Concerns about safety, traffic and regional development were the main focal points of the Vienna Town Council meeting Monday night.
The meeting opened with a comment from Fairfax Citizens for Responsible Growth, a group trying to maintain reasonable and responsible development in Fairfax County without making existing traffic conditions worse.
A former 12-year member of the Vienna Planning Commission Gary Gillum, now a member of the group, said that “from my point of view, the moderate growth of the transit system called MetroWest is a disaster for traffic and the environment.”
“The amount of development planned would add a grand total of about 4,000 new homes. The MetroWest station would need 5,000 parking spaces alone. There are stakeholders on both sides of Route 66 that have been left out of the decision making process,” he said.
In addition, work sessions for the proposed development have not been announced sufficiently in advance to allow residents to attend or boards to do any research into the plans, he said.
“We appreciate the town council’s support this far and we hope you’ll remain strong and continue to work with us,” Gillum said. He added that a Fairfax County Planning Commission meeting is set for Oct. 8, at which a new plan may be issued, “but we have no idea if they will, or what the new plans are. We don’t know if there will be more housing added to it,” he said. The Planning Commission is slated to vote on the proposal on Oct. 14 and the Board of Supervisors will see the plan on Oct. 18 and could possibly vote the same night.
Council member George Lovelace asked if it might be possible to delay the Board of Supervisors' decision.
“If [the county] doesn’t get the benefit of quality input from us that our citizens need and deserve, would it be possible to maybe write a letter requesting a delay on the vote?” he asked.
“If you could get the whole council to sign a letter expressing your concern about the development, that might be effective,” Gillum said.
“The Board of Supervisors won’t have time to review the plan to make an informed decision,” said council member Maud Robinson.
“It is possible the Board of Supervisors won’t make a decision that night,” said Vienna Mayor M. Jane Seeman.
“If this type of development were only happening at the Vienna Metro station, you’d have reason to be tremendously concerned,” said Charlie Hall, a Fairfax resident and member of Citizens for Responsible Growth. “The plan looks to expand the Silver Line into Tyson’s Corner. There’s no reason to rush this decision through."
Hall asked the Town Council to “call on the county to hold off on this decision until they can come up with a concept of what smart growth really is.”
THE CONCERN for safety of residents again came into play when the council was asked to approve a temporary crosswalk on Mill Street in the middle of the block between Maple Avenue and Church Street from members of the Vienna Presbyterian Church.
While the church is being renovated, parishioners are using rooms in the Wright building for meetings, classrooms and office space.
“We have ESOL[English Speakers of Other Languages] classes on Monday and Wednesday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday nights, but the biggest concern is Sunday mornings when we have fourth, fifth and sixth grade students crossing the street for lessons,” said Bill George, a spokesperson for the church.
Seeman asked if anyone was walking with the children to make sure they were safe.
“There will be a crossing guard, yes, but the option if the council doesn’t approve the raised crosswalk is to cross up at the intersection,” he said.
“It seems it would be safer to cross at the intersection of Church and Maple,” Robinson said.
“It would make sense to have people cross at the intersection,” said council member Laurie Cole. “Drivers won’t expect people to be crossing in the middle of the street and a crosswalk won’t necessarily enhance safety,” she said. “I don’t think we should give people a false sense of security with a crosswalk in the middle of the street.”
Council member Sid Verinder said he would feel better with the raised crosswalk in the middle of Mill Street.
“Mill Street is a straight, long block. If I turned onto Mill going toward Church, I would have a long block to see if someone’s in the street. There’s a blind corner on Maple,” he said.
The motion was approved by a vote of four to three.
VIENNA RESIDENT Elizabeth Hedley spoke to the council about the traffic on St. Andrew’s Drive near Route 123, saying that a speed bump of some kind is needed there to calm the cut-through traffic that races down the street.
“The traffic light [at the intersection of Route 123 and Horseshoe Drive] was needed, but it causes traffic backup and tension in the drivers waiting at the light,” she said. “People look for the first outlet to get out of the traffic, and that’s St. Andrew’s Drive. It’s only one block long and people speed up on it.”
A traffic study in July reported that 30 percent of people driving on St. Andrew’s Drive were exceeding the speed limit on the street, she said. “This means they’re not only speeding down the street, but slamming on their breaks when they get to the end,” she said.
Cole said that she had just mentioned the traffic backup at Route 123 and Horseshoe Drive at the last meeting and was glad to see it on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.
The council unanimously approved a motion to have two speed bumps installed on St. Andrew’s Drive and to request that the traffic light at the intersection be coordinated with other traffic lights in the same area, hopefully to alleviate some of the traffic congestion.
“The construction of those speed bumps will take a little more time than other types of traffic calming bumps,” Cole said. “As soon as the weather, work crews and asphalt permits, the bumps will be out there with the appropriate signage."