Posted on August 15, 2018

Edited 9/14/2018 to remove discussion of meetings prior to the 9/17/2019 Town Council meeting.

For the meeting on the August 20th, the text of the amendments is in red, here (.pdf).  This appears unchanged in the materials for the September 17 Town Council meeting.

Arguably the most important change was a proposal to set a limit on density (dwelling units per acre), with the possibilities shown here (.pdf).  As of now, in counting dwelling units, the Town proposes to make no distinctions among dwelling units, (e.g.) an efficiency apartment and a four-story 3200 square foot townhouse each count as one dwelling unit.

The “ad-hoc committee” on MAC changes recommended a density of 50 dwelling units per acre for a site like 444 Maple West.  Currently, that proposal is at 57 units per acre, and could easily meet a 50 units/acre limit by consolidating a few units.

If that recommendation were accepted, the Town Council would use the density limit to codify, in law, that buildings like 444 Maple West are perfectly fine with the Town of Vienna.  In the letter I reference below, this is what I call the “shut up” option.  This does nothing more than tell the citizens of Vienna to shut up, without changing the actual MAC building proposals in any material way.  Separately, as outlined in the letter reference below, it forever prevents having any real affordable housing program under MAC.

For those who can do a little math, 50/acre x roughly 70 MAC-developable acres = 3500 new dwelling units, or maybe 6000 new residents, in the long run.  If all the property that is thought to be MAC-developable along Maple eventually gets developed under MAC.  Or a little over a one-third increase in Vienna’s population, with all of it on Maple Avenue.  This simple calculation is nowhere to be found among the Town Council’s materials, and apparently does not enter into their thinking, at all.

In addition, the Town is considering “grandfathering” the first-floor area of any commercial space already on these lots along Maple.   Builders would be required to include at least that much commercial space in any building that replaced one of the existing buildings on Maple.

Changes also include language that makes MAC appear to be more oriented toward Vienna residents.  E.g., instead of just asking for “destination retail”, it now asks for “neighborhood-serving” retail as well.

My opinion is that, while much of the new language about “neighborhood-serving” sounds nice, none of that new language is enforceable.  My (somewhat harsh) analysis of the proposed changes is here (.pdf), in the form of a letter to the Planning Commission.