Post #427: Tonight’s Town Council work session.

Posted on October 22, 2019

CORRECTION:  Tonight’s Town Council work session is in the Community Center, not in Town Hall as I stated previously

At the Town Council work session tonight (7:30 PM 10/22/2019), there will be further discussion of changes to our commercial zoning regulations, including MAC zoning.  For this discussion, each Town Council member wrote up (what was supposed to be) a list of the major issues they’d like to see discussed.  You can find those at this web page.  The current game plan then calls for proceeding in three steps:  Hashing out the the overall big picture first, polling the citizens of Vienna second (and perhaps adjusting the big picture as necessary), and then rewriting the statute third.

The first thing I will note about the meeting materials is that the third MAC map — the one that Town Council asked staff to sketch out on-the-fly at the last work session — is not in the meeting materials.  This is the map of a potential MAC zone that only includes properties that are not adjacent to any type of housing (single-family homes or other).  I assumed that staff would not produce this map, which is why I highlighted it in my writeup of the prior Town Council work session (Post  #418).  Also missing is the map that Town Council requested showing what is adjacent to the every MAC-zonable lot.  You could figure out the third map yourself, if you had one that marked what was on the land adjacent to every MAC lot.  In short, staff have provided Town Council with the staff’s options 1 and 2.

Just to be clear, that third map would probably take Giant Food and Danor shopping centers out of the MAC zone, and concentrate MAC buildings with a few blocks at the old commercial core of the Town.  That would greatly restrict MAC redevelopment.  But it would at least be useful if you were to (e.g.) consider varying the height requirements for MAC buildings within the MAC zone.  E.g., maybe that’s where the four-story (or taller?) MAC buildings might go.  Absent that, if there’s going to be a uniform height requirement within the MAC zone, failing to produce that map might just result in no four-story MAC buildings.

Second, just an ongoing peeve of mine.  Given that the Chick-fil-a-car-wash is 62′ to the tallest tower, and 444 Maple West will be over 60′ in places, I sure wish Town Council members would quit saying that the MAC height limit is 54′.  The interior of the building may be limited to that, but what we see on the street is not.

Finally, because there are seven separate statement, I had hoped that Town staff would combine them in some logical fashion.  But maybe that isn’t possible (in the sense that they would not consider it appropriate), and many not possible (in the sense that they were so different, the could not all be put into one chart).

I could not fully capture the statements of Councilman Noble and Councilman Majdi.  Councilman Noble’s statement is more a set of broad questions that a series of particular issues and covers a lot of turf that was not addressed by the others.  Councilman Majdi attached an extensive earlier analysis that I did not have the time to go through again.  I’ve done my best to do the mash up of everything, in one large chart, but I could not capture everything in Councilman Noble’s statement, nor the material in the Councilman Majdi’s lengthy earlier analysis.  I have almost certainly skipped some of the issues in both documents because these were the only two that spent a lot of time on the bigger, more philosophical issues.

It is also worth noting that in some cases, issues were mentioned in the form of a question, not a statement.  If they were mentioned in the context of putting them on a survey of Vienna residents, I noted that.  Otherwise, I think I just put “mentioned” in the slot.  A lot of that was done in the form of questions, not statement, so a lot of things were mentioned.

I realize this is late in the day to be posting this, but I kept hoping Town staff would do it.  FWIW, here’s my grand mashup of the seven statements.  Take it with a grain of salt, because I did this in a hurry at the end of the day.  If I missed something major, I apologize in advanceAt the least, this is a list of issues.

Of the things that I noted as I read this, the one that struck me most forcefully was Councilman Noble’s call for a park-once concept on Maple, along with the option to let private developers “buy in” to public parking.  This, more than anything else, would move Maple closer to the (apparently successful) model of the Mosaic District, with large centralized shared garages feeding a shopping area with minimal on-site retail parking.  And, as far as I can figure, its something that’s flatly impossible to do under current or proposed zoning.  The way I see it, by zoning regulations, every development has to have a minimum amount of parking on their property.  And a fortiori for doing this one lot at a time — you can’t even let adjacent business get together and plan for one large garage instead of two separate garages.  It’s one of those ideas that makes sense, achieves a lot of goals, is used extensively in one local “success story” — and isn’t going to happen in Vienna unless there is some substantial modification of the law and process.

At any rate, here’s my best effort to combine the seven statements.  Not sure this is one of my better efforts.  Take it for what it’s worth.

Seven comments mash-up, 10-22-2019