Supporters and opponents make their case on county’s off-street parking overhaul

The parking lot at Kingstowne Towne Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

In its first public hearing last Wednesday (July 26), the Fairfax County Planning Commission heard from the community on its proposed overhaul of parking requirements.

The initiative known as Parking Reimagined puts forth changes to off-street parking, bicycle parking, and loading. Overall rates and regulations have not been comprehensively reviewed since 1988.

The county says the goal is “an evaluation of existing parking rates to determine if adjustments of requirements to meet current parking demand is appropriate, while also examining County administration of parking regulations.”

One of the most notable changes is a tiered system for off-street parking, where rates are based on a development’s gross square footage instead of the number of people served.

In a report released July 12, county staff called the system the “most critical new component” of Parking Reimagined. The proposal also allows the county to approve shared parking reductions and transit-based reductions of up to 30%.

Susan Jollie, president of the Hummer Woods Civic Association in Annandale, called the reduction in the minimum parking requirements “radical.”

“The proposed radical reductions in the minimum parking requirements will create numerous new problems while failing to secure the alleged public benefits,” Jollie said. She added that the proposal is controversial because of a failure to perform relevant research.

Dennis Hays, a representative for the Reston Citizen Association, points to the high number of residents who own a car within the county as a reason for opposition.

“The county’s website says that only 4% of U.S. households do not own a car,” Hays said. “That means 96% of household in Fairfax County have a car — 30% have more than one car possibly subject to that. So it’s not possible to simply say that everybody in this county is going to be able to ride their bike to Whole Foods, or hike out to the Blue Ridge Mountains on any given day.”

Earlier this month, the Reston Citizen Association wrote a letter of opposition to the county, saying proposal doesn’t fully consider the impact on Reston and the county.

The proposal saw some support from people who said it’s good for the county’s future.

Aaron Wilkowitz, vice president of Fairfax County’s chapter of YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, called the proposal a step in the right direction for the county.

“Parking minimums contribute to environmental destruction because parking lots themselves create heat islands retaining warmth from the sun,” Wilkowitz said. “Parking spaces increased car dependency, which leads to more smog and carbon emissions and parking spaces worsen housing scarcity.”

Sonya Breehey, Northern Virginia advocacy manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said the proposal will benefit housing and climate.

“The proposed zoning amendment offers to better balance future parking demand with other communities like equity, affordability, environmental sustainability and effective land use,” she said.

Though the public hearing lasted more than four hours, the planning commission scheduled a second one for Sept. 13. After that, the matter is set to go before the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 26. If approved, the changes would go into effect on Jan 1.

Read more on FFXnow…

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