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Votes

Burke Centre Says 'No' to Boats

Burke Centre is now a community parking district.

Boats and trailers in Burke Centre are going to have to find somewhere else to park.

At its meeting Monday, Dec. 5, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of establishing a community parking district in the Burke Centre neighborhood. Community parking districts prohibit people from parking watercrafts, campers and trailers in designated areas, along with vehicles with over three axles, vehicles over 12,000 pounds, or ones transporting over 16 passengers. The community parking district must be in a residentially-zoned area along a minimum of five blocks or 2,000 feet.

Homeowners' associations restrict large vehicle parking on many of Burke Centre's smaller private roads, but main streets such as Burke Commons Road, Wards Grove Circle and Oak Leather Drive are state property and not subject to the restrictions.

"Burke Centre residents take pride in how the community looks," said Burke Centre resident Kala Quintana. "Rusting trailers and campers with flat tires do not support the clean and tidy image that Burke Centre tries so hard to protect."

To establish a community parking district, a neighborhood or subdivision must make a request to their district supervisor and acquire favorable signatures from over 60 percent of its residents.

SOME DISPUTE revolved around the Burke Centre petition, however. Although the parking district applicants said the petition represented nearly 70 percent of the community, residents Collette Sheldon and Andy Padgett said that the petition only had about 2,000 signatures on it. This represents under half of the over 5,000 households in Burke Centre, said Padgett.

The petition, taken over the course of two years, does not sufficiently represent the current Burke Centre population, said Sheldon. Nearly a third of Burke Centre residents have left since 2002, said Padgett.

"It just went on too long," said Sheldon.

The petition did not draw from the entire Burke Centre community, said Board of Supervisors chairman Gerry Connolly (D-At-large), but rather from the sections that were directly affected. Burke Centre residents began collecting signatures as soon as the state gave local governments power to allow community parking districts, said Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock). This happened a few years ago, she said, and accounts for the length of time between the first and last signatures on the petition.

Connolly agreed that two years was too long. However, he added: "a reasonable amount of time has to be established ... beyond which you have to admit the signatures are stale."

Residents in favor of the community parking district cited increased safety and a more attractive neighborhood.

"The streets were never meant to be used for [parking] vehicles," said resident Martha Murdock. "We didn't buy our house next to an industrial park for a good reason: we didn't want it to look like one."

"This road is not safe," said Burke Centre trustee Marc Flaster. Once, he said, he saw eight boats parked along Burke Commons Road at one time. Large vehicles pose a hazard to drivers and pedestrians who cannot see around them, he said.

Quintana described her alarm at seeing neighborhood children playing hide-and-seek in a parked wood chipper. Part of the cost of owning a large vehicle is storing it properly and safely, she said.

Often, however, community parking districts cause a "pushoff problem," said Sheldon, meaning that the vehicles simply move to another public street. Enforcement would be difficult, and the signs pointing out the community parking district would cause "visual clutter."

"This establishes inequitable use of roads throughout the county," she said.

EARLIER IN the meeting, the Board of Supervisors decided to lower the required number of signs denoting a community parking district. In Burke Centre, this would bring the number of signs from about 2,000 to around 200, said Paul Mounier of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The Board of Supervisors approved the community parking district unanimously, but several supervisors suggested reexamining the community parking district process.

Supervisor Joan DuBois (R-Dranesville) said she was concerned about the level of disagreement over the community district parking issue. Hearing the same problems over and over again without resolving them might be "creating a monster," she said.

"I think we really need to take a closer look at this issue," said DuBois.