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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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Vienna Police vehicle (via Vienna Police Department/Facebook)

A Town of Vienna employee returned to work after the holiday weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day to find a pungent surprise in his vehicle.

“An employee reported someone entered his unlocked work truck and put dog feces on the steering wheel,” the Vienna Police Department said in its crime report for the week of Jan. 13-19.

Published today (Friday), the report says that the incident — which has been classified as vehicle tampering — occurred at Vienna Town Hall (127 Center Street South) sometime between 5 p.m. on Jan. 13 and 10 a.m. Tuesday (Jan. 17).

Other notable incidents from the report include a Cedar Lane School student in distress running into traffic:

Emotionally Disturbed Person 23-000333
Cedar Lane School
101 Cedar Lane, SE
January 12 8:46 a.m.
School administration reported a juvenile was in their office acting disorderly. When officers arrived, the juvenile fled from the office and ran out onto Cedar Lane where she continued to act disorderly, obstructing traffic and causing a hazard to herself and the officers. MPO Tremont arrested the juvenile on an Emergency Care Order and transported her to a mental health facility for evaluation and treatment.

In addition, Vienna police responded to the 200 block of Locust Street SE at 7:39 a.m. last Friday (Jan. 13) after “a resident reported he received an email in 2020 he believed might be threatening.”

Photo via Vienna Police Department/Facebook

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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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A deer checks out leaves by an asphalt path in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A neurological disease that’s fatal to deer has been detected in Fairfax County for the first time ever.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was found in an adult male deer killed by a hunter in the Vienna area this past October, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) reported Friday (Jan. 13).

The department says it confirmed the diagnosis with a sample obtained shortly after the deer was taken to a taxidermist in late October

“At the time of harvest, no outward signs of disease were noted, and the deer appeared to be in good condition,” DWR said in a news release. “Because this is the first CWD-positive detection in Fairfax County, a county bordering Disease Management Area 2 (DMA2), the DWR conducted an extensive forensic investigation to confirm the harvest location of this deer.”

Disease Management Area 2 encompasses Loudoun, Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange, Page, Rappahannock counties, where four instances of the disease — including one in Loudoun County — were detected during the 2021-2022 deer-hunting season.

First detected in Virginia in 2009, CWD is caused by an infectious protein called a prion that get transmitted to deer through saliva, feces, and urine from infected deer as well as through contaminated soil, according to DWR.

It can take months or even over a year after being exposed for infected deer to show symptoms, which include “staggering, abnormal posture, lowered head, drooling, confusion, and marked weight loss,” the department says.

While the disease isn’t known to be infectious or dangerous to humans, pets or livestock, DWR advises all hunters with deer from CWD-positive areas to get them tested and avoid eating meat from animals that test positive.

The department also recommends against transporting deer carcasses or parts with brain or spinal cord tissue from Fairfax County to an area where CWD hasn’t been detected before. Deer parts should be put in double bags and disposed of in a landfill or a trash bin, where they can be collected.

The state says it won’t make any regulatory changes in response to the CWD detection in Fairfax County until after the current hunting season, but drop sites where deer heads can be taken for CWD testing will be added before the next season. Right now, the closest options are in Loudoun.

Though deer-hunting season is mostly over in Virginia, Fairfax County is one of several localities included in the state’s urban archery program, which restricts hunters to deer without antlers and lasts through March 26.

In an effort to manage local deer populations, Fairfax County is allowing hunting with bows and arrows at over 100 parks in its 2022-2023 archery season, which runs through Feb. 18. Testing for CWD has been conducted throughout the county in recent years as part of its deer management program.

“Since the 2019-2020 season, over 750 deer have been tested, with this being the only detection to date in the county,” DWR said.

The Fairfax County Police Department’s wildlife management staff, which has been assisting with CWD surveillance efforts since 2019, will work with DWR to “determine any new rules or regulatory changes that will occur.” It will also help identify testing options for hunters participating in the county archery program or on private property.

This has evidently been a year for new diseases in local nature. Last week, the county announced that beech leaf disease has been found in three parks, putting one of the area’s most common tree species at risk.

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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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Akai Tori will replace Shin Se Kai Ramen at 234 Maple Avenue East in Vienna (via Fairfax County)

Perhaps the second time will be the charm for ramen shops trying to gain a foothold in the Town of Vienna at 234 Maple Avenue East.

Newcomer Akai Tori Ramen and Yakitori is on track to open in the 3,000-square-foot building on Jan. 28, replacing the short-lived Shin Se Kai Ramen, as first reported by Eater DC. A spokesperson emphasized to FFXnow that the date is a soft opening.

“We just tell our followers this winter or around the end of January as we don’t want to be overwhelmed and would like to be able to provide the best customer service and quality food as we can,” they said.

Akai Tori, which translates to “red bird,” confirmed that it’s not affiliated with Shin Se Kai, whose initially temporary closure early in the Covid pandemic became permanent despite its owner’s hopes.

Instead, Akai Tori comes from a face familiar to Vienna diners: chef-owner Mark Liu is behind Sushi Yoshi, the long-standing establishment on Church Street. Restaurateur Cody Zhou, who is opening the Mochinut franchise in Reston, is also a partner.

While the Tysons area has other eateries that specialize in ramen, such as Jinya Ramen Bar in the Mosaic District and Hokkaido Ramen Santouka at The Boro, Akai Tori promises that its noodle soups will stand out.

