Flynn Is Going to Take a Break as Campaign Manager This Spring


When I was first encouraged to run for office while being a Planning Commissioner, I looked upon the opportunity as another way to serve our community by bringing to this decision-making body my background in public administration, engineering and planning. Since I was first elected, our Town has faced any number of challenges/issues from heavy winter storms/flooding, getting the Community Center completed, difficult development review decisions, to security concerns with protests in DC.  I fully believe that for every hour of meeting, it takes a Council Member 3 hours to appropriately prepare for discussion, strategies and approaches to move any given issue…more in budget season because we are looking forward with the fiduciary duty to support our community’s goals with our fiscal resources.

Over the last 3-4 months I have been doing a lot of thinking on the balance of where my time is spent, the roles in my life, where I serve, and goals I want to accomplish.  Time is finite and time is limited…In light of what became a much more extended trip at Thanksgiving than was originally planned to simply assist with my mom’s knee replacement rehabilitation; helping my wife with her elderly aunt who has Alzheimer’s Disease, and my desire to work with my father to publish a book of his photography before his eyesight fails.   I note this not without a touch of irony in light of being accused of “making ageist and discriminatory statements” by a member of the public last week…I guess as public officials we should just simply accept that people will attack us personally…such is the tone of conversations in our country today.

I have had lot of conversations with my family and a few others.  After thoughtful consideration, I will be extremely challenged to prepare for every meeting in my current role of Council Member, let alone spend the time in campaign season to talk to people about the real issues that are facing our Town.  In that light I do not plan to run for reelection this Spring, though I plan to serve out the remainder of my term.

Thank you to the people who have supported me over the last 4 years.  I would also thank our staff that our Town Manager Mercury Payton has assembled since I was on Planning Commission…the improvement in knowledge and professionalism across all levels and all departments is noticeable.  I did want to say that I want to thank (and blame) Linda’s mom for getting me to serve the Town, Mayor DiRocco for coaching me on how to serve in an elected role, and more recently Coucilmember Potter’s thoughtfulness and preparation for these meetings even though we may come to different conclusions.

Brian Trompeter asked me for what I consider the Town’s priorities for the next two years…and so here are few:

  1. Need to get the zoning code update right and finished, plus the associated updates to the Comprehensive Plan. For the April Council meeting for that contract award, I have already requested that the Town Manager to add an agenda item following the award to refer to the Planning Commission a motion rescind the MAC code elements in their entirely. What comes out of the zoning code update process must govern commercial property development in the future not “fixes” to a MAC code that has flaws.
  2. Not be distracted by petty arguments and the next shiny new object like a W&OD trail bridge over Maple Avenue or a property purchase — what is their value in comparison to construction of sidewalks and storm drains on 10-15 blocks of streets, or a parking garage, or speed humps or roundabouts, or a park.
  3. “Small Town” — We as a community need to have a really frank conversation about what that means…come to grips with the idea that we haven’t really been a small town since the 1950’s…maybe we are in the context of activities and people…but what we really are is an independent suburb in the 6th largest metropolitan area of the country, 2 miles from the 12th largest employment center in the country that is supposed to add 60,000 jobs and some 30,000 people in the next 20 years. We need to figure who we really are…there needs to be a hard conversation – and a conclusion… falling back to saying “we are a small town” is NOT the answer.
  4. Getting the Town’s performance dashboard on the website….at my insistence we are doing much better at getting minutes and such posted (not perfect yet)…but need to be diligent to keep and add more forward facing information for the community
  5. Need to look to standards and noteworthy practices to frame the processes and structure of what the Town does, while leaning forward to make the applications distinct for Vienna. We need to be better at moving studies and projects forward toward implementation in timely manner even in the face of an anti-professional practice narrative being created by some people.

