Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Friday, March 31, 2023

Parking Reimagined is not ready for prime time.

 (This letter to the editor appeared in the March 29, 2023, edition of the Fairfax Connection.)


To the Editor:

Fairfax County is proposing an amendment to its Zoning Ordinance to reduce Minimum Parking Requirements in both residential and commercial areas. But in the associated county work group and in virtual town hall meetings, residents have expressed many concerns about what is called “Parking Reimagined,” including the following:

Equity: The proposed parking amendment benefits developers and the County at the expense of county residents. This amendment will place additional hardship on lower and middle-income residents, who are already struggling economically. I realize that as a result of this proposed amendment some additional affordable housing could be built, however, most of these residents will not obtain affordable housing, but will now have to pay additional costs for parking and commuting.  

County staff has stated that lower and middle-income residents do not need as much parking because they do not have as many vehicles as wealthier residents. However, a significant percentage of these residents have work vehicles that they need to park in a safe place near their homes. I find it inherently unfair to implement public policy that will be more costly, while decreasing the quality of life, for so many residents.

Multifamily Dwellings & Townhouses: Many of these communities already have issues with insufficient parking. Many multifamily dwellings and townhouses have extended families residing together, increasing the need for multiple vehicles. Parking reductions need to take this shift in family dynamics into consideration.

What happens when residents are forced to carry multiple bags of groceries several blocks in the rain, because they were unable to find a parking space near their home? Or when residents come home late after a hard day at work and cannot find a space near their home?

Community Impact: Residents unable to park in their own communities may be forced to encroach on other communities. Any parking reductions need to be integrated with enforcement procedures, to ensure that overflow parking into adjacent communities is prevented. Communities surrounding these developments should not be required to spend the time nor the money implementing parking permits. Also, residents should not have to constantly patrol their communities in order to have illegally parked vehicles towed.

Loading Spaces/Handicapped Spaces: Delivery drivers unable to find adequate loading spaces may be forced to park in handicapped spaces while making deliveries. Parking reductions need to ensure adequate loading spaces so that handicapped spaces remain accessible for handicapped use only. What happens when handicapped residents show up at work, at an appointment or at a store and cannot find an available space?

Handicapped residents should not be forced to walk from a parking space at the back of the lot, nor should they have to arrive a half hour early to ensure that they have time to wait for access to a handicapped parking space. This is a matter of dignity and respect for the handicapped population.

Environmental Benefit: Parking reductions were originally viewed as a way of improving environmental issues by reducing excess asphalt parking areas and adding more green spaces and trees. But the parking amendment fails to require developers to do so. This failure undercuts one of the major benefits of having less parking – more green space and tree canopy. Unfortunately, county staff seems to have focused solely on reducing parking, without using parking reductions to provide a net environmental benefit.

Additional Waivers in Parking Requirements: I am confused as to why there needs to be administrative waivers for additional parking reductions. The minimum required parking rates should be the minimum, not an intermediary step which developers can reduce further by appealing to the Director of Land Development Services or the Board of Supervisors.

If a proposed development has a unique circumstance which might call for further reductions in required parking, then public hearings need to be held so residents can have their voices heard. But additional parking reductions below the minimum should not be a common occurrence.

Public Hearings: Public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will be held later this year. Meanwhile, residents can email concerns about parking reductions to:

Residents can also sign up to speak at the Planning Commission public hearing at: Resident testimony can be given in person, via telephone or via video.

Parking reductions will affect the quality of life of residents for years. They need to be implemented in a fashion that ensures Fairfax County has the resources to support the changes. But most importantly, the costs of reducing minimum parking requirements should not be borne solely by the residents.

Donna Jacobson.

President, Lafayette Village Community Assn.


Editor’s note: Find out more about the county proposal at

Thursday, March 23, 2023

A Huge Zoning Victory for Fairfax Residents in the Fight to Preserve Our Rights, but Only the Beginning

In a stunning turn of events, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) in approving the zMOD zoning ordinance, adding that it was invalid from the outset (“void ab initio”). 

The key reason for overturning the ordinance was that the Board failed to have any public hearings, just video access which the Court found insufficient. The Board’s argument was that it was important to move expeditiously to approve the ordinance, but the Court noted that the county had been working on the ordinance for five years without urgency. 

This is the first case in which the McKay regime has been censured for its arrogant “forget-the-public” approach to county governance.  The theme behind the zMOD initiative was “streamlining” the development approval process by largely eliminating opportunities for public input, in part by making many decisions administrative without public input or official Board involvement. 

No court reversal could be bigger because the Court’s judgment was the only obstacle to developers working the county Department of Planning and Development (DPD) into decisions that would undercut the already limited restrictions on development in the zoning ordinance.  If zMOD had not been reversed, there would be no way to roll back these administrative and other provisions in this Dillon Rule state of irreversible “by right” development.

The state court’s decision raises at least a couple of questions about the impact of policy and development actions taken based on zMOD since the court said zMOD was void from the outset. 

·       What will happen to current Board initiatives that take on zMOD’s “streamlining” flavor?  Maybe first among these is the so-called “Parking Reimagined” draft zoning ordinance that would reduce minimum parking requirements across the county by as much as 40% in high-density areas.  Part of that draft ordinance states that the Director of Planning and Development can approve changes to the minimum requirement administratively in a wide variety of circumstances.

