Post #529: Sunrise lawsuit proceeds

As the note says, 3/13/2020 10 AM is the scheduled date for the next hearing in the Sunrise $30M lawsuit against the Town of Vienna.  This, courtesy of Shelley Ebert, who keeps tabs on this from time to time.

If you don’t know the back story, you can read Post #514, Post #353, Post #342.

At the end-of-January Town Council meeting, Town Council finally broke their taboo about mentioning this lawsuit.  At that meeting, Sunrise went so far as to say that they were not seeking to build at two separate locations in Vienna.  So they’re not pursuing an assisted living facility at Maple and Center, in addition to the one at Maple and Wade Hampton (380 Maple West).

But they are keeping that lawsuit alive.  Which seems a bit odd, given that they have (what I believe to be) final approval from Town Council, as of the end-of-January Town Council meeting?  They’ll still have to face the Board of Architectural Review one most time, for final approval of materials to be used on the outside of the building, some months down the road.

But in terms of Town entities who really and truly could have said “no” to Sunrise, I think they cleared their last hurdle last month.  And yet, the lawsuit lives on.

For my part, I can say that the reaction I have seen to this lawsuit, in social media and in person, has been almost uniformly negative.  It’s one thing for some residents to dislike what the Town Council has been up to.  It’s another thing entirely to have a national corporation sue the Town for $30M.

For my part, I thought that the original justification for the lawsuit was valid.  But at this point, I can only guess that Sunrise isn’t expecting to see a lot of business from Town of Vienna residents (see Post #328).  And that’s good, because the longer this suit lingers, the larger the fraction of the Town’s population that’s going to hold a grudge against them for it.

If they really don’t intend to press this, assuming they build in Vienna, at some point the the negative attention from this lawsuit should outweigh whatever gains they expect to get from continuing to hold it over the heads of Vienna Town Council.  At which point, the lawsuit would quietly disappear.  I’d have thought they’d have reached that point when Town Council gave their final approval.  But apparently not.  At least, based on their continuation of the lawsuit, they think that hasn’t happened yet.

Post #517: Last night’s Town Council meeting

The main topic of discussion at last night’s (1/27/2020) Town Council meeting was the proposed Sunrise assisted living facility.  Spoiler:  it passed.  The only other item of interest to me was the Town’s application for funding for a Maple Avenue parking garage.  That also passed.  The meeting materials are on this Town of Vienna web page.

There were a handful of surprises at that meeting.  The first surprise is that the Town has already posted its video at the link above.  That’s extremely helpful for citizens who want to see what went on while these topics are still hot.  I won’t bother to post my audio file, but I will post my Excel “index” file at this Google Drive link.  That Excel file is a running summary of what was said when, during the meeting.  My times will only approximately match the times in the Town video.

Continue reading Post #517: Last night’s Town Council meeting

Post #514: Sunrise: Public hearing, and lawsuit

Artist’s conception, eye-level view from across the street, Sunrise at Maple and Wade Hampton.  Source:  Rust Orling Architecture, Sunrise assisted living plans dated 12/13/2019, as posted for the 1/27/2020 Vienna Town Council meeting.

Tomorrow night’s (1/27/2020) Town Council meeting will include a public hearing on the Sunrise assisted living facility at 380 Maple West (Maple and Wade Hampton).  This is the MAC project that was originally approved for roughly 40 condos plus first-floor retail, but after approval it morphed into an 85-unit assisted living with a captive cafe as the only first-floor retail space.

It’s a pretty good bet that nothing will stand in the way of approval.  That said, if you wish to speak at this public hearing (for up to three minutes), show up at tomorrow’s (1/27/2019) Town Council meeting, starting at 8 PM.  Meeting materials can be found at this link.

My understanding is that this is almost the last hurdle that Sunrise must face.   After this, the only remaining pubic meeting will occur just before they start construction, where the Board of Architectural Review will have to give one last approval.  Otherwise, this is the last word that the Town will have on this project.

What about that lawsuit?

Source:  Fairfax county court, via Shelley Ebert.

Lurking in the background is Sunrise’s $30M lawsuit against the Town of Vienna.  The lawsuit arose from the Town Council’s denial of Sunrise’s original proposal to build at Maple and Center.  For background, see Post #342, Post #353, Post #405, Post #441.