…and looking back at what has been accomplished:

  1. The Community Center is finished and open after sorting thru all the challenges with the original budgeting, contingency funds, architect and contractor.
  2. Starting the Police Station with those lessons learned and bringing in the Town’s project manager early to do meaningful w/ value engineering.
  3. Improvement of the department performance measures in budget…still a work in progress…but there is progress.
  4. Expanding community events like Chillin’ on Church.
  5. Completing updated Strategic Plan for the Town.
  6. Initiating the work to install the traffic adaptive signal system for Maple Avenue.
  7. Adding staff positions for Traffic Engineer, Economic Development Manager, and Sustainability Coordinator.
  8. Preparing (or working on) three items that I stated were necessary when I was Chair of the MAC Steering Committee when the code amendment passed five years ago:  1) Visual Design Guidelines, 2) Multimodal Transportation Study and
    3) Economic Development Study…these finally moved forward once I joined Council.
  9. Budgeting for water and sewer improvements after looking at the gigantic gap in investment.

Looking forward to this election I do have a few observations… In a representative government, the role of your council members is  to represent you in weighing the legal basis, resource challenges, difficult facts, public interest, community aspirations to make decisions to move our Town forward.  One thing I would hope for this election (really for any election) is that voters become informed on the issues before them.  What candidates are really saying about their perspective for the future…to really listen…rather than simply a reaction to one or two past decisions you didn’t like by a candidate. I don’t mean just listening to candidates talking points or some opinion piece on the web or social media. Who is doing the work? Who is taking credit? Where are their ethics amid all the calls for transparency? If the Council is making decisions that affect all property owners, are they themselves equally affected?

To be informed look to original sources, primary information…  For example, you are going to be hearing a lot about “smart growth”…I want you to learn what that means, from independent sources like the American Planning Association, Smart Growth American, and the Coalition for Smarter Growth here in Northern Virginia.  I know Stewart Schwartz the Executive Director there (at CSG), we have had a number of conversations. I will tell you that some of the ideas spinning about being labeled as “smart growth” have little to do with what it actually is in professional practice.

What I am saying is that voter has a responsibility to be, really must, be a discerning consumer of information.  I welcome anyone who is willing to try on this chair to come forward and explain how they plan to bring people together rather than separate…to do the hard work that is necessary.

After my term concludes, I may serve our Town again if invited to specific small roles…otherwise, you are welcome see me about negotiating for a return shipment of Italian beef, fixin’s for real hot dogs, or real pizza prior to my next trip to Chicago…or to stop by and kibitz about gardening as I try to transform my disaster of a yard, or talk about old sportcars…




Can We Get to Solutions?

Below is the longer version from what has been posted with the agenda item on the Town website. (Includes updates from the July 1, 2019 Council meeting.)

My reason for this motion is that we cannot sit around wringing our hands about what should be done or not done…we need to get to solutions that can be acted upon.  The community has discussed this in the context of existing issues as well as impact of future development. We should move forward with this independent of the conversation related to revisiting the 380 Maple Avenue Zoning approval. (FYI — I would expect that once the study scoping occurs, the Town Manager and DPW Director may come back to Council for funding if outside consulting services are necessary as this study is not currently budgeted.)

I will further note that the only requirement I have for this process is that the affected community agrees on that set of solutions; it is their choice I also do not want the TSC and DPW to limit themselves in their recommendations as there are a lot of good, practical and creative transportation safety solutions out there.


Town Council Direction to Transportation Safety Commission (TSC) and Department of Public Works (DPW)
– from Council Member Noble – NEW ITEM

Background:  Where as:

  • The affected neighborhood has identified the need for various traffic safety improvements to address pre-existing and development related issues. However, there has been little consensus on the specific definition of the issues, nor the potential solutions.  No petitions have been submitted to TSC to request study of pre-existing issues. Some 15 years ago there was a request from Glen Avenue residents to NOT have sidewalks, for example; though current comments have discussed the need for pedestrian safety.
  • The Town of Vienna has received proffers from the applicants from 444 Maple Avenue ($16,000) and 380 Maple Avenue ($79,950) for traffic safety improvement to address issues related to their projects.
  • Existing data is available from studies for:
    • 444 Maple Avenue;
    • 380 Maple Avenue;
    • Maple Avenue Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study;
    • Pedestrian crossing study for Courthouse Road SW and Glen Avenue;
    • I-66 Vienna neighborhood impact study; and
  • Street typology concepts connecting land use and transportation from the Town’s Comprehensive Plan

    ….along with other data available from DPW, schools and other sources.

