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The tennis and pickleball courts at Glyndon Park in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Getting court time at Glyndon Park in Vienna may be tougher going forward for pickleball players.

In the hopes of alleviating noise complaints from nearby residents, the Vienna Town Council approved a significant reduction in playing time for the increasingly popular sport at the 11-acre park’s four courts during its Monday (Jan. 23) meeting.

However, the new schedule represents less of a reduction in days than initially proposed, allowing pickleball on four days per week instead of just three. It also eliminates shared playing times between tennis and pickleball, so hours designated for pickleball will be exclusively reserved for that sport.

“I see this as a long-term issue,” said Councilmember Chuck Anderson, who proposed the adopted schedule. “I think we all on council agree on that, that what we need to do is roll up our sleeves and take a look at capacity. This is a rapidly growing game. It’s very popular, but it also has a noise issue, and it’s something I think we need to work on and manage.

Pickleball is now limited at the park to the following hours:

Dec. 1 to the end of February

  • 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday

March 1 through Nov. 30

  • 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Outside of those hours, only tennis will be allowed. The courts close at 10 p.m.

As part of the approved motion, the council also directed the Department of Parks and Recreation to post signage at the park recommending that pickleball players use “quiet” paddles that supposedly make less noise.

Prior to Monday’s 5-2 vote, pickleball and tennis were both permitted at Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE) seven days a week, but they alternated during open-play hours on Monday through Thursday mornings — a schedule confusing enough that the town council spent several minutes of a Jan. 23 conference session on the proposed changes trying to get clarification.

Anderson said he had considered continuing some shared usage of the courts as part of his proposal but ultimately decided it would be too complicated. He also found that the suggestion didn’t appeal to either pickleball players or the residents who raised the noise issues.

“If you start sharing [on pickleball days], you have to do it the other way too,” he said. “On a tennis day, if the tennis courts aren’t being used and a pickleball player shows up, it would be used, and I just don’t think that’s workable.”

Since Vienna added pickleball lines to Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts in 2020, some residents have complained that the noise made by paddles hitting the plastic balls is “unbearable,” an issue that has cropped up across the country.

Town staff reduced open-play hours and introduced a reservation system for afternoons, but complaints persisted, with some residents calling for pickleball to be banned from the park altogether, Parks and Rec Director Leslie Herman told the council.

After talking with staff, the residents agreed limiting pickleball to Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays would be acceptable, leading Mayor Linda Colbert and Councilmember Ed Somers to object to the addition of a fourth day.

“I’m just concerned about adding a fourth day at this point. I might get there eventually if more people use the soft paddles, if the noise is reduced, if things change, I could get there very easily, but I’m not there right now,” Somers said to a smattering of claps from the audience.

Anderson and other supporters of the four-day schedule said it would give players more flexibility, while starting play later and ending it earlier.

“There’s just a one-hour difference, and it gives people more peace in the mornings and evenings,” Councilmember Nisha Patel noted.

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Pickleball players celebrate the opening of the courts at Glyndon Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The nationwide face-off between pickleball enthusiasts and homeowners has arrived in the Town of Vienna.

In the hopes of quieting resident noise complaints, the town council is set to vote on Monday (Jan. 30) to reduce pickleball play to three days per week at the courts in Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street NE).

Currently available seven days a week, the four pickleball courts would open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays under the proposal from the Vienna Parks and Recreation Department. The hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays would remain the same, but on Saturdays, they would end at 5 p.m.

Town staff recommended an 8 a.m. start time for Saturday, but at a conference session on Jan. 23 that saw some tense back-and-forth exchanges on both the dais and from the audience, a few council members suggested considering 9 a.m. instead, since kids might want to sleep in on the weekend.

“I don’t know that anybody is a hundred percent thrilled with this, but it is in my mind a compromise, and it’s something we can do right now,” Mayor Linda Colbert said.

Glyndon Park’s pickleball courts were welcomed with gusto by local players — including the mayor, who also partakes in tennis — when they opened in October 2020. With aid from the Vienna Pickleball Club, which paid for some of the equipment, the town added pickleball markings to the two existing tennis courts as part of a planned refurbishment.

However, players have run afoul of some nearby residents, who describe the sound of paddles hitting the plastic balls as “unbearable, loud and constant,” according to one comment in an October survey conducted by the parks department.

“The noise is unbearable,” wrote a resident of Jean Place NE, which is across the street from the courts. “The constant popping 12 hours a day 7 days a week is borderline torture. We cannot use our outdoor space anymore due to pickleball and cannot open our windows.”

