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Parking Requirements for Schools Reduced

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved changes to avoid 'excessive' parking at some facilities.

The Arlington County Board this weekend reduced the parking requirements for elementary and middle schools and gave itself the power to modify such requirements for all new public and private schools and certain recreational facilities.

The action stems directly from the ongoing planning processes for a new elementary school in Williamsburg, the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School and a new aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park.

Previously, Arlington's zoning ordinance required what county staff considered "excessive" parking spaces for such facilities — that is, the number of spaces were dictated by formulas that gave elected officials little flexibility and did not reflect the actual demand for parking.

"With (Arlington Public Schools) expanding some facilities and adding new ones to keep up with growing enrollment, we needed to come up with a new approach to parking for our schools and public facilities,” Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said in a statement. "The changes the Board is making in the Zoning Ordinance will ensure that our schools provide for adequate, but not excessive, parking and have plans in place to reduce parking demand."

The board voted 4-0 on Saturday to revise the zoning ordinance and to give elected officials the power to modify the required number of parking spaces at schools and publicly operated facilities.

Such projects will now be required to submit to the county a Transportation Demand Management Plan, a document that is designed to increase the availability, awareness and use of transit, carpooling, cycling and bikesharing, and walking. It's also expected to reduce parking demand by up to 15 percent, according to a county staff report.

The board, too, can now modify requirements so that some spaces are located off-site, reduce the number of required space or approve alternate strategies.

County staff researched parking standards for schools and publicly owned and operated facilities in nearby cities and counties as well as various jurisdictions comparable to Arlington nationwide.

The county's Master Transportation Plan sets several policies to guide parking decisions in Arlington, including encouraging on-street parking in residential neighborhoods and encouraging shared parking spaces in public and private lots and garages.

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