Post #546: Last night’s Town Council meeting

Posted on March 10, 2020

Cedar Lane I-66 bridge will (probably) close for six months, starting before this summer.

There wasn’t much to last night’s (3/10/2020) Town Council meeting.  The Town has already posted a link to its recording on the Town’s website (but no link to the recording is posted yet on the Granicus site). The meeting materials can he found at this link.

Three public hearings set

The Town’s regular business was contained entirely in the consent agenda, which took them about one minute to pass.  Mostly, this set the dates for three legally-required public hearings, on:

Last year, nobody even showed up to talk at the sewer and water rate public hearing.  This may be due, in part, to the fact that the Town didn’t do much to advertise that it was raising those rates.  You just have to be tuned in to know that.  But after the fact, there seemed to be some significant complaints about last year’s increase (which was, in fact, the second year of increases in what appears to be a five-year plan, as outlined in Post #448.)  I’m just saying that if you are going to kvetch, the time to do it is on 4/13/2020.

Otherwise, for the other two public hearings, a) I can’t imagine they would materially change the Town’s property tax rate, and b) there’s no way you’re going to understand the Town budget anyway unless you want to devote a couple of days to working through it.  If then.  So, my guess is, for citizen involvement in this process, the sewer and water rates are it.  Even then, given that the Town appears committed to five years of increases, it’s not at all clear that they’d be willing to listen to gripes about the rates.

Cedar Lane bridge over I-66 will be coming down soon.  Probably.

The bulk of the meeting was a presentation about plans to replace the Cedar Lane bridge over I-66.  That’s on the map at the top of the page.

The written materials (this link, .pdf) were vastly clearer than any of the discussion about the key point.  Which, somehow, both the presenter and the Town Council failed to make clear.

The bridge isn’t wide enough to accommodate the new I-66, so it has to be replaced.  They have two options for doing that.  Key point:  They can take the bridge down fast and cheap, but that requires closing Cedar Lane at that bridge for about six months.  Or, they could replace it and keep Cedar Lane open, but that would take longer and cost more.

The pitch from the I-66 project representative was entirely about how much better the fast and cheap option was.  That might even be true.   They got zero pushback from Town Council, not even to clarify this point (that the road could be kept open), which the presenter completely failed to mention in her oral presentation (although that was clear on the written materials.)

I’m not sure whether all seven Town Council members missed that point, didn’t care about that point, figured the I-66 contractor made the right decision?  Or maybe I’m just plain wrong and this thing that was labeled a proposal, with two options, was actually a description of a done deal, with no choice, and so they presented the second option … just because?

All I know is, it was confusing as all get out to listen to the discussion of this awful, horrible, no-good “three phase construction” (the second option) without any mention of the fact that the “three-phase construction” is what lets you keep the road open.

So, for those who live in the area, the tradeoff between the two options is getting it over with in six months but closing Cedar Lane at I-66 for that time period, versus taking more like two years, but keeping the road open.  If you listen to the presentation and discussion, you’ll be hard pressed to get that, which is why I’m saying it here.  In the meeting, this was discussed like the first option was a done deal, not merely the I-66 contractor’s preference.  Which it may well be, for all all know.  Maybe the slower option, keeping the road open, isn’t really an option at this point?  In which case, I’m confused as to why it was even raised or discussed.

The I-66 contractor is going to hold some sort of community meeting at Thoreau middle school in late March.  If you live in that area, you might want to plan to attend that.  At which point, the first thing to clarify is whether or not there is an option as to which way they do this, or whether that decision has been made, and that the point of the meeting is just to notify you that Cedar is going to be closed for six months starting soon.

I’m pretty sure that nobody has any systematic information on what the directly affected Vienna residents think.  With 20-20 hindsight, this would have been a great opportunity for a Town-sponsored survey to ask those directly affected which of the two options they preferred.

But, duly noted, if that decision has already been made, there’s no point in asking for citizen input now.  I just can’t quite figure out whether or not that decision has been made.  Last night’s discussion sure made it sound that way, but if so, presenting two options makes no sense.

As usual, I’m not confused because I’m stupid, I’m confused because I’m paying attention and something doesn’t make sense.

Other business.

Councilman Springsteen noted that Sunrise had (finally) dropped its lawsuit against the Town (Post #529).  It’s about time, as I said in that post, as the lawsuit was nothing but a liability to them at this point.  They already have approval to build at 380 Maple West (Maple and Wade Hampton).

The Town is reviewing its continuity-of-operations plans in light of the coronavirus.   Those plans are limited to laying out how they will keep essential Town services running in case this turns into a pandemic.  Anything having to do with health care, we still have to look to Fairfax County and the Commonwealth for any planning.  The Town will put an easy-to-find link for coronavirus updates on the website, but right now, it’s a link in the rotating box on the left of their website, linking to a .pdf with the Town’s information.

Streets and paving and street-sweeping.  One citizen complained about the rough state of our streets, and Councilman Noble noted that he had fielded several complaints about a poorly-done repair on Maple. I have to say that my perception is that the Town’s streets are, in fact, pretty rough.  Particularly given how wealthy the Towns residents are, on average.  But I know that DPW actually has some measure of average state of repair, and maybe I need to look up that information over time and see if, by that measure, there has been measurable deterioration in the average road surface.

By contrast, Councilman Potter thanked DPW for repaving part of the sharp corner on Glen (near and dear to my heart, as we have to walk on that pavement to get around that corner, and it was treacherous at night.)  So a public thanks here to Councilman Potter and DPW for getting that done.  (My wife and I walked up there as they were paving and thanked the crew in person — that’s how much we appreciate getting that one small patch of road repaved).  I had taken two nighttime falls, walking that stretch of road, over this past winter, and I had just about given up on that.

Councilman Springsteen took pains to bring out the fact that the streets are swept at least twice a year.  And that the plan is to keep the newest street sweeper in continuous operation in the non-winter months.  (As an aside, street sweeping is how we comply with Chesapeake Bay Act regulations on storm water quality.  That’s another story entirely — search “final oddity” in this post.  My point being, sure, we sweep the streets for benefit of the citizenry, but it certainly appears that we also do it to avoid making any material changes in storm water management.)

Councilman Majdi noted that his microtransit proposal had been submitted, with full support of Fairfax County.  Both Vienna and Herndon submitted proposals for microtransit, and the funding agency apparently will decide on those in the next few months.  If you have no clue what microtransit is, think hybrid between Uber and a bus.  You can read Post #407 or Post #414 (for which apparently nobody spotted the pun embedded in the title.)

Finally, there was a lot of talk about the recent gun store robbery here in Vienna, but nothing actionable.  As it turns out, there’s no legal requirement that such institutions have any additional security beyond what you’d find in any store.  That said, per the Town of Vienna police, that store had cameras, alarms, and bars on the windows — and will still successfully robbed.  About 25 firearms were taken.  The other thing I didn’t know is that we have not one, but two gun stores in Vienna — one on Maple, one on Mill.