Letter to the Editor: Chatham Square residents don’t need on-street parking

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(Photo by Aleksandra Kochurova) Royal Street is the east boundary of Chatham Square.
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To the editor:

Chatham Square Homeowners’ Association president, William Jacobs, recently told the Alexandria Times that many residents moved to units in that development not knowing they were ineligible for District 2 parking permits.

Evidently those residents chose not to read the condominium documents provided to them at the time of execution of their contract to purchase. The conditions of the DSUP, with the permit parking restrictions laid out, were given to all prospective buyers of those residences for review. Following that review any prospective purchaser could rescind the contract to purchase if they wished to.

In a word, no resident of Chatham Square can reasonably say, “I didn’t know.” The parking limitation was right there, in black and white.

There are also complaints that the garages are too small to hold two cars. That might well be true – if – the residents also choose to use them as a storage facility. Garages are intended to hold cars, not cars and anything else an owner wishes to store there. The Chatham Square garages provided with each market-rate residence are amply wide and deep for two SUVs.

And what if the Chatham Square residents wish to own a third car, or even park the cars they do own on the streets in their neighborhood?

The fact is they can, right now.

The engineering company, Kimley-Horn, retained by the Chatham Square Homeowners’ Association, has conducted a parking survey of the blocks adjacent to, across from and within one block of Chatham Square.

That study shows that an astonishing seven block-faces around Chatham have no parking restrictions whatsoever. Anyone can park on those seven blocks 24/7, year-round.

In addition to these 24/7 free parking spaces, there are no parking restrictions on many of the adjacent blocks except between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

I would submit that there is no other area in Old Town where there is so much unrestricted parking available to the residents of that area. Some of those block faces are directly across the street from Chatham Square homes.

The Homeowners’ Association is seeking to obtain residential parking permits under the dubious use of a memorandum presented to city council by the city manager outlining proposed parking revisions meant for new developments. There is nothing in the memo suggesting it will or should be used by long-term, existing developments to undo restrictions that have been in effect for almost fifteen years. Indeed, no reasons or justifications are given in the Chatham Square Homeowners’ Association petition as to why it is deserving of such a modification.

Where and when will this stop? There are now 25 developments in the city that have restrictions on their residents obtaining on-street permits. If the city makes the mistake of granting permits to Chatham Square, it is totally reasonable to expect that other developments currently barred from on-street parking will demand the same concession.

That, of course, would be the end to any effective development planning in which the number of cars on any public street may be limited in the planning process. It would also encourage developers to offer the minimum parking on-site, knowing full well that residents will eventually be able to wrangle parking permits from the city.

We need to keep in mind that the restrictions on residential parking permits for Chatham Square residents were part and parcel of a long, contentious and multi-faceted planning process. Issues of density, open space, garage configurations and many other points of contention were addressed in the DSUP – all of them interrelated and ultimately agreed to by the nearby residents, the developer and the city.

In exchange for obtaining vastly increased densities within the development, the developer agreed to certain restrictions. The neighbors reluctantly agreed to that increased density, with the recognition, or consolation, that the residents would be parked on-site. The city acknowledged that the parking to be provided on-site was reasonable and made certain that all condominium documents would contain a reference to that parking condition.

The city should not go back on its word to the neighbors surrounding Chatham Square, nor should it do so elsewhere in the city when – years later – any resident or institution seeks a change in the conditions of a DSUP that were committed to in the past. The reason the parking permit restrictions were mandated in the first place are still present in that neighborhood.

-Yvonne Callahan, Alexandria

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