In a process that lasted 18 months to address complaints that spanned decades, the Leesburg Town Council on Tuesday finalized a package of changes to its downtown parking regulations.
While often meetings with downtown parking as a topic have drawn crowds of spectators from both the downtown business and development community, this week’s vote came quickly and with little comment from anyone on or off the dais.
The changes to the Zoning Ordinance loosen some requirements for downtown parking, potentially making it a bit easier for some developers to get their projects off the ground.
“If I was a business owner downtown all these amendments … reduce parking in some way. Nothing here should complicate an existing condition for somebody. It should alleviate concerns about providing parking for businesses,” Brian Boucher, deputy director of the Planning and Zoning Department, said in addressing the council.
Many of the council’s changes were somewhat finalized two weeks ago in a series of straw votes. The lone decision that needed to be made Tuesday night was whether the council would create a single parking standard for nonresidential uses in the downtown B-1 district. Both an outside consultant and the town staff had recommended against this, with the consultant advocating separate ratios for office and retail uses. Ultimately, the council chose to go with the separate ratios, now requiring one space per 400 square feet for office and one space per 285 square feet for retail use. These ratios, much like the rest of the recommendations, are based on industry standards, best practices, and comparison of similar-sized communities with limited public transit options, Planning and Zoning Director Susan Berry-Hill said.
While the payment in lieu of parking program, which allows developers the option to pay a fee for parking spaces for required parking spaces they cannot provide in their property, has for many years faced criticism, the program will after all remain. But one change passed in the ordinance amendment includes a staff-proposed alternative to the program to permit residential developers to pay fees for up to 10 of their required spaces if the property is within 500 feet of a municipal parking facility.
Council members also supported reducing parking ratios in the downtown B-1 district for multi-family residential development, now requiring only one parking space for one-bedroom units, and 1.5 spaces for a two-bedroom unit.
A regulation that exempts parking requirements for the conversion of an existing building into a nonresidential use if the site is within 500 feet of a municipal parking facility remains unchanged.
Finally, one change is going to encourage—or, arguably, require—more walking between both residential and nonresidential uses. A change supported by the council increases the allowable walking distance from both residential and nonresidential uses for off-site parking agreements. Under the new regulation, it will be increased to 1,000 feet for both residential and nonresidential uses, up from 300 (residential) and 500 (nonresidential), respectively.
All parking changes were passed unanimously.