If you read nothing else, please read this.

Posted on August 17, 2018

The following is my summary of the Tequila Grande/444 Maple West proposal, to be discussed at the Monday August 20, 2018 Town Council meeting.

If you look at this one building in isolation, it in fact meets all the zoning criteria.

The town double-checked the traffic analysis. On a road segment with 29,000 cars per day, one additional building, by itself, won't radically alter the situation. In effect, traffic is already so bad that adding one more building will not move the surrounding intersections above the next identifiable threshold of congestion. And as for the neighborhoods, again, the estimated additional cut-through traffic, for this one building alone, will not exceed thresholds that the town uses.

This one building will make traffic worse, but not so much worse that the Town has to pay any attention to it, by its own rules. I don't think that's a surprise.

The town double-checked the water study, and the conclusion is as it was originally. If you apply the same methodology twice, and don't make a mistake, you'll reach the same conclusion. Again, not a surprise.

In neither case does the Town have any new information, and it should not be presented as such. What we have is confirmation that a standard method, with a standard set of assumptions, was applied without making a significant error.

The very large 444 Maple West building will, and should, generate significant additional Town tax revenues. From what I can tell, they made a complete (and biased) hash of the financial analysis. But, again, the idea that the vastly bigger building would generate more tax revenue is entirely plausible. It's not a surprise. A skyscraper on that spot would generate more revenue still. The fact that the town's financial analysis was nonsense is unfortunate, but it's not really the point. If they had bothered to do it right, they would have reached something like the same conclusion, I think.

They make much of transportation demand management and so on. Again, probably, that will have some effect. And if the options were to have a big building full of people with that, or without that, you'd take "with". But that's not actually the comparison we are trying to make. This new building will add more car trips to Maple. Just fewer than would otherwise occur without the (presumed effective) transportation management.

So if you accept the technical accuracy of the studies above -- and we have nothing to dispute that with -- then it more-or-less boils down to a handful of points.

The citizens of Vienna think it's too big, and they don't want it here. "It" being this one big building, in isolation. But the town has been picturing big, blocky buildings on this site since 2010, so the fact of a big, blocky building is not enough to deter them.

The citizens of Vienna understand what the Town Council absolutely refuses to acknowledge: This is not about one building in isolation. This is the Town Council setting about changing all of Maple Avenue. This building sets a precedent.  And there are serious, negative long-run consequences to lining Maple Avenue with buildings like Marco Polo and Tequila Grande/444 Maple West. I've done the arithmetic on the traffic and the population. It's not hard to do.  Its not rocket science, it's just common sense.

So I don't think this is won or lost on the technical merits of one building in isolation. The builder has crossed his t's and dotted his i's, and the Town did due diligence in making sure that the standard methods, with standard assumptions, were applied without obvious error.

If the Town Council wants to turn a blind eye to the obvious long-run consequences of MAC zoning, there's not much we can do about that except complain. That's an exceptionally stupid way to go about doing urban renewal, but it's not illegal. If the Town Council wants to ignore the huge gulf between the Maple Avenue Vision and this building, ditto. It is a totally amoral position, but it's not technically an illegal position. If they want to ignore the fact that this generates no usable open space, and no affordable housing, and so on ... ditto. Writing a law, then ignoring the fact that the law does not work as intended, again, stupid but not illegal.

This is won or lost based on whether or not the will of the people means anything in this case. At this point, at least 800 verified Town of Vienna residents have signed a petition against 444 Maple West. Versus the 8 (unverified) Town of Vienna residents who have signed a near-identical petition in favor of it.  

I think the only thing that matters at this point is whether or not this has any real consequences for those who vote in favor of it.  I don't think anything else much matters. Not reason, not logic, not aesthetics. It just boils down to widespread opposition to anything like this in the Town of Vienna and whether that's just so much hot air.

Please remember who votes for and against this at the next two Town Council elections.  It's the only way the voice of the people will be heard.

Let me sum it up with two pictures.

Here’s the count of individuals who signed a petition against 444 Maple West:

Here’s the count of those who signed a look-alike for 444 Maple West.


Christopher Hogan, 226 Glen Ave SW, Vienna VA