Visual Preference Survey. Any color you want, as long as it’s black, 10/11/2018

Posted on October 11, 2018

Or, in the case of the Town of Vienna, you can choose any building you want, as long as it’s at least four stories tall.  Just below are the pictures you would be asked to rate if you took the portion of the Town’s “Visual Preference Survey” relating to building size and appearance.  Note that every picture has a four-story building.

There are a lot of other things questionable about this method.  You can see an overview on my other page on visual preference surveys.

But if the Town Council still wonders why we don’t trust them, just refer to their survey.  Sure, we can have any color.  As long as it’s black.

The lesson here is that when the Town of Vienna said this:
” … a collection of photos of mixed-use buildings, up to four stories tall, …”

What they actually meant was this:
” … a collection of photos of mixed-use buildings, all at least four stories tall, …”

Once again, if you wonder why many of us no longer trust Town government, just look at what they said (.pdf),  then look at what they actually did.   It sure looks like the Town was afraid to let citizens rate two-story and three-story buildings.  Because that way, they might actually find out what we prefer.   Instead of using this sham “preference” survey as yet another prop for MAC zoning.

Next, if you follow up in detail, then you see that the Town is yet again presenting pictures of cute little buildings in the context of MAC zoning.  Let me just take that first picture (upper left above), and compare it to the reality of 444 Maple West/Tequila Grande proposal.

MAC zoning allows buildings that are up to 62′ tall.  (For example, the towers on the Chick-Fil-A building will, in fact, be 62′ tall).  So, how tall is the first building shown in the Town’s visual preference survey?

That’s easy enough to estimate.  Here’s the first picture in the Town’s survey.  This is 14 South Street in Morristown NJ.

Here’s a couple of estimates of building height, using Foxit PDF reader to measure distances on the photo, and then converting those to an estimate of height.  I assumed the car was 57″ tall (e.g., Toyota Camry, Honda Accord), and that the man was 5’10” tall (average height).  (The building tenants changed between photos, but orient yourself with the pink awning on the right — this is the same building.)

But 444 Maple West — the MAC building to be voted on at the October 29 Town Council meeting — comes in at 61 feet to the highest parapets.  So the actual MAC building is roughly half-again as tall as the building shown above.

But what about the overall size or mass of what the Town is showing, versus actual MAC buildings?  I don’t have the photoshop skills to draw that in, but I can show you the approximate footprint of the building in the Town’s survey, versus 444 Maple West.

The point is, the actual 444 Maple West (Tequila Grande) building that has been proposed would dwarf the building the Town used in its survey.

Heck, let’s use Google Street View to show just how absurd that first streetscape is, as an illustration for MAC.  Let’s start at the building used by the Town, and see how far we would have to walk, to get to the end of the proposed 444 Maple West/Tequila Grande building.

Ready?  Start with the building from the Town on your left, and note the vertical columns of the bank down the street.  Walk on down to that bank.

Are you there yet (below)?   Nope.  Note the church in the distance.  Keep walking on down to that church.

Are you there yet?  Nope.  Note the second church, in the near distance.  Walk on down to that church.

Are you there yet?  Nope.  Note the shops in the near distance.  Walk on down to those shops, and you have finally reached where the end of 444 Maple West would be.

Walk on down there, turn around, and realize you are so far away, you can’t even see where you started.   You can see the churches and the bank.  Where you started from is on the other side of the bank.

Here’s the whole layout using Google Maps 3-D view.  The building that the Town used for its visual preference survey is at the far left (orient yourself with the pink awning).  The building where you ended up in the walk above is at the far right.

At the risk of looking stupid (because I really have zero photoshop skills), here’s what an actual MAC building — 444 Maple West — would look like to scale, in that cityscape.

There is nothing like it in the Town of Vienna today.  When I show you an accurate representation of the length of it, along Maple Avenue (below), I am exaggerating nothing.  Below, the little red blob, in the window at the left — that’s a person, drawn to scale.

And so, exactly as the Town did throughout all of its prior public presentations on MAC zoning, it has depicted pleasant, small, human-scale small-town buildings.   Buildings that are not just smaller, but vastly smaller, than what they are allowing to be built under MAC.

Is it any wonder that the neighbors object to 444 Maple West/Tequila Grande?

Just so you see what I’m talking about, with respect to the Town’s history of doing this, compare these pictures above with the illustrations the Town used in the MAC statute itself.  Again, if Town Council wonders why we feel as if we were fooled by MAC, just compare and contrast the two sets of pictures.  Qualitatively different, I’d say.

If you want further background on visual preference surveys, click here.

Finally, did you notice how beautifully traffic-free the “visual preference survey” pictures are?  I’ve looked up a few of them, and all the ones I’ve found so far are located on low-traffic streets or in suburban shopping centers (as in the top right photograph.)  Yes, the Town is literally holding up a suburban shopping center as a model for the new Town of Vienna.

Again, turning to that first photo, that location has peak rush hour traffic of just under 800 cars per hour (which you can look up here, .pdf, South Street in Morristown.)  The comparable figure for Maple Avenue is just under 2500 cars per hour at the rush hour peak.

If we were actually going to get buildings of the size depicted, on streets with the traffic depicted, I don’t think anyone would be complaining about MAC zoning.  But that’s a fantasy.  And despite being called to task on this very issue, the Town continues to use fantasy illustrations to sell MAC zoning.