Post #536: Last night’s “Community Conversation”, 1: A brief review, and one useful fact about requesting Town services

Posted on March 3, 2020

Source:  Town of Vienna Website.

Last night (3/2/2020) the Town held a “community conversation“.  Admirably, they already have the video posted at this link.

Nominally, the “conversation” was about the two topics chosen by the Town.  These were a proposal to expand the single-family-home lot coverage limit beyond the current (and long-standing) 25%.  And, separately, what priority should be given to (what appears to me to be a subset) of projects recommended in the Town’s multimodal transportation study.

Offhand, I’d say that the room was full and that the number of speakers was in the low dozens.

A quick review.

Lot coverage.  Here’s the existing law.

Not more than 25 percent of a lot shall be covered by buildings, accessory buildings, automobile parking spaces and access, sport courts, tennis courts, patios and terraces. Decks, as regulated in section 18-169, may not cover more than five percent of the total area of a lot.

Aside: I always thought that 25% was actually a limit on impervious surfaces, and that you could dodge that (to a degree) by using pervious pavement for (e.g.) your driveway.  But after last night’s “conversation”, I’m no longer so sure about that.

The proposal would, in some way, raise that to 30%, with the additional 5% going toward “outdoor living spaces”.  Exactly what constitutes such a space, I’m not sure.  I think that’s still up for grabs.

With all the things that are up in the air, in the Town of Vienna, with respect to zoning — because the Town has chosen to rewrite all the zoning, in a two-year process, with a quarter-million-dollar consulting contract — I’m not sure why the proposal to expand lot coverage is so clearly front-and-center.

That said, by ear, I think citizen sentiment ran about 2:1 against expanding lot coverage For what that’s worth.   See the point about surveys, below.

Multimodal study projects.  You can see my opinions of the “projects” portion of the multimodal study in (e.g.) Post #359 or Post #362.   There’s still no cost-benefit analysis.  Without that, I don’t really see how they intend to make reasonable choices.  Arguably, the Town is going to let this exercise stand in for the benefit side of a cost-benefit analysis ….

… So I guess I should repeat what I’ve said about on-line surveys, from Post #462.

Surveys done at events and self-select internet surveys have a tremendous potential for survey selection bias.  By contrast, random-sample mail surveys and (historically, at least) random-digit-dialing phone surveys had far less potential for that.

I’m still not quite sure what use the Town plans to make of whatever information it gathers in this way.  If any.  Better that they ask for opinions, than not, I guess.

One useful thing — how to request services from the Town of Vienna

This was mentioned in passing last night, and I thought it was worth giving it a mention here.  If you want to request some sort of service from the Town, there’s an app for that.  Also, an on-line form.  You can get to both of those via this web page on the Town of Vienna Website.

Never heard about that, before this meeting, but I now have it from a Town Council member that this is the preferred channel for asking the Town to do something for you.  Mostly these are public works and police services.  So if you have an issue with (e.g.) potholes, stray dogs/wild animals, stormwater backups, and so on, the preferred way to reach the Town is via the form accessible on that web page.