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Parking Changes Proposed for Schools, Recreational Facilities

by Katie Pyzyk January 24, 2013 at 10:30 am 14 Comments

Ashlawn Elementary School addition site planCounty staff members are recommending adding amendments to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance that would affect parking at public pools and at elementary and middle schools.

At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board is being asked to provide authorization for staff to advertise public hearings regarding the proposed amendments. The changes include revising parking standards for elementary and middle schools, permitting off-site vehicle parking at community swimming pools and allowing the County Board to modify parking standards.

The issue first arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School and the new school to be built on the Williamsburg campus. Arlington Public Schools felt that using the existing Zoning Ordinance for parking requirements would result in an excessive amount of parking. For instance, the addition to Ashlawn would require 228 parking spaces under the ordinance, when APS says it only needs about 100.

“That is way more than we need and it means we would lose open space and ball fields,” said John Chadwick, Director of Design and Construction for APS. “If we do that and we lose open space, ball fields and green space, that sort of counters what everyone is trying to do in Arlington.”

Another concern is that the ordinance requires all of the parking spaces to be on site. One of the proposed amendments would allow for off-site parking on the street or in other lots, like the lots of private swimming pools, which are typically open during the summer but closed during most of the school year. County staff offered the example of Ashlawn’s ongoing shared parking agreement with the Dominion Hills Pool.

Residents who live close to the affected schools haven’t all been supportive of the measure considering it would force more cars into neighborhood streets.

“We are having some push back from neighbors, but very few of our schools provide the number of spaces currently required under this ordinance,” Chadwick said.

The ordinance is not retroactive, so schools already in existence would not have to suddenly rework their parking situation; only new schools, such as at Williamsburg, or school expansions, such as Ashlawn, need to comply.

The changes would also alter the definition of “design capacity.” The new parking proposal suggests allotting one teacher parking spot for every 7.5 students, and one visitor spot for every 40 students.

“We’re very much in favor of the plan and the change and we’ve worked with them [the county] all the way. We really need to get this change approved so we can move forward with the Ashlawn campus and Williamsburg site,” Chadwick said. “This is all good from our point of view. I know it’s a bit complicated, but it actually makes sense.”

Renderings of the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness FacilitySimilar parking issues have been identified with the county’s planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. That prompted County Manager Barbara Donnellan to ask staff to examine not only regulations covering school parking, but county recreational facilities as well. As with the schools, parking demand at the aquatics center site was deemed lower than the existing requirements in the Zoning Ordinance.

While some of the amendments deal specifically with parking either at schools or recreational facilities, there are also general provisions covering both categories. County staff recommends that one of the general principles should be to base parking requirements on average daily use and not peak facility uses. Additionally, it recommends sites be examined individually to determine parking needs instead of forcing all facilities to conform to the same regulations. Such a recommendation would be fulfilled by the proposed amendment allowing the County Board to grant special parking exceptions, which it currently cannot do.

The public hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for February 11 and the one with the County Board is scheduled for February 23.

  • South Side Chris

    Say it out loud, “excessive amount of parking” and try not to giggle.

    • drax

      So you think we should have nothing but parking lots everywhere?

      Ashlawn literally has no room for 228 spots. It would have to plow up nearly all its ball fields and open space to get that.

      There’s such thing as too much parking. It’s kind of like too much government spending – it may sound free, but it’s not.

      • South Side Chris

        Yes drax, not only is that exactly what I think, it’s the only thing I think of. Every moment of the day is nothing but me thinking, “Man, that would be a great place for a parking space.” Especially in Ashlawn, I literally spend hours up there every day with a tape measure and a clipboard mapping out every possible location for a parking space on graph paper and a mechanical pencil.

        I try to focus my parking efforts on figuring out how I can maximize parking around froyo, pizza and cupcake shops so as to make them as financially successful as possible. My secret hope is to cover the county in ample parking and junk food, so far so good.

        In the long term, my goals include creating three additional parking spaces for every resident (four in Ashlawn), two additional parking spaces for every potential streetcar rider and one additional parking space in North County for everybody who lives in South County (just because I feel that I can).

