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Reston citizens group not on board with county’s Parking Reimagined proposal

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will discuss the proposal this month.

A Fairfax County proposal to overhaul parking regulations has attracted opposition from a local citizens group.

In a letter to the county, the Reston Citizens Association, a nonprofit citizen advocacy group founded in 1967, said the Parking Reimagined proposal does not fully consider the impact of the changes on Reston and the county overall.

“The RCA strongly urges that this proposal be withdrawn until at least such time as its conformity with the letter and the spirit of the One Fairfax Policy, the ADA, and other guiding principles can be achieved,” the letter states.

Specifically, two-page letter asserts that the changes will “significantly and adversely impact low-income, blue-collar workers, minorities, the elderly and disabled citizens.”

The effort kicked off in August 2021 when county staff began exploring ways to update an article of the zoning ordinance that regulates off-street parking and loading. Overall rates and regulations haven’t been comprehensively reviewed since 1988.

The initiative is intended to modernize those requirements and generally analyze parking and loading supply, demand factors, and loading trends.

On July 12, the county released a staff report on the issue ahead of Fairfax County Planning Commission hearings planned on July 26 and a Board of Supervisors hearing on Sept. 26.

“Significantly reducing unnecessary parking requirements in Metrorail station areas creates a return on the County’s investment in rail transit by aligning non-auto transportation options with transit access,” the staff report reads. “Reducing unnecessary parking supports placemaking as identified in the strategic plan and fosters a built environment where members of the community want to gather and where businesses can grow.”

If approved, the changes would go into effect on Jan 1.

The most significant change is a tiered framework that sets parking requirements based on factors like the availability and type of transit and the allowable density of development. County staff say it’s the “most critical new component” of Parking Reimagined.

Suburban centers have a proposed rate of 90% of the base parking requirement for nonresidential uses and multifamily units, while revitalization areas have a proposed rate of 80% of the base rate. Transit Station Areas and the Tysons Urban Center have a by-right rate of 70%, while transit-oriented development areas have a 60% rate. Some areas within those categories vary.

The proposal also allows the county to approve shared parking reductions and transit-based reductions of up to 30%.

In response, RCA asserts that the proposal doesn’t take into account a full range of transportation factors, including planning for future road, bus and rail routes and changes in employment and retail configurations.

RCA also calls the premise of the proposal — lower resident vehicle usage — “unrealistic” for the next 20 to 25 years, along with the minimum parking rates for multifamily units in revitalization areas, transit station areas, and transit oriented developments.

The organization also disputes the county’s rationale that reducing off-street parking will improve the environment, noting that the proposal doesn’t require developers to add green space and trees in exchange for off-street minimum parking.

The letter also flags the Reston Town Center area as not having enough access for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.

“The RCA appreciates the significant work staff has put into this proposal and the outreach they conducted, and we stand ready to continue to work with staff to develop a proposal that will serve the citizens of Reston and Fairfax County in the years ahead,” the memo states.