The gist of the lawsuit is a claim of age discrimination.  And the fact of that lawsuit is one of the reasons I say nothing will stand in the way of approval at the current location.

The that lawsuit appears still to be in process.  As of two days ago, the only change is that one of the lawyers had withdrawn from the case (apparently, to become a judge).  So, for sure, the lawsuit remained live as of 1/3/2010, and no change has been filed since then.  It remains scheduled for a jury trial in June 2020.

One would assume that once Town Council approves this tomorrow, Sunrise will feel comfortable enough that they’ll drop the lawsuit.  But as of right now, it appears that they continue to pursue the lawsuit regarding the prior denial in the center of Vienna, even as they seek approval to build more-or-less the same building near the border of Vienna.

I don’t think I can read anything into that other than sound business strategy.  It will be interesting to see whether anyone breaks the unwritten taboo at tomorrow’s Town Council meeting and actually mentions the lawsuit in public (gasp!).  I’m betting that none dare be so gauche.  But that will at least give me something to look for, in what should otherwise be a snoozer of a pro-forma approval.



Post #494: A little more focus on streetlights

Carlyle acorn

Which picture does not belong?  Source of images:  Dominion Energy website.

In my last post, I stumbled across the fact that the Town is going to put four of its “acorn” olde-tyme lamp posts along Wade Hampton, directly adjacent to the Sunrise assisted living facility.  Those aren’t shown in the architectural renderings (or at least, I didn’t see them).  You can only see them on the light plan (photometric plan).  And now that I look closely at the light plan, while the fixtures are shown, it sure doesn’t look like the estimated light levels on the ground include the output of those lights.  (At least, there no indication of any increase in light level around those light posts, which I’m fairly sure ought to occur.)

The upshot of all of that is that the existing photometric plan shows virtually no “light trespass” onto neighboring properties.  But … I’m not so sure that’s right.  And for sure, those Town-mandated lights are going to be annoyingly bright for whoever lives in the Sunrise rooms directly adjacent to those lights.

In any case, I had to learn to read light plans years ago, for a project I did at the church I then attended.  So I thought I’d look up the specs on those lamps, look at the light plan, and just generally take a closer look.  The light plan is the last page of this document (.pdf).

Continue reading Post #494: A little more focus on streetlights

Post #493: 12/11/2019 Planning Commission meeting

Carlyle acorn

Which picture does not belong?  Source of images:  Dominion Energy website.


Last night’s Planning Commission meeting was about the proposed Sunrise assisted living facility at 380 Maple West (Maple and Wade Hampton).  The MAC building at that location was approved with the understanding that it was going to be 40-ish condos plus first floor retail.  But plans changed after approval, and it’s now slated to be an assisted living facility.  This meeting was one of several legally-required hearings to bless that change.

The important upshot is that the Planning Commission unanimously approved everything they had to approve.  I don’t think that came as a surprise. 

You can find the meeting materials, including the most current building plans, on this web page.  If you just want to look at pictures of the building, download this document (.pdf).  If you want the full technical detail, download this document (.pdf).

You can find the Town’s recording of the meeting this at this link:   For me, that only plays in Chrome, but YMMV.  Times for starts of major sections:

  • Staff presentation: 0:04
  • Discussion of traffic counts 0:20
  • Sunrise’s presentation 0:27
  • Comments from the public start around 0:59.
  • Closure of public comment, and start of Commissioner comment, 1:20
  • Final vote, 2:18
  • End of meeting, 2:38

My ten-second take on it?  In general, my conclusion is that, to a very large degree, Sunrise listened to and acted on the neighborhood’s concerns. 

Unlike what you may have seen for other MAC projects, public comment started off with a  next-door-neighbor a) praising the developer for listening and responding, and b) offering support for the project.  Followed by several others in the neighborhood echoing that sentiment.  And the first speaker set the tone for much of the rest of the discussion:  Our main remaining concern is traffic.  It’s not just this one building, it’s going to be the cumulative effect of all the traffic generated by all the MAC buildings.  We want the Town to protect us, proactively, from the cut-through traffic that all this new development on Maple is likely to generate.

Many of my neighbors and I really would like to close Wade Hampton at Glen Avenue.  Our feeling  — between 444 Maple West, and this building, and all the rest that are likely to follow — is that if the Town is bound and determined to do this, fine.  Just keep the resulting cut-through traffic out of our neighborhood.  We’ve already been told that Public Works will not consider even as much as putting up a no-through-traffic-during-rush-hour sign.  So, we’d just like to sever the connection to Maple entirely, despite the obvious inconvenience to ourselves.