  • The TSC serves as the Town commission where public engagement on transportation safety issues occurs.
  • The DPW can provide through staff or independent consulting services resources to collect supplemental information, analyze data, and make recommendations.
  • Study area defined to include multiple streets to address potential diversion of traffic to other streets in the area (e.g. from Glen Ave/Wade Hampton Dr/Roland St to Pleasant St or Courthouse Rd and vice versa).

Direction: To initiate a transportation safety study for the area bounded by Courthouse Road SW, Nutley Street, and Maple Avenue (inclusive of these streets where appropriate) coordinated with other existing studies and data sources.  The study should examine, but not necessarily be limited to, pedestrian safety and sidewalks, bicycle safety, speed, cut thru traffic, sight distance associated with both existing and future conditions.  The intent is to create a consensus-based suite of recommendations to address infrastructure needs to guide how people drive, bicycle, and walk in this neighborhood. This approach would use the TSC as the pubic body to engage the neighborhood to achieve consensus defining the problem and agreeing to solutions with DPW resources to provide analytical and engineering support to the process.  Note: funding for proffers may only be used for potential improvements to Glen Ave/Wade Hampton Dr/Roland St, other potential improvements would need to be funded through Town resources from the Capital Improvement Program.

Proposed Motion: I move to direct the Transportation Safety Commission (TSC) with the support of Department of Public Works (DPW) resources to initiate a transportation safety improvement study for the area bounded by Courthouse Road SW, Nutley Street, and Maple Avenue. The TSC will act as a convening body to receive information from the public on the nature of the existing issues, impact of future development on those issues, review study scoping in response to the defined set of issues with the DPW, review analysis and recommendations from DPW, and convene meeting(s) with the public to review recommendations and to reach a consensus-based set of agreed upon projects for implementation. This set of proposed project would be recommended to Town Council for approval.


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.

380 Maple West — Comments/Questions on Transportation Impact Study

The following was sent thru Town staff regarding the Transportation Impact Study for 380 Maple Avenue West.

A few overarching comments regarding my review for staff:

  1. WRA Comment #2 – Town staff need to settle and agree which Synchro files were sent to WRA and which ones were sent to KHA…should be the same file set.
  2. We should update the requirements for analysis to HCM 6 and Synchro v10
  3. For a number of underlying reasons, Existing 2018 to Background 2020 LOS degraded by one level (D to E) at the following intersections/times of day):

– AM Peak Nutley St. and Courthouse Rd.
– AM Peak Nutley St. and Maple Ave. (and by 7 to 11 seconds but not by a LOS level for PM and Saturday)

Staff should pay particular attention to this as the timings are put in place for the new traffic signal system.

  1. Scoping… As per Traffic Impact Assessment for Site Development (ITE, 2010) the study area should include “…the first signalized intersection on each street serving the site…” Leaving out Maple Avenue and Courthouse Rd./Lawyers Rd. is problematic since this is the alternate departure route to reach Nutley St.
  2. MAC Application Checklist, Off Street parking – DPZ shows 151 parking spaces. The items here should be consistent with the transportation impact study, see Comment #12 below.
  3. Cut thru traffic potential neighborhood impact. Need to have a robust conversation about neighborhood access and install whatever the necessary devices in the public right-of-way as part of the project implementation. See Comment #13 below.