The survey went to 34 households and received 17 responses, including seven from people who reported having no issues with pickleball. Parking and traffic complaints also came up, but Parks Director Leslie Herman said those “have been taken care of” with signage directing players to an overflow parking lot by the baseball diamonds.

Vienna isn’t alone in seeing clashes between homeowners and pickleball players. As the sport has grown in popularity over the past decade, so have the noise complaints, leading some communities to close courts and others to be taken to court — including in nearby Arlington County.

The sound level for pickleball is anywhere from 57 to 79 decibels, depending on proximity and the type of equipment used. That’s 25 decibels higher than a tennis racket hitting a ball, according to the Los Angeles Times.

People talking can also contribute to the noise levels, Councilmember Ray Brill said, recalling a visit to Glyndon Park where he saw dozens of people at the courts who weren’t playing.

“I love exercising, and I love playing sports outdoors, but we have neighbors we have to be considerate of,” Brill said. “There’s no shortcuts, so we have to compromise. We have to allow people to play, but they have to take steps to reduce the noise.” Read More

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A kid runs past Vienna Town Hall (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Town of Vienna wants to give its employees more breathing room — literally.

Some space has been freed up in town hall by the Vienna Police Department’s criminal investigations bureau relocating to its recently completed station. The department’s transition to the new station will be conclude with its communications team moving in by the end of January, according to a spokesperson.

As a result, the town is reorganizing how it uses the town hall building at 127 Center Street South to maximize efficiency and relieve cramped conditions that relegated one worker to a ventilated computer server room, Town Manager Mercury Payton told the Vienna Town Council on Jan. 9.

“[That] probably wasn’t the best thing for his health. We’re going to be moving him out of that area into a vacated space,” Payton said. “So, we’ve already kind of determined internally ourselves some of our best moves, and then we’ve kind of gone as far as we can go.”

To assist with the reconfiguration, the town council approved a $84,900 contract for PMA Architecture to conduct an office space study. The consulting firm was chosen from 10 candidates based on its “innovative yet practical ideas” and experience working with smaller governments, Vienna Finance Director Marion Serfass said.

Built almost 60 years ago, town hall was last renovated in 2014 when it got a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, but there was little consideration of workplace layout at that time — an oversight that became apparent as Covid heightened concerns about the spread of disease.

About 47 employees work out of town hall, not including the 12 recently relocated police personnel, according to a request for proposals issued by the town in August.

While there hasn’t been a huge increase in staff, the services offered by the town have evolved and expanded, Serfass said.

“We’re focusing on economic development, we’re focusing on video content, we’re adding slightly to town hall staff,” she said. “Some of these additions are temporary, but some may become permanent, so town hall staff is sort of bursting at the seams right now.”

The funds for the space study come from Vienna’s American Rescue Plan Act allotment, which can be used to prevent the spread of disease in the workplace. The town previously used federal Covid relief money to install an air filtration system and Plexiglas barriers, among other needs, according to Serfass.

In addition to reviewing room layouts, equipment and storage space, the study will take security needs into account, PMA Architecture Principal Katie Stodghill told the town council.

“I was very pleased to hear you raise the issue of public safety,” Councilmember Ed Somers said. “We live in a different era than we did years ago. We deal with a number of issues where people are frustrated about many things, and their most accessible level of government…is their local government. I do worry often about our staff that are there all the time.”

An exact timeline for the study hasn’t been established yet, but when it’s completed, a final report and the consultant’s recommended solution will be presented to the town council.

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Trees by the Glyndon Park pickleball courts (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Vienna Town Council is in agreement that it must finish rewriting the town’s zoning code by the end of 2023, but that’s where any unanimity on priorities for the coming year ends.

At its first regular meeting of the year on Monday (Jan. 9), the council voted 4-3 to set four top priorities for 2023: complete Code Create Vienna, develop a parks master plan, review the town’s noise ordinance, and explore ways to improve the local tree canopy.

While everyone agreed those initiatives are important, the town’s first zoning overhaul in 50 years is the only one that all members felt should be at the top of their to-do list.

“I agree with this in concept, but when I look at this list, I do question whether this is representing what the people in town would want as their top four priorities,” Councilmember Nisha Patel said of the proposal from her colleague, Ray Brill.

She called prioritizing Code Create “a no-brainer” but wasn’t sold on tree preservation as a top issue compared to traffic or vehicle break-ins, which get more resident complaints.

A report presented in October found that Vienna has lost approximately 163 acres of tree coverage since 2011.

The council discussed potential priorities for the next year at an almost four-hour-long conference session on Dec. 12, but the need to finish the zoning overhaul after more than two years of work was the only suggestion to get unanimous support, according to Mayor Linda Colbert.

