That Was Then…and Now…

I was so much older then.  I’m younger than that now.

My Back Pages — Bob Dylan

When I started my career as a young engineer right of out of Purdue University, I went to work for the City of Los Angeles Transportation Department.  As you would expect, in LA, we were all about moving traffic…cars, buses, trucks, etc. At the time the city was spending tens of millions of dollars expanding its traffic responsive signal system…that was 25+ years ago. We followed the standards and guidelines…and we really moved traffic.  The Rolling Stones concert at the L.A. Coliseum we could completely empty in about 45 minutes, lots of green signals in the traffic peaks, rush hour traffic lanes ticketed and towed by parking officers…all the most aggressive approaches to address congestion.

Fast forward 16 years later, when I worked at the District Department of Transportation in Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to work with Karina Ricks on the city’s Great Streets Initiative under Mayor Williams.  This approach was to create urban spaces on major thoroughfares in the city using infrastructure projects.  The city did a lot of design work when I was there and some of the projects have been built, most notably H Street, NE. The city also was aggressively moving forward with traffic calming, bicycle lanes and other approaches to make neighborhoods safer and provide alternate transportation options

Through this process my perspective about the purpose of streets changed…

Streets are for people. 

When streets are designed for people, businesses are successful, engagement between community members increases, safety improves. What transportation a person choses to use is a product of the type of trip they making between different activities.

  • Drive to and park the car to go grocery shopping, pick up dry cleaning, and a cup of coffee.
  • Walk to a restaurant
  • Take shuttle bus to Metro to work.
  • Bicycle to school and the park

Land uses should not be driven by parking lot size and driveway entrances simply for cars. Choices for land uses should driven by the communities needs for residences, businesses, parks, libraries at the like. Streets are a means not an end; more simply they connect people to activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absentee Ballot Application Deadline Tomorrow, 5:00pm

For more information online on absentee voting go to Fairfax County Department of Elections:

By Mail

Deadline to apply for an absentee ballot online, mail, fax or email: Received by the Office of Elections by April 26, 5 p.m.

What you need to do:

  • You can apply for your absentee ballot online; Or: Print the online absentee ballot application (PDF). Absentee ballot applications are also available at county governmental centers and library branches, or call the Office of Elections at 703-222-0776 (TTY 711).
  • Complete the absentee ballot application (PDF) – make sure you sign the application.
  • Fax the application to the Office of Elections at 703-324-3725, or email the application to absenteeballot@fairfaxcounty.gov. Or, mail to the Office of Elections, Box 10161, Fairfax, VA 22038.
  • Once your application is received, your absentee ballot will be sent to you within three business days, beginning no later than Jan. 15. If you have questions about your ballot, call the Office of Elections at 703-222-0776 (TTY 711).

The deadline for your mail-in absentee ballot to be received by the Office of Elections is Election Day, May 3 at 7 p.m.

You can keep tabs on the status of your mail-in absentee ballot application and ballot. Go to the Virginia Citizen Portal and click on Absentee Status.

 In Person

Fairfax County Government Center, Suite 323
12000 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035

Weekdays March 18 to April 29
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Thursday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday Schedule, April 30, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(April 30 s last day to absentee vote in-person)

Biggest Changes in Vienna over the Next 5-10 Years

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

What do you anticipate will be the biggest changes to life in Vienna in the next 5-10 years [with the new Maple Avenue Corridor development options, growth in Tyson’s Corner, widening of I-66 and potential for increasing traffic levels]?

First and foremost, I believe that Vienna will find ways to maintain that sense of community that ranks our town as one of the best places to live.  We should not be fearful for the future, rather we should be prepared with presence and advocacy for what we want in our Town as distinct from Tysons, Falls Church, Merrifield, or the rest of Fairfax County.  That is not stay we should be stagnant or try to turn back the clock. We are in 2016 and there are important new challenges to be able to expand the Town’s vibrant community.

We need to look forward while understanding what make our Town special, looking backward to remember who we are…looking forward, finding ways we can, rather then reasons we can’t. We need to have that conversation, together!

People and Housing
Demographics of Vienna will change with more older residents looking to downsize from single family homes.  New families will be moving into town looking for single family homes near the growing employment center in Tysons.

The trend of residential teardowns and larger, new homes will continue due to market demand.  However, Town staff will step up their reviews the proposed and final site plans for conformance to Town codes. We will see housing alternatives for young couples and empty nesters such as condominium and townhome residences as part of Maple Avenue redevelopment. We will find methods to encourage retention of mid-range price point single family homes. The Town of Vienna will be challenged to find housing in the community for its employees to both live and work here. The Town’s zoning code will become a living document rather than a ‘once every five year set and forget’ exercise.

Business
We will see new businesses established and some others come and go.  Vienna will become a distinct destination rather than simply a path to work. Residents of Tysons will come to Vienna to shop and eat. The Town will define an economic vision for development and leverage supporting incentives or credits available to encourage the foundation and expansion of local and small businesses.

Civic Engagement
With addition of new residents from younger generations, the Town will move to embrace the current trends in using technology to connect with its citizens and businesses. Printed newsletters and information will still be issued to the community, but many residents will receive their information though smart phones and tablets. Elected and appointed officials along with staff will become a strong presence in northern Virginia advocating for Vienna’s distinct community. There will be increased civic engagement in community and regional issues.

Transportation
Maple Avenue will remain congested but adding the focus on community with unifying street design, improved walkability, and more transit service. VDOT has several projects in the works that could potentially affect Maple Avenue that will be completed in this time frame: the I-66 Outside the Beltway Project, the East-West Integrated Corridor Management Study and the VA Route 123 widening in Tysons as part of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan build-out. We can expect some diversion onto Maple Avenue where construction will be involved . Post-opening, we will likely see an easing of cut through traffic in Vienna due to the highway project and expansion of transit service from Vienna Metro to Tysons…but will build back up over time in the 10-20 year time horizon.

Each of these projects and studies provide an opportunity to work collaboratively with VDOT to leverage money improvement the Town’s traffic signal system and regional transit service. The Maple Avenue zoning amendments give the Town control over development and the amount of parking and traffic created in comparison to by-right development. The mix of uses on along Maple Avenue will allow people to put together multiple trips by parking once and walking from place to place.

The Town through the Comprehensive Plan and the Town’s transportation design standards will see residential streets designed for people and the adjacent land uses rather simply for traffic. There will be more neighborhood roundabouts designed and installed beyond the first one at Park and Locust Streets SE.

Over the longer term horizon we will see the changes in traffic operation and safety in the 10-20 year range with the increased availability of connected vehicles that use communications for crash avoidance and driving in congested conditions.

Public Administration
The Town will continue to maintain its Aaa Bond Rating and will further align its strategic plan to programmatic and capital budgeting.  There will be an on-going conversation about the value of Town services vs. the tax rate and tax assessments especially in the context of Fairfax County’s increasing rates and assessments.  The Town will move toward a performance management approach to administration of departments.

The Town will continue to be successful in capturing grant money for infrastructure projects to improved roads, sidewalks, storm drainage.  The Public Works Department will be providing expanded performance measure information based on outcomes citizens rather than simply quantities. We will go through another financial and programmatic evaluation to determine whether the value of the Town’s water and sewer system is best managed by the Town or transitioned to Fairfax Water.

 

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.