Decision on 380 Maple Avenue delayed again as developers and critics struggle to see eye to eye

Michael Dranove Politics, Tysons Update

May 13th’s Vienna Town Council meeting produced no major breakthroughs in the debate over the fate of 380 Maple Avenue, as the Council moved to defer action and to continue public hearing at its next meeting, June 3rd. The move is just the latest delay for the proposal, as residents and developers have been unable to find an acceptable compromise since the proposal first went up for public comment.

Last fall, developers at Red Investment LLC and MJW Maple LLC submitted a proposal to the Council to tear down the office building which currently occupies 380 Maple Avenue and replace it with a mixed-use development of 39 condos, 7500 square feet of retail, and 125 parking spaces. The proposal has been met with packed Town Hall meetings filled to the brim with residents mainly voicing their opposition to the development. May 13th was no exception.

Barring a handful of supportive comments, for more than two hours residents came up to the podium to express their concerns over the development’s potential negative impact on traffic, pedestrian safety, and school overcrowding. Although recent proposals have seen the developers slightly reduce the building’s height, density, and proportion of building to green space, residents at the May 13th meeting asked for more reductions to the development’s number of condos, greater pedestrian safety precautions at the intersection of Wade Hampton and Glen Avenue, and for the building to be rotated ninety degrees.

After hearing the sometimes respectful, sometimes standoffish comments,
Dennis Rice, the lead developer on the project, took to the podium. Notably frustrated, Rice claimed critics lacked clear messaging on what changes they wanted to see made to the proposal. “This building has decreased in size tremendously from the beginning…every move that we’ve made they’ve come back and said, ‘well, that’s not really relevant’…I would like to work with them, but when all you hear is negative, and then all you hear is you haven’t done anything…it’s back and forth.”

When Councilmember Howard Springsteen asked Rice if he would be open to sitting down at a mediation session with concerned residents Rice responded, “If it’s a reasonable civil discussion. I have been attacked and will not be attacked again…I don’t have a problem with that but I will not have my architect attacked either, if they can’t be civil I don’t want to talk to ’em. So if you would like to suggest a meeting time, I would be happy to.”

The plan to set up mediation between Rice and residents was probably the biggest step of the evening, although it is unclear if it will be successful. When asked for comment on the mediation sessions, Springsteen said the sessions are underway, though he was unable to comment on whether or not they have been fruitful, saying only, “I think both sides need to listen.” Springsteen also told TysonsToday that, most likely, the June 3rd meeting will not feature a vote on the development, though hopefully that will be because residents and the developers are making progress in their mediation sessions and will simply need more time to iron out all the details.

Developers are no doubt nervous about their chances of passing the proposal once new Vienna Town Council members are sworn in on July 1st. Springsteen won reelection on May 7th along with challengers Nisha Patel and Steve Potter. In emails with TysonsToday, Patel and Potter both expressed, as private citizens, concerns they have with the proposal as it stands now.

Springsteen also pointed to the election results as a reason why the Council is hesitant to vote on the project as it currently stands saying, the “election has consequences…voters have spoken.”