The parks master plan will include a decision on long-term uses for the former Faith Baptist Church property that the town bought in September 2020. The site is temporarily housing the police department, which hasn’t moved into its new station months after the ribbon-cutting.

The town’s noise ordinance was opened up for review in July after years of resident complaints about violations from business and construction activities.

Colbert and Councilmember Ed Somers joined Patel in her wariness of designating top priorities without seeking public input on what exactly they should be.

“I know probably a lot of us support each other’s [suggestions] certainly, even if we didn’t rank them in the top four,” Colbert said. “I don’t think it would be responsible for us to vote on four priorities when we didn’t have that discussion in an open meeting.”

Attempts to postpone a vote until after a public hearing or to only approve Code Create as the council’s top priority failed, as other members countered that setting clear priorities would make the town government more efficient.

Councilmember Steve Potter said that a lack of focus has been a recurring issue for the council since he was first elected in 2019.

“We have public hearings, we have the ability of people to send in their concerns, and that can’t be ignored,” he said. “If we continue down this path, we are going to have the same problem that we’ve had before. We start something and it gets interrupted, we lose it, we go back to it later, and that is no way to run a business or an organization of any kind.”

Brill’s approved motion stressed that the designated quartet of priorities won’t preclude the council from addressing other issues or interfere with time-sensitive business, such as the annual budget cycle.

“We become more efficient rather than sort of kicking the can down the road on some issues that we’ve been dealing with for years,” Brill said. “When we focus, we can get them done, and we open up opportunities to get more done. This is a benefit to the town, to the residents, and we can do things in some ways like we’ve never done before.”

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Councilmember Ed Somers proposes raising the mayor and council salaries by 50% (via Town of Vienna)

When 2024 comes around, Vienna’s mayor and town council will see a bump up in pay for the first time in years.

In a close 4-3 vote, the council approved 50% salary increases during its meeting on Monday (Jan. 9) that would raise the mayor’s annual pay to $11,250 and pay for town council members to $7,500.

In both cases, the increases are smaller than what town staff had recommended, keeping Vienna’s salaries for the positions below other similarly sized towns and cities in Northern Virginia.

“There’s so many things we want to do, and one of the things this council prides itself on is being fiscally responsible and setting priorities,” said Councilmember Ed Somers, who proposed those numbers. “…We are coming under what our staff was recommending as a total number. I think by doing it with an even percentage for council and for the mayor, that seems fair and understandable to the public.”

Vienna has paid its mayor $7,500 since 2014. The council’s annual salary has stayed flat at $5,000 since 2002.

Town staff suggested last month that the salaries be raised to $15,000 for the mayor and $12,000 for council members. That would bring them closer to the towns of Herndon and Leesburg, which both approved pay raises last year.

A comparison of salaries for council members and mayors in Northern Virginia (via Town of Vienna)

At the Dec. 12 conference session, however, some council members seemed hesitant support to significant raises amid an uncertain economic climate, suggesting that Vienna should narrow the gap between the mayor and council salaries.

Councilmembers Nisha Patel, Ray Brill and Howard Springsteen voted against the raises on Monday, though they didn’t provide explanations during the meeting. FFXnow didn’t get responses to requests for comment by press time.

After previously coming in May, Vienna’s elections for mayor and town council will be held on Nov. 7 after the Virginia General Assembly passed a law moving all municipal elections to November.

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Vienna Town Council chambers (file photo)

Vienna is considering more than doubling the salaries for mayor and town council going forward, but the current holders of those offices suggested they will aim lower amid still-high inflation, fears of a recession, and general economic uncertainty.

At a conference session on Monday (Dec. 12), town staff proposed bumping up the pay for town council members from $5,000 per year to $12,000, and from $7,500 per year to $15,000 for the mayor. It would be the first raise for the mayor since 2014 and the first for the council since 2002.

Acknowledging the awkwardness of elected officials discussing their own compensation, Mayor Linda Colbert noted that, based on a rough estimate of the hours she spends on the part-time job, her current salary is equivalent to $7.32 per hour — well under Virginia’s minimum wage of $11.

“Nobody wants to give themselves a raise. We’re public servants. That’s not the first thing on our mind,” Colbert said. “We’re always thinking about the residents, but I do think if we’re going to do this, staff has come up with a reasonable amount.”

If approved, the raises would be in place for Jan. 1, 2024, since Virginia law prohibits salary increases from taking effect during the incumbent mayor or town council’s term.

