Latest Vienna MAC proposal moves forward

The Vienna Planning Commission on April 10, 2019, recommended the Vienna Town Council approve a mixed-use rezoning proposal at 374-380 Maple Ave., W. This rendering incorporates the developers' latest design changes.

Those hoping for closure regarding a mixed-use rezoning proposal at 374-380 Maple Ave., W., in Vienna will have to wait at least three more weeks.

Following two-and-a-half hours’ worth of still-mostly-negative testimony from residents – which was in addition to hours of similar testimony tendered April 29 – the Vienna Town Council on May 13 voted to continue the public hearing again June 3.

Vienna developer Dennis Rice filed an application on behalf of Red Investment LLC and MJW Maple LLC to build a four-story building at 374-380 Maple Ave., W., which would feature three stories of for-sale residential condominiums atop a ground floor with five retail bays totaling 7,500 square feet.

The applicant hopes to redevelop the property under the town’s voluntary Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning ordinance, which offers incentives on building height and development density in exchange for amenities and architectural elements desired by the town.

The 0.84-acre site now is occupied by a three-story, 23,620-square-foot office building built in 1970.

The new building would rise a maximum of 54 feet tall, with a 48-foot base topped by parapets adding making the structure 2 to 6 feet higher. The developer would build 39 condominiums with two to three bedrooms each, which would range in size from 1,400 to 1,723 square feet and be accessed from a residential lobby on Wade Hampton Drive, S.W.

Mayor Laurie DiRocco encouraged people who’d spoken at the April 29 meeting to testify again only on new issues, but the same objections resurfaced. Opponents still objected to the building’s size, appearance and impact on surrounding neighbors and the town’s infrastructure.

One new objection did arise: Resident John Pott said town officials had not notified Fairfax County officials about a rezoning proposal within a half-mile of the county’s border.

Vienna officials formerly sent all Town Council packets to Fairfax County, said Town Attorney Steven Briglia, who recommended the public hearing be continued again and the county properly notified.

Town Manager Mercury Payton said the issue was not a result of deliberate inaction on the part of town staff and that the county would be notified in the future.

“We do follow the law here in the town of Vienna,” he said. “We take it very seriously.”

As with the April 29 meeting, several residents also spoke in support of the proposal.

“I am concerned that we are moving into an era that is not attractive to development and reinvestment,” said Bridget Rainero, who lives in northwest Vienna. “There’s nothing we can do about traffic. There are 100,000 jobs in Tysons and only 20,000 people living there. We need to stay on course and approve development in Vienna.”

Rice expressed frustration that multiple concessions made to neighboring residents had not quelled the complaining.

“I’ve been nothing but beaten up and hammered on this,” he said.

Council member Howard Springsteen suggested a professional mediator might be needed to forge an acceptable compromise.

“I’ve been attacked and will not be attacked again,” Rice responded. “If they cannot be civil, I don’t want to meet with them again.”

He later softened that stance, saying the applicants would do what the Town Council thought was in the neighbors’ best interest.

Because surrounding property owners have filed a valid rezoning-protest petition, the application will need a super-majority of five of the seven Town Council members (if all are present) to win passage.

Two current Council members will not be serving on the body come July 1. Council member Carey Sienicki did not seek a fifth term in the May 7 election and Tara Bloch was defeated in her bid for a third term.

Voters granted Springsteen one of the three seats that were on the ballot and elected two challengers, Steve Potter and Nisha Patel, who had been marketed by supporters as a package.

Several people who testified at the May 13 meeting alluded to the election results, with some suggesting the new members should be seated before the Council determines the 380 Maple Ave., W., proposal’s fate.

“The results of the election prove this is about responsible development,” said Alex Gallegos, who lives near that site.

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