Post #484: Tonight’s Town Council meeting

Posted on December 9, 2019

It should be an interesting night, because tonight’s Town Council agenda has something for everybody.  If you want a seat, you’d best show up early.  Start time is 8 PM, in Town Hall.

Here are links to my summaries of the agenda items (below).  I’ll post the agenda itself at the bottom of this page.

You can also catch it live, on cable or streaming, following the directions shown in the middle of this Town of Vienna web page.  (Be aware that the streaming is kind of glitchy, and the only browser I’ve ever gotten to work with it is Chrome.)

You can find the agenda and meeting materials on this web page.  Looking at the agenda, my guess is that this might end up being a long meeting.

As is traditional with the Town of Vienna, the agenda gives few clues as to the importance of individual items, either in terms of dollar amounts involved, or in the amount of time that Town Council expects to spend on an item.

Item 4.A  (19-1519) Presentation of 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)  This is a legally-required report from independent auditors, showing the state of the Town’s finances.  Oddly, the actual CAFR is not included in the documents, nor can I find it posted on the Town’s website.  Presumably it will eventually be posted along with all the prior CAFRs, on this Town of Vienna web page.

I expect this to be a pro-forma exercise.  Basically, this is the auditors bestowing their blessing.  The CAFR is good reading if you are a budget nerd, as I am, because it seems to be the only Town document that shows all the components of all the fund balances.

For example, in the 2018 report, the Town had about $28 million in bond debt.  So, the proposed $35 million bond issue (next item) will, by itself, more than double the Town’s entire bond debt.   I don’t think I could have figured that out (or at least  not easily) from any other source of Town financial information.

Item 5.A (19-1516) Public hearing for issuance of 2020 bond.  This is a fairly important item, because the proposal is for the Town to issue as much as $35 million in debt.  I have written this up separately as Post #482.  This is a public hearing, and you may speak for up to three minutes.  I suggest that you read up on the bond issue first, on the Town website, because there’s a lot going on there.

Duly noted from Item 4.A, this proposed 2020 debt issue will more than double the Town’s bond debt.

Item 6.A Consent Agenda.  (Yay.)  This is a collection of small-dollar, routine-business items that the Town Council has to vote on.  To save time, the Town has adopted the consent agenda method.  (I think it was Councilman Majdi who suggested this.)  So instead of having to hear the details of each item, and take a vote, assuming there are no objections, they’ll take one vote on the whole set of items, and be done with it.   More-or-less every local government in this geographic area uses this method, as you can see starting from Post #437 and working backwards from there.

Item 7. A. (19-1521) Request approval of Transportation Safety Commission (TSC) motion on revised guidelines for the Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PAC) and the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC).  Near as I can tell, this is a snoozer.  The only substantive change that I spotted is that the want the BAC to become more of an advocacy organization, so they’ve added phrases like “promote and grow a bicycle culture” to their mandate.

Item 7.B. 19-1505 Request approval of Transportation Safety Commission-recommended Shared Mobility Devices (SMDs) pilot program.  Scooters!  This is about the Town’s pilot program to allow rental electric scooters in Vienna.  Before you get all bent out of shape about that, read some of the background.  (Say, Post #472, at least, with links to other posts).  This is a defensive maneuver by the Town of Vienna, because if they don’t pass some regulation now, as of January 1, thanks to our Commonwealth government, it would be open season on rental electric scooters in Vienna, with no regulations at all. 

Key issues are whether to allow scooter use on the sidewalks, and how to regulate scooter parking.  The compromise that TSC and Department of Public Works figured out was to limit speed to 10 MPH on the two arterial roads where scooters would be dangerous in the roadway (Maple and Nutley).  As for scooter parking, I’m not quite sure what the final decision was, but I think they’ll be allowed anywhere as long as they don’t block the right-of-way (sidewalk), and in particular, don’t block any ADA-mandated access points.

7.C. (19-1503) Award RFP 20-03, Maple Avenue Utility Undergrounding Feasibility Study, to Rinker Design.  The Town is going to pay about $100,000 to find out how difficult it would be to bury the power lines down the length of Maple.  And to find out how much that would cost.

While this item is only $100,000, it is really aimed at informing the Town about a much larger expenditure.  MAC will leave Maple with a mix of above-ground and below-ground power lines, and so presumably it will be up to the Town to pay for burying what remains above-ground.  You can see my back-of-the-envelope in Post #210 — somewhere in the ballpark of $20M.

If it were up to me, I’d rather see the Town use that money to buy additional park land.  But if they gotta bury the power lines, then they gotta, and they will now at least have some notion of what that might cost.

7.D. 19-1514 Request approval to rename Northside Park to Northside Park – Maud Robinson Wildlife Preserve

7.E Approve purchase of real property located at 124 Courthouse Road SW

I believe these two items go together.  The Town’s description of the second item is quite clear.  The Town will pay about $1.4 million to purchase the home of former mayor Charles Robinson and his wife, the late former Councilmember Maud Robinson, with the intention of turning the roughly three-quarter-acre site into a small park.

7.F. 19-1515 Request to set a public hearing for January 27, 2020 regarding proposed amendments to proffered conditions for 374 to 380 Maple Avenue W and to refer this matter to the Planning Commission for a recommendation.  This is another step in allowing Sunrise assisted living to build a four-story assisted living facility, under MAC zoning, at 380 Maple West (Maple and Wade Hampton).  My guess is that this is pro-forma, and that the ultimate approval of this is a given.

7.G. 19-1491 Request to set a public hearing for February 3, 2020 to amend the Comprehensive Plan as it relates to Town-owned properties at 114 Locust Street SW and 440 Beulah Road NE and refer the matter to the Planning Commission for consideration. 

OK, for this one, the entire Town documentation on this just amounts to so much bafflegab.  As in, if you didn’t have some hint as to what this was about, you’d still be clueless after reading this stuff.  You have to refer back to the 9/9/2019 Town Council work session to have any clue what this is about (see Post #378).

I think the Town is going to use both of those buildings as a temporary police station, while they build the new police station.  Why they can’t just say that, I have no clue.

Those of you with longer memories will recall that when the Town bought that house on Beulah Road, a couple of years back, they claimed that literally had no specific use in mind for it.  (See this post for details.)  Which had to be a fiction, but … it’s what they said.  Even now, they are still being kind of obscure about what they are doing.  Perhaps they expect the neighbors there to object?  I don’t know.  Perhaps some Town Council member would be kind enough to speak plainly about this, at the Town Council meeting.

7.H. 19-1526 Proposal for Transparency and Accountability in Management of Town Right Of Way.  This is a move by Councilman Majdi to have the Town be more proactive and better-coordinated in dealing with its rights-of-way, including alleyways.  I wrote up an earlier version of this proposal in Post #477.  This is , at least in part, fallout from the removal of mature maple trees from the Wawa lot (Post #467).  And the creation of a pedestrian hazard at the Chick-fil-a-car-wash (Post #423 and related posts).  And a few other things.

Item 7.I. 19-1527 Motion by Councilmember Potter for comprehensive reorganization and update of Subdivision and Zoning Ordinances, Chapters 17 and 18 of Town Code.  This would roll the revisions of MAC into a year-and-a-half rewrite of the entire Town zoning code.  My most recent thoughts on that are given in Post #483, and can be summarized briefly as:  Yikes.

A copy of the agenda is below.