Separately, I found another issue that I would raise, given below in the section on lighting.  Sunrise appears to have been diligent about minimizing light, noise, and traffic spillovers onto the neighborhood.  But the Town of Vienna, less so.  The issue is installing four of the Town’s “Carlyle” acorn-style olde-tyme streetlights on that short stretch of Wade Hampton, a few feet from what will be bedroom windows in the Sunrise building, and a few tens of yards from residences across the street.  (N.B. Those lights are NOT shown on the architectural renderings, only on the lighting diagram.)  I think that’s the single most intrusive aspect of this proposal that could be easily remedied.

What’s the problem?  From the standpoint of lighting impact, those acorn lights are only slightly better than having high-wattage naked bulbs sitting atop poles.  Fine for an industrial/commercial area (the existing Maple).  But I’ll leave it to the reader to figure how how appropriate it is to locate those a few feet from somebody’s bedroom window.  Let alone in an existing residential neighborhood.  I believe the Town needs to rethink the use of those, period, if it continues with its plan to convert Maple Avenue into a housing district (plus retail).


The meeting.

The public hearing on this issue starts about 4 minutes into the recording.  Town Staff presentation went on for about ten minutes.  Here are just a handful of things I’d like to review, as they affect the neighborhood.

Just as an aside, I don’t think there’s any doubt that this assisted living facility will be approved.  It’s just a question of doing the legally-required steps.  For one thing, there’s the $30M lawsuit that Sunrise filed for being turned down, still hanging over this.  For another, given that the Town has approved a big building there, this is likely to be the least-intrusive use from the neighbor’s perspective.  For a third thing, at this point pretty much everyone has given on up on the idea that MAC was supposed to generate significant public benefits and “open space” — what was described as “parks and plazas” in the MAC statute.  This building expands the Maple Avenue sidewalk from the current 11′ to 20′, and (I think) puts a short stretch of power lines underground.  But at this point (post-Chick-fil-A-car-wash), people have come to expect no more than than that, and have come to view lot-covering buildings as the new norm.

Traffic and parking.   

In general, the conclusion is that we’re going to get more traffic than the current building generates.  Particularly more weekend traffic.  But that we’ll get less additional traffic from the assisted living facility than we would have gotten out of the condos plus retail.

FWIW, the traffic study suggests that average weekday traffic into and out of that building will be about twice what we have now (419 trips versus 230 trips).  Weekend traffic will be much higher than currently, because offices are largely closed on the weekend, but an assisted living facility is 24/7/365). But the traffic report only shows Saturday peak hour trips.

As always, you have to take these traffic projections with a grain of salt.  Among other things, the estimate of increased traffic assumed that the existing office building is a fully rented, economically vibrant building, and matches the average of some sample-of-convenience data used by the traffic engineers.  But because that’s not true, the traffic impact study overstates the amount of traffic we have there now, as we have seen in other recent studies (Post #465).  This is a systematic problem of failure to correct for “selection bias”, as I described in Post #364.

This overstatement of existing traffic was among the issues raised by Commissioner Patariu around 20 minutes into the recording.  He made the plea for actually counting the existing traffic into and out of these properties.  He got gavelled down, and Town staff didn’t back off an inch, so don’t expect them to change what they do any time soon.  This was not helped by Commissioner Couchman, who both completely misunderstood the technical issue and strongly supported staff’s decision not to count actual current traffic.  This tells me I need to do yet another post to try to explain this issue once again.  In any case, it could be worse.  The projections are that the assisted living facility will generate about twice the current weekday traffic, but only about half the weekday traffic that the condos-plus-retail would have.

For what it’s worth, the builder appears to make a good-faith effort to keep traffic from this building out of the adjacent neighborhood.  The outlet of the parking garage on Wade Hampton is marked (“no left turn”) to prevent people from traveling back into the adjacent neighborhood, and a “pork chop” island will provide a physical reminder not to turn left (though it’s not hard to drive around such a barrier).

