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Duplexes are proposed to replace the Vienna Courts office condos (via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Planning Commission made clear Wednesday (Sept. 28) that in concept, it’s in favor of redeveloping the Vienna Courts offices as duplex housing, but the lack of open space remains a sticking point.

After getting unanimous support for its proposed rezoning, developer BFR Construction Company merely eked out a win from the commission when it came to requested site modifications that it argued are necessary to build the planned residences.

The commission voted 4-3 to recommend that the Vienna Town Council approve reduced front and back yard setbacks, a lot area of 72,167 square feet, and an allowance for the development to cover 68% of the lot — slightly below the 70% that BFR is seeking.

“I don’t know if it’s this trade-off between additional parking and green space, but that’s where I would say I have remained a bit concerned,” Commissioner Jessica Ramakis said. “But again overall, [I] really appreciate all of the care in the proposal and that it would meet a need for having more units of this nature in the town.”

Initially envisioned as 30 residential units in 15 buildings, the Vienna Courts development was already tweaked to instead fit 28 units in 14 two-story buildings at 127-133 Park Street NE. The units will be 1,200 to about 1,900 square feet in size.

Developer BFR Construction has proposed building 14 duplexes with two units of housing each (via Town of Vienna)

The developer heard a desire for multi-family units in a variety of sizes “loud and clear”  from potential residents, BFR President Steve Bukont said after a public hearing where three Vienna residents voiced support for the project.

“I live in a fairly large, single-family home by myself now, unfortunately, and I’ve been looking for a place like this,” said Linda Wayne, who’s lived in the town for five years. “I’d like to continue to be in Vienna within walking distance of shopping, just all the amenities that Vienna offers.”

Wayne said the one-floor duplexes are preferable to a multi-story townhouse.

A 48-year resident of the Vienna area who lives alone after the death of her husband said the project “would be a very, very nice addition to our lovely town,” especially with its proximity to the Town Green and restaurants on Church Street.

The only neighbor to the property who appeared at the meeting was Stephen Cook, who confirmed that he will rebuild and live in his grandfather’s historic house at 135 Park Street. The 122-year-old home of local photographer T.R. Cook burned down in April.

Per Fairfax County property records, T.R. Cook sold the house to his grandson for $900,500 in December.

“I’m just happy to see that there’s generational ownership in town,” Commission Vice Chair David Miller said after Stephen Cook shared his plan. Read More

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

With the national shortage of commercial drivers continuing to strain services from trash collection to school buses, the Town of Vienna plans to increase salaries and offer bonuses to bolster its maintenance workforce.

As part of a new incentive program, the Department of Public Works recommends that the town increase its entry-level salary for maintenance workers to $55,000 and offer a $2,000 hiring bonus to new employees with a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Maintenance workers — who handle tasks from paving and plowing roads to maintaining sewers and parks facilities — currently get a minimum annual salary of $40,354 or $44,490, depending on the exact position, according to Vienna’s pay plan for fiscal year 2022-2023.

The incentive program would adjust the salaries of existing employees with CDLs accordingly “to address compression and years of service,” town staff wrote in a request for $80,000 to fund the plan in the FY 2022-2023 budget.

The program would also give an annual $2,500 bonus to employees who maintain a Class A CDL and $2,000 bonuses to employees who maintain a Class B license.

Per the staff memo, the proposed hiring bonuses are in line with what Fairfax County, the Town of Herndon, and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions are offering. However, they fall short of what workers can get from the private sector, where incentives range from $4,000 to $10,000.

Vienna’s public works department is seeking $80,000 for the program in a $1.28 million set of adjustments to the FY 2022-2023 budget, known as carry forwards.

“Carry forward money is available because the Town had a surplus in FY 2021-22 of approximately $720,000,” town staff said. “The surplus is due to a combination of several General Fund revenues exceeding budget plus salary savings due to position vacancies during the year.”

Intended to address needs identified after the budget was adopted in May, the package includes $100,000 for building maintenance, $15,000 for landscaping at the Bowman House, and $30,000 to switch 60 town cell phones from T-Mobile to AT&T, among other items.

Stricter regulations for massage salons that the town council approved on Aug. 29 will require a new temporary employee to help enforce the new rules, according to staff. The town estimates that the position will cost $40,000.

“During the 2024 budget cycle staff will recommend whether or not this requires a permanent full or half-time position,” the memo says.

The Vienna Town Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed carry forward plan during its regular meeting at 8 p.m. tonight (Monday).

