The Vienna Town Council moved 5-2 Monday night to approve a controversial mixed-use development of 39 condos, 7500 square feet of retail, and 125 parking spaces at 380 Maple Avenue. The bitter fight between developers and opponents that began last September is over…probably.
The catch is that before voting, Councilmember Pasha Majdi raised the possibility of rescinding the development’s approval at the next Town Council meeting on July 1st. This would be the first meeting with incoming Town Councilmembers Nisha Patel and Steve Potter. Both have voiced their concern about the development to TysonsToday.
Since the application was submitted last September, controversy over 380 Maple Avenue has revolved around concerns relating to the building’s height, density, and proportion of structure to green space. A slew of opponents have come forward at every Town Council meeting public comment session on the subject to express concerns about these issues. At the end of the May 13th session, Councilmember Howard Springsteen suggested that opponents and developers enter into mediation sessions. Yesterday, it became clear that those mediation sessions had taken place, and had failed.
Ray Brill, the Vienna attorney who led the sessions, appeared Monday to briefly speak about the sessions’ outcome. Brill said that the participants, “really like their position. And when you’re entering into a compromise the whole point is to come from your position to a middle position if you’re able. We were not able. And, I don’t think that if we had additional meetings that we would bridge that gap.”
“Just build a smaller building”
Added to the list of previously raised concerns were two new ones: the fact that Wade Hampton Drive would need to be narrowed by 4 feet, and the placement of an awning along the building’s front. Speaking on these issues, Majdi argued that rather than accommodate developers, developers should try harder to accommodate the Town. “Another way to address the problem is just build a smaller building…we keep hearing from people we want wider sidewalks, we want more greenspace, the buildings are too big…I don’t understand, why…exceptions are being made to allow for these things when a smaller building could be built.”
Responding to concerns raised by Majdi and Springsteen, Mayor DiRocco pointed to the desire of some Vienna residents for more diverse housing options. “Residents for the last number of years have shared their desire for a diversity of housing options in town…beyond what are primarily single-family residential housing. And most of the residents that have expressed this are older and they are looking for one floor living and no yard maintenance…I think it is a benefit to residents to offer other housing options at a different price point.”
In his last statement before the vote, Majdi pointed to the outcome of the recent Vienna Town Council elections as evidence that voters are opposed to this development. “I think the voters have spoken loud and clear on this issue and that’s where our Town wants us to go, and if we’re heading in the wrong direction with this particular application we should take a look at changing our mind with rescission at the next meeting.”
Clearly shocked, Councilmember Douglas Noble questioned Town Attorney Steve Briglia about whether rescinding an application is even a possibility under Town law. Briglia responded by saying that it was in fact possible if someone in the majority vote proposed rescission at the meeting immediately following the decision. With Patel and Potter taking their seats at the next meeting, if raised, a proposal to rescind the approval would most likely pass.
The next Vienna Town Council meeting will take place July 1st, 8pm, at Town Hall.