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After decades of circling, Fairfax County finds opening for parking regulations review

Fairfax County officials are undertaking a comprehensive review of off-street parking for the first time since the late 1980s.

Conducted by a consultant, the county’s Parking Reimagined project will kick off a community engagement process this month for the public to weigh in on how it could update its approach to parking, such as by revising parking rates or reassessing land-use requirements.

County staff presented their efforts to assess off-street parking yesterday (Tuesday) during a joint meeting between the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission. The project is expected to last 12-18 months.

“One of the critical elements of this project is community engagement,” said Michael Davis, a county staffer and parking lead. “Our community outreach is intended to encompass all the different areas of the county in the sense of business owners, renters, residents, religious assembly leaders, nonprofits, because parking has an effect on all of these in some form or fashion.”

A white paper on the project notes the “engagement process will be ongoing and interactive with the community as we gain more knowledge of the parking needs…and propose changes to the requirements.”

Options to include the public may include community and town hall meetings, video presentations, surveys and more. Public hearings on proposed changes could occur in late 2022 into early 2023.

Two county departments are part of the project: Fairfax County Land Development Services, which deals with how property construction codes and regulations, and the Department of Land Development, which provides proposals, advice and assistance on land use, development review and zoning issues to decision-makers.

To assist with the review, the county hired Clarion-Nelson\Nygaard, a partnership of two land use and transportation consulting firms, this past spring.

The white paper says equity, affordability, land use, environmental, and economic concerns will all be considered as part of the study.

“Society has changed,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said during the meeting, noting that residents of one townhouse community in Annandale built in 1972 are “screaming they have no place to park.”

Gross said the county needs to look at retrofitting existing townhouse communities to meet current parking needs.

Changes in technology, development, and people’s habits over the past few decades require a reevaluation of how spaces are used and where they’re actually needed. The white paper highlights the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles, ridesharing, remote work, and online retail among the trends that have affected parking needs.

On one end of the spectrum, limited parking spots can mean the difference between whether a business has enough spots and whether vehicles spill over onto nearby residential streets, Land Development Services director Bill Hicks said.

On the other, there are office parks and strip malls with lots that take up half a block but rarely host more than a handful of vehicles. Hunter Mill District Walter Alcorn called some parking situations in the county “bonkers.”

He also forecast that parking needs will continue to change over time, so county officials should examine the situation as it evolves over the coming years.

As the review of off-street parking gets underway, the county is also still considering potentially adding parking meters for certain on-street areas, particularly in Tysons and Reston. Proposals for that could be presented to the Board of Supervisors next year.

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