Letter: John Burnham, Leesburg

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

4 thoughts on “Letter: John Burnham, Leesburg

  • 2016-04-21 at 8:35 pm

    John – I hate to say this, but don’t think most folks in Leesburg, let alone Loudoun, know or care where the surface lot is located. I use it primarily for all the yearly parades and even then it’s not even at full capacity, which is a blessing in lieu of parking at Safeway, other garages, etc. I agree about the location, size and cost and wish something could have been decided otherwise as we have existing land at Ida Lee and bus services that seem to operate very frequently with zero patrons, but realize guests of the courthouse and downtown area may want to be in proximity to their vehicle. Old Town Alexandria has some rather classy garages that blend beautifully into the neighborhoods and you truly don’t know the difference between them and the homes. The renderings for the new Leesburg garage appear to be quite the traditional precast concrete (ugly) structure that will require a lot of maintenance (caulking) and long-term costs. I will look more into the webpage as you may be one of the residents more affected. If so, I am sorry on behalf of many folks in our governments as you really got screwed in many, many respects, and I believe our Town will also….

  • 2016-04-22 at 6:11 pm

    It’s the Loudoun County students who get screwed, because the county says it has no money for expanding schools to accommodate the rising student population in Loudoun or for all-day kindergarten, but the county has money for overkill parking levels that no one needs or wants. It’s the Loudoun County taxpayer that will get screwed if this thing is built at 4 levels.

  • 2016-04-24 at 8:20 am

    I don’t know much about whether the 4th level is truly needed. But the note by LoudounClear is somewhat confusing. LoudounClear implies that LCPS should be able to use that $3M in its budget. But the LCPS budget is annual. It would then consume $3M every year going forward at a cost of $90M+ over 30 years.

    In contrast, a one-time expense of $4M on the 4th level would cost < $200K/yr to finance and pay down over 30 years. What exactly is LCPS going to do with ~$175K/yr? Pay for an extra administrator?

    • 2016-04-24 at 10:28 pm

      virginia_sgp, that does not make any sense. How would saving $3 million out of the Loudoun County Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget cost the county $90 million over 30 years? It is $3 million they could spend on other things, like schools, roads, etc. In addition, having one fewer level to ventilate, light, etc., would save the county money each year going forward.

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