(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: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planningcommission/speaker 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.
President, Lafayette Village Community Assn.
Editor’s note: Find out more about the county proposal at