Robinson bequest will help Vienna fill gaps in sidewalks

Late Vienna Town Council member Maud Robinson, pictured with her late husband, former Vienna Mayor Charles Robinson Jr., bequeathed $7 million to the town of Vienna for sidewalk construction following her death in March 2019.

The decision came three weeks later than planned, but the outcome perhaps was inevitable.

Vienna Town Council members on Dec. 7 voted unanimously to demolish a house, detached garage and outbuildings at 124 Courthouse Road, S.W., which previously had been owned by the late Vienna Mayor Charles Robinson Jr. and his late wife, former Council member Maud Robinson.

The Council approved a $28,000 contract with Tysons Service Corp. to perform the work. The price includes a $2,595 contingency allowance to cover unexpected costs.

The overall figure is an estimate and if the price exceeds $30,000, town officials will have to come back to the Town Council for further approval, said Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman.

Expenses covered by the contract include permit fees, asbestos abatement, installation of a construction entrance and silt fence, abandonment of a well, the capping off of water and sewer lines within the property line, the spreading of fill dirt to level the site and placement of grass seed and straw on disturbed areas.

Council members originally had taken up the item Nov. 16, but postponed their decision temporarily.

Former Mayor Robinson died in January 2000 and his wife died in March 2019. The town government bought the single-story house and nearly three-quarter-acre property for $1,438,500 in December 2019. Vienna officials have not determined yet what the site’s final use will be, but may use it for parkland in the interim.

The Robinsons bought the house in July 1951. County records list the house as being built in 1925, with an addition tacked on in 1972. Parts of the home date back to 1870, town officials said.

The buildings, which had been vacant since Maud Robinson’s death, were not in sufficient condition to be modified or reused, Vienna officials said. Vacant structures lend themselves toward crime, particularly arson, and can lead to lower property values in the surrounding area and higher costs for municipalities, they said.

Council members lamented having to take down the house, but said it could not be avoided.

“I really don’t think we can fix the property up,” said Council member Howard Springsteen, who worried about liability and asbestos issues. “I don’t think there’s a value for that house anymore.”

Council member Nisha Patel asked whether the town could receive a tax break for engaging a company such as Second Chance to deconstruct the buildings and recover construction materials.

Town Attorney Steven Briglia said the town, as a non-taxable entity, would not be eligible for such a tax credit.

John Sekas of Sekas Homes Ltd., who was attending the meeting for a couple of unrelated development cases, said another option would be to have a charitable group take the building materials for other uses.

Council member Steve Potter said a house in his neighborhood underwent such a methodical deconstruction process and it took almost a year to complete.

“By the time they were done, there was almost nothing left of the house except rubble in what was the basement, and it was a very unsafe condition,” Potter said.

Mayor Linda Colbert said because of safety reasons, it was the right time to take down the former Robinson home. She thanked Historic Vienna Inc. for providing historical information about the property.

“Certainly, we had two very prominent people living there,” Colbert said. “That means so much to our town, but demolishing their house will not do anything to their memory, and we can still do things to honor them in our town.”

[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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