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Construction is underway to replace the aging bridge (Photo via VDOT).

Construction is ramping up today (Sept. 14) on the $5.2 million project to replace the one-lane Hunter Mill Road bridge that runs over Colvin Run near Vienna.

A new two-lane bridge where Hunter Mill crosses Colvin Run right near the border of Reston and Vienna is set to replace the nearly five-decade-old, weight-restricted one-lane bridge currently there.

While construction began a year ago, this week marks the beginning of using temporary traffic signals and Driveway Assistance Devices (DADs) in the vicinity of the bridge to allow crews to complete construction on the new bridge. Those will be in place until the new two-lane bridge reopens to traffic in the spring of 2023.

The existing bridge was built in 1974 and is being replaced both because it’s in need of major repairs and to help with traffic, per Mike Murphy with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“The new bridge will have two lanes, thereby improving traffic flow as traffic in one direction will no longer have to yield to the other when crossing the bridge,” Murphy told FFXnow.

That section of Hunter Mill Road averages about 7,400 vehicles per day.

Beyond a new bridge, there will also be a landscaped median/splitter island and abutments for a new trail bridge over Colvin Run. Fairfax County is responsible for the trail bridge and it’s expected to be built in the future.

The project is costing $5.2 million in total, including $1 million for engineering and $4.2 million for construction. Funding is a mix of federal, state, and county funds with the state contributing about $3.3 million from its State of Good Repair program and the county about $400,00 to the project, per Murphy.

The full VDOT press release on the use of temporary traffic signals and DADs:

Temporary traffic signals on Hunter Mill Road (Route 674) will be activated just north and south of Colvin Run around noon Wednesday, Sept. 14 as part of the Hunter Mill Road over Colvin Run bridge project, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The transition points from two lanes to one on Hunter Mill Road will be moved further away from the bridge. For traffic coming from the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267), the transition to one lane will occur before the Lake Fairfax Park Maintenance entrance; for traffic coming from Baron Cameron Avenue (Route 606), the transition to one lane will occur before the residential access road located just north of the bridge. Relocating the transition points will allow the second lane of Hunter Mill Road to be constructed along and adjacent to the bridge.

Also, three Driveway Assistance Devices (DADs) will be installed: one at the Lake Fairfax Park Maintenance entrance, one at the residential access road just south of the bridge (opposite the maintenance entrance) and one at the residential access road just north of the bridge. The DADs will allow drivers turning onto Hunter Mill Road to see which direction traffic is moving between the two temporary traffic signals.

The temporary signals and DADs, which will efficiently manage the one lane of alternating traffic in each direction on Hunter Mill Road and traffic from the side entrances, will be in place until spring 2023.

The traffic pattern changes are part of the project replacing the weight-restricted (10 tons) one-lane Hunter Mill Road bridge over Colvin Run. The bridge was originally built in 1974. The new bridge will have two lanes separated by a median/splitter island. The project also includes an improved trail crossing south of the bridge, landscaping in the median/splitter island and abutments for a new trail bridge over Colvin Run (Fairfax County will construct the trail bridge at a future date). The project is scheduled for completion in spring 2023.

Visit the VDOT project page for more details.

Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are reminded to use caution when traveling in active work zones. Be alert to new traffic patterns and limit distractions.

You can get real-time traffic, work zone and incident information online at 511virginia.org, via the free mobile 511Virginia app, or by calling 511 in Virginia anywhere anytime.

View this release online.

Follow VDOT Northern Virginia on Twitter: @vadotnova

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The inaugural JeanFest22 in Vienna will celebrate the life of Jean Buttecali, a resident, business owner and volunteer who died in 2020 (photo by Pete Buttecali)

This weekend, Vienna will celebrate a longtime resident the way she would’ve wanted: with a party for a good cause.

The Rotary Club of Vienna will stage its inaugural JeanFest22 Charity Benefit Concert at the Town Green and Jammin’ Java on Saturday (Sept. 10) in honor of Jean Buttecali, a local business owner and frequent volunteer who died suddenly from an unknown heart issue in summer 2020.

Conceived by Buttecali’s husband of over 30 years, Pete, the concert will supplement the ViVa Vienna festival that the rotary club organizes every Memorial Day weekend as a fundraiser. All proceeds will be added to those funds for donation to community groups and charitable causes.

“She had a huge heart, big smile, and also really did a lot of stuff behind the scenes philanthropically with different organizations,” JeanFest22 Chair A.J. Oskuie said “…When we lost her, we wanted to celebrate her in some way, and this was the best way to sort of commemorate her memory and also have a good time. She would want to do the same thing.”