In general, the treatment of the Wade Hampton roadway is a lot better in this iteration than with the building full of condos.  For one thing, the developers actually provided a realistic truck-turn diagram.  Second, most of the truck maneuvering can be accomplished by driving through the building, rather than backing-and-filling on Wade Hampton itself, because they retained access to the building on Maple Avenue.  For a third, they’ve given up on striping Wade Hampton for three lanes, likely due to the expected reduced traffic flow.  Which is good, because trucks weren’t going to be able to make the turn onto Wade Hampton if a car were sitting in a center-turn lane anyway.

And instead of destroying street parking, they actually added one space.  Just as an example of how things go in the Town of Vienna, when the building was presented as condos, at one point Town staff claimed the condo building would result in no loss of street parking.  Now that it’s assisted living, Town staff claim that the assisted living is better, because the condo building would have resulted in loss of street parking.  Go figure.

The only new information I got out of that is that you can’t park within 30′ of a stop-sign-controlled intersection, per Town code.  I had missed that in my prior parking analysis, and instead read a separate section about staying 20′ back from an intersection.  That said, people actually park on Wade Hampton as I had said (Post #391).

Open space and green space — not discussed but still important.

The “open space” calculation for this building provides yet another example of the totally ineffective open space requirements of the law On the detailed plans (physical page 8), you can see that the legally-required setbacks from the street, plus the narrow alleyway between the building and the adjacent lot, sum to about 6400 square feet, substantially more than the required “open space” for this lot.  As occurred with 444 Maple West, in this case the open space “requirement” doesn’t actually require any additional open space, above what is already legally required for setbacks and/or separation from the lot next door.  In addition, a good chunk of the “open space” here is a narrow strip sandwiched between the building and a fence at the lot line (i.e., not even visible open space, unless you are standing right at the end of the fence).  So, as near as I can tell, that part of the law is simply window dressing.  It’s a great selling point when touting the benefits of MAC zoning, but it doesn’t actually require anything that is not already legally required.

The story for green space (which I will sloppily equate to “pervious area” here) is pretty much the same.  Existing lot has 10.8% pervious area, all of it in the form of turf, almost all of it visible as you pass by.  The new plan has 13.4% pervious area, of which about a third is the area sandwiched between the building and the fence on the lot line (i.e., not visible unless you stand at the end of the fence).  So this new proposal has more green space, but less visible green space, than the lot as it currently stands.  And, in particular, the green space visible from an arbitrary point on Maple Avenue appears greatly reduced.  Separately, as with the previous plan, the builder plans to use a storm water planter to control runoff from the lot.

Visual and audible spillovers into the neighborhood.

In general, Sunrise appears to have tried to address neighbors’ concerns about the back of the building.  The top floor is stepped back about 20′ more than legally required.  They reduced the window area of the back facade.  They made the storm-water planter less of a box by adding curved surfaces to it.  The electrical transformer at the back of the lot will sit in an enclosure.

They also appeared to be sensitive to noise and light issues.  In addition to reducing the window area, their lighting plan shows low stray light levels at the rear property line (with a caveat to be noted below).  And they decided against having a garage door, because they thought that the noise of opening and closing a garage door would exceed the reduction in noise from closing in the garage with a garage door.

In fact, likely the single most obnoxious source of stray light in the entire proposal is not going to be from Sunrise per se.  It’s going to be from the Town’s insistence on lining Wade Hampton with those “olde-tyme” acorn-style lights.  These lights are not shown on the architectural renderings, so you don’t see them in any of the visuals for the site.  But they are shown (Letter A) on the last page of the technical drawings, the lighting plan.

Where regular streetlights are way over your head, and largely shine down, and can be replaced (eventually) with dark-sky-compliant lights (as Fairfax County is doing, slowly, through out this area, .pdf), those acorn lights sit about 14′ off the ground, and shine in every direction, and basically illuminate the sky as much as the ground.  Functionally, they are only modestly better than having naked high-wattage light bulbs sitting atop the poles.

Assuming I’m reading that right, there are going to be four (!) of those inefficient but cute lights on that short stretch of Wade Hampton.  Shining in every direction.  Located within a few yards of residences.  I’m certainly glad I won’t be living across the street from that.  And it’s clearly a mistake to locate these right outside somebody’s bedroom window, which is what you are doing by placing them adjacent to the Sunrise building.

