What's Going On Here?

What's Going On Here?

Vienna faces changes and challenges.

The town of Vienna continues to make efforts to maintain its identity in the face of mushrooming development nearby and its viability as a prime piece of real estate, both residentially and commercially. To those ends, the town is working on such projects as adding a central Town Green, experimenting with the idea of converting to form-based code in the commercial corridor, introducing cable competition and rebuilding older roads.

Residents and government leaders alike are concerned about the impact that future developments at the edge of town may have on an infrastructure that is already strained, and the mayor and Town Council continue to fight for as much influence on such projects they can gain.

Meanwhile, Oakton is working to establish its own character, separate from that of Vienna and Fairfax. Several projects are underway in the center of Oakton. Most notable are the construction of a library and a community park on the south end of Hunter Mill Road, as well as efforts to manage traffic on that road without widening and straightening it or otherwise detracting from the historic corridor through which it runs.

<sh>A Touch of Green

<bt>Most of the construction for the proposed Vienna Town Green is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The plan for the green, which is to cover the block where the Wright Building was recently demolished on Maple Avenue, was in the works for about a year and a half before being completed in late 2005.

Sod has already been laid down. Among the features planned for the park are a stage with a sloped lawn for amphitheater seating, a fountain, a paved plaza, a new Holiday Tree and wireless Internet access. The Freeman House will remain on the northwest edge of the block.

The contract to build the park was recently awarded to Sumter Contracting Corp. to the tune of $1,486,209, and the park is slated to open on Mother's Day 2007 in order to coincide with the Jamestown 2007 celebration.

<sh>Cable Competition?

<bt>The Vienna Town Council has expressed a desire to introduce competition to Vienna's cable television market, now held entirely by Cox, by making the service available also from Verizon, a current telephone provider in the town. However, the company and the town have long been in disagreement over the undergrounding of Verizon's cables on Maple Avenue. After Verizon helped push new legislation regarding communications franchises through this year's General Assembly, other disagreements emerged.

It appears that an agreement is now being hammered out, in which it is expected that Verizon will grant the town terms similar to the company's franchise with Fairfax County and the town's franchise with Cox. Verizon is expected to install its cables aerially along Maple Avenue and then bury them at zero cost when the town buries the rest of the cables along the street.

Once the franchise has been negotiated and signed, all but about 5 percent of the town should have two options for cable providers within a year. The remaining houses are served by Verizon's Merrifield facility, which is not yet wired for fiber optics. It could be up to three years before service is extended to those homes.

<sh>Maple Avenue: Form-Based?

<bt>In autumn of 2005, the Maple Avenue Vision Committee sent out a request for proposals seeking an independent consultant to conduct a feasibility study regarding the conversion to form-based code or some hybrid thereof along Maple Avenue.

Form-based code places primary emphasis on the physical form of structures being built, rather than on the buildings' use, with the goal of producing a specific type of environment.

The consulting firm Duncan Associates was contracted last spring to conduct the study, and the firm has subcontracted Ferrell Madden Associates, a planning and design firm specializing in form-based code, to help with the project. It is still unclear how much change the town desires in its commercial core, and R.J. Eldridge, director of Duncan's D.C. office, has said he plans to outline various options from which the town can choose.

A maximum $10,000 budget has been set aside for the study, which is expected to be completed by late July, at which point there is to be a formal presentation.

If any zoning changes are recommended and approved, a consultant will be selected to conduct a full-blown analysis of the area, which would likely take about two years.

<sh>Calming Hunter Mill

<bt>Following years of discussion, a feasibility study evaluating options for traffic calming on Hunter Mill Road is underway. The county has provided $75,000 for the project. The engineering consulting firm Draper Aden was contracted to conduct the study in early April, and the firm subcontracted the assistance of Michael Wallwork, president of Alternate Street Design, P.A. Wallwork is a specialist in traffic calming and particularly roundabouts, of which he is recommending several for the road, along with splitters, landscaping and other methods for controlling traffic flow.

A roundabout consists of a circular island at the center of an intersection, around which traffic flows counterclockwise. They are known to slow traffic without stopping it and reduce crashes.

