Opening Day at Vienna Little League

IMG_1015Vienna Little League opened their season this morning. I was able to get to Yeonas Park early to sit and watch the morning unfold from the hill above the Nance Field. This wasn’t a time for campaigning, rather a time to just…be, because baseball is something special, timeless…even more so with kids.

As the kids arrived and joined their teams for photos, the kids of all ages had this shared easiness and expectation for the coming season…and it was great to see kids enthusiastically wearing Cubs uniforms (I am a life-time northsider)

So, as they announced to close the opening day ceremonies, “Play ball! ! !”

 

The New Vienna Community Center

[BACKGROUND: The Vienna Chapter of the Nationals Association of Retired Federal Employees hosted a candidate forum on Tuesday, April 12th.  One specific question they asked of all candidates is provided below along with response.]

Share your thoughts on the construction of the new Vienna Community Center.

I think we have faced a series of challenges with the design/development and now construction of the community center. The hiring of the construction project manager the project has definitely improved the Town’s ability to affirmatively manage the project. I believe we now have in place the right people and right approach to keep the designer and contractor accountable.  Having the Parks and Recreation Director and Construction Manager provide updates at each Council meeting and work session has increased accountability as well. We cannot fix what has happened in the past but we can work toward having the project come in within the modified schedule and budget. We are by no means near the end of the road and so this will require vigilance on the part of staff and the Council.

The other element I plan on keeping a keen eye on is staffing/programming in the interim until completion and for when the new community center is open. Running the new center will be different than the old building and staff must be prepared to hit the ground running. Input from the Community Survey will be helpful here as well.

Next up is the police station. Our construction project manager should put together as lessons learned memo from the community center that would be used by the Department of Public Works and the Police Department to inform the design, constructability/value engineering process as well as the expectations of the contractor. Police stations bring a whole other aspect of security and information technology into the project and we should not be afraid to identify the right assistance up front.

Planning Commission – April 13 Public Hearings on 1st Two Maple Ave Rezonings

Wednesday, April 13th at 8:00 p.m. the Planning Commission will continue consideration of the first two rezoning applications to come in under the new Maple Avenue zoning amendments (MAC).  The agenda is available here. Both of the applications have gone through meetings and work sessions with the Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission since this past fall.

Vienna Market Place (formerly Marco Polo Restaurant)

This development is a mixed-use proposal of 26,000 sq. ft. of first floor retail and 49 brownstone-style townhouse units on the 1.97 acre site.

Key issue (from staff report):  Applicant request to convert Church Street NW to two-way for the length of the property to allow egress to Pleasant Street NW.

Flagship Carwash

This development is proposed as a two-story commercial development with a ground floor fast food restaurant with drive thru (Chick-Fil-A) and an enclosed car wash on the second floor as well as one underground level of parking.

Key issue (from staff report): Drive thru exit roadway across the face of the building to access the frontage road for vehicles heading westbound on Maple Avenue. Staff states that this may be acceptable for morning deliveries; however, a one way drive lane for regularly exiting drive thru traffic is inconsistent with the MAC goal of pedestrian-friendly redevelopment.

Separately there is a proffered intersection improvement for James Madison Drive and Maple Avenue that would be addressed as a separate project.

Follow Up to My Comments at the April 4th Budget Hearing

I wanted to expand upon my comments at the April 4th budget hearing reported in the Sun Gazette:

Hold a design charrette for the Town. Information on the Town hosting a design charrette to be provided through the Northern Virginia Regional Commission was discussed at the March 28th work session.  Three different elements were under consideration:

  1. Maple Avenue
  2. Town Square (CBD)
  3. Parks.

My comment was to confirm that both the Maple Avenue and Town Square elements had been funded because this is priority of Planning Commission and strongly linked action items in the draft of the updated Comprehensive Plan.

Provide better pavement marking.  During the March 28th work session the Council agreed to modify the budget to increase the funds for maintenance of pavement markings from $20,000 to $40,000 per year.  My comment was to confirm that this increase was retained in the budget proposal under consideration.  Various new traffic calming and safety measures such as speed humps and high visibility crosswalks have been install all over Town in the past several years.  It is vitally important to maintain these assets in managed way on recurring basis.  As we install more pavement markings across Town improve safety the maintenance budget should be funding accordingly.  I would also support that the public works department incorporate pavement markings and other traffic control devices into an asset management system (see item below)

Produce a forward-looking information-technology plan.  Information technology is changing at a rapid pace.  How staff, businesses and residents exchange information will change in the coming 2-10 years.  Town should be planning not for the next year but in a forward-looking manner so that the way the Town does business moves forward. This isn’t as simple about which operating system is on the office computers, though that is one part.  It is about the finance system, accepting electronic payments, the police dispatch systems, crash records system, electronic submissions of applications and permits, engineering and planning records, traffic signals controllers, communication with the public through the cable channel, website and smart phone applications to name a short part of a potential list.  Hardware and software in all of these areas is rapidly advancing and the Town should take a critical look in the 2-5 year and 5-10 time horizon to understand user (and audience) needs and how that may translate into technology requirements.