I think this is a mistake, pure and simple, and the Town needs to rethink the use of these lights on the MAC Maple streetscape.  The Town adopted those lights when Maple was, as it now is, a purely commercial district with no buildings directly adjacent to the road.  The fact that they shine out in every direction was mostly harmless, albeit hugely wasteful and completely at odds with modern dark-sky lighting requirements.  But now, those are a poor choice if located directly adjacent to somebody’s bedroom.  Or even in a neighborhood, because you’ll have line-of-sight view of those brightly lit acrylic “acorn” globes.  I think the Town needs to take a hard look at that, and change its requirement that those lights must be installed in those locations.

Finally, Sunrise is to be commended for providing true ground-level (pedestrians’-eye) views of the building, as requested.  These are far more helpful than other approaches for judging exactly how this will look to the neighbors than other approaches (see to see how other approaches can distort perceptions about a building).  So here, as opposed to the renderings provided for the Chick-fil-a-car-wash (Post #420), the modestly broader sidewalk (14′ paved, 20′ total distance to the curb) in front of the building looks like exactly that — a modestly broader sidewalk.

Source:  Snapshot from Town of Vienna recording of the 12/11/2019 Planning Commission meeting.

(Separately, note that the picture clearly shows what I described about the green space earlier.  The green space visible from Maple, on the new building, is substantially smaller than it is now.  Compare to poor Google Street view snapshot below.)

It’s also worth noting (at around 51:00 into the tape) that they are aware of issues for those with mobility problems.  So, while they show a brick sidewalk, they plan to do that as brick over a concrete slab, to keep the brick surface as level as possible.  Otherwise, all entrances to the building are “at grade” and don’t require steps.  Given their resident population, I think Sunrise tends to be sensitive to issues like this, and the design appears to reflect that.

 Public comment started around 0:59

Unlike what you may have seen for other MAC projects, public comment started off with a  next-door-neighbor a) praising the developer for listening and responding, and b) offering support for the project.  Followed by several others in the neighborhood echoing that sentiment.  And the first speaker set the tone for much of the rest of the discussion:  Our main remaining concern is traffic.  It’s not just this one building, it’s going to be the cumulative effect of all the traffic generated by all the MAC buildings.  We want the Town to protect us, proactively, from the cut-through traffic that all this new development on Maple is likely to generate.

Of the speakers, Mike Ahrens in particular has taken the lead in showing the Town what could be done with that area.  He specifically asked that the Town bundle the closing of Wade Hampton at Glen as part of this overall project.  Basically, we’re at Ground Zero of Maple Avenue redevelopment, and from our perspective, it makes sense to block arterial traffic from running down our narrow neighborhood streets.

Many other speakers mentioned traffic, and some brought in traffic-calming measures less radical than outright road closure.  But it was clear that cut-through traffic from MAC development was our number one concern.

Subsequently, the Planning Commissioner’s commented, and, to summarize my take on it, it’s not their problem.  They punted the traffic issue to the Transportation Safety Commission (TSC). 

Well, it it’s up to TSC, we’ve already lost the battle.  Near as I can tell, the special accommodation that Public Works/TSC are willing to make, in this case, is … basically none.  Instead of using actual existing traffic counts, they’ll add in projected traffic from approved MAC buildings.  Beyond that, we can stand in line with everybody else in Vienna.  I have already summarized this in Post #436 and other posts done around that time.  The upshot is that they absolutely refuse to consider keeping a pleasant neighborhood pleasant, and only when we hit the appropriate threshold of traffic misery will they act, and then only if we jump through all the appropriate hoops.

If nothing else, I hope that other neighborhoods adjacent to Maple are taking note of this.  If your neighborhood currently does not have a big traffic problem, but you think MAC-generated development in your neighborhood will create such a problem, well … you’re stuck with it.  The Town does not see its job as preserving the peace and quiet of a neighborhood.  The Town only sees its job as acting once a neighborhood has already been made less livable by traffic.

In any case, DPW jumps in about 1:30 into the recording, and it’s pretty clear that they aren’t going to close the road.  It’s not clear they’d consider doing anything, to tell the truth.

In fact, I guess I would characterize more-or-less all the ensuing discussion, save the stray comment here or there, as a summary of the reasons why the Planning Commission was not/should not/cannot do anything with respect to the citizens’ request.

