Should Big Trucks Be Parking In Front of Schools and Libraries?

by ARLnow.com December 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm 4,966 59 Comments

Truck drivers are taking advantage of a loophole in Arlington’s zoning laws that allows them to park for extended periods of time in residential neighborhoods, provided they park next to a county-owned property.

Per Arlington County code, boats, boat trailers and commercial vehicles (defined by Virginia law as a vehicle over 12,000 pounds) are prohibited from parking on the side of a street next to property zoned for residential use — except when unloading/loading or performing services. Motor homes and camping trailers are prohibited from parking in a residential zone for a period of more than five consecutive days.

But as many drivers of such vehicles have figured out, the law does not apply to the sides of streets abutting property zoned as “special” — which includes schools, libraries, community centers, parks and other county-owned property. As a result, the curbs next to some county properties have become a free parking lot of sorts for big trucks.

Parked trucks have been a steady source of complaints to the police department, as well as an acute source of irritation and concern to some residents.

“With an overall heightened sense of  awareness  for large trucks carrying dangerous items, it is funny that this loophole exists that allows large trucks to park next to government buildings,” said Dennis McGarry, who is active in the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association. “You would think on that issue alone it would prompt someone to speak up and change the way the law reads.”

McGarry provided us with photos of trucks parked in front of Swanson Middle School (top) and Westover Library (bottom).

“Both of these trucks have lived in our neighborhood for about two years now,” McGarry said. “Both have been sitting in those parking spaces for weeks without being moved.”

County ordinances allow vehicles left unattended for more than ten days to be considered “abandoned” and towed, as long as the vehicles are parked in front of a property other than that of the vehicle’s owner.

McGarry added that there are numerous additional examples of trucks that consistently parked in “special” zoned areas.

While special zone parking is free, trucks that park illegally in a residential zone are subject to a $25 to $100 fine.

    • Rover

      I’m not sure a flat tire will get the truck to move any faster, but it certainly may deter them the next time they choose to park there.

      The Tree Service truck above seems to have his tire touching the white line. Where is a tow truck when you need it??????

    • LaceyForest

      I was always told you could pull out the valve core with a pair of needle-nosed pliars, but I’ve never tried it myself.

  • Lou

    I don’t think they should. At the very least, the ordinance should be changed to prohibit parking if residential exists on either side of the street. Washington Blvd. has residential right across from Swanson. Those trucks are eyesores whichever side of the street they are on.

  • G

    Reminds me of all the ugly dump trucks that have parked on S four mile run drive along the W&OD trail for years. Really, something needs to be done about this…

    • G

      Also, several buses and large trucks park along s george mason (between columbia pike and S Four Mile Run along Doctors Branch Park). Many of them clearly stick out beyond the white line, but are never towed.

      • As someone who rides a bike along this section of road while commuting, I absolutely agree. The busses and trucks parked along Geo Mason stick way out into the travel lanes.

  • SoArlRes

    Also annoying are residential streets littered with DC plated taxi cabs.

    • Take photos of them and report them to the treasurers office for not paying property taxes.

    • el fat kid

      that’s the county’s “affordable housing” policies at work.

  • NorthAdams

    why are these questions even being asked?
    it is so obvious that a business should be parking their truck at the business.
    and that arlington laws need to be changed.
    and signs need to go up removing parking in that area from 5-8 AM for kids to be dropped off.
    why is this being discussed?

    • Arlington, Northside

      These businesses don’t usually have a “brick and morter” location other than the owners home office. I believe the owner lives in the neighborhood.

      • Arlington, Northside

        He should not be parked in front of the school, library, or in front of his home. Hopefully the County Bopard will actually do something worthwhile and drop their opposition to additional lanes in the established right of way on I-66, the HOT lanes of I-395, and get to work fixxing this little regulation oversight.

