Leesburg Town Council Scrutinizes Parking Fee Policies

The Leesburg’s system of collecting money from downtown developers who can provide on-site parking spaces may be on its way out.

Monday night, the Town Council turned a close eye on the payment-in-lieu-of-parking fee system. Established in 1985, nonresidential developers in the downtown area are given the choice to pay a price per parking space instead of providing spaces on their property. Currently, the fee per parking space is just over $6,000. While the fee was raised in the past few years it does not come close to covering the cost of providing a space in a parking garage, which Deputy Town Manager Keith Markel estimates hovers around $25,000 per space.

The town’s parking fund has more than $200,000. Although not inconsequential, it is not near enough to construct a substantial amount of parking, Markel said, and instead has been used in the past to pay for several smaller projects, including a parking study, updates to the new Church Street paid parking lot, and improvements in the Town Hall parking garage.

Council members have previously been skeptical as to whether the payment-in-lieu program and the parking fund it feeds into is achieving the goal of providing parking downtown. Monday night, at least four council members said they would be interested in Zoning Ordinance changes to do away with the program. A vote on whether to start that process is expected at the council meeting in two weeks; however, even if that vote passes, it does not mean the change will take effect. A public hearing would be scheduled and an additional vote would take place to potentially dissolve the program.

Other downtown parking-related items discussed Monday night included a discussion on whether to continue to charge fees in the Town Hall parking garage, with a majority in favor of keeping the garage fee-based, but many strongly encouraging a quick move to automated collections. The recently adopted fiscal year 2018 budget includes $250,000 to do just that.

Councilman Ken Reid also asked that the council relook at the parking ratios downtown. Currently, for example, a one-bedroom apartment in the downtown area would be required to have 1.5 parking spaces. Because the number is rounded up, the developer of such a site would need to provide two parking spaces per one-bedroom apartment. Reid also said the current payment-in-lieu exclusion of allowing a nonresidential developer to be exempt from providing parking if the development lies within 500 feet of a public parking lot or facility should also be looked at to allow more businesses to be covered.

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