In a video about JeanFest, Pete Buttecali calls his wife’s death a “devastating” tragedy in a year already made challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to their marriage and two children, the couple shared ownership of Woodpile Studios, a design firm noted for creating the logo for the 2005 Grammy Awards.

Yet, Jean “was an optimist” who wouldn’t “tolerate a collapse into grief,” he says. They had promised each other that “if one of us passed away, don’t put on a funeral, throw a party.”

In that spirit, JeanFest will kick off at 11:30 a.m. on the Vienna Town Green with food, retail vendors, and family-friendly entertainment:

Admission to the outdoor concert is free, but there will be buckets and QR codes that attendees can use to make donations.

The festivities will move to Jammin’ Java (227 Maple Avenue East) from 7-10 p.m. for live music from the Arlington-based FBI Band, whose frontman was one of Jean’s best friends, according to Oskuie.

Tickets to the indoor, more adult-oriented “JeanFest Night Jam” start at $22 and can be purchased through Jammin’ Java. Ticket, merchandise, food and drink proceeds will go to charity.

Oskuie says the 2022 ViVa Vienna alone brought in about $240,000. Over the next year, the rotary club will support over 70 different organizations nominated by its members this fall, with distributions starting in November.

Among the beneficiaries will be So Others Might Eat, a D.C. nonprofit that helps people experiencing poverty and homelessness. Jean Buttecali was a supporter, and her family set up a GoFundMe page after her death that raised over $16,000 for the group.

Oskuie estimates JeanFest could draw a total of 4,000 to 5,000 people, making it smaller than ViVa Vienna, but the organizers hope it can have as outsized an impact on others’ lives as its namesake had on theirs.

“It’s a lot of folks who were in awe of Jean and knew her quite well that are running behind the scenes and doing different things,” Oskuie said. “So, it’s a celebration of her life and the proceeds…will benefit local charities that we’ve been giving to through Viva Vienna for years.”

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The cross on the former Faith Baptist Church in Vienna will be removed (file photo)

The cross atop the former Faith Baptist Church in Vienna will come down, but otherwise, the town has opted for a “wait and see” approach to the 3-acre property it purchased in 2020.

The Vienna Town Council unanimously voted on Aug. 29 to indefinitely postpone repairs to the roof of the aging building at 301 Center Street South.

While staff argued that improvements are needed to stop recurring water leaks, council members balked at the idea of investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into a building that they could ultimately decide to demolish.

“I would like to do the absolute minimum, even if that does cause some further damage to the building, rather than commit a lot of money,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said. “If you spend a half million dollars on a roof, psychologically, you’re committed to that building, and I personally have not reached the conclusion that the best use for that property involves some sort of rehabilitation and repurposing of the existing structure.”

Built in 1956, per Fairfax County property records, the former church — now informally dubbed the Annex — will require substantial renovations to meet current building code standards and get approved for occupancy, a study by Whitman, Requardt & Associates, LLP found.

Though town staff are making spot repairs as leaks and other problems emerge, Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman requested the council’s support last week to replace the roof, either as a whole or in parts.

“Addressing the flat roof is the most pressing, current issue to ensure that the Annex does not incur further damage and deterioration due to the leaks,” Herman said. “There are issues on the shingled, sloped roof that will need attention in the very near future.”

Replacing the flat roof alone could cost $122,000 to $228,400, staff estimated. New rooftop HVAC units and removing the sanctuary windows would add $90,000 to the bill.

The cost of a complete roof overhaul ranges from $293,200 to $443,400, including up to $15,000 to take down the church steeple.

Whitman Requardt estimated that it would take up to $1 million to bring the building up to code and make it suitable for community uses. Herman noted that construction and supply costs have climbed since that study was first presented to the council in March.

When asked if the roof could hold up for another year without repairs, Vienna Facility Manager Leon Evans said he believes it could, but there’s no guarantee.

“I just got finished with the HVAC system that just failed in the sanctuary today,” he told the council. “All I was asked was to get numbers for you so you guys could figure out what direction you want to go.”

After some debate and confusion over the difference between the flat and sloped parts of the roof, the council decided to remove the church’s cross but hold repairs until after the completion of a feasibility report commissioned on June 13.

Expected to begin this fall and finish in spring 2023, the report will recommend long-term options for the Annex, which is housing the police department until its now-open station is ready for officers to move in later this month.

