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Planning Commission Backs Lower Parking Rate For Fairfax County’s Biggest Malls

A zoning ordinance amendment that would allow lower parking rates at Fairfax County’s largest malls received a thumbs up from the Planning Commission last night.

The proposal would affect the four malls — the two in Tysons, Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Town Center — and was based on a review of the parking rates and demand at large regional malls by consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard.

While the county’s planners have stressed that the focus of the zoning change is directed at Fair Oaks Mall, the proposal has sparked concern about its impacts on the Tysons malls.

“Taking away parking — or even insinuating taking away parking from Tysons — I think is a bad way to go,” Dwight Fuller, a managing partner with Great American Restaurants, told the Planning Commission at the public hearing earlier this month.

McLean Citizens Association criticized the county’s consideration of a proposal without complete data.

Nelson/Nygaard study’s evaluated parking data for Fair Oaks Mall collected by the property owner in December for both 2017 and 2018, along with data about the Springfield Town Center that the firm collected in June. The study did not evaluate the two malls in Tysons.

“Without a study specifically addressing parking at those two malls, the MCA believes it is inappropriate to reduce the parking requirements at those locations,” the MCA wrote in a letter dated Oct. 30 to the Planning Commission.

At both the public hearing and before the votes last night, county staff and the commissioners stressed that the Tysons malls already have opportunities to lower their parking rates — and haven’t.

Tysons Corner Center is a part of the Planned Tysons Corner Urban District’s (PTC) parking rates, which allows for lower parking rates. Tysons Galleria is not a part of the PTC District, but could opt-in.

At-Large Commissioner Timothy Sargeant said that the Tysons malls are “bucking the trend” of large malls — like Fair Oaks — that are struggling with empty parking lots as more shoppers rely on online retail or delivery services.

To address citizens’ concerns, Sargeant brought forward several proposals after the Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning amendment, including:

  • notification to the Planning Commission when a parking reduction request is submitted to the county
  • a study of how to include the PTC in the county’s update of the zoning ordinance
  • prioritize review of parking rates for the county’s update of the zoning ordinance
  • integration of environmental improvements with the proposal

Sargeant noted that more parking rate studies are necessary.

The proposal now heads to the Board of Supervisors for a public hearing on Dec. 3.

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