Maple Avenue Code Update – Comments Submitted for March 20 Work Session Discussion

The content below was submitted to the Town’s Director of Planning and Zoning for discussion as part of the March 20, 2019 joint work session of the Town Council, Planning Commission and Board of Architectural Review. ( a number of typos have been corrected.)

Here are some points I think merit additional discussion:

  1. There needs to be a maximum length of building at 4 stories/54 ft. then the building needs to step down to 3 stories/42 ft. for a minimum length.  This would help address (and break up) the large facade massing of 54 feet all along Maple Avenue.
  2. We must include very specific guidelines somewhere for isometric photo-renderings in terms of eye-height, focal length and minimum specific views.
  3. I would rather we tighten up the mezzanine language for the original purpose, consistent with the IBC for 1/3 or less sq ft of the room served (with the intent of allowing loft or seating space.  The should be done for the entire code not just MAC since the mezzanine definition is terrible as it stands.
  4. Review what the current commercial real estate market floor heights are.
  5. How and do we provide a method incentivizing taller 3 story buildings, say to 42 feet since 3 stories 35 feet is unbuildable in their (developers concept) of financial return.  I don’t believe it is advantageous to simple increase the height limit in C-1
  6. Do we include a special exception provision like Falls Church?
  7. I am very wary of the appearance of 4 stories language
  8. I believe there is a lot of misinformation being spread about mid-density mixed use being called high density, I am open to density thresholds somewhat lower than those proposed by the ad hoc committee, but I think the conversation around density is misconstrued.  I also believe the conversation around keeping density low is a proxy of not allowing housing options that are affordable for emptynesters, recent graduates, young couples, fixed workforce and mid to lower income members of our community.  Housing for the first three groups was clearly identified as a target for mixed use on Maple Avenue.  Vienna actually addressing affordable or workforce housing in a meaningful manner is problematic.
  9. I think we need to rethink the portions of the code where it call for horizontal in/out step back in facades every so many feet.  Look at some of the pictures in the design guideline on page 1 and upper right of page 5…there are no step backs…different architecture…yes.  We need to figure out some sort of trade off in the code.  This came up in the 380 and Sunrise massing where I don’t believe the corner architecture would look like a standalone building that one might see in a small town.
  10. Also, the buildings in the images in Comment #9 have now side yard setback.  The are individual lots  with zero setback (in the images).  That is how the downtowns of small towns developed intrablock buildings had zero setback unless there was a pedestrian way (“arcade”) or an alley.  Commercial side yards are not appropriate for the center of a Town, rather they are suburban.
  11. There need to be some standard scoping guidelines for the transportation studies
  12. Need to revisit with businesses the small addition/interior renovation options available in make to make them more viable in terms of renovation vs. tear down/redevelopment.
  13. Establish the concept of a pro-rata share district for MAC (or multiple districts within MAC) for proffers of improvements for parks, transportation and other infrastructure.  The concept is, for example with traffic, instead of the last in applicant that causes an impacts that goes over a significance or usage threshold i.e. from intersection level of service D to E pays for all the improvements, the alternative is that each applicant knows what share of the impact toward that threshold and their development contributes towards mitigation accordingly.
  14. Advice from the Town attorney on structuring of proffers based on Master Plans.

I may have some other ideas that come mind in the discussion follows among the different committees. What I hope we can reach is consensus on 1) the MAC Design Guidelines, 2) MAC Code updates/amendments and 3) supporting procedure, policies and submission requirements for staff to implement.

I have not had an opportunity to review Councilman Majdi’s 13 page exposition in any great detail, but I am sure I will have comments…at first glance it looks like a fundamental restructure of multiple zoning designations around Maple Avenue.  It seems to have a level of complexity where I would welcome an independent advisor to assist in our understanding of the concepts.

Thanks for considering these in the context of the MAC Code revisions. Some may have been overtaken by events during the last round of work sessions. I understand that this would be shared with Planning Commission and the Board of Architectural Review for our next work session.

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