For now, parks and rec staff may need to keep buckets and tarp handy to deal with those pesky roof leaks. Mayor Linda Colbert acknowledged that the repairs deferral wasn’t what staff had hoped for.

“There’s just a lot of questions still,” Colbert said. “I would hate to vote on something now and not have it be the right thing. You’re right we’re taking a risk.”

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A worker stands next to 13 feet of exposed stream bank along Bear Branch in Southside Park (via Town of Vienna)

The Vienna Town Council dedicated over half a million dollars on Monday (Aug. 29) to an ongoing project to restore Bear Branch tributary, a stream that runs through Southside Park to I-66.

With no discussion, the council awarded a $543,258 design contract to A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. (AMT), one of five engineering firms that submitted proposals for this second phase of a two-part project this past spring.

This phase of the restoration will address approximately 2,300 linear feet of stream that flows through the park, parallel to Walker Street SW and Ross Drive SW, by stabilizing “the steep, eroded stream banks,” according to town staff.

“The completed project will reduce sedimentation and improve the stream’s water quality using natural channel design techniques,” the project page says.

In addition to shoring up the stream banks, the project will involve the replacement of a pedestrian bridge and the development of a “functional” pedestrian trail from the bridge to an existing sidewalk.

As part of its proposal, AMT said it would provide two recommendations for a possible bridge design and work with the town and park staff to develop the trail. The firm’s contract consists of a base fee of $497,744 with $45,514 added for the bridge and trail.

Carrying an estimated total cost of $2.5 million, the project is being funded by both Fairfax County and the town, which obtained a grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in November 2019.

The project’s first phase, which focused on the stream segment parallel to Patrick Street SW and Yeonas Park, got funding approved in 2019 and a design contract awarded in July 2020.

The first phase’s design plan is nearly complete and will be presented at a community meeting next Thursday (Sept. 8).

Photo via Town of Vienna

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Cunningham Park Elementary School in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A man was arrested yesterday (Tuesday) after reportedly pointing an object that observers initially thought might be a gun at Cunningham Park Elementary School students.

Vienna police were dispatched to the school around 12:51 p.m. in response to a report of a suspicious person described “as an older white male with no shirt, who possibly had a long gun and was pointing it at students,” the Town of Vienna Police Department said in a news release today (Wednesday).

The person who called in the report said they didn’t know whether the object was a toy gun, according to police.

“Upon arrival, officers talked to different sources who confirmed that no firearm was present and that the suspect picked up a metal object and pointed it at students,” VPD said. “He was last seen heading toward Cedar Lane.”

According to police, a man who fit the given description was later spotted bathing in the water fountain at the Vienna Town Green.

Apparently intoxicated, the man was arrested and identified as William Holland of no fixed address, police said. He has been charged with being drunk in public and brandishing within 1,000 feet of a school.

Police conducted a search of the man but didn’t find any weapons, the department says.

VPD says officers learned through a fingerprint search that the man was facing an indecent exposure charge in Alexandria. The city’s police department had a warrant out for him under the name “Mike Astor.”

According to VPD spokesperson Juan Vasquez, the man gave his name as William Holland to the officer who arrested him, but when his fingerprints were collected at the Fairfax County jail, the database matched them to the other name.

The Alexandria City Police Department didn’t immediately return FFXnow’s request for comment.

The man is currently being held on no bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. He has been barred from all Fairfax County Public Schools.

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The gym F45 recently had a grand opening for its Vienna franchise (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 9:15 a.m. on 9/1/2022) A new gym has opened in the Town of Vienna.

The Australian fitness company F45 celebrated the grand opening of its latest franchise at 322 Maple Avenue West on Saturday (Aug. 27). The event was considered a success, according to an Instagram post.

Businesses local to the D.C. area like Greenheart Juice Shop and Vegetable and Butcher participated in the event, which featured massages, food, live music, and vitamin injections.

F45 Vienna says classes are at 5:45 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 8 a.m., and 9:15 a.m. as well as in the evenings. The website says the gym offers cardio, resistance, hybrid and recovery workouts on different days of the week.

The gym is located next to the forthcoming YamaChen Sushi, which has now been under construction for almost a year. An employee at the restaurant’s Fairfax location said she doesn’t know when the Vienna one will open.

Known for its high intensity interval training workouts, F45 has grown rapidly in Fairfax County since 2019, adding franchises in Tysons, the Mosaic District, Fairfax Corner, Fairfax Circle, and Reston. The company says it’s the fastest-growing gym franchise in the world.