Here is a bullet list of my specific comments regarding the 380 Maple Avenue for their Consultant (Andy Smith at Kimley-Horn):

  1. 1 – “…include 147 parking spaces divided among garage and surface parking to…” What surface parking?
  2. 2 – Last line of first paragraph…think you mean PM peak hour?
  3. 8 – Introduction 3rd paragraph on changes to development program. Request that the Consultant describes the difference more specifically here and statement about what the change in trip generation and associated transportation impact as a result.  (Would prefer analysis based on actual program as that creates fewer questions and confusion from public…the dynamics of a “conservative” estimate are not well understood.)
  4. 9 – See comment #4 above.
  5. 25 – Trip generation for Vienna Marketplace. More detail needs to be provided here similar to comment on regarding page 3.  Request that the Consultant describes the difference in detail with impact of the change in trip generation and resulting transportation impact analysis. (Would prefer analysis based on actual program as that creates fewer questions and confusion from public…the dynamics of a “conservative” estimate are not well understood.)
  6. 25 – Last paragraph. Include the specified 1.0% per year growth factor. from the scoping document here. In addition it would be helpful if the Consultant summarize the 5 year trend for Nutley St. and Maple Ave. traffic here from VDOT data (it has been declining) and the implication that a 1.0% per year increase is a conservative estimate. Further, it would be helpful to note in the bullet list of pipeline projects what their study assumption was for background traffic growth.
  7. 43 – Table 9: Site Trip Distribution. 1) no associated map/diagram of the directions of approach percentages associated with Table 9 provided. For the lay person it is a hard to discern where the percentages were applied.  Request the consultant provide such a map/diagram, 2) Arguably, a number of the “to the south on Nutley Street” will depart by making a right turn out of Wade Hampton to a right turn on Courthouse Rd. (perhaps Pleasant St.).
  8. 36 and pg. 57. – 1st paragraph on each page. Since the background and future conditions include pipeline development which includes the 444 Maple Ave. project their proffered traffic signal timing, phasing and left turn lane length changes should necessarily be included. This, I believe, is in their total future analysis…staff should check to confirm.
  9. 57 – Total future northbound Wade Hampton delays of 4 to 6 minutes is problematic. Request that the Consultant provide revised analysis of the effect of the proposed revision to the  lane configuration. Refer to Comment #7 is outbound traffic to WB Maple Ave headed west to Oakton or to Nutley street; consider effect of directions of departure percentages.  Delay value based on traffic gaps; are their signal timing strategies at Maple Ave/Nutley St. or Maple Ave./Courthouse Rd. that could create gaps. “DON’T BLOCK INTERSECTION” limit lines an signs…just propose that they should be installed.
  10. 61 – Queuing analysis. Is the 25 ft. / vehicle conservative, average, 85th percentile?  What does a 95% percentile queue mean for the layperson?
  11. 63 – TDM with the website idea, provide computer/monitor in lobby that provides NextBus information.
  12. 64 – Parking demand. Please specific whether this analysis incorporates the conceptually proposed intermediate parking floor or not. Coordinate w/ staff on the number required vs. the MAC Application Checklist, see Comment #5 above. Study lists 147 and staff checklist uses 151. Are any of the incentives taken? Please note if so, or if not.
  13. Cut thru traffic potential neighborhood impact. Need to have a robust conversation about neighborhood access and install whatever the necessary devices in the public right-of-way as part of the project implementation. See Comment #6 above.
  14. General comment. There is no description of the change in pedestrian or bicycle facilities as part of the project development. At a minimum the physical changes is sidewalk width and provision of bicycle parking should be described.

