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Being a 'Good Neighbor'

Agenda at Vienna Town Council's meeting tests town/county relationship.

Although an initial agenda highlight of the Vienna Town Council’s Monday meeting was to discuss a petition by Niblick Road Southeast residents to close Niblick Road’s entrance to the Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, the dialogue turned into questions about the “good-neighbor” relationship between the town and the county, particularly the Providence District. With Providence District supervisor Gerry Connolly (D) present in the audience to discuss a proposed mixed-use development south of the Vienna Metrorail station, the town took advantage of the opportunity to talk about traffic-calming and development.

One of the issues the town addressed to Connolly was traffic-calming measures for Wolftrap Road. Although residents who live along the road reside within town boundaries, the road lies outside town boundaries and is the responsibility of the county. Several Wolftrap Road residents who attended the Council meeting in order to protest the Niblick Road petition argued that their street had a greater need for traffic-calming measures.

Wolftrap Road receives both morning and evening traffic from Route 123.

“The problem is Wolftrap Road,” said William Hyland, a 40-year resident of Vienna.

His neighbor, Charles Funk, agreed.

“Wolftrap Road is an orphan,” said Funk. “If traffic-calming is needed anywhere, it is at Wolftrap Road.”

Vienna mayor Jane Seeman responded that concerned residents should contact the Providence District representative, as the road lies within the county’s jurisdictions. She pointed out Connolly’s presence in the audience.

The other issue was the proposed mixed-use development south of the Vienna Metrorail station and Route 66 on a 70-acre tract of land. Connolly said he attended Monday’s meeting so he could start getting feedback from the town on the concept.

“This is an intensely developed area, although parts of it have been seen as [still] ripe for development,” Connolly said.

WHILE THE DEVELOPER and county staff have differed on the number of dwelling units and stories of the development, Charlene Fuhrman-Schultz of the county staff said the staff recommended that the developer, Pulte Homes, build up to 2,300 new dwelling units and construct buildings with a maximum of 10 stories. These high-rise buildings would house the dwelling units, as well as up to 10- to 15-percent office and retail space.

With such higher density at the Metrorail station, initial reaction of the Council seemed wary. Although the concept for higher density near the Metrorail station is so fewer cars will commute on the roads, several Council members were concerned that Metrorail wouldn’t have enough capacity to hold anyone else.

“Already it’s full … and our residents are going to be shut out from using it,” Seeman said.

Councilwoman Maud Robinson doubted how many new residents would walk to the Metrorail station.

“I really think we’re deceiving ourselves if we think a big walking crowd is going to descend on Metro,” Robinson said.

But Councilwoman Laurie Cole said her greater concern was the increased number of commuters who would cut through town to go to work at Tysons Corner, because Metrorail doesn’t serve the Tysons area.

“I think [that’s] a worse prospect,” Cole said.

Several residents listening to the presentation said they weren’t aware the development was occurring.

“The one thing that does concern me, it’s too bad the town and the town homeowners didn’t know about it for a long time,” said Vienna resident Jack Mitchell.

Connolly argued that the development had been in discussion for years and that the town had received letters from the county about the proposed development being up for discussion in county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings. Seeman replied that the town is working on a better method of disseminating such information.

Indeed, the “good neighbor” theme played out during the evening, as many Council members used that reasoning for voting unanimously to reject the proposal of Niblick Road residents to close off the entrance to Our Lady of Good Counsel.

“We’re simply going to shift the burden to Echols, if not Kramer,” Robinson said.

Fourteen Niblick Road residents had signed a petition to close the entrance because of traffic volume coming from the church and school, but the Transportation Safety Commission denied their request and recommended that the Town Council do the same.

EARLIER, IN APRIL, the town had constructed two speed humps to reduce speed. Those humps were approved by both the Transportation Safety Commission and the Town Council.

At the Council meeting, four Niblick Road residents had argued earlier in the evening that Niblick Road could be made into a cul-de-sac, while still adhering to Town Code. They also offered an alternative to closing the entrance, which was to put a sign restricting when the entrance could be used.

“It’s our interpretation … that Niblick is a local street and ends in a cul-de-sac,” said Vienna resident Paul Napier.

The Rev. John O’Neill, a priest at Our Lady of Good Counsel, said his concern about closing the entrance was the safety of students and parishioners. O’Neill said emergency vehicles could use the Niblick Road entrance as another access entryway.

“I think the closure of our property … will create a greater burden” on side streets, O’Neill said.

Several other residents argued that Niblick should share the burden of increased traffic through their neighborhoods.

“Traffic-calming for one person is a traffic storm for others,” said Vienna resident Ken Smith.

In the end, the Council sided with the church and the Transportation Safety Commission on denying the petition.

“I don’t agree with the interpretation proposed. I don’t think ‘local street’ is what they think it means,” said Cole.

Seeman agreed, “We all can’t live on private streets, as much as we’d like to.”