Yet another studio is in the works at Springfield Plaza. That location is on track for an opening in November or December, a pre-sales representative for the franchise told FFXnow.

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

The Town of Vienna has another development plan on the table that promises to help diversify its housing stock.

Developer Steve Bukont, president of contractor BFR Construction, is seeking to rezone Vienna Courts (127-133 Park Street NE) from transitional to low-density, multifamily uses so the four buildings of office condominiums could be replaced with 28 residential units in 14 two-story duplexes.

Presented to the Vienna Planning Commission on Wednesday (Aug. 24), the proposal has been modified slightly from the 30 units in 15 buildings that Bukont initially suggested to the town council on Sept. 27. The elimination of one building allows for more parking and an increased, 30-foot setback from Park Street, the developer said.

“The overall concept here is still we had previously developed a single-floor, retire-and-stay-here project, and we’ve gotten tremendous feedback from virtually everybody who’s purchased one of those,” Bukont told the planning commission.

Under the current plan, each of the buildings will have two floors above ground with one housing unit on each level. Most will have an underground basement with a garage and storage space, but the buildings labeled 12, 13 and 14 in the site plan would have no basement, providing surface parking instead.

Bukont said those units will serve as a smaller but more affordable option. Overall, the units will range in size from 1,200 to about 1,900 square feet, and the developer has proposed a maximum building height of 28 feet.

A total of 75 parking spaces are planned with two spaces per dwelling unit. The parking will include 19 visitor spaces and two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant spaces.

Aimed at older individuals looking to age in place, most of the duplexes will have private, internal elevators as well as an outdoor, limited-access lift for residents to get from the parking to their front walkway.

According to Bukont, the units won’t necessarily be outfitted with accessibility features like wheelchair-accessible bathrooms right away, but they’ll allow easy conversions. For instance, the light switches can be placed lower on the wall, and plywood can be installed behind bathroom tile so that a grab bar could be installed in the future.

“In many cases, somebody has a specific disability, so you want to be able to make the unit specific to their handicap,” Bukont said, stating that about 25% of the units will be designed as “barrier-free” for people who use wheelchairs.

Planning Commission Chair Stephen Kenney questioned the absence of green space in the plan, noting that the cottage-style duplexes approved last year for Courthouse Road included a central open space and a clubhouse.

“I guess I’ll wait to see what the public has to say. It just feels like you need more green space there,” he said.

The size and shape of the 72,173-square-foot site mean that finding more space would require altering the development’s design, possibly to a more conventional townhouse look, Bukont responded. The developer is already requesting that construction be allowed on 70% of the lot.

BFR is proposing to build brick sidewalk along Park Street and add street lamps that would extend the historic architectural feel of nearby Church Street. Utilities will also be placed underground.

While no decision on the proposal will be made until a public hearing on Sept. 14, Bukont said the neighbors who have responded to notices about the plan have expressed support.

“It’s almost a downzoning to residential,” Kenney said. “Mixed-use would be a little more dense and commercialized. Maybe [that’s] a selling point to residents around there.”

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The gate is open to the Glyndon Park tennis and pickleball courts in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Pickleball has evidently become a hot nighttime activity in the Town of Vienna.

Vienna police have issued six noise violations this year for players hitting the courts at Glyndon Park (300 Glyndon Street) after hours, according to the department.

The most recent issues were reported on Aug. 20 and 24, per the Vienna Police Department’s crime highlights for the week of Aug. 19-25:

Noise Violation 22-008587
Glyndon Park
300 Glyndon Street, NE
August 20 9:39 p.m.
A resident reported that people were playing pickleball on the tennis courts. The officer advised the people playing pickleball of the Park regulation.

Noise Violation 22-008719
Glyndon Park
300 Glyndon Street, NE
August 24 8:07 p.m.
A resident reported that people were playing pickleball on the tennis courts. The officer advised the people playing pickleball of the Park regulation that only tennis may be played on the courts after 8:00 p.m.

However, police also responded to noise complaints on Aug. 3 as well as Aug. 7 and 8, according to previous reports.

Four of the six violations involved different people, while two occasions involved the same participants, VPD spokesperson Juan Vazquez told FFXnow.

Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts were renovated so they could also be used as four pickleball courts in fall 2020. However, the park’s rules cut off pickleball play at 8 p.m., whereas tennis can continue until 10 p.m.

Noise has become a source of aggravation for some Vienna residents, whether from construction or outdoor dining, prompting the town council to agree in July to review the noise ordinance for the first time in a decade.

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