Comments on Draft Maple Avenue Design Guidelines (v1 to Town Council)

Below is a summary of my comments on the Maple Avenue Design Guidelines draft presented at the February 11, 2019 work session ( most of these were in my verbal comments ):

  • Timeline for Design Guidelines and associated MAC Amendments:
    • I appreciate the schedule set up such that the Council that installed the moratorium be the one to remove it.
    • However, this schedule unrealistic for few reasons:
    • Given past recent experience, I do not believe that you can turn around and publicly  post meeting summaries / minutes in advance of the next meeting (especially the workshops prior to BAR the end of March)
    • There is no slack in the schedule.
    • There may be elements of the I believe the moratorium should be extended until the completion of the Maple Avenue Transportation and Land Use Study
  • There are no draft MAC amendments (even a few prospective ones that the guidelines in this state would lead to), you have not created any logical nexus….between a specific element of the guidelines and a code amendment yet (this is amended by receiving the MAC amendments later that week).
  • I understand there was supposed to be a summary and classification of narrative comments, where is that? (Note: a third party did it on his website shortly after the work session…so you are getting beat by public opinion on this).
  • Survey design and drawing conclusions:
    • Concerned about direct connection of survey images to one or more design criteria
    • Concerned that the survey didn’t test the distinction of responses in reaction to architectural elements vis-a-vis design elements.
  • Would the community workshop include both the design guidelines and MAC amendments?
  • How/when to add to the MAC code amendment prior to planning commission review?

Specific questions/comments on Design Guidelines draft:

  • Pg. v “Such lots, which do not rezone to the MAC zoning district, will not be required to follow these guidelines.” Can we provide this as an option for developers to chose to follow under C-1 on Maple – at least the streetscape elements.
  • Some footnotes would be useful for people, for example…why is, “The Guidelines do not require nor can they proscribe any specific architectural style,” stated.
  • “The following graphic depicts some of the elements that are addressed in building design and form.” Missing graphic?
  • 3D renderings.  Need to add language about specific focal length, location(s) and perspective. (page ix)
  • Page ix.  BAR and PC make independent recommendations to TC? Or can PC consider the BAR recommendations as part of its review?  Independent feeding TC or sequential? No work session with TC after BAR and PC recommendations?
  • Beginning page 2 Building form.  One of my biggest annoyances about “modern to look old building” that are broken up facades…. The that the broken up façade would not stand alone as independent buildings e.g. 2 window wide – Sunrise for example… so the scale is off
  • Completely disagree with visual weight image upper right page 2 vs. image on page 1.   That is a modern “Arlington style” differentiation of weights in different building “façade blocks”
  • Page 6 roof line variation— if these building were built in the same period… need to be careful about provide variation in form just because. – Page 6 top image vs. bottom image.
  • Page 16 – seating in Zone 1??? Ah…no.
  • Page 24 – Ginkgo Biloba – specify male cultivar…   Canopy trees – add honey locust.  Are the horse chestnut and maple varieties seedless? — recommended by town arborist. Also encourage native species (especially at ground level plantings). – How does this list compare to our existing list.
  •  Page 25 — #2 spacing of planter boxes… do we really know 15-20 ft relative to streetlight poles
  • Page 24-25 use of structure soil under sidewalk area to support street tree root growth.
  • Page 26 – LEDs lighting / lighting temperature (color).
  • There is a disconnect on the explanation of building massing/design forms for “strong” first floor and is inconsistent with many of the image of “older” design forms. To me a strong base with different color and strength of form is a more modern application to design because it does not have the subtlety of older buildings (1890s thru 1930s)
    • No discussion of transition zones from pedestrian walkways to driveway aprons/alley ways.
    • Clearly delineated /safe pedestrian and bicycle path is parking lots and garages (see ITE publication on subject for example)
    • Clear wayfinding for safe pathways
    • No general message of wayfinding signing for pedestrians at all.

Transportation Impact Assessment Review for Appointed and Elected Officials

A presentation on Transportation Impact Assessment Review for Appointed and Elected Officials was made to a joint session of the Planning Commission and the Town Council on November 5, 2018.  When I left the Planning Commission, Steve Kenney requested that I put to together a summary of what elected and appointed officials need to know about transportation impact assessments.  My good friend Dan Hardy, P.E., PTP, led the presentation. He is Principal with Renaissance Planning and the Chair of the Institute of Transportation Engineers technical committee for new Recommended Practice on Multimodal Transportation Impact Analyses for Site Development.

