Post #290: Public meetings this week.

Posted on June 3, 2019

This week there there is one Town of Vienna public meeting directly related to MAC zoning. Two different buildings will be discussed in two separate sections of that meeting.

Tonight, Monday 6/3/2019, at 8 PM in Town Hall, the Town Council will have public hearings on both 380 Maple West (39 condos plus retail, Maple and Wade Hampton) and the Sunrise Assisted Living facility (100-bed assisted living facility, Maple and Center).

For the 380 Maple West public hearing, this is the third session of the public hearing.  Some Vienna citizens asked the Mayor what the rules are (who may speak at this session), and the answer appears to be that only citizens who have not spoken before on 380 Maple West may speak at this portion of the meeting.  To the best of my understanding, that is the rule for 380 Maple West.

In all likelihood, the Town will close the public hearing on 380 Maple West and vote on it at this meeting.

For the Sunrise Assisted Living public hearing, this is the first public hearing by the Town Council, and anyone may speak for up to three minutes.

The meeting materials may be found at this location:

Commentary, 380 Maple West.

You can use the “Posts by Category” drop-down menu to find everything I have written about this proposed MAC building.

Functionally, to me, the building appears unchanged from the prior round.

The revised proposal for 380 Maple West nominally converts two of the condos to storage units, dropping the number of condo units to 37.  But it doesn’t actually remove those rooms or materially change the size of the building.  Those are just now repurposed as “storage units”.  Nothing prevents the builder from converting those back to condos once the Town Council approves the proposals.  (The proffered limit on the number of units is 40.)

To an economist, that has the appearance of pure smoke-and-mirrors.  Storage space is a low-value use of space.  Condos are a high-value use of space.  At the last minute, permanently converting two sellable condo units to storage seems extremely unlikely to me.

This proposal also includes seizing land from the most severely affected nearby household, for the construction of a sidewalk.  At the suggestion of Town Council members, no less.  You can see my scathing take on this in Post #287.  As an extra added bit of salt in the wounds, not only would this cost the builder nothing, it might even save him money.  Instead of building a difficult stretch of sidewalk on Glen (i.e., building a sidewalk over an existing drainage ditch), he would instead build a straightforward stretch of sidewalk on Wade Hampton.

To my eye, the various truck-turn and parking diagrams in the proposal remain a mixed-up and inconsistent mess.  This is perhaps the 4th or 5th attempt at providing a true and accurate presentation of the situation, and the results have been fudged every time.  Near as I can tell, the diagram shows people parking on the sidewalks, and truck turns only take place in the absence of parking, or some such.  At each iteration, Town staff have done nothing to correct the situation — it has always been up to the citizens to point out the errors.

At this point, we might as well concede the reality of the situation, which is that as long as there is a diagram supplied, Town staff are going to check the box on that.  It just doesn’t matter what the builder actually puts on that diagram, because Town staff appear to be willing to OK … pretty much anything.

For my take on the loss of street parking, see Post #238, revised.  It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.  Just look at the pictures in that post.  Wade Hampton will be narrower than Center Street north-bound, where it hits Maple.  It will be striped just like Center Street north-bound.  Unlike Center Street north-bound, you’ll have trucks doing Y-turns on Wade Hampton.     Ain’t no street parking on that segment of Center Street.  I can’t see how you can conjure up a bunch of street parking on the equivalent stretch of Wade Hampton.

I mean, the Town started this process by, in effect, giving the developer 4′ from the public right-of-way.  Wade Hampton is currently 36′ wide, but will be narrowed by 4′, thus allowing the developer an additional 4′ of width for his building.  (Yes, of course all 4′ of narrowing will be done on the developer’s side of the street, that’s the point.)  But even after ceding 4′ of the right-of-way, and striping this for three lanes, apparently nobody may officially say that there is a significant loss of public parking.  Hence, diagrams that show anything but that.

To me, this is a classic illustration of why you can’t have a reasoned discussion of MAC buildings.  You can’t say “what is the value of the lost public parking”.  You can’t say “how can we mitigate the loss of public parking”.  All the Town will allow to be said, officially, is that there is no material loss of public parking.  And in that climate, what can a rational person do?

Commentary, Sunrise

Again, to see everything I have written, use the “Posts by Category” drop-down menu.  A summary of the evolution of the building is in Post #282, and data showing just how jam-packed this site will be, compared to other Sunrise sites, is given in Post #279.  My most recent contention is that if the Town is going to ask more from Sunrise, it should be in the form of municipal parking at that site (Post #289)

It may be worth repeating the three key graphs here, just to remind people of how little extra space is available at this site, and why, based on that, it might make the best sense to allow Sunrise the use of all four floors of its building, rather than force them to provide retail space on the first floor.  But that the presence or absence of this facility does not really restrict our access to assisted living.

First, the standard operating model for Sunrise in this area appears to be a 100-bed facility, more or less.  That’s what the yellow highlight below is trying to show.  Only two facilities in this area (of all facilities for which per-bed rates were reported in 2018) fall below that.  My guess is, that may be the minimum efficient scale, and facilities smaller than that have higher costs per assisted living bed.  The upshot is, Sunrise really wants no less than 100 beds.  (This is from Post #205)

Second, 100 beds on this site makes this, by far, the most densely-populated Sunrise in Northern Virginia in terms of beds/acre.  Even accounting for the fact that most Sunrise facilities are low-rise (typically three floors, sometimes less), this is a densely-packed site by their standards.  (This is from Post #279)

But there are plenty of assisted living options in Northern Virginia, and more are being built all the time.   This map shows all facilities licensed by the Commonwealth as assisted-living facilities, again from Post #205.  In a wealthy region such as Northern Virginia, there is no lack of choice for assisted living options.