·       What will happen to development approvals given under the new zMOD ordinance since that the ordinance is void from its outset?  What about those projects already built or under construction or in the design and engineering phases? 

We all need to be vigilant to see how the county handles these numerous issues—and doesn’t just make them worse.

Most importantly, what about the substance of zMOD?  The court’s decision focused on the process of approval that failed to meet VFOIA requirements, not the merits of the zMOD zoning ordinance.  At first blush, that means the Board could just take the same draft zoning ordinance and pass it through the proper steps, including a public hearing.  Nonetheless, since “streamlining” is central to zMOD by shifting much decision making from the Board to the staff that would not require public input, zMOD’s provisions could run into the same issues of public access—meaning another court case to preserve citizens’ rights.  To prevent that cost and delay, it is important that the residents of Fairfax keep challenging efforts by the Board to exclude or reduce citizen participation in their own government’s decisions.   

We should all thank the community leaders across the county who took on the task of challenging Jeff McKay’s high-handed Board of Supervisors effort to take our right to be heard away from us, not to mention to actually listen to what we say. 

We need to seal the deal on Fairfax County zoning by preventing a new zMOD V2 and other Board initiatives that also intend to cripple resident participation in our government and make the county less livable.  Unless we remain vigilant and proactive, we are likely to see our county government turn into McKay’s mafia. 


Terry Maynard

Reston, VA



Virginia Supreme Court throws out county zMOD zoning ordinance

In a unanimous decision published yesterday, the Virginia Supreme Court threw out Fairfax County's zMOD zoning ordinance intended to "streamline" development project approvals.  The essence of its judgment was that the county's decision process violated VFOIA requirements for opportunities for public input.  Here are some key passages:

The process that led to the ultimate adoption of Z-Mod demonstrates that its adoption was far from time-sensitive. After all, the revision process began in 2016—five years before Z-Mod was adopted and three years before the existence of COVID-19 publicly was known anywhere in the world. This multi-year history of consideration and revision before adoption conclusively demonstrates that there were not hard and fast deadlines, statutorily required or otherwise, that needed to be met. Prior to the Z-Mod revision, the zoning ordinance had existed for four decades and absolutely nothing suggests that Z-Mod needed to be adopted to satisfy due process or other constitutional requirements, protect public safety, or sustain the County’s economy.  Everything about the history of Z-Mod suggests that the adoption of Z-Mod could have waited days, weeks, or months without throwing the County’s operations into even minor distress let alone chaos. Simply put, the consideration and adoption of Z-Mod was not time-sensitive, and thus, acting on it in March 2021 was neither essential nor necessary to allow for the continued operations of Fairfax County government.

. . .

Having concluded that the Board adopted Z-Mod in a manner that violated the open meeting provisions of VFOIA, we turn to the question of remedy. The (Fairfax County) Residents argue that, because “Z-Mod could not be adopted through an electronic meeting[,]” the Board’s purported adoption of Z-Mod was and remains “void ab initio[.]” We agree.

By failing to hold the meetings at which Z-Mod was considered and ultimately adopted in compliance with VFOIA’s open meeting requirements, the Board’s actions prevented the public from participating in the manner required by VFOIA, and thus, potentially limited public participation and input into the process. As such, the Board’s failure here is analogous to the circumstances in our prior cases in which a zoning ordinance was adopted despite the failure of the locality to provide the statutorily required public notice. In such cases, we have held that such ordinances are void ab initio. See, e.g., Glazebrook, 266 Va. at 557 (holding that certain “zoning ordinances passed pursuant to [defective] notices . . . are void ab initio”); Powell Valley Vill. Ltd. P’ship, 254 Va. at 74 (recognizing that a “[f]ailure to abide by the statutory prescriptions for the adoption of an ordinance renders the ordinance void ab initio”); City Council of City of Alexandria v. Potomac Greens Assocs. P’ship, 245 Va. 371, 378 (1993) (stating that, because the city “failed to give the requisite notices . . . , the TMP Ordinance is void ab initio”). Accordingly, we conclude that the Board’s failure to comply with VFOIA’s open meeting requirements renders Z-Mod void ab initio.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

RCA letter to Supervisor Alcorn regarding numerous problems in the draft "Parking Reimagined" zoning ordinance.

The county has been working for several months on a draft zoning ordinance labelled "Parking Reimagined."  In general, the proposed ordinance reduces the minimum parking availability for all new development and could be applied to existing development.  The draft is being pushed by the area development community because it would lower their development costs, allowing even greater profitability.  Overall, adoption of the new zoning ordinance, which would be irrevocable in this Dillon Rule state, would reduce the livability and add to environmental damage across the county--for profits and county tax revenues.  A number of community organizations and spokespersons across the county have expressed their concern if not outright opposition to the proposed zoning ordinance change.

In response to this initiative, the Reston Citizens Association (RCA) has written a letter to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn noting their numerous concerns about the draft ordinance.  Their bottom line is, "...this proposal is 'not ready for prime time' and a delay would, we believe, help to address the numerous concerns and draft a proposal in collaboration with citizen groups that addresses the outstanding issues."

The letter ends with a list of twelve key issues of concern with the draft "Parking Reimagined" proposal.