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Votes

Form-Based Code to be Explored

The Town Council discussed a request for proposals to analyze zoning options, including form-based code, along Maple Avenue.

<bt>The possibility of a conversion to form-based code on Maple Avenue was the hot topic at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting.

The council discussed the formal request, drafted by Linnea Eastin of Planning and Zoning, for bids on a feasibility study from a planning and design firm to analyze zoning along the road, from Lawyers Road to Beulah Road. The draft was ultimately approved, but not without a few adjustments and contingencies.

Councilmember George Lovelace voiced concern over the possibility of conflicts of interest among potential bidders. His suggestion that the organization that wins the bid should be precluded from being contracted for the ensuing project was generally agreed upon. However, his request that former members of the various town committees, and possibly all vendors operating in Vienna, be precluded from bidding on the feasibility study was met with some resistance.

Vienna resident and former councilmember Vince Olson said he felt that former officials and committee members would be offended at being barred from part of the process. “It kind of takes away your rights as a citizen,” said Olson.

Town Attorney Steve Briglia expressed doubt as to the legality of such a measure, saying the law precluded only sitting committee members. “My 7-year-old can bid on it,” he said, “but that doesn’t make him qualified.”

The potential consultant most immediately in question was Paul Layer, who formerly sat on the Maple Avenue Vision Committee and currently operates as an architect in Vienna. However, the request is also slated to be sent to three other Vienna-based consultants and organizations.

Also, according to Marie Kisner, the town's public information officer, Layer currently sits as the architect member on the Vienna Board of Architectural Review.

None of these changes were made official, but the request was approved only with the contingency that Briglia investigate their legality.

What was altered was the list of zoning options that the chosen analyst will be expected to evaluate. Form-based code, overlay zones and mixed-use zoning were the options listed for analysis, to which the existing town code was added.

Councilmember Maud Robinson said that although she said she was not against form-based code itself, she was wary of the direction in which it might take the town. Robinson asked if the result, including the possibility of higher rent, would be more of a boon to citizens or to large businesses.

Robinson said she was displeased with “intimidating rhetoric” that had been used in the past in attempt to convince the council of a need for change on Maple Avenue, and she pointed out that Vienna has spent over $8 million developing the corridor. “I think that shows we’re not lagging behind the times,” said Robinson.

Councilmember Laurie Genevro Cole agreed that the council had “not yet identified what it is we want to trade off,” but said she felt it was “an acceptable next step to have the study done.”

The cost of the study is not to exceed $10,000.

THE TOWN COUNCIL also voted on the following items:

* A request for a budget not to exceed $1,500 for the Town/Business Liaison Committee’s coffee social was granted.

* A resolution to purchase a belt-driven vacuum leaf loader for an estimated cost of $15,009 was approved.

* Authorization to purchase two dual monitors and two laptops for the estimated cost of $10,000, to replace hardware that no longer works with new traffic signal software, was granted.

* A proposed ordinance to amend town code to prohibit the distribution of material, solicitation of contributions and sale of merchandise on town streets was approved by a vote of 6-1, with the dissenting vote coming from Council member Michael Polychrones after it was confirmed that the amendment would prohibit the Fire Department's Fill the Boot campaign.

* A request for funding for turf replacement and other improvements at Waters Field was approved. The town will contribute a total of $100,000 to the project, which is estimated to cost $1 million. The rest of the cost is being covered by Vienna Youth Inc. and Greater Vienna Babe Ruth League.

* A letter of resignation from John M. Scheib from the Planning Commission was accepted with a tone of regret.