        • Lou

          I agree

      • shirley

        then put the trucks on the bridge over i-66. oh wait, you can’t park big bad trucks (or cars) on a bridge owned by VDOT but we can put those vehicles in front of a school with young kids and high pedestrian traffic..
        take control arlington.

  • jason

    Incredible, the same people that complain about private property owners towing cars that violate parking restrictions don’t think any Joe schmo should be able to park on public streets. Sounds like a NIMBY situation. People don’t understand anything until something affects them directly.

    • AsherYuki

      Oh I completely understand. If you decide to go into business, it is your responsibility to rent a garage or lot to park your vehicles in – the same as it is my responsibility to park legally.

      These cars, trucks, and buses are a nuisance and they need to park at their place of business.

  • JimPB

    How about limiting government’s reach/intrusion. What’s the public health and/or public safety need to regulate where trucks and RVs park?

    • Arlington, Northside

      Public Safety should be obvious when these large vehicles are blocking views where children congragate, ie schools and librarys. The county also has an obligation to protect my property value, and a large tree service truck parked around the corner from my home will greatly effect the value if my house in the negative if ot was on the market and I was holding an open house showing.

      • R.Griffon

        Agree 100% on your first point, and that’s why they should be banned from long-term parking in front of schools and libraries (and playgrounds if they’re allowed there as well). It’s a valid safety issue.

        But I have to call you out on your second point. The County is under no obligation to protect your home value. The value of your home is no different than the value of your retirement fund or even your stamp collection. Maybe it goes up, maybe it goes down. Them’s the breaks. The only person obligated to protect its value is you (and perhaps an owner’s association if you have one).

        • Lou

          The County has an interest (many, in fact), in maintaining property values. It may not be an obligation, but if you asked anyone on the Board whether they though it was important to maintain and grow the value of property in the County, they would certainly tell you “yes”.

        • Arlington, Northside

          After public safety and education, the county boards next obligation is to keep up my property value. They are not entrusted with my retirement plan or stamp collection, but with the property tax they are allowed to take, they do have contract to work to maintain and increase the values of our real estate. I can’t on my own do anything about the zoning and rules of the road and parking around my home or maintain the medians, streets, parks, etc. It very much is their job to take care of those things in an urban environment. There obligation to my property value is far greater than some of the other social issues that this board likes to take upon themselves.

          • AsherYuki

            But if your property values go down, so do the tax assessments and that is where it hits Arlington’s purse strings. I think they very much care to keep property values up for that reason.

          • Arlington, Northside

            Typically when the average tax assessment goes down, the board will just raise the rate so you still are going to pay the same amount or more.

  • Dan

    Thanks, I had often wondered why I would see those vehicles parked where they were.
    One less mystery…..

  • MGW

    We had one of those ‘wide load’ trucks parked on our street the other day (7th Street South) with the engine running and the driver on his phone for a good 2 hours. If this were to happen again, and I’m pretty sure it will, I’m taking a photo, but which county office should be alerted? I’d really like to know. Thanks!

  • dave schutz

    These trucks have to be somewhere. We need the services that these trucks, etc. provide. The County is more and more built up. There’s not some easy supply of rental parking somewhere, and the space along 4 Mile Run and next to schools is generally not in competition with residents’ houses. Do we want to have all these trucks parked in outer Fairfax somewhere, and then have to pay the additional cost of wages and gas for driving them in to Arlington whenever we need them?

    • Arlington, Northside

      Actually, the Four Mile Run area has the commercial solution. There are a number of landscaping businesses that use AAAA self-storage to park their vehicles and trailers. While nothing in the county come to mind on the Northside, right over the county line in Faifax and Falls Church there are a number of self-storage places available in the Seven Corners Area, and in fact Seven Corners Shopping Center has allowed landscaping serves to park their vehicles in the back of the lot. I am sure they charge a little, but it is a typical business expense.

  • Darwin

    ““With an overall heightened sense of awareness for large trucks carrying dangerous items..”
    Ah, the old “it’s dangerous” arguement! I’m waiting for someone to warn terrorist could be using them so we need more laws made!

