Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

<sh>Tree Replacement Program on W&OD

<bt>Dominion Power sought reconciliation with local residents by planting 1,600 trees and building information kiosks along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail throughout the year.

In 2004 and early 2005, Dominion upset many residents by cutting down hundreds of trees along the trail, on which it has an easement allowing it to maintain its power lines. Rather than trimming back tree branches on a three-year cycle as it had been doing, the company had decided to take an approach it called "the right tree in the right place," whereby trees that could threaten the lines in the future were removed and replaced with trees that would not grow tall enough to be a threat. Dominion said the Vienna area required more drastic cutting than many other areas because the lines are lower here.

Every tree cut down that had a four-inch "breast height," meaning a four-inch diameter at breast height, was to be replaced. Six hundred such trees were replaced, and an additional 1,000 trees were planted.

In an accord signed by representatives from Dominion and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority in late April at Vienna's Grace Presbyterian Church, the company also agreed to remove very small trees a few at a time, to refrain from using mowing equipment and to control erosion where vegetation was removed.

<sh>Mulching Continues Behind Sound Wall

<bt>Complaints about noise from the town's mulcher off Beulah Road were answered by the construction of a 630-foot-long, 12-foot-tall "noise attenuation barrier" this year.

Although the machine, which grinds yard waste into mulch to be distributed free of charge to residents, has been in use at the site around 15 years, complaints from neighbors did not begin until about two years ago.

The town budgeted $65,000 for materials for the wall, which the town's Department of Public Works constructed itself out of sheet plywood with acoustical material on the inside. The wall is being tested for sound levels by an independent consultant, who will compile and release the results in June or July.

There were also complaints about odor, which are being addressed by the use of a liquid odor neutralizer. Testing for odor was done by another independent consultant, and the results were negative.

When it reconvenes this year, the town's Board of Architectural Review is expected to reexamine the site to determine whether any aesthetic improvements, such as trees around the wall, should be required.

The barrier is about to be put to the public opinion test, as mulching is scheduled to begin shortly after New Year's.

<sh>Little Change to Comprehensive Plan

<bt>The Town of Vienna Comprehensive Plan went up for review in 2005, and few significant changes have been proposed. The biggest land-use changes proposed are to make provisions for two parks — the Vienna Town Green, which will cover a block near Maple Avenue and the W&OD Trail, and the proposed Nutley Park, which would be on a half-acre site near the intersection of Nutley Street NW and Commons Drive.

A public hearing on the site plan and zoning change for Nutley Park is scheduled for Jan. 9.

Another change is that the town maps will be converted to Graphic Information Systems (GIS) format. This means they will be created on computers and will allow layers with different information to be imposed on each other — for example, one layer showing land elevation imposed on another displaying housing density.

The updated Comprehensive Plan is expected to be reviewed by the Town Council in February.

<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.

Four bids were received on Dec. 1 and have been reviewed by the Department of Planning and Zoning. In the coming weeks Planning and Zoning will meet with the top two choices and select one.

A $10,000 maximum budget has been set aside for the study, which is expected to be completed in the spring.

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>Cable Competition?

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, Verizon appears unwilling to comply with a rule adopted by the town in 1990 requiring new cables to be laid underground.

As of now, the company needs another franchise agreement with the town in order to lay television cables in addition to its existing telephone lines. However, Verizon is preparing to push a piece of legislation through the state's General Assembly containing a provision saying that if the company has an existing franchise for telecommunications services in an area, they do not need another franchise agreement in order to install cable services.

The council has brought the matter to the attention of State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis (R-34) and Del. Steve Shannon (D-35), both of whom have expressed surprise and distaste at the idea of decisions regarding cable franchises being removed from a local government's purview.

The bill's acceptance or dismissal on the state level will set the terms for any future negotiation between Verizon and Vienna.

<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 the coming year.

The plan for the Town Green, which is to cover the block with Church Street and Maple Avenue to the northwest and southeast and Mill Street and the W&OD Trail to the northeast and southwest, was in the works for about a year and a half before being completed a few months ago. The plan will go before the town's Planning Commission for approval of the site plan and zoning change on Feb. 8.

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.

Demolition of the commercial building currently standing on the block is scheduled to begin in mid-March, and construction should get underway in April. The current budget set aside for demolition and construction is about $1.7 million.

The park is slated to open on Mother's Day 2007 in order to coincide with the Jamestown 2007 celebration.

<sh>Shannon Re-elected

<bt>Vienna voters opted in November to have Del. Steve Shannon (D-35) continue representing them in Richmond. He handily beat Republican rival Jim Hyland by a margin of about 60 percent to 40.

Shannon ran on his record as a former prosecutor and in developing Virginia's Amber Alert system to protect children from abduction, and on his support for the 2004 tax increase which included funding increases for schools and public safety.

Democrats fared well in the election statewide. Although still the minority party, they held onto the governor's mansion and picked up three seats in the House of Delegates in Northern Virginia.

<sh>Investigation Continues in Slaying of Taylor Behl

<bt>A month after she disappeared after leaving her dorm room at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond on Sept. 5, the body of 17-year-old Vienna resident Taylor Behl was found on a farm in Mathews County, Va. The primary suspect in the case is Richmond resident Ben Fawley, 38, who is being held without bond.

A multi-jurisdictional grand jury has been convening in Richmond to discuss the case. However, the grand jury that is scheduled to resume this month in Mathews County is the body most likely to issue any indictments.