Editor: Even as the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors pushes county schools to cut their budgets, the county is about to waste $3 million of county taxpayer money. That money could be used to alleviate overcrowded schools or for other urgent county needs. There is time to correct this mistake, but the county must act quickly.
The county has received approval for an additional level for the proposed Pennington Garage in downtown Leesburg. But it is using a provably flawed model that vastly overestimates how much parking it will need.
The county originally wanted to build a three-level Pennington Garage to accommodate additional parking that would be needed for the courthouse expansion in downtown Leesburg. Then it decided to add a $3 million fourth level to the proposed garage to add 118 parking spaces for the Government Center on Harrison Street.
But the truth of the matter is that a three-level garage would be more than enough to handle both of these needs. The children born in Loudoun county this year will have long graduated high school before the first car looking for parking in downtown Leesburg needs that fourth level.
The problem is that the county is using a provably flawed parking needs multiplier that vastly overestimates the parking spaces needed for the expanded courthouse. Applying that parking multiplier to the existing courthouse, which is operating at full capacity (that’s why we are expanding it, right?), indicates the current Pennington Surface Lot should not just be full; it should be overflowing by 50 spaces. These are the numbers the county presented to the Leesburg Town Council to justify the fourth level.
But those numbers are contradicted by the facts. The March 2015 parking study that included the existing Pennington Surface Lot showed it is consistently below 60 percent full. If the county projected the expanded courthouse’s parking needs based on the real-life number of spaces the existing courthouse is using, a two-level Pennington Garage would meet those needs. If the county needs the garage for the additional 118 spaces it says it is short for its Government Center, then a three-level garage would meet both the expanded courthouse and the Government Center needs … plus an additional 70 parking spaces!
Isn’t there something more important and urgent that the county could do with $3 million than build an extra level in a garage that no one will use for decades? Alleviating overcrowded schools would seem to be a better use of taxpayer money than an empty garage.
The county expects to break ground on the garage in June or July. Perhaps the county should look at that March 2015 parking study for a dose of reality before it’s too late. Interested county residents (including, hopefully, the Board of Supervisors) can go to penningtongarage.org and see in more detail why the county is about to waste $3 million in taxpayer money.
John Burnham, Leesburg