  • Ballston resident

    Another frustrating example – on N. Vermont Street between N. Carlin Springs and 7th St., N., there is a long series of limos that are *always* parked in front of the Presbyterian church. These are stretch limos, usually three or four of them, taking up many spots that could be used by residents or churchgoers. But because that side of the street isn’t zoned residential, it’s perfectly OK. Ergh.

    • TGE

      Jesus rides in style

    • G

      Yeah I see those limos all the time. They also Park more of them along N. Park Dr. across George Mason.

    • shirley

      from what i’ve seen those people actually live there and are parking pretty close to their homes.

      • Arlington, Northside

        If the home is not zined to be a commercial establishment they need to arrange to park the vehicles somewhere else.

        • Lou

          Limo’s get into a grayer area of whether they are commercial vehicles. The County tried to go against taxi’s several years ago, as part of their War on Taxis. Tried to get them classified as commercial so the drivers could not park their cabs at their homes.

          • Arlington, Northside

            I will accept that a taxi in front of the drivers home should be acceptable. But five limos on the street, do we really think there are five owner/operator chauffeurs living in the place together?

  • Bullseye

    JimPB said:

    “How about limiting government’s reach/intrusion. What’s the public health and/or public safety need to regulate where trucks and RVs park?”

    Right on, Jim. We do not need any more government. We have plenty already.

    • Arlington, Northside

      This is not a government intrusion issue. You want to have a business, you should pay the expenses that the business incurs. In this case the tax payers and home owners are paying for a parking space on a public street, the trucks lower property values near where they are parked and do create a public safety issue. The most basic Conservative principle is that you should be free to do what you want as long as it does not intrude on the freedom or safety of others, well this does intrude on the freedom of others.

  • Ricky

    So do we support small local business owners or are we against them? Any suggestions where these vehicles should park in Arlington? I’m sure these business’ would like a solution to this issue as well. They are not breaking any laws, just giving you busy body folks something to wine about. I also believe the comment made about “flattening tires” is an obvious threat to this particular business owners property. And as for the idiot who posted where this FAMILY lives? Seriously?

    • That comment was just brought to my attention and has been removed.

    • Arlington, Northside

      Sure, we can support small business, but we can also ask them to follow rules of common courtesy, or the community will be forced to change the law to make them be courteous. If you run this sort of business, the storage of your vehicles should be an obvious expense to plan for, it should not be a freebie.

  • WheelChair driver

    As a wheelchair user, I often find t hese large vehicles have blocked the access ramp and physically prevented me from gaining admittance. — Often with no remorse when confronted. They should have to pay!

    Don’t advise me to take a picture because I cannot gain even that much access!

  • Dan

    There were hundreds of hours of community input regarding the size, positioning and style of the historically significant Swanson Middle School addition. Many of us looked at the renderings and the community worked with the board to make a final determination of the style of the addition. None of the renderings included large trucks obstructing the view of the front grassy area or beautiful new historically congruent addition.

    Not only are the trucks an eyesore, they obstruct views of the children’s safe play and are hazardous to bike lane users during their green commutes.

    Why should county tax dollars paid in interest on bond funds for Swanson Middle School be used to provide free parking for businesses that clearly need dedicated secure parking for their large equipment? Why would any business with large commercial trucks expect that they would be able to park their equipment anywhere but in an appropriate paid parking spot or their owned permitted lot?

    Where’s the school board on this issue? Who’s looking out for the facilities that are instrumental in teaching and keeping our children safe?

    • Maria

      You say “they obstruct views of the children’s safe play and are hazardous to bike lane users during their green commutes.”…

      I agree that if they are really blocking part of the road, that’s a problem, and I guess I can understand if there was a huge production about choosing the design for the school, people wouldn’t *want* it blocked, but I don’t understand your argument that people outside of the school need views of children playing.

      I’ve seen other people say that in this thread, but can you explain what you mean?

