The Virginia State Supreme Court declared unconstitutional today an Arlington County ordinance that bans commuter parking on residential streets near the Crystal City office and commercial complex along Rte. 1.
Although the court was unanimous in striking down the county law, its eight-page decision seemed to suggest that county officials might consider using a 1974 state law to control parking in the county by nonresidents.
But the court held in its opinion that provisions of the county's 1974 parking ordinance bear "no reasonable relation to its stated objectives" and that the ordinance "on its face" violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by dividing residents and nonresidents into two separate groups.
"Local governments have a legitimate interest in regulating the cause of the manifold problems which result from parking congestion," said Justice Richard H. Poff in the court's decision.
However, 'a regulations which treats the cause by favoring motorists who happen to reside along a public street at the expense of those who live elsewhere may relieve problems, but solutions achieved at the price of individious discrimination are too dear," he said.
The court's opinion upheld a Sept. 16, 1975, ruling by Arlington County Judge William I. Winston, who stopped the county from enforcing its planned ban on nonresident parking in the Aurora Highlands (neighborhood, located west of Rte. 1 Jefferson Davis Highway) opposite the Crystal City complex, Winston, acting on a suit filed by Crystal City office workers, held that the county's parking ordinance violated the workers' rights to due process and equal protection of the laws under the 14th Amendment.
Although agreeing with Winston, the state Supreme court's opinion noted that a 1974 state law allows local governments to issue permits for parking on public streets and set "rates" and "terms" for such permits. In setting the rates, aw was not at issue in the Arlington case and that its comments should not be constructed as indicating court approval of that law.
In Arlington, county board chairman Joseph S. Wholey called the court's decision "disappointing," but said he saw no hope of appealing the case to the U.S, Supreme Court because no federal issue was involved in the case. He said "there are certainly other possibilities" that the County Board will consider to control nonresident parking in residential neighborhoods, including imposition of time limits on parking.
"We know many of the neighborhoods will be heavily impacted" when Metro subway stations in the county are opened later this year, he said. "I don't see offhand that we would be passing any new laws," he said. "Whatever we decide to do we will be treating everyone alike."
Part of Arlington's appeal for permission to impose the nonresident parking ban was based on its claim that state law gave localities authority to impose some parking restrictions through local soning powers. That authority, the court held, "does not include the power to adopt ordinances which grant residents a parking monopoly in the public streets of their neighborhoods."
Ownership of property adjoining a street gives a property owner "no right to use the street superior to that enjoyed by the public at large," the court said, nothing a 1928 Virginia case.
The Arlington ordinance in question created special districts under the county zoning law in which only delivery vehicles or those of residents could be parked on public streets.
A Washington, D.C., court recently declared a similar law passed by the District City Council to be unenforceable.