Post #426: Town Council meeting 10/21/2019

Posted on October 22, 2019

Marco Polo/Vienna Market townhouses



It was an odd night.  That’s the only way I can describe it.

The MAC issue in question was a petition, by a citizen, to have the Town Council overturn the Board of Architectural Review’s final approval of the Marco Polo/Vienna Market development.  The particular point was the plain-looking backs of the Townhouses, clad in siding instead of brick, as the townhouse fronts were.  This disparity between the ornate brick front and somewhat plain siding back was was arguably inconsistent with Town of Vienna code.  For Maple and MAC projects, the zoning code calls for all sides of the building that are visible to the public to be consistent in look and materials used.

In the end, it looks like there was an agreement to add a small amount of brick to the otherwise-all-siding backs of the townhouses.  Basically, the pillars between the garage doors will be brick, and I guess there will be a line of brick over the garage doors.  But the issue will have to come back before the Town Council for final approval at the next meeting.

How they got to that decision, and two-and-a-half hours it took to get there, that was the odd part.

An odd start

Before the actual business got started, Town Council heard a citizen’s complaint about a water bill.  This was the second time this citizen bad been before Town Council with a complaint.  Her complaint was that she had been overcharged on her water bill, and generally mistreated by Town staff and Town Council.  She then made some vague threats and refused to leave the podium when requested.

This was the first time I’d seen the police officer attending a meeting address a citizen.  She came very close to being forcibly ejected from the meeting by the police.  The odd part is that the amount in question appears to have been an overcharge for perhaps 2400 gallons in the last quarter, and presumably similar amounts in prior quarters.  Currently, we pay about 1.3 cents per gallon in combined water and sewer.  Do the math if you wish.  Money apparently really isn’t the measure of all things.

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.*

* Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

With that as the kickoff, you’d think there’d be nowhere to go but uphill.  Well, not so fast.

I’m not even going to do the blow-by-blow.  Find the video on the Town website (archives section of this page) in a day or two and watch it, if you feel the need.  I’ll just give you my impression.

Time after time, what I heard was a mix of contradictory things and incomprehensible things, with no resolution to them.  These areas included the basic legal issue of whether the plaintiff could question this particular aspect of the approval, whether or not Town code required or even suggested what the plaintiff was asking, and the basic logic of the final decision.

Every time I thought I had a handle on the reasoning … the next moment something would knock my feet out from under me, logically speaking.  Near as I can tell, there was never any firm, definitive statement about any aspect of the decision.

Basically the Town chucked all the arguments into a blender, turned it on for a couple of hours, and then …

… poured that all down the drain.  Because, near as I can tell, none of what was said had anything to do with the final decision.

In the end, the developer offered to add a small amount of brick, as a compromise.  The citizen who brought the complaint was OK with that.  Apparently Town Council was OK with that.  The only controversy was whether to accept that in that meeting, on the fly, and grant the final approval right then and there.  Or have the Board of Architectural Review look it over, then grant the approval at the next Town Council meeting.  Town Council opted for the latter.

In any case, I was lost.  I’m pretty much a linear, logical thinker.  And at this meeting, I was a fish out of water.  This was horse-trading, more-or-less, and it didn’t go much deeper than that.  There’s a place for that in this world, for sure.  I’m just not the right person to report on it.