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Seeking to bring the Vienna Planning Commission’s membership in line with those of similarly sized nearby jurisdictions, the Vienna Town Council on Oct. 11 agreed to reduce the commission’s size from nine members to seven.

The Code of Virginia stipulates that local planning commissions must have between five and 15 members. All must reside in the commission’s jurisdiction and at least half must own real property.

The Vienna Planning Commission has had nine members since 1970, but town officials decided to follow suit with a seven-member planning commission like the ones in the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and the towns of Herndon and Leesburg. The number of planning commissioners in those localities also matches how many people serve on their respective city or town councils.

(The 12-member Fairfax County Planning Commission, which serves a much larger area, consists of one representative from all nine magisterial districts, plus three at-large members. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has only 10 members, but the county’s School Board has 12.)

The Vienna Planning Commission currently consists of Chairman Stephen Kenney, Vice Chairman David Miller, Keith Aimone, Sharon Baum, Andrew Meren and Jessica Plowgian. One position now is vacant, given the new membership maximum.

Three Planning Commission members have departed this year: Sarah Couchman, Julie Hays and David Patariu. Patariu, who made unsuccessful bids for Town Council in 2020 and 2021, said the Council had “wanted to go in a different direction” and chose not to renew his and Couchman’s terms. Patariu lamented the commission’s loss of Couchman, who had served as vice chairman and was in line for the chairmanship. He described her as intelligent and a landscape architect. The Council’s decision was unfortunate, given major planning initiatives now being undertaken, including the rewriting of the town’s zoning code, he said. “You need people on the Planning Commission asking tough questions of staff,” he said. “We’ve lost three commissioners during one of the most challenging times in the town’s history.”

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