Faced with rumblings that some state legislators again might try to authorize a gambling casino in Fairfax County, Vienna Town Council members on Dec. 4 formally signaled their opposition to that prospect.
“Any such facility likely would have substantial deleterious effects on the quality of life in Vienna, including increased traffic, additional costs to locally owned independent businesses, and erosion of public morals,” read an item on the 2024 legislative agenda approved by the Council that evening.
“This casino thing is pretty imminent, a real threat,” said Council member Nisha Patel, who successfully moved to have the casino-opposition statement placed within the 19-item legislative agenda’s Top 5 priorities.
During the General Assembly session held earlier this year, one proposed bill would have authorized a casino near any of Metrorail’s Silver Line stations in Fairfax County that were located outside Interstate 495, said Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D-Hunter Mill), who attended the Council meeting. The General Assembly has authorized a limited number of full (i.e., permanent) casinos, Alcorn said.
Council members rejected the casino prospect, especially a rumored location at Routes 123 and 7 in Tysons where a Koons auto dealership is located now.
“It would be a real body blow to Vienna,” said Council member Charles Anderson.
“It’s not wholesome,” agreed Council colleague Howard Springsteen.
Mayor Linda Colbert also opposed the casino idea and said she had been consulting with former U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th), a longtime scourge of the gambling industry. Wolf has compiled copious information on the detriments of casinos, Colbert said.
Besides the casino item, the Council’s other four top priorities included requests for the General Assembly to:
• Authorized a state-code amendment that would allow the town to provide tree-canopy credits for development that preserves medium- and large-sized trees on lots under development or require developers to meet 20-percent tree-canopy coverage within 10 years, versus the current 20.
• Change the Virginia Department of Transportation’s local-road-maintenance funding formula from lane mileage to lane volume or provide additional funding to localities, such as Vienna, that have average traffic volumes exceeding state averages by more than 20 percent. This has been a perennial request by the town.
• Authorize localities to hold municipal elections in May, the way things used to be before a 2021 General Assembly bill switched them all to November.
Council member Ed Somers did not run for re-election this year, but said he found this November’s election in Vienna – which featured a slew of races for the General Assembly, Board of Supervisors, constitutional offices and other items – a depressing experience.
“It was very different from May elections,” he said of the November contests, which sent Vienna voters to four precincts, versus the previous one used in May. “It diverted people from thinking about the town. There was something very special about having our elections [in May] be about our elections.”
• Not approve any bill that reduces or eliminates local land-use authority.
• Maintain qualified immunity for police officers, in recognition for split-second decisions they sometimes have to make. The town also opposes any changes to sovereign immunity.