Key references are:

  • Transportation Impact Assessment for Site Development Recommended Practice (2010) In update.
    Institute of Transportation Engineers
  • Trip Generation Manual 10th Edition (2017)
    Institute of Transportation Engineers
    includes Trip Generation Handbook Recommended Practice 3rd Edition
  • Virginia DOT Traffic Impact Analysis Web page includes: Administrative Guidelines for the Traffic Impact Analysis Regulations (June 2017)


This Sunday’s Events…Everyone Rides Metro It Seems…

Since Town staff and elected leaders are receiving e-mails and questions about the August 12 rally downtown, I thought I would post general version of my personal response to these messages.

The Town of Vienna is very much aware the event planned for Sunday evening in Lafayette Park and that rally participants and counter demonstrators may be planning to travel downtown using Metro from the Vienna station. The Vienna Police Department has already been coordinating with regional law enforcement partners and emergency management organizations with regard to the event as well as keeping the elected leaders informed (myself included).  Information is posted to the Town’s website and social media accounts.

Because of the close proximity of the Vienna Metro Station to the Town of Vienna limits, the Vienna Police Department will be increasing staffing levels throughout the weekend to so that Town residents are not adversely impacted in their daily activities and to address any potential spillover issues. Metro has also posted information about service this weekend. The Town will continue to closely monitor events and will update safety-related information and links to resources as they become available. I would also suggest that, if you have not already done so, to sign up for Vienna Alerts which provides text messages on important Town-related safety information.

While any community can be reflective and learn, I fully believe that our Vienna community respects and values all people.  I especially see this with our young people. While as abhorrent as I personally find this group’s positions and others whose main purpose is to incite violence, I do support anyone’s right to peacefully assemble and voice their opinions while acting within the law.  I also support community members’ right to peacefully protest in response to this group’s activities and would ask that you be mindful of your personal safety as well.   However, as a Town government, necessarily Vienna must remain neutral and committed to protecting the safety and constitutional rights of all citizens, visitors, and rally participants equally.

And, So… Here We Are, Again… MAC Redux #2

Brian Trompeter of the Sun Gazette is doing a follow-up story on the MAC ordinance with the impetus being the standing room only July 9th public hearing on the proposed 444 Maple Avenue West project. He was planning to contact all Council members, plus some other town officials and residents, to get their views on if and how the MAC ordinance needs to be modified. He provided the questions below and I have appended my full responses to him in this blog post.



Given the key location in Town of the proposed development it is not surprising that our community would be engaged about the developer’s application. I have been impressed by the number of people who have prepared thoughtful comments from reviewing the application materials rather than relying on word of mouth opinion or conjecture.


The Mayor had appointed early this spring an ad hoc committee to review the MAC code which was  already reviewing an number of different issues as the community starting expressing its opinions.  The community perspective reinforced that we were examining an appropriate set of topics that have led to proposed amendments that have been referred to the Planning Commission. These topics include further clarification to purpose and intent of MAC, housing density relative to mixed use residential/commercial development, and a number of provisions related to open space, massing, and appearance of buildings.  Additionally, staff has begun work on MAC Design Guidelines which were originally envisioned to be a companion document to be prepared contemporaneously once MAC was passed in 2014.


The key point about the use of incentives is for the Town to get things we want in return for giving something of value to a potential developer.  With the current proposed amendments to the MAC, some of those incentives are scaled-up, for example open space from 10% to 15%. Since the MAC is viewed as living document, looking at incentives is part of the process.

Properties will transform over time along Maple Avenue whether under by-right zoning or under a MAC rezoning.  At the time MAC was developed there was a review of the potential development opportunities along Maple Avenue. Due to various condominium arrangements and restrictive lot covenants the total number of potential sites cited in the Comprehensive Plan is 67%  of the corridor over time depending on how recently a property has been updated and the intent of the property owner.  Today there are as many (if not more) by-right applications along Maple Avenue as MAC applications.


