MAC comes full circle, 10/8/2018

Posted on October 8, 2018

The Purple Onion was mentioned in passing at the 10/4/2018 Town Council work session.  In this post, I’m going to explain why I found that important.

In a nutshell, one of the Maple Avenue property owners who helped write the MAC law is now (apparently) getting ready to sell property under that law.  Hence the title of this page.

Separately, the Town Council’s 10/4/2018 discussion of the Purple Onion was disturbing in that it suggested that Town Council may view neighborhoods adjacent to Maple as assets to be exploited in maximizing the value of landholdings on Maple.  This may in part explain what I characterized elsewhere as “Town to Citizens:  Drop Dead”.

Detail follows.

The Purple Onion is a successful catering business with a location on Maple Avenue.  It sits between two properties already under consideration for MAC zoning:  444 Maple West and 380 Maple West.

Here’s Maple just up from Nutley now.  The Wolf Trap Motel is the large pair of buildings at the right.

Here’s the same block, showing properties currently under consideration for MAC rezoning.  The red arrow points to the location of Purple Onion Catering.

(As an aside, I must mention that the picture of 444 Maple West is old.  A simple straight-on side view of the revised version has not yet been released. )

The first time I heard the Purple Onion mentioned in discussion of MAC was at the first meeting of the Town of Vienna Planning Commission dealing with 444 Maple West.  Many individuals spoke out against 444 Maple West at that meeting.

I have noted repeatedly on this website that in all the meetings I have ever attended on MAC, I have only ever heard one person speak in favor of it.  And that person was the owner of the Purple Onion, who was the sole speaker in favor of 444 Maple West at that Planning Commission meeting.

That made sense to me at the time, because as Maple Avenue property owner, the owner of Purple Onion catering stands to profit from MAC zoning.  (I believe her to be the Jones in Jones-Lovell Enterprises LLC, the owner of the building.)  If her property is like others up for MAC rezoning, MAC zoning greatly increased the value of her property.  So that was completely reasonable.

The second time I heard the Purple Onion mentioned was when I was given a list of the Town’s Steering Committee for the development of MAC zoning.  As I describe in my article entitled “Fox, meet hen house“, several members of the committee overseeing the development of MAC zoning were Maple Avenue property owners.  And one of those Maple Avenue land owners who helped write MAC was the owner of Purple Onion Catering.

So, at that point, that still all made sense.  The one person who I ever heard stand up at a meeting and defend MAC was … a Maple Avenue land owner who had a hand in shaping MAC.

I note here that I cannot find any list of the Maple Avenue Steering Committee on the Town Website.  Had it not been for an acquaintance who had the list, I never would have seen it.  Anyone who can find that list, posted on the Town website, please email me at

The third time I heard the Purple Onion mentioned was at the 10/4/2018 Town Council work session.  There, it was stated that part of the development plans for the Purple Onion property included a right-of-way to allow 444 Maple West residents eventual direct access to Wade Hampton Drive.  At which point Councilman Majdi noted that citizens in the affected neighborhoods actually have some interest in closing off Wade Hampton to protect themselves from the development on Maple.

This set off alarm bells for me, for three reasons.

First, if it’s true that the Purple Onion is going to be redeveloped, then I believe that marks the point at which MAC zoning has come full circle.  A property owner who helped write the law was now getting ready to benefit from that law.

And, apparently, I’m the only person in town who either realizes this or finds it troubling.

Second, if true, then even more of the property adjacent to my neighborhood is in the process of MAC redevelopment.  Which makes me wonder how long the remaining few properties would hold out.

Third,  it sure sounded as if the Town Council considered the adjacent neighborhood streets as an asset to be used to the advantage of Maple Avenue development.  And it sure did not sound like the Town Council had any interest in preserving the character of the existing neighborhood.

So far, we (meaning those who live along Wade Hampton and adjacent streets) have been completely rebuffed in all our attempts to get any protection from cut-through traffic from these big new developments.   As I put it in my review of the 10/4/2018 meeting, the headline there is:  Town to Citizens:  Drop Dead.

But based on this last meeting, it now appears that it’s not merely the case that Town Council won’t help, it’s that Town Council is actively seeking to help these developers funnel traffic through the adjacent streets.  That is, Town Council apparently views the adjacent neighborhood streets as assets to be exploited to maximize Maple Avenue property values.  Rather than as neighborhoods to be protected.

So, that was new,  but made sense of much of what had gone on before.  If you are planning to use by 16′ wide, blind-curve, no-sidewalk street to enhance property values of Maple Avenue developments, of course you have to ignore the citizens pleas for protection from cut-through traffic.   The Town’s sole interest here appears to be to protect Maple Avenue land owners’ right to funnel additional cut-through traffic through adjacent neighborhoods.

All of you who live in neighborhoods next to Maple, you had better pay attention to this interaction.  Because if this is the Town’s true attitude, the peace and quiet of your neighborhoods will be sacrificed to MAC development.  It’s not merely that we’re getting zero help from the Town regarding cut-through traffic.  It’s that the Town apparently wants to use these streets, for cut-through traffic, as a way of providing even more help to Maple Avenue property owners.

And so I return to my central thesis, which is that MAC zoning appears to have been designed to maximize the value of Maple Avenue property, and as a consequence, to maximize the Town’s tax revenues.  It has nothing to do with the original Maple Avenue Vision, which stressed preserving Vienna’s small-town nature.

And despite anything Town Council may say, they have intentionally put us on a path to turn Maple Avenue into our own version of downtown Falls Church.  Just stupider (i.e., without any overall planning.)  This may well be the start of converting entire blocks of Maple to 60′ tall buildings.  But then again, that’s what they’ve envisioned since 2010:

The problem with all of this isn’t the land owners, it isn’t the developers, it isn’t economics, it isn’t capitalism.  It’s the Town of Vienna government, and what they have allowed and are continuing to allow to happen with MAC zoning.

Coda:  At this point (10/8/2018), I’m fairly sure that my neighborhood, as I have come to know it, is toast.  Really, all I have left is to boycott the town, and to offer a warning to the next neighborhood to fall to MAC zoning.  And move, if I can convince my wife to do so.

So, here’s my warning:  If, in the future, anyone from Town government starts spinning their stories about what MAC is all about, just remember the Purple Onion.   And laugh at them.   MAC zoning is of, by, and for Maple Avenue property owners, full stop.  Anybody who tells you any differently is trying to sell you something.

Second coda:  Finally, one other very odd thing happened at that 10/4/2018 meeting.  In discussing an extension of a left-turn lane on Maple, somehow, some Town Council members knew that the lot with the current White Swan Bridal building was going to be combined with another lot under MAC redevelopment.  So, as with the Sunrise Assisted Living at Maple and Center, they Town is yet again aware of the development in the pipeline, long before there is any public mention of it.