The suggested new salaries would still put Vienna below the towns of Herndon and Leesburg, which both approved pay hikes earlier this year. For city elected officials, compensation is limited by the state code based on the locality’s population, Vienna Finance Director Marion Serfass noted.

Still, some council members seemed wary of pushing for a significant raise, questioning the proposed $3,000 gap between the mayoral and council salaries compared to the approximately $1,000 difference seen in other jurisdictions.

“I think making a decision on this based on what other jurisdictions are doing in terms of the differential between council and mayor, I just like the optics of that a lot better,” Councilmember Nisha Patel said, suggesting that the mayoral salary should be closer to $13,000.

Councilmember Ed Somers said he’s fine with a bigger gap, considering that there are six council members and just one mayor.

“From a budgetary standpoint, the council collectively costs the taxpayers a lot more than the mayor does,” he said. “So, I am worried about the fiscal issues. I am worried about where we’re headed with the economy, so I still think the spread should be a little bit higher.”

While Colbert argued that Vienna “should be leaders” in terms of setting pay standards, Councilmembers Chuck Anderson and Howard Springsteen sided with Patel in preferring the “optics” of aligning with other localities.

The salary increases are expected to be put on the agenda item for the council’s Jan. 9 meeting before the upcoming budget cycle gets in full swing, according to Serfass.

“We’re going to be making difficult choices in a time when there’s a lot of economic uncertainty,” Anderson said. “We’re probably going to have to ask people to basically make sacrifices, and if we as a council aren’t willing to do that, then I think it’s really tough for us to look staff in the face and ask them to do that.”

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A rendering of the duplexes proposed to replace the Vienna Courts condos (via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Courts offices will officially be replaced with residential condominiums.

The Vienna Town Council voted Monday (Dec. 5) to approve a rezoning and site plans that would allow 12 two-story condo duplexes with two units each at 127-133 Park Street — a more modest project than the 30 units that developer BFR Construction originally proposed.

“This has been a long time coming, and in my opinion, this meets one of our biggest challenges going forward, which is to find lower-cost housing for Vienna,” said Councilmember Chuck Anderson. “We don’t have a whole lot of spaces for that, but this happens to be, I think, a very good space for it.”

Officials on the council — and the town’s planning commission before it — had pushed to scale back the project plans to create more open space on the 1.66-acre lot.

BFR President Steve Bukont had argued that the site’s long, narrow shape would make it difficult to meet that demand while also maintaining his vision of the development as an alternative to traditional single-family houses and townhomes for residents looking to age in place.

The Vienna Courts redevelopment will deliver 24 condo units in 12 buildings on Park Street NE (via Town of Vienna)

After initially requesting an allowance for 70%, the developer was able to get the lot coverage down to 61.5% by removing another building, slightly reducing the size of the remaining buildings and taking away three of the 19 proposed visitor parking spots.

The complex will now have a total of 64 parking spaces, including 48 garage spaces, 16 guest spaces and two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant spaces.

The added space also came at the expense of a commitment to install solar panels and geothermal heating and air conditioning systems. The developer now says it reserves the right to install geothermal HVAC systems and will design the building roofs to support future solar panels, but the utilities aren’t guaranteed.

BFR will still install 5-foot-wide brick sidewalks and street lights and underground power lines along Park Street, according to a final proffer statement. The developer has also agreed to construct a privacy wall between its property and the adjacent house at 135 Park Street at the homeowner’s request.

The Vienna Courts redevelopment is the second duplex project that the council has approved in as many years, as Vienna seeks to provide a greater variety of housing.

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The cross has been removed from Vienna’s former Faith Baptist Church building (file photo)

The Town of Vienna is seeking a little guidance to determine what to do with the former Faith Baptist Church property on Center Street.

The town council approved an allocation of $92,500 on Monday (Nov. 14) to launch a study of potential long-term uses for the site, now known as the Vienna Annex.

After receiving two bids in response to its request for proposals, the town has contracted Pennsylvania-based firm Kimmel Bogrette Architecture + Site to conduct the study, whose findings will eventually be presented to the town council.

“The information from the Annex Long-Term Use Study will provide recommended land uses of the annex property based on the town’s strategic plan, [comprehensive] plan, extensive community engagement and available funding in the long run,” Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman said.

The town bought the 3-acre property at 301 Center Street South for $5.5 million in fall 2020, giving the Vienna Police Department a temporary base during the construction of its new headquarters. Though there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony in early September, some final work is still being done before the building can be occupied.

As officers prepare to move out at some point, town leaders have been debating the best long-term use of the former church and have, thus far, come up with a big question mark.

