Fairfax County supervisors, in an effort to improve pedestrian safety and assuage residents living near Scotts Run Nature Preserve in McLean, unanimously agreed Oct. 20 to establish a permit-only parking district for three streets near the park.
“Basically, the neighborhoods have been taken over by people who don’t live there, many of whom, because of the easy access, come in from D.C. and Maryland,” said Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), who moved for the parking district’s approval.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will pay $2,500 to install “No Parking Anytime, Except by Permit District 48” signs pertaining to the new parking district. Streets within the district include:
• Georgetown Court between the street’s inclusive cul-de-sac and Georgetown Pike.
• Linganore Drive between Georgetown Pike and Linganore Court.
• Potomac River Road from Georgetown Pike to the northern property boundaries of 705 Potomac River Road on the east side and 710 Potomac River Road on the west side, near the nature preserve’s boundary.
According to county staff, the new parking district is intended to protect residents living along those streets from polluted air, excessive noise and other negative impacts of automobile commuting. The district also will spare those residents from unreasonable burdens in accessing their properties and preserve the affected neighborhoods’ residential character and property values, officials said.
“This will be the final step in terms of giving these people their lives back,” Foust said, adding that some of the nature preserve’s visitors have parked in front of residents’ driveways, blocking access. “This gets gross, but I mean they go to the bathroom in their yards, they walk across their property.”
(Supervisor Penelope Gross, D-Mason, lightened the mood, telling Foust, “It may be disgusting, but it’s never gross.”)
Residents within the district had to meet numerous application requirements. To establish a residential-permit parking district, county regulations require that at least 60 percent of homeowners within the district – and at least 50 percent of eligible homeowners along each block face inside the district – must sign a petition in support.
Unless the new district is to be added to an existing one, there must be at least 100 20-foot-long contiguous or nearly contiguous parking spaces available. In addition, at least 75 percent of land abutting each of the district’s blocks must be residential.
Applicants also must conduct a survey showing that at least 75 percent of parking spaces within the district are used during peak periods, and at least half of those used spaces are being occupied by people not living on the affected blocks. Applicants must pay the county a fee of $10 per petitioning address.
The county will issue one transferable visitor pass per address in the name of a bona fide resident of that address, but will not issue such passes for addresses of multi-family or townhouse units that have off-street parking provided.
Property owners in the district who are not bona fide residents of the district may get a temporary visitor parking passes for periods not to exceed two weeks. All of the issued permits and visitor passes will expire Oct. 21, 2021, and need to be renewed.
Parking problems near the nature preserve peaked this summer as area residents, who has been shut out of many nearby parks because of the pandemic, began flocking to scenic site.
In addition to woods and trails, the park features creeks, a waterfall and spectacular views of the Potomac River from craggy bluffs. Unfortunately for visitors, the nature preserve only has a long, narrow parking lot accessible from Georgetown Pike near Swinks Mill Road, plus another smaller lot uphill to the east closer to Interstate 495. Those parking lots have a total of about 50 spaces, Fairfax County Park Authority officials said.
The Scotts Run site in the early part of the pandemic began drawing about 3,000 people per day, or 10 times more than the park was designed for, county officials said. The county’s police, Department of Transportation and Park Authority worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation to combat traffic problems surrounding the nature preserve, as well as visitors’ misbehavior and littering inside it.
VDOT prohibited parking along Georgetown Pike near the site, but visitors continued to flock there and parked on neighborhood streets instead.
Supervisors suggested Scotts Run visitors could park at Cooper Middle School and walk to the park’s southern entrance from there. That would entail traversing Georgetown Pike, crossing that road’s bridge over Interstate 495 and watching out for traffic accessing ramps to and from that busy highway.
Not everyone was pleased with the board’s decision. Mason District Sam Le said the new parking district will block access to the nature preserve, which has become even more popular with people seeking healthy, socially-distanced nature activities in the pandemic. The district will benefit “a handful of homeowners that have U-shaped driveways, multi-car garages and multi-million-dollar home values, based on their proximity to the park,” Le said.
Christopher Krone, who lives on Georgetown Pike near the Scotts Run site, concurred.
“Rich people saying that this publicly paid-for street should be shut off for the rest of our county’s fellow citizens, because they’re annoyed by the poor aesthetics of having lots of people on their street, is a very bad precedent,” Krone said.
But Foust said the new parking district also will burden its residents.
“Nobody ever supports these things because they want them,” Foust said. “They support them because they need them. It’s a miserable way to live, with a residential-parking permit. You can’t just have company, you have to get visitor passes and everything else.”
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