Post #675: Meanwhile, back in Vienna, VA, it’s the gestation period for son-of-MAC.

Posted on April 29, 2020

I have been asked once again to post on Town of Vienna issues.  This directly relates to MAC zoning, so it gets back to the original purpose of this website.

I refuse to take a lot of time with this.  So here goes.

1:  You may recall that the Town passed MAC zoning in 2014.  Then, in 2015 or maybe 2016, depending on who’s counting what, the Town revised its comprehensive plan to match what MAC zoning called for.  And, to be clear, yes, that is in fact backwards, and no,  that’s not how it’s supposed to work, and yes, that’s another classic ready-fire-aim episode by the Town of Vienna powers that be.

But that’s what the Town did.

2:  There’s currently a moratorium on new MAC applications.  This ends in June.  The Town needs to extend that, as I have already described, prior to the pandemic (Post #542).  At the Monday 4/27/2020 Town Council meeting, they made the formal motion to start that in progress.

3:  But, in fact, the plan is to set this up so that the outright repeal of MAC zoning will be Councilmember Noble’s last act in office.   (Why the last-minute high drama, I don’t quite grasp, but it is what it is.  I only ever worked with business people, not politicians, so the fact that I find this un-business-like really isn’t a deciding factor.)  I wrote about that in Post #539, after Councilman Noble corrected a post that I wrote about the moratorium.

4: At the last meeting, Councilmemeber Majdi, with support (only) from Councilmember Patel moved that, if we’re dropping MAC from our zoning, then, logically, we should also drop those MAC-like provisions from the Comprehensive Plan.  Because, ultimately, if you follow the letter of the law in Virginia, any subsequent zoning has to match the Comprehensive Plan.   (The fact that Vienna ignored that, when passing MAC in the first place, is water over the dam.)  If you leave it in the Comprehensive Plan, then you haven’t really killed it. You’ve just pretended to.

5:  That was met with strenuous objection from the usual cast of characters.

6:  Let me now explain why.  In a nutshell:  If you leave it in the Comprehensive Plan, then you haven’t really killed it.  You’ve just pretended to.  And that’s the point of leaving it in, from the Old Guard’s perspective.

6.1:  The Town is moving ahead with its quarter-million dollar consulting contract for rewriting the entire Town of Vienna zoning code.

This, despite the fact that all of those cute little “community engagement” activities that were part of the work plan, for getting “citizen input” on the zoning, are no longer possible.  (And will certainly be inadvisable for the forseeable future.)  Thus, to me, anyway, revealing just how little it matters what citizens think about this.  It’s almost as if the Department of Planning and Zoning already knew what answer it was going to get, without needing input from the citizens.

6.2:  If the MAC-like provisions (medium-density mixed-use on Maple) remain in the Comprehensive Plan, the Town’s quarter-million-dollar zoning consultant must include that as part of the overhaul of commercial zoning.  That’s literally written into the Scope of Work for the contract.  Zoning must match the Comprehensive Plan.

6.3:  So, by keeping the “MAC” portion of the Comprehensive Plan, the Old Guard and the Department of Planning and Zoning guarantee that MAC lives on.  The new commercial zoning will be Son of MAC. Because they have successfully fought to keep it in the Comprehensive Plan, and have required that the new consultant tailor the revised zoning to match the Comprehensive Plan.

So the new zoning for Maple will have those MAC-like provisions, but they will now be by-right zoning.  No more messy public hearings and such.

And Town Council can pretend to have clean hands about new development along Maple.  Oh, we didn’t do that.  We had an expert consultant tell us to do that.  It’s by-right, there’s nothing we can do about it.

7..  And so the upshot of a 1000-signature petition against 444 Maple West, and defeating incumbents in the last election, with a huge voter turnout, and so on ….  The upshot of all of that is to have son-of-a-MAC crammed down our throats as by-right development. 

8.  If you wonder why I endorsed Majdi, wonder no more.  His position on this is forthright, logical, easy to grasp, and matches what (e.g.) Fairfax County does.  If you are sincere about getting rid of MAC zoning, then strip the MAC-like provisions from the Comprehensive Plan.  Zoning is supposed to match the Comprehensive Plan.   Doing anything but that is just a smoke screen.

And if you wonder why I can’t stomach the Old Guard any more, it’s exactly for crap like this.  In the middle of a pandemic, with high risk of a global great depression, with the US Senate talking about amending the law to allow States to go bankrupt, with public gatherings extremely inadvisable even where not outright banned … they’re just continuing to push their agenda.

Next thing you know, Planning and Zoning will be meeting with developers, figuring out how they can best tailor the new zoning to meet their needs.  While you, the public — you’re in lockdown.

I guess from their perspective, if life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  But man am I sick of these people.

I have other things to worry about.