking for parking, which tends to be a challenge to find along Maple Avenue.
“We’d all be happy to have that problem, I think,” Colbert said. “We want those restaurants to just be booming, but I agree. We should be looking forward and thinking about that.”
Photo via Vienna Business Association/Facebook