There were exceptions, most notably when Chairman Gelb (1:48 or so into the discussion) said that citizens in this situation shouldn’t have to go through the entire petition process to get something done.  Basically, that when the Town causes issues like this, it’s incumbent on the Town to try to solve those issues.  Maybe they should work out some sort of solution as part of the planning process.  I’m not sure that got any traction with the majority of PC members.

After the final vote for approval

Weirdly, the vote for the final approval motion took place at 2:18 into the meeting.  But there was another 20 minutes’ discussion on other matters.  Discussion ranged from what the Town Council passed at the last meeting, to safety at the Chick-fil-A-car-wash (though not the safety issue I brought up on this website).  I’m not going to review that portion here.

Post #458: The 11/13/2019 Planning Commission work session on Sunrise at 380 Maple West

380 Maple Ave W - Sunrise view of four sides

Source:  Plans posted by the Town of Vienna for the 11/8/2019 meeting of the Vienna BAR (.pdf), by Rust | Orling Architecture, Alexandria VA.

There is no doubt in my mind that when it comes time to vote, the Planning Commission will approve this building.

All the rest is commentary.  What follows is a handful of items that I thought might be worth noting. Continue reading Post #458: The 11/13/2019 Planning Commission work session on Sunrise at 380 Maple West

Post #449: The 11/8/2019 BAR work session on Sunrise at 380 Maple West

Four views of proposed Sunrise Assisted Living at 380 Maple West:  First sheet:  View from Maple Avenue, Wade Hampton; Second sheet:  View from Glen Avenue, and adjacent commercial lot.

380 Maple Ave W - Sunrise view of four sides


Source:  Plans posted by the Town of Vienna for the 11/8/2019 meeting of the Vienna BAR (.pdf), by Rust | Orling Architecture, Alexandria VA.

Continue reading Post #449: The 11/8/2019 BAR work session on Sunrise at 380 Maple West

Post #444: MAC-related public meetings this week

There are several public meetings this week with some relevance to MAC zoning.

Monday, 11/4/2019, at 8:00 PM in Town Hall, Town Council will hold a meeting that includes several MAC-related items. 
1)  They will hold a public hearing on extending the MAC moratorium through June 30 2020.  Citizens are invited to speak.  Three minute time limit.
2)  They will consider a resolution to request grant funding for a three-story parking garage/library to replace the current Patrick Henry library.
3)  They will examine (and likely approve) the modified rear facades of the Marco Polo/Vienna Market MAC project.

The relevant materials can be found here:

Thursday, 11/7/2019, at 7:30 PM in Town Hall, Town Council will hold a work session to obtain their final briefing on the Kimley-Horn “Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study”.

The relevant materials can be found here:


Friday, 11/8/2019 at 8:00 AM (AM), the Board of Architectural Review will hold a work session on the new building proposed for 380 Maple West, a Sunrise assisted living facility.

The relevant materials can be found here:

The Town reserves the right to change or cancel meetings on short notice, so check the Town’s general calendar before you go, at this URL:


On the Monday Town Council meeting, I would have expected the extension of the MAC moratorium to be cut-and-dried.  Would have, except that it was anything but that at the preceding Planning Commission meeting.  The actual discussion was in fact for more convoluted than I said in my brief writeup (Post #440), and included some legal arguments to block any consideration of an extension of the moratorium

Also, the Town Council is being asked to approve a grant request for funding the largest parking structure option that the Town’s consultant offered them.  I had not realized that the Town had made the affirmative decision to go with that option.  If that’s a done deal, I certainly wish they would reconsider (e.g., Post #367, Post #369, Post #371).

Separately, the Town is also going to ask for about $240K in grant funding for Capital Bikeshare bike racks.  I’ve already expressed the sentiment that this is almost sure a near-total waste of money, given the lack of use of these rental bikes in Tysons and other remote suburban near-Metro locations (Post #387).

On the Thursday Town Council work session, to me the big question is how they’ll deal with the estimated traffic impact of MAC development.  The rest of the items — the proposed projects for the Town to undertake — seemed fairly weak to me.  You can see can see my analysis in Post #358 and subsequent posts to Post #364.  It is worth bearing in mind that the traffic impact analysis does NOT use current traffic as baseline, which is why (e.g.) redevelopment of the currently empty BB&T site was estimated to reduce traffic on Maple in that study.

