A proposal to establish a residential parking permit system in Alexandria has run into strong opposition from the city's business community even though all the major commercial thoroughfares in the downtown area would be exempt from the parking restrictions suggested in the plan.
The Alexandria City Council asked its staff to submit recommendations for a residential parking plan shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in October the constitutionality of a similar plan now in effect in Arlington. The District of Columbia and Montgomery County also have set up residential parking systems.
Charles E. Kenyon, deputy director of Alexandria's Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, said that in order for any blook to be included in the plan, more than 75 per cent of the parking spaces on that block must be filled at midday and that more than 25 per cent of the parked vehicles must belong to commuters. In order for a community in the city to apply for residential parking status at least 51 per cent of the presidents in the community must sign a petition asking for the parking restrictions on commuters.
D.C. and Montgomery also require citizen petitions to initiate a study of a parking ban for any zone. In Arlington a citizen's complaint about commuter parking in his neighborhood will generate a study of an area for the parking permits. Arlington and D.C. also require that a certain percentage of cars parked on a block belong to commuters.
Kenyon said that Alexandria's plan would permit two-hour parking for drivers without residential parking permits. He said he suspects this restriction will make more parking spaces available and thus encourage a longer turnover of shoppers. But the Alexandria business community says it is more concerned about where their workers will park during business hours.
"We're more than concerned, we are scared to death," said Robert E. Bellavance, executive vice president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.
Bellavance estimated that there are between 9,000 and 11,000 people who work in the city's downtown area during the day, most of whom park in the surrounding residential communities.
"These employees would of course park in public garages if they were available," added Bellavance. "But they simply are not."
The Chamber of Commerce official said there had been a sharp increase in the number of office buildings constructed in downtown Alexandria in the past 10 years, and pointed to the new Time-Life Building and Banker's Square as examples. He said the new Savage-Fogarty office building with about 300 employees is scheduled to open within 60 days.
Bellavance warned that some business could consider leaving Alexandria if the parking situation becomes intolerable. "It's just going to clobber the living daylights out of business," he said.
Alexandria City Council members Robert L. Calhoun, a strong proponent of a residential parking plan, said such a system would be limited to areas of the city "where there is an ascertainable and rather clear-cut conflict between residents and commuters."
The Council member said that while Bellavance's complaints would be taken into account many people who park in downtown Alexandria work in Washington and find Alexandria a convenient place to leave their cars before taking a bus and subway to the city.
Th City Council is scheduled to review the proposals at its Dec. 20 meeting, Kenyon said.