At a public meeting in late May, the Oakton community expressed broad support for the ideas presented for the study, although there were concerns about some of the specifics. The entrance to the upcoming Oakton Park, near Hunter Mill Road's intersection with Mystic Meadow Way, is considered a likely location for the road's first roundabout, assuming the project makes it to the construction phase.

Draper Aden's and Wallwork's study is expected to be completed by September, at which point money will need to be set aside for an engineering study before the project can move any further.

<sh>MetroWest on The Way

<bt>In March, the county Board of Supervisors approved a plan which will put a mini urban area on about 56 acres just south of the Vienna Metro station. The development, known as MetroWest, will include about 2,250 residences (townhouses and condo/apartments), 100,000 square feet of retail space, and 300,000 square feet of office space.

After years of discussion, and vehement opposition from a group of citizens, the board agreed to allow the developer, Pulte, to build in an area which had contained about 60 houses.

Citizens were opposed to the impact on traffic, schools and parks, all of which are crowded.

The developer agreed to a series of methods to try and mitigate the impact the development will have, including a plan to try and reduce residential traffic by 47 percent from what would be expected and office-related traffic by 25 percent.

After the March approval, Pulte must now go through an administrative process needed to secure the necessary permits for beginning construction.

This process will likely take about a year, with the first townhouses available in early 2008. Once construction begins, Pulte expects to take 10 years or more to complete the whole development.

<sh>Tysons To Get New Look

<bt>A citizen Task Force studying Tysons Corner is hoping for some help.

A new Metro rail line is expected to be operational with four stops in Tysons Corner by 2011. The current Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Corner allows increased density around Metro stations. Additionally, developers and property owners have submitted about 20 proposals to alter the plan to reflect plans they have to re-shape the area.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors appointed a citizen task force to study Tysons Corner and present recommendations about what changes, if any, are necessary to allow the county to make the best use of the areas around these new Metro stations.

The task force has developed a set of goals which lay out what they would like Tysons to be like. However, they were unsure about exactly how to implement these goals, and wanted to complete the study in a timely fashion.

The group has asked to hire a consultant to develop an urban center model, and the specific recommendations for changes to the Comprehensive Plan which would be necessary to realize the model.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to decide about allocating the money in September.

For more information about the task force, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/tysonscorner

<sh>Downtown Oakton Taking Shape

<bt>Oakton will soon get a new park and library along Hunter Mill Road. The Oakton Library, which was approved for funding in the 2004 bond referendum, is beginning construction. The new library is being built next to the Unity of Fairfax Church and is expected to relieve some pressure from Vienna's Patrick Henry library. Construction is planned to be completed in the fall of 2007.

Across the street, both the Park Authority Board and the Planning Commission approved the construction of Oakton Community Park. The roughly 10-acre park will be on the Corbalis Property on Hunter Mill Road. The new park is planned to include a rectangular (soccer or lacrosse) field, a 50-space parking lot and a trail system. Space has also been set aside for the Oakton Schoolhouse, which currently sits on the Appalachian Outfitters property just down the road, at the intersection of Chain Bridge and Hunter Mill roads. A Chevy Chase Bank will be replacing the schoolhouse and the two other historic buildings on the property.

<sh>Branch/Beulah Rebuilding Project

<bt>The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will be overseeing the complete refurbishing of Beulah Road, from Maple Avenue north to the Vienna town limit, and the nearby Branch Road, from Maple Avenue south to Valley Drive.

Beulah will have curbs, gutters and sidewalks installed where there have never been such amenities, and the curbs, gutters and sidewalks on Branch will be rebuilt. The pavement on both roads will be repaired, with some areas being resurfaced but most being completely reconstructed. The roads have not been rebuilt in at least 30 years and have fallen into disrepair.

In response to concerns of citizens along Beulah Road, the town has managed to obtain waivers from VDOT in order that exceptions can be made to new rules regarding the proximity of stationary objects to the roadside. Residents were upset that moving the utility poles away from the street would require a number of trees to be removed from their properties. The utility poles are now expected to remain more or less in their current locations.

The project will likely be put out to bid in the fall, with work to begin in the spring of 2007. The reconstruction is expected to take about a year and a half, and the town has been working on developing alternate routes for traffic. VDOT is funding the project, with the town matching 2 percent of the cost.