I believe that through MAC code development process we did; given the conditions at the time four to six years ago and the 21 meetings/work sessions/hearings that were open to the public (at least the work the Maple Avenue Vision Steering Committee, staff and the consulting team did).  The MAC was developed using relevant national and Virginia best practices. The steering committee was not only consisted of members of the public, business community, and various Town commissions with purview but also staff providing input on all of these issues as well as the incentives being targeted for the prospective developer to propose those items as part of their proffer package. The code section was designed from the outset to be living document to be updated periodically as conditions evolved or new information was available.


I won’t speculate on what nature of each individual prospective Maple Avenue development might be or what specific impact it could hypothetically create.  Will there be needs to be addressed, likely. Part of the goal with engaging with prospective developers about proffers is to identify resources to address impacts of site development.  Additionally, the Town does have an existing robust Capital Improvement Program funded bonds supported thru the 3% meals tax. I do not foresee, at this point, a change to our approach to the program as more modern, upgraded systems will be a benefit to both residential and business development in the future.


All Town Meetings for proposed actions are open, the public is always welcome to present information at public hearings before the Planning Commission, Board of Architectural Review and Town Council.  And, as always, community members are always welcome to engage with their elected and appointed representatives to the these bodies.

Another important point with developments that proposed under MAC is that there IS NECESSARILY public engagement and public hearings before three government bodies.  On the other hand, a commercial three story by-right development that conforms to all site plan and stormwater management requirements would be approved as an administrative action by staff with no requirement public input.


If we, as a community, think 1960’s/1970’s style auto-centric strip commercial buildings define a wonderful small town…then the short answer is…nothing.  But…what, really, does that lead to?  Stagnation…failure…loss…  There are plenty of examples and none of us want that!

Do we want Maple Avenue to be a vibrant pedestrian-oriented place that is a destination rather than a cut thru? Do we want to create opportunities for new businesses, new housing options, public spaces, leading environmental design, safe and barrier free places?  Do we want to be a small-town as a distinctive place in Northern Virginia in face of development in Falls Church, Mosaic and Tysons Corner?  To do those things requires informed strategies for smart growth and development, that is the goal and aspiration of the MAC code…and as we have learned some of the technical wording may need to be improved, but what we heard through the Maple Avenue Vision process that the steering committee shepherded was what is stated in the purpose and intent statement of the MAC:

The purpose of the Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) Zone is to encourage compact, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development and redevelopment along the Maple Avenue corridor to reinforce Maple Avenue’s role as the Town’s main street. The zone is intended to ensure that development along the corridor promotes Vienna’s small-town character and does not compromise the character of residential neighborhoods abutting the corridor. More specifically, the MAC Zone is intended to:

  1. Encourage compact, pedestrian-oriented development along Maple Avenue East and West that collectively accommodates residents, visitors, and businesses;
  2. Encourage a pedestrian-friendly, human-scale design of streets, buildings, and open spaces;
  3. Foster mixed-use and destination-style retail development along Maple Avenue East and West;
  4. Promote a variety of housing options in the Town;
  5. Enhance the Town’s economic vitality by promoting the preservation and creation a variety of business establishments, including restaurants, services, small and locally-owned businesses, and other uses which contribute to the vitality of Maple Avenue East and West;
  6. Maintain and promote eclectic character and visual interest of building design and site configuration by encouraging a variety of building heights, density, and building mass consistent with Vienna’s small-town character and compatible with surrounding residential neighborhoods;
  7. Provide for a high quality of development along Maple Avenue East and West; and
  8. Improve environmental quality and promote responsible development practices along Maple Avenue East and West;
  9. Encourage the creation of publicly-accessible community gathering spaces, such as parks, plazas, and other open spaces;
  10. Encourage the incorporation of art in sites and buildings through a variety of design elements, natural features, installations and displays in highly visible and publicly accessible locations;
  11. Foster a built environment that is comfortable, safe, accessible, barrier-free and convenient to residents and visitors of all ages and abilities.