“Our ramen is definitely the differentiator,” the business said via Instagram. “Our ramen broth is made by hand for hours using our own recipe whereas most of the ramen places in DMV use the pre-made broth purchased from the suppliers (they will mix it with water and other sauces though).”

Akai Tori Ramen and Yakitori will serve ramen with handmade broth and other traditional Japanese cuisine (courtesy Akai Tori)

In addition to ramen, the menu will feature traditional Japanese cuisine like yakitori, donburi and katsu rice bowls, and sushi. Specialties include cheese bomb takoyaki, salmon sashimi katsu, an akai tori sushi roll, and bacon-wrapped mochi rice cakes, according to the spokesperson.

There will also be seasonal options and desserts like tempura ice cream and matcha parfait. Japanese snacks and drinks will be available from a concession stand in the waiting area.

Inspired by Japan’s informal Izakaya bars, the restaurant will serve “a curated range of Japanese beers, sake, and spirits” and hopes to attract “night owls” by staying open a little later than many other Vienna establishments.

The planned operating hours are:

  • Monday: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-9 p.m.
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday and Thursday: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-10 p.m.
  • Friday: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-11 p.m.
  • Saturday: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
  • Sunday: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

The spokesperson notes that the hours “might be changed later on.”

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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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Giant Food in Vienna (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) An argument between family members escalated into gunshots being fired outside the Giant Food in Vienna on Sunday (Jan. 8), the town police department said yesterday.

Officers responded to a report of gunfire near the grocery store at 359 Maple Avenue East around 3:40 p.m. One person commented on Nextdoor that their wife was leaving the adjacent Michael’s when she got pulled back inside.

“She says she could smell gun smoke when she was able to leave,” the commenter said.

Two people were injured in the incident. While the injuries were considered minor in both cases, one person was transported to a hospital for treatment.

“Further investigation by the criminal investigations section of the Vienna Police Department determined the incident began as a civil dispute between family members,” the VPD said.

Police initially said one person sustained injuries that were “not the result of a firearm.” When asked if that’s still believed to be the case for one or both individuals involved, the department said it had no further the information to share at the moment.

The investigation is still ongoing. Charges will be filed after investigators consult with the Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, police said.

“Shooting incidents are rare in the Town of Vienna and citizens should expect a full and complete investigation,” the VPD said today in a release. “The police department has dedicated numerous personnel to the investigation to ensure a thorough examination of the incident.”

The police say anyone with information about the incident can contact (703) 255-7845 or email juan.vazquez@viennava.gov.

Photo via Google Maps

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Paul French Bakery & Cafe at Tysons Galleria (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

In the future, Vienna residents will no longer have to brave Chain Bridge Road traffic to get a taste of Paul Bakery’s bread and macarons.

The 133-year-old French bakery and cafe is planning to expand right into the heart of the town in Jades Shopping Center, replacing Al Nakheel Lebanese Cafe & Market, which closed last year.

The business confirmed that it’s working to add the location to FFXnow, but the timeline for construction and a potential opening is “unknown at this point.”

An application for an interior renovation permit to turn the existing retail space at 340 Maple Avenue West into a bakery was accepted by Fairfax County on Oct. 13 and remains under review by staff.

This will be Paul’s first expansion in the D.C. area since its popular Tysons Galleria cafe opened on Jan. 14, 2013. The business also has three sites in downtown D.C. and one in Bethesda.

According to its website, Paul originated in 1889 as a small bakery run by a family of agricultural workers in Croix, France. It acquired its name in the 1950s after the owner took over a bakery-pâtisserie from the Paul family.

Known for fresh, traditionally made bread, the company now has over 620 restaurants in 34 countries. The D.C. area locations are owned and managed by Cole Hospitality, a hospitality service consultant based in Fairfax.

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The STEM school iCode opened a Vienna campus earlier in December (courtesy iCode)

A Texas-based technology education company has branched out into Vienna.

The school iCode launched its first Virginia franchise in the town earlier this month and is now hosting camps on game building, robotics and other tech skills for students out on break for the winter.

Located in a former Apple Federal Credit Union at 419A Maple Avenue East, iCode Vienna will get a grand opening at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 10.

“As parents living and working in Fairfax County, we saw a need to provide our children earlier exposure to technical education,” franchise co-owner David Dilly said in a statement. “…We realize children love gaming, so why not provide a positive outlet for their desires by learning to understand how their favorite games work?”

Founded in 2015 by Abid Abedi, iCode has close to 50 franchises around the U.S., along with two in Asia. All of the locations follow a curriculum developed by the company’s corporate office in Frisco, Texas.

The Vienna campus is the first of several planned for Virginia, specifically in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Next up, a school in Burke will open in spring 2023, according to Dilly.

In addition to camps, the school offers three tiers of programs, from one designed for flexibility where students build their own video game to classes focused on specific science, technology, engineering and math topics.

The most popular is a “Belt” program, which is intended to provide a “comprehensive” education in STEM subjects and the arts, iCode Vienna Director Toni Escobedo says. Covering ages 5 through 15, the program teaches a total of seven programming languages with each course building on the previous one.

Escobedo says iCode tailors its class and camp offerings to students’ interests, grouping classes based on age and skill level. The school is equipped with tablets, desktops, drones, robotics, 3D printers, an e-sports gaming lounge and more, with no outside technology needed.

She says the school distinguishes itself from other coding programs by emphasizing the full-time involvement of instructors in all classes and incorporating “soft skills” like project management and collaboration into the curriculum.

“These skills help students succeed not only academically but in their relationships and future careers,” she told FFXnow.

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