Too Few Parking Spaces

Too Few Parking Spaces

In some townhouse communities around Fairfax County, there are too many cars. Most have parking spaces for two cars per house which leaves little room for extras such as teenagers' cars or housemates.

Tim Koutsis lives in the Twinbrook community in Fairfax with his parents in a community where each townhouse has two parking spots but none for guests.

"Parking's still terrible. Everybody has two spots but sometimes it's not enough," he said.

It's not enough in his case because he has a car, his parents each have a car, and then they have a work truck. There is one public street running a few doors from the Koutsis' house but it's used by all the extra cars in the townhouse community as well as the single family houses across the way.

"On the weekends, good luck finding a spot," Koutsis said.

Barbara Dennett, president of the Branch Drive homeowners association in Herndon, sees the problem on a nightly basis but doesn't feel that more guest parking is the answer. In the evening, Dennett looks out at the cars in her 77-townhouse community and sees every spot filled, cars parked on nearby county streets, and the yellow curbs tempting for cars roving the neighborhood. More guest parking will just be an open door to more residents.

"I am not proponent of more parking because it will promote overcrowding," she said, "there could never be enough," even though the county has a zoning law limiting a living space to four unrelated adults. But Dennett realizes enforcement of this rule is another story.

"We know that the whole town is dealing with the issue," she said.

IN FAIRFAX, Clive Harding feels there is enough parking in his Kings Park West community. Like Dennett's community, each townhouse has two parking spots but Harding only has one car and lends his extra spot to his neighbor occasionally. When they planned the neighborhood, extra parking was put into the equation.

"They did some planning," he said, "the parking here was designed for owners, not renters."

The renters he talks about are college students from nearby George Mason University.

Jennifer Glenn was at the other end of the dilemma in Springfield. Glenn and her cousin lived in the basement of a townhouse while a family lived upstairs. It added up to five cars at the townhouse which only had parking for two per unit. She had to park away from her street, walk to the townhouse at all hours of the night in an area where there were no streetlights. Glenn ended up going before the homeowners association to resolve the safety aspect of the parking issue.

"Their solution was to carry a flashlight on a string in case we had to run," Glenn said.

Steve Jacobson, the covenants outreach person in the Reston Homeowners Association, is familiar with the townhouse parking perplexities. He said when Reston was first being built in 1966, the county requirement was 1.5 parking space per townhouse. Now it is 2.3 parking spaces but that doesn't apply to older, established communities. In addition, there's a question for townhouses with garages that pay the HOA fee like everyone else in the community. The HOA's biggest expense is paving the private streets where the parking is. Does the homeowner with a garage still get two spaces out on the street?

"I think it presents challenges for communities. I don't think there's an answer to make everyone happy," Jacobson said.

A state Supreme Court decision on March 3, 2000, Record no. 991078 Chief Justice Harry L. Carrico, dealt with a similar situation between Sully Station II Community Association, inc. and eight of its members. The final outcome was a ruling that members of the community must all be treated the same.

Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) deals with the parking dilemma on a daily basis in her district because it's considered "built out," with little room for additional features such as parking. Many times, a townhouse community can't just pave over open space.

"There isn't always a solution. Many townhouse communities were built when people had fewer cars," she said.