        Now, if you will excuse me, I am done mocking you and will now adjourn for lunch. Good day sir and\or mam.

        • drax

          I’m glad you put so much thought into it. We need more people like you to uphold the Arlington Way, Chris!

  • southsider

    Wait- so they are building the Long Branch aquatic center due to the “high demand” for pools, hoping to attract region swimming events, and now they want to put less parking there? Seriously?

  • Dave

    Ashlawn is not a middle school.

  • Bort

    So let me get this straight. The county doesn’t think the ordinance reflect’s the real parking needs of a facility, so rather than change the ordinance to a reasonable level that would allow all public and private citizens to benefit, the county wants to just change the rules for county facilities.

    And yes, the Long Bridge Aquatic Center needs ample parking to be feasible for events and heavy use. It’s not close to public transit.

  • Buckwheat

    The parking ordinance is for the commoners – not the county.

    Similar to the county vehicles parking in no parking zones in Courthouse.

    Another example of government run amok.

  • cj

    In accord with general county policies, parking for the aquatics, health and fitness center is planned to meet the average daily peak demand. The current design calls for 229 spaces in the lot next to the building and over 100 more nearby on the street. That does not include on-street spaces at the 6th St. end of the park, or the 180 spaces in the existing lot between the fields.

    Transit service on Long Bridge Drive will be available. The county is currently looking at several options, including expansion of service between Crystal City and Rosslyn via Long Bridge Drive and 110 in part to compensate for the Blue Line changes.

    On-site parking at Long Bridge Park has never been intended to meet all needs for large events at the facility or on the fields. For those, the event’s sponsors will be required to provide or pay for shuttles to Metro and off-site parking in Crystal City and Pentagon City, and make transportation information available to participants in advance. Good models for this include meets at the University of Maryland, where no on-site parking is provided but swimmers and their families manage to get there nonetheless.

  • Bob

    Seriously they want to cut the parking at the unneeded aquatic center? It is more than a 1/2 mile from the proposed crystal city trolley and even further from the metro. If there is one project that isn’t “The Arlington Way” it is creating a center in the middle of nowhere (comparatively) that you can only drive to.

    • Crystal Resident

      The parking is MORE than the original plans. The problem is that the county rules are based on real old (1960s) information that is no longer relevant. In addition, there is no ‘bucket’ for the pool because it’s the first one the county has built. (The HS pools are not pools but schools so the bizarre rules for pools are lost in the bigger picture). But Long Bridge Park’s pool is so large relative to the other elements, the data comes out wrong. For example, it would require parking spaces so that 20 people would swim in one lane. The proposed parking is based on reasonable usage of the pools, not an out of date makeshift standard.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    Wow – there are so many things wrong here – I don’t know where to start.

    Teacher parking at 1/7.5 Students – why not some number based on the # of teachers.

    Changing to some value based on Average Daily usage – so the same parking for a facility that has 10 users/hour for 10 hours as one that has 100 users for 5-7PM and none the rest of the day..

    Sounds like the staff just wants a trust me – clause while spending most of the their time enforcing the letter of the endless set of regulation to the nth degree on everyone else. Either having long detailed regs is good or it isn’t make up your mind.

    I could continue but won’t

  • FunnYUrbanist

    “spending most of the their time enforcing the letter of the endless set of regulation to the nth degree on everyone else”

    You would relax parking minimums for private developers? Yay! I’m in!

  • Barbin

    The County’s smart (!) ideas about parking at schools has resulted in our street near Yorktown High School being parked up every school day. We can’t get service people’s vehicles close to our home so they can do their work. We are unable to work in our yard in the area by the curb. Our friends have no place to park. In my view, the County Board and the Arlington Public Schools do not care one bit about my neighborhood and certainly not about me and my family as individual taxpayers in the county. We have tried to get zoned parking for our neighborhood, but somehow we don’t fit the rules. So we are stuck with student vehicles cluttering our street most of the day. So, I say, if you live in one of these newly affected neighborhoods, think about the impact the parking with have on you and get together with your neighbors before the rules are cast in stone.


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