      • Westover

        I can’t say anything about watching kids play, but it is very dangerous to cross at Washington and Patrick Henry with the big trucks there, also an old U-haul that appears there alot. While you can use the cross walk sign to get across without jay walking, I have come close to being tagged by cars making right hand turns on to Patrick Henry from Washington. With the trucks there, cars can’t see pedestrians and pedestrians can’t always see cars. The cars need to slow down, and really should stop first, as they make the turn, but the blind spot from the trucks is not a good thing with all the kids walking to and from Swanson Middle School.

      • Dan

        People don’t need views of children playing, however, views of Children’s safe play should not be obstructed. Obstructions should not be allowed that contribute to creating environments where undesirable activity can occur unmonitored. As to what undesirable activity might occur, use your imagination.

  • Parking

    I agree they are bit of an eyesore and can pose a risk to some bikers, but I believe some of the safety issues mentioned are unwarranted. If they have to pay to park their vehicles in storage, they will pass those costs along to the customers. I don’t use their services, but the prices will go up. I only hope the County provides a solution that is pro-small business and doesn’t just impose new sanctions because of a few upset homeowners.

    • Arlington, Northside

      Their competition is paying for storage of their vehicles, by parking on the neighborhood streets they are giving themselves an unfair competative advantage.

  • John

    I’d love a big ol’ tree to fall on each and everyone of you complainers, HA!

    • Arlington, Northside

      John Shelton, is that you?

    • Dan

      Those complainers used to be customers or potential customers. Any good business owner knows that “complainers” are the business’ best ally because only one in eight people will actually confront the business with a concern. The other seven will either not use the service again and/or tell a friend not to use the service. Instead of this being viewed as a complaint, it should be used as market intellegence to change business behavior.

      Multiply the number of people who have read this thread and NOT responded times 7 and you’ll get the number of lost business prospects. Receive the “complaint”, stop parking big trucks where they shouldn’t be and do some authentic community service for Swanson and you’ll likley triple your prospects as a result. We wouldn’t even need to change a parking code. Its basic common sense business practice and community responsibility. Isn’t that what we’re all about in Arlington?

  • Arlington

    I spoke with Adam Shelton, the owner of the tree company pictured in this article and in all fairness he nor anyone affiliated with his company knew this article was being posted. Nor has anyone called or confronted him concerning this issue. Had someone done so he would have certainly done what he could do to resolve this. He is now trying to find a solution. He is a life long, tax paying resident that works his tail off to support his family. And unfortunatly has now to be concerned about the reputation of his business and such.

    • Westover

      I noticed that the truck was NOT in front of Swanson at 7am this morning! Thanks for bringing this to his attention. 🙂

    • charlie

      it is a bit alarmist to say he has to be concerned about his business and reputation — no one was after him personally (unlike the County HOT Lane lawsuit that goes after individuals doing their jobs).

      i’m glad he moved his truck and hope he finds somewhere safe to keep it. maybe in front of his house on Patrick Henry?

      • Westover

        How about a commercial lot for commercial vehicles….

  • Cheryl

    Nice to see so many of you folks willing to damage a hard working mans property. Shame on you! And if any damage does occur to my husbands vehicles those of you on this site here will be the first investigated. These are threats and we will be taking them
    seriously. Thank you.

  • Tara Lee

    I am a friend of the Shelton family and also an Arlington resident. First and foremost, discussing vandalism is not the proper way to address this problem – or any problem – and should not be tolerated on this forum.

    Thank you to the person who contacted Mr. Shelton regarding the parking situation. Unfortunately, commercial parking in and around Arlington is extremely limited and often quite expensive. However, that is the price of doing business in a busy area such as ours. Realizing what a big problem this is for many of you, I would expect that Mr. Shelton will take the necessary steps to keep his neighbors and customers happy – again, all part of doing business.

    Have a safe and happy new year, everyone!


Subscribe to our mailing list