The Friday BAR session is a bit of a puzzler to me, as it is not clear to citizens that (e.g.) Sunrise has actually signed a contract with the current owner of 380 Maple West, and so on.  This is due, in part, I think, to the fact that this isn’t a MAC application.  Formally, it’s a request for changes to the existing, approved MAC building.  (I.e., new building, new owner, new purpose, new conditional use permit and so on, and yet all done within the context of the land already having been rezoned to MAC instead of standard commercial development.)

Post #441: Sunrise lawsuit, continued …

When we last left our intrepid lawyers, the Town had filed a motion Craving Oyer and Demurrer in response to the Sunrise $30M lawsuit (see Post #353).  Then the initial hearing was postponed (Post #405).

Well, that Craving Oyer thing seems to have boomeranged a bit.  To the lay person (me), it appeared that the Town wanted to burden Sunrise with a significant documentation burden.  Turns out, the court says that’s the Town’s problem, not Sunrise’s problem.

Here’s part of Post #353 describing “Craving Oyer”.

The first part of the Town’s filing is “Craving Oyer”.  They are asking that Sunrise be required to supply (many) supporting documents for their allegations.  ... (including) a copy of the relevant video or audio recording, the minutes from that meeting, any staff materials provided in that meeting, any other previously-undisclosed internal staff memos that were generated on that topic prior to that meeting, and so on.  And so on.  And so on.


So that’s the first Alice-in-Wonderland aspect of this.  The Town is asking the Court to require Sunrise to ask the Town for recordings that only the Town has, and then provide them to the Town (and the Court), in order to verify that what Sunrise says was said, was said.  Before they’ll even consider discussing what was said.

I assume that was mostly about burying Sunrise with burdensome documentation requests.  And it did seem just-plain-nuts that the Town owned the documentation, but was asking Sunrise to provide it.

Either I misread the original request, or the judge saw it more-or-less the same way I did.  On 10/25/2019 the court issued an order requiring the Town of Vienna to provide all that stuff.  And then for both parties to get together and agree that this does, in fact, represent the relevant legislative record.

(Kudos to Shelley Ebert for getting a copy of the order from the Fairfax County courts.)

Provide a legible and intelligible record.

I included a picture of the actual court order above because it makes a point.  It’s legible, but only just so.  In fact, I am struck by how much it reminds me of an old-fashioned physicians’ prescription.  It’s a pre-printed form, with a blank on which some highly-trained professional hand-writes the orders.

I don’t think physicians do that any more.  Prescriptions are now mostly done electronically.  And so, outside of writing a check — itself a dying art — I can’t recall anything in the past decade or so where the legibility of somebody’s handwriting actually mattered.  Or where it was deemed proper to have somebody jot down an important order, hand-written, rather than type it in.

(If you know what a cancelled check is, raise your hand.  You, with your hands raised, you are now officially old people. )

Perhaps its more efficient.  It’s certainly quaint.  And it requires someone with a legible hand, so that everyone involved knows what the order actually says.

Which brings me to my point.  A lot of that “legislative record” consists of video and audio recordings.  Having spent the last year making audio recordings and dealing with the Town’s audio and video, in my opinion, the Town ought to be required to provide certified transcripts of the recordings.

This is for two reasons.  One, members of our Town boards and councils are frequently almost unintelligible.  Some, like the Town Manager, are simply soft-spoken individuals.  Others have poor microphone discipline, particularly in meetings where they must manually activate and de-activate their microphones as they talk. And everybody slacks off for work sessions.  Without an official transcript, it’s going to be hard to get agreement as to what, exactly, was said.  I can’t imagine the lawyers in this case working directly from the audio file.

Two, the recordings themselves are almost useless if you want to find particular items within a meeting, because there’s more-or-less no “index”.  There’s no “word search” function in an audio file.  That’s why I type notes as I record the meetings, along with the time, so that I have some written “index” that I can word-search to find items.

Anyway, without a transcript, not only can you not find items within the recordings, I’ll bet there will be disagreement on exactly what was said.  If they are serious about using this stuff, I think they need a transcript.  They need a pro to work through all the barely-intelligible stuff and write it down.

Killing two birds with one stone.  And, as I noted in an unrelated posting, I think that showing Town Council members the transcript would be a good teaching tool.  My experience is that when you are confronted with a literal transcript of your own public blathering, you quickly learn to be more succinct in your speech.  And that, by itself, would greatly shorten our Town Council and other public board meetings.