Stopping Them from Getting Away with Murder… Tree Edition


Why do you let developers commit wholesale murder of trees? Much of this destruction is totally unnecessary. The town should have better oversight over tree protection on tear-down sites…

I agree…

A challenge the Town has (or an local jurisdiction in the state) is that we cannot exceed the explicitly delegated authority from the state of Virginia (this is unlike Maryland, DC or other states). This plays out in many ways, land use, zoning, etc. but I will address tree canopy issue with this response. The state code states that a development must have 20% tree canopy within 20 years. The Town has be working with our state legislators (Keem and Peterson) to move that to 20% tree canopy in 10 years…and it has been repeated killed in legislative committees. Also, there is no delegated authority for significant tree preservation like DC has…another topic DOA in Richmond.

What has the Town done…well we have NOT thrown up our arms about it. A number of members of the Town’s Community Enhancement Commission (CEC) [n.b. now Conservation and Sustainability Commission, CSC] with experience in the field working with the Town arborist rewrote the planting list for trees/shrubs and their growth rates over time in the context of various best practices. So, what did this do…it effectively means that to get to the 20%/20 years requirement builders need to plant or save more.

What else…The Town arborist reviews all the site plans for new development and road projects. Where there are trees that are unlikely to survive construction due to impact on the root zone or diseased they are allowed to be removed…others are marked to be saved. (for the Follin Lane project I walked my frontage with Town staff and discussed trees, embankment slope and sidewalk location to save trees, this was well prior to my current role with the Town). The are other cases where lot regrading due to low lying ground will kill the root systems (Mashie Dr./Maple Ave. is an example). Proposed planting plan and schedule in the site plan has to be approved by the Town arborist.

In addition, the Town has street tree planting plan that they work thru and provide to developers for their frontages that put ornamental trees under the power lines and canopy trees elsewhere, so there aren’t trees hacked up by the power company. Lastly, the CEC has on-going education efforts about native plants and invasive species and sponsors work days at Town parks to remove invasives.

We can always improve inspections and other elements, so if you see anything that seems amiss on a development site, please report it… that Town’s app is great because you can include a picture and it goes directly into the tracking system (see here for download).

Some Q&A Thoughts, Part 2

[BACKGROUND: The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association asked all candidates four questions for their newsletter. Below is an my response to their questions]

The last town wide traffic calming study was done in 2008.  With all the new developments proposed for Town, how do you believe the Town should deal with all the additional traffic issues that will certainly follow? Should the town be more proactive in traffic control, initiate a new study, and consider new technologies as they develop to move traffic through Town more efficiently?

Our traffic calming program is driven by safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.  We do need to update the Town’s Guide to Traffic Calming to reflect more recent practices and available solutions.  Vienna should develop town-specific street standards to size streets for adjacent land uses (see the new street typology added to 2015 update to the Comprehensive Plan) that are distinct from VDOT residential street standards. We should incorporate traffic calming design into roadway reconstruction projects. The Town has already installed rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFB’s) on Beulah Road which have just recently been reauthorized for use. Further, the Town has allocated funds to purchase active speed feedback signs and is beginning to design a centrally controlled traffic-responsive traffic signal system.

Included in the Parks and Recreation mission statement is a commitment to “maintain 13 parks and numerous trails and stream valleys” in Town.  Many times our streams need extra help during the year besides the town-wide clean ups.  How would you encourage Parks and Recreation to do more clean-ups on a needed time frame.

The first step is to identify and notify the Town that help for a particular location is needed.  In addition to calling, recently the Town has launched a service request web portal ( , also as an iPhone or Android app) where citizens can report a wide range of issues including those with our streams.  The next step is to determine the type of response whether by Town staff for immediate or high risk situations, or something that can be planned and incorporate community members.  An idea I will be exploring with our parks and recreation director this coming year is an “Adopt a Stream” program that could potentially provide more frequent opportunities.