Editor: May 7 will mark my 39th opportunity to vote in a Vienna Town Council election. In my mind, the choice this year boils down to one issue: the too-large, too-dense development at 444 Maple Avenue, W., that the Town Council approved on a 5-2 vote last fall.

Incumbent Tara Bloch voted for it, so she does not have my vote. Nor does newcomer Julie Hays, because she has stated she would have voted for it, despite some misgivings.

Of the remaining four candidates, one (incumbent Howard Springsteen) voted against it, so he has my vote. That leaves two seats left to fill.

Nisha Patel and Steven Potter have each stated that they would have voted against it. I have spoken with both of them at length about this and other Maple Avenue Commercial Zone (“MAC”) issues and am confident that both will, if elected, approach the coming task of revising the MAC ordinance in a thoughtful and reasonable manner, while safeguarding us from another development of the inappropriate size and density of 444 Maple Avenue, W.

Tim Strike has also said he would have voted against it, but he has adopted such a strident anti-development position that I cannot support him.

On May 7, therefore, I intend to vote for Springsteen, Patel and Potter.

Roy Baldwin, Vienna

(1) comment


The above letter misrepresents what I stated to Mr. Baldwin about voting on 444.

I provided a nuanced response to a complicated question that stated I would have considered voting yes given my understanding of potential legal challenges not being in the best interest of our citizens. I did not say that is how I would have definitively voted because I did not have input into the process as a council member; if I had been part of council during the decision making process, then I would have expected my concerns to have been addressed. Let me be clear: had I been on Council during the decision making process, I would have voted on a different project based on my input.

One should not distill a complicated issue into a binary problem because policy decisions often don't work that way. We need council members who understand these nuances, who can offer a vision for the future, and develop at strategy to get us there. Identifying problems is the easy part; committing the time and due diligence required to make informed, detail-oriented recommendations requires someone with the expertise and experience. An updated MAC ordinance is necessary so we can have a vibrant, sustainable local economy. We should view this as an opportunity to create more thoughtful, sustainable development that will consider Vienna's unique footprint. Please visit julieforvienna.org if you'd like more information, and see below for my *actual* response to Mr. Baldwin:

"This is an excellent and complicated question. I attempted to answer it in one of the Viennavotes.com questions for candidates (asking if we would vote for 444 and if there are changes we would like to see to the MAC) and I include my answer pasted below. In short, I would have liked to see some significant changes to the MAC before it was approved in its current form - those changes (e.g., clearly defined purpose and intent, potentially under-zoning so we get more in return for 4 stories, design guidelines, larger setbacks/streetscapes/sidewalks, etc.) would have improved 444 development (note - I realize they made positive changes to the project along the way).

As I understand it, however, the project was in compliance with the MAC and voting "no" on 444 would have likely opened up legal challenges, which are not in the best interest of Vienna and our tax payer dollars - this particular reason is why I would have considered voting yes. All that being said, I recognize there are lessons learned from the previously approved projects. I support the moratorium so we can get the MAC ordinance where it needs to be.

My full answer - including my proposed changes to the MAC - in viennavotes.com can be found here:

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