First Tuesday in May, 8/22/2018

Posted on August 22, 2018

At the 8/20/2018 Town Council meeting a decision was made to suspend MAC for between 120 and 270 days.  In fact, that announcement was how the meeting started.

But this pause is NOT to fix anything substantive in the law.  As I noted in my review of the meeting, Councilman Majdi asked about that four times, and the Mayor failed to respond.  Four times.

Instead, this is to allow time to develop “visual design guidelines” for MAC zoning.

Several things make that an odd decision.

First, MAC zoning law already has significant visual design guidelines in the law (see below).   I’ve taken all the diagrams, illustrations, and drawings that are in the MAC zoning regulation as of 8/22/2018 and append them to the end of this page.

Second, if you don’t change the basic parameters of MAC zoning, you’re still going to get great big buildings.  So, at first glance, nothing about any “visual guidelines” will have any effect on what is legal or illegal to build on a lot.  It won’t address the basic objections that many have expressed about these MAC buildings.

Third, “visual design guidelines” is an amorphous term that could mean practically anything.  It could be anything from a few pages of pictures to a detailed and prescriptive handbook.

Fourth, major aspects of the law, such as the requirement for open space, are clearly broken, yet the Town has no interest in fixing them.  It just takes a little arithmetic to show that.  Once you know something is not working as intended, why leave it broken and turn your attention to other things?  Particularly when the “public open space” was the quid-pro-quo of MAC zoning.  It was what the Town was going to get, in exchange for allowing these new bigger buildings full of housing on Maple.

So, instead of addressing the problems that have been identified, the Mayor has chosen to suspend MAC for up to 270 days, in order to develop these seemingly-redundant “visual design guidelines”.

It’s almost as if they just made that up as an excuse.  But an excuse for what?  For not taking action to fix the law?  That makes no sense — this doesn’t excuse them for not fixing what’s broken, at least.

And … 270 is such an odd number.  So MAC is suspended for between four-ish months and nine-ish months.  Why 270?

I now note that it is 260 days from 8/20/2018 to 5/7/2019.  First Tuesday in May.  Election day in the Town of Vienna.

Coincidence or not, the Mayor just gave herself the option to take MAC zoning off the table, through the next Town election.   I believe three seats are up at the next election, and two are filled by strongly pro-MAC Town Council members.  Loss of even one of those would shift the balance of power for any development that had been successfully protested by the neighbors.

Now that’s a functionality that I can understand.  The rest of it just leaves me puzzled.  And if anyone can still wonder why I don’t trust the Town Council on this, well, let’s see if MAC is still suspended come next election.

I’ll now include all the illustrations in the MAC statute.  Hilariously enough, they are ALL illustrations of modest little buildings.   Two stories, sometimes there’s a third story there.  But they are what the Town used to provide visual guidance as to how the buildings ought to look.