Herman initially proposed utilizing the building temporarily as an annex for recreational activities to supplement the Vienna Community Center, but the town council feared that would cut off other long-term possibilities, particularly since a previous study estimated the conversion would cost $1 million.

The council authorized the removal of a cross from the building’s steeple in September but declined to fund roof repairs, saying it didn’t want to invest in a building that may ultimately be torn down.

When asked by Councilmember Ray Brill, Kimmel Bogrette confirmed that it will consider the possibility of demolishing all existing structures when exploring options for the site.

“Our approach to community engagement is to try to help folks see beyond what they see there today and look at the possibilities,” Kimmel Bogrette president and co-founder Martin Kimmel said.

Town staff will meet with the consultant next week to determine a detailed timeline for the study, according to a Town of Vienna spokesperson.

“Public engagement is expected to take place in January and February, 2023 and a final report is expected to be presented to Town Council in June,” Vienna Public Information Director Karen Thayer told FFXnow.

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A rendering of the duplexes proposed to replace the Vienna Courts condos (via Town of Vienna)

A plan to turn the Vienna Courts offices into duplexes has been downsized again, as the developer and town leaders try to make the complex fit in without sacrificing its viability as an alternative multifamily housing option.

After initially proposing 15 two-floor buildings with one unit on each floor in September, BFR Construction President Steve Bukont agreed on Monday (Nov. 14) to drop a building and some guest parking so the development will occupy a little less of the 1.66-acre lot at 127-133 Park Street.

The project had already been reduced by one building before getting the Vienna Planning Commission’s approval on Sept. 28, so it will now have 12 buildings with 24 units.

However, Bukont told the Vienna Town Council that the smaller footprint means he can no longer guarantee that the residences will have solar panels, geothermal heating and other energy efficiency measures as previously offered.

“The green energy thing would be a goal. We couldn’t commit to doing it, but we would certainly make every attempt to do it,” he said. “Unfortunately…the cost of construction since we started discussing this project is up by double digits, and it doesn’t look like it’s going down.”

The developer confirmed that the project will still underground power lines along Park Street Northeast and install street lights similar to those on nearby Church Street, as stated in a Nov. 1 proffer agreement.

Vienna Courts developer Steve Bukont has agreed to consolidate buildings 12 and 13 into one building (via Town of Vienna)

A lack of green space has been a sticking point for the Vienna Courts redevelopment from the start.

Intended to primarily serve older individuals and people with disabilities, the buildings will be small, with units topping out at 1,779 square feet. But the size and shape of the lot mean that most of it will be filled, raising fears about density on a site between Vienna’s commercial center and single-family residences.

“It doesn’t feel like we need density,” resident Brian Goldberg said at Monday’s public hearing, which was continued from Oct. 24. “Let Tysons have the density. Let Reston have the density. Let all these other areas that seem to have an appetite for going tall have it. Why do we need to do that in a residential area like we have?”

BFR Construction had requested a modification to let the development take up 70% of the lot, but the planning commision only approved 68%. Down to 13 buildings, the developer came to the town council this week seeking an allowance for 66.8%.

That still didn’t satisfy council members, who worried allowing that lot coverage could be a “slippery slope” in a town where only one development has exceeded 60% in the past 55 years, according to town staff. Read More

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A rendering of the duplexes proposed to replace the Vienna Courts condos (via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Town Council says a plan for new duplexes shows promise but isn’t quite ready for approval yet.

At a meeting on Oct. 24, the council said there are lingering concerns about the lot coverage — how much of a site is built on by a development — for the Vienna Courts project. Developer BFR Construction has proposed a set of duplexes at the Vienna Courts offices 127-133 Park Street NE. The project would replace four office buildings with 14 two-family dwellings.

The developer has asked the town for an exemption to lot coverage limits so it can build on 70% of a site where the city’s zoning only allows 25% lot coverage.

“The applicant is requesting a lot coverage of 70%,” the staff report said. “The proposed style of the development does not lend itself to the stated 25% maximum due to the number of units and required parking area.”

“Your lot coverage is significantly higher than anybody else,” Councilmember Steve Potter said. “Living next to a construction site and seeing the lack of space that is on their properties and how it intrudes onto the public streets and how it impacts school bus routes and people doing their walking and all that, I wonder if that has been given careful consideration.”

The project had previously received a mixed reception from the Planning Commission.

Town leaders said lot coverage is an issue with the project, but they believe a compromise is possible.

“I’m not sure if we’re quite ready to vote on this tonight, but you have gotten some feedback,” Mayor Linda Colbert said. “I think it’s a beautiful project, and I look forward to looking at this again.”

The project was scheduled to be reviewed again at a meeting on Monday, Nov. 14.

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