The Leesburg Town Council on Monday night again dug into the debate over downtown parking concerns, but solutions remain fleeting.
After poring over the recommendations offered by a consultant for two and a half hours, the council ultimately decided that it needed to devote an entire work session to the matter. That will be scheduled later, although council members emphasized they did not want the debate dragging months longer.
The council last spring hired a consultant to scrutinize the downtown area’s parking regulations and propose changes. Those recommendations, presented to the council two weeks ago, include reducing the parking ratios; and increasing the allowable walking distance between a development and municipal parking facilities to allow for offsite parking. The consultant recommended that the controversial payment-in-lieu of providing parking option continue, but with an escalating annual cost and opening up the provision to residential development.
Brian Boucher, deputy director of the Planning and Zoning Department, presented council members with examples of how the proposed ratios would affect a development’s parking output. Using a hypothetical example that could be included in a revised version of the Courthouse Square development on the former site of the Loudoun Times-Mirror, Boucher said a mixed-use development with 20,000 square feet of retail, 10,000 square feet of office, 10,000 square feet of restaurant space, 40 one-bedroom apartments and 20 two-bedroom apartments would be required to provide 222 parking spaces. That would be 68 fewer spaces than are required under current policies. Changing the walking distance policy would allow developers to count public parking spaces within 1,000 feet, rather than the current 300 feet.
Council members and developers alike agree that a more urban approach may be needed for downtown parking, but, as the downtown area increases in popularity and with the potential to add more rooftops downtown, council members remain leery about going too far.
“Traditional households have two cars. You’re asking us to agree to one car [for some multifamily units]. Where’s the other car going to go,” Councilman Marty Martinez asked.
One idea proposed by Councilman Tom Dunn will receive further scrutiny. He proposed that little used metered parking spaces be converted to reserved spaces that could be dedicated to projects of developers who pay into the town’s parking fund when they lack room for on-site spaces. Another scenario involves allowing vehicles with residential parking permit stickers to park in metered spaces for free. There are 139 parking meters on downtown streets and 20 approved residential parking permit zones.
Another idea brought forward by Councilman Ken Reid would have the council consider a graduated fee schedule for developers unable to provide on-site parking. Smaller developments would be charged a lower fee than larger developments downtown.
In its agenda packet, the council also received an update on downtown parking for the first quarter of the fiscal year. Overall, parking revenue increased slightly from the same time last year. On-street parking revenue remains relatively the same at about $31,000 in the first quarter; parking ticket revenue is up $9,000; and hourly revenue from the Town Hall parking garage is down by $2,000 attributed largely to parking garage ticket machine malfunctions. The council was expected to vote Tuesday night on a contract to automate the parking garage and replace the aging equipment.
The revenues from the ParkMobile app, implemented last year, are beginning to plateau at around $3,500 per month, or 30 percent of all non-garage parking revenue.
The Church Street parking lot recently completed its first full year of use and by all accounts has been a success for the town. According to the staff report, the Church Street lot generated $76,000 in revenue in its first year, and, based on the current trend, is projected to generate a net profit of $10,000 over lease and operating costs in its first year. The town leased the land from Courthouse Square developer Landmark Commercial and leases 35 of the lot’s 79 spaces to the county government for the parking of its fleet vehicles.