Leesburg Council Conflicted On Parking Fees

Despite much recent study and debate on the matter, the Leesburg Town Council does not appear to be any closer to reaching consensus a new downtown parking strategy.

During last week’s work session, council members were asked by the town staff to offer direction on several points that relate to the Town Hall parking garage. Options included whether to offer free parking at all times on the second and third floors of the garage; whether payment kiosks should be installed and the current payment booths be removed; and also whether the town’s Parking Validation Program should be eliminated. In total, the town staff was seeking direction on seven matters relating to parking in the downtown garage.

The discussion follows the conclusion of a report by a task force put together by the Town Council to offer recommendations to improve downtown parking, whether on street, in the Town Hall garage or in other town lots. In August, the council passed a resolution implementing several of the objectives advised by the task force, but deferred action on several others, including those related to the garage that were discussed last week.

Eyetopia owner Paige Buscema, a member of the task force, re-emphasized to the council that the panel “was not in a position” to address funding or costs of the proposals. But the desire of the task force members was to create a uniform experience for consumers and visitors when it came to parking, hence the ideas for better signage and newer technologies. The idea of continuing to charge for parking on the first floor of the garage while making the second and third floors free was not to make money, but promote turnover.

But if last week’s meeting is any indication, the council is no closer to finding agreement on the recommendations or to taking formal action. Vice Mayor Kelly Burk said she was hesitant to implement any new initiatives until it is clear what the county government is doing. The county envisions the construction of a structured parking facility at its Pennington lot off North Street. Burk said it was not known how many spaces there will be or whether any fees will be charged.

“I like a lot of the ideas, but I really think we need to find out what is happening in regards to this other project which will have a direct implication on us,” she said.

Councilman David Butler expressed his support for the seven recommendations being considered but added an idea for an eighth—an app for use with the on-street parking meters. Deputy Town Manager Keith Markel said the town is researching that.

But Councilman Tom Dunn said that all the recommendations put forward by the task force are “inter-related” and come down to a central question.

“It all comes down to whether we’re going to have paid parking or not” in the garage, he said.

Dunn said he supported charging parking fees for all three levels of the garage. Butler said he supported making all three levels free.

Dunn said making some levels paid and others free could be unmanageable.

With the council offering no clear direction last week, the matters are expected to come back up for discussion in 2016.

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