Provide tax incentives to retain small businesses in Vienna.  I requested during the hearing that Town Council hold a work session on the subject financial incentives toward the creation and retention of locally owned and/or small businesses in Town.  One of challenges our community’s businesses will face over the coming years due the impact of regional economics and the Tysons development will be progressively increasing land value and leasing rates.  This presents small and/or locally-owned businesses with an additional challenges beyond the usual ones affecting profit and loss in their business models.  Obviously, this would be different for different types of businesses. Many communities have structured individually or in combination:  tax incentives, or credits, special enterprise zones, incubator areas and etc. Staff, elected and appointed officials with the public’s input should have a conversation about what opportunities are available in Virginia that the Town may want to consider.

Construction Project Manager

[BACKGROUND: The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association asked all candidates three questions for their newsletter. Below is an expanded version of my response]

Given the additional costs incurred for the community center renovation and the subsequent hiring of a term-limited Construction Project Manager to guide it and the future police department construction project to completion, do you think the position should afterwards be re-advertised and made permanent in order to ensure ALL substantial capital projects, including major road projects, are satisfactorily completed and on schedule?

A Construction Project Manager is an important and necessary role for any building or infrastructure project to be completed on time and on budget. The person in this role should be brought into the project(s) when the design documents reach 90% completion, be part of constructability and value engineering reviews, and participate in any partnering sessions with selected contractor.

The Town should maintain funding for a full-time equivalent position through associated capital improvement program projects. However, the Town should retain some flexibility in selecting person(s) to fulfill this role because the qualifications are different between building construction, stream restoration, water and sewer, roadway or traffic signal projects. Much of this will depend on which significant projects or group of similar projects are coming on-line and when. The Public Works Department should examine the workload to have right individuals in place for the project(s) matching their expertise to provide the highest value for the Town.  Again, depending on the timing and project type this maybe one person full-time, two people half-time, or some other combination.

 

What Could the Town of Vienna Do Better? Part 2

[BACKGROUND: The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association asked all candidates three questions for their newsletter. Below is an expanded version of my response]

Can you offer any examples of things that the Town of Vienna does now that it could do better? or begin/cease doing?

So many regional planning, transportation and economic issues directly affect Town residents and businesses, here are some for example:

  • Tysons Development with the changes to the County comprehensive plan
  • Dunn Loring / Merrifield / Mosiac Development
  • VDOT I-66 Outside the Beltway HOT/HOV Lanes
  • VDOT East-West Integrated Corridor Management Plan
  • Fairfax County Transit Development Plan

These plans, projects, and economic competition are, or will, directly affect us. Other entities tend to assume what will happen in Vienna because of what they do; often times that isn’t consist with the Town’s desire.  Case in point is Maple Avenue…to many outside Town it is a commuter thoroughfare (54% of cars drive straight thru) and moving cars is the priority…on the other hand to residents and businesses, it is our main street that we want to be walkable and friendly for people to get to businesses, school and recreational activities.

While the Town has stepped up its presence by elected officials in the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, and other local governing bodies, we must be an even stronger presence in regional governance to manage and leverage opportunities to protect our sense of community.

We need to move from being aware, to being present, to being advocates for our Town.

What Could the Town of Vienna Do Better? Part 1

[BACKGROUND: The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association asked all candidates three questions for their newsletter. Below is an expanded version of my response]

Can you offer any examples of things that the Town of Vienna does now that it could do better? or begin/cease doing?

Our residents, businesses and their customers are transitioning into a new level of expectation for communication and civic engagement. We need to be providing more routine updates on governance, meetings, recreational activities, and construction projects through multiple media sources: newsletter, website, social media and the cable channel. There have been any number of Council, Planning Commission or Transportation Safety Commission meeting I have attended where the people standing up to speak about X, Y. or Z state this is the first they have heard about it.  I know the Town is sending out materials and somewhere in between there is a disconnect that we need to figure out.

We need to understand how people want to receive information not only today, but in the near future. As information technology advances, the Town should look at creative ways to leverage benefits to meet the community’s stated needs.  As a result of this feedback and planning, some things may begin and some may sunset. That does not mean that print communication should cease; on the contrary, the Town’s community survey has shown that a significant number of residents want the Town newsletter in their mailboxes each month.