Maple Avenue Zoning Amendments…What They Are, What They Aren’t

…please don’t let me be misunderstood.

the Animals

Will things develop faster or slower due the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) Zoning Amendments?  Really, only the market will determine the pace of development. That market is already being significantly rearranged due to the Tysons redevelopment.

So the important conversation is about how the Town of Vienna will control development. What can we do?  Here are some important points to consider about the Town’s commercial zoning:

Existing Commercial Zoning

If a developer submits an application that conforms to the Vienna’s existing zoning and site plan requirements and does not require a variance or conditional use permit the development is termed by right. Vienna’s existing commercial zoning (C-1, C-1A, C-1B and C-2) permits by right a wide variety of business-related land uses, including: product sales; home installation services; offices, recreation, repairing, manufacturing, processing or assembly businesses, restaurants;  and apartments.  There are other uses that are conditional or require a use permit subject to approval like motels, drive thrus, medical facilities, animals hospitals, etc.

There are a number of minimum requirements to be conforming:

  • 15 foot front yard setback to building
  • 0 foot setback side yard
  • 10 foot rear yard set back to building
  • 35 foot height limit (effectively 3 floors)
  • Rental apartments on 2nd or 3rd floor only but cannot exceed 50% of square footage.
  • Entire operation of the business or activity shall be conducted wholly within an enclosed building.

Town council and planning commission have no say in a proposed commercial development submission as long as it conforms to existing commercial zoning regulations and site plan requirements. Reviews are handled at the staff level.  There is no public hearing requirement. Board of Architecture Review has limited review against basic architectural standards.

MAC Zoning, What It Does

It provides the Town control, first and foremost

Requires rezoning and site plan:

  • Board of Architecture Review at initial design phase against standards and the final architectural design
  • Planning Commission review/recommendation to Council approval
  • Town Council review/approval or rejection

Sets specific requirements for:

  • Front and side yards
  • Height limit w/ specification related to roof peaks
  • Parking and loading minimums and location
  • Pedestrian pathways
  • Bicycle parking
  • Sidewalk zones
  • Tree coverage in parking lots
  • 10% open space set aside
  • Site configuration
  • Roof forms, overhangs and parapets
  • Neighborhood compatibility protections in setback distance and height, screening walls
  • Building facades and architecture (transparency and materials)
  • Lighting

It creates the opportunity for different types of development than existing commercial zoning, including mixed-use residential condominium/retail spaces.

Incentivizes things that the Town desires:

  • Green building certification
  • Water conservation and quality
  • Closing driveways (which reduces traffic congestion)
  • Public art
  • Commercial recycling
  • Public parking and shared parking
  • Transit and bicycle amenities

Provides an applicant one extra floor of development to four floors (54 feet, 62 feet  including mechanical systems).  For this, the Town receives many things it desires to retain the small town atmosphere many people in our community talk about. MAC Zoning also gives the Town something more important… the ability to say, “No.” For a comparison of commercial by-right zoning to the Maple Avenue Commercial Zoning see this presentation.

MAC Zoning, What It Isn’t

Unlike the existing commercial zoning, MAC Zoning does not allow a developer carte blanche to do whatever they want; to build to whatever architecture that suits them.

The MAC zoning amendments were not created in the dark, it was not a closed process.  It was created through a series of public meetings over two years of Maple Avenue Vision Steering Committee representing all facets of the Towns boards, commissions, businesses and residents supporting by Town staff and an external consultant (Elisabeth Lardner who designed the Town Green).  The group worked  through many different versions and variations to reach consensus on the complex planning and zoning issues addressed in the amendments.  All of which is documented here.

The resulting Maple Avenue Commercial Zoning Regulations were proposed to Planning Commission and recommended to the Council which passed them after a public hearings before each.


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