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Smart Growth Collides With Transit Planning In Alexandria

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Alexandria City Council members voted for a plan to charge residents in the garage of this new affordable housing complex. The idea is to discourage the use of automobiles, but residents in neighboring Lynhaven say they are concerned the new residents will park on their streets instead.
Alexandria Department of Planning
Alexandria City Council members voted for a plan to charge residents in the garage of this new affordable housing complex. The idea is to discourage the use of automobiles, but residents in neighboring Lynhaven say they are concerned the new residents will park on their streets instead.

What happens when the principles of smart growth collide with transit planning? That's the case on Jefferson Davis Highway in Alexandria, where a new affordable housing complex is planned, but it comes saddled with a paid parking lot.

Land-use attorney Duncan Blair presented the application to council members as an unusual sort of "Easter egg."

"Probably this is the number one issue in the city," Blair says. "It's the number one issue on the campaign trail. So I'm like the Easter Bunny bringing you exactly what you want, which is 78 new units of affordable housing for a 60-year period."

But some neighbors say this is a case of rotten eggs.

"Duncan, why does the Easter Bunny have to park his car on East Lynhaven Drive?" asks Joe Bondi, president of Lynhaven Citizens Association.

He and many of his neighbors are concerned about the city's decision to separate parking fees from rent. The idea is to discourage the use of automobiles, but Lynhaven residents say they are concerned the new residents will park on the street.

"The choices that people make who will live in this building are different than the choices that people make who live in market-rate buildings," Bondi says.

Alexandria's two new council members opposed the city s efforts to charge extra for parking. Councilman John Taylor Chapman says many of the lower income residents who live in the building may not be able to use the bus rapid transit system to get to work.

"Maybe they are a school teacher, and maybe they don't work in Alexandria," Chapman says. "Maybe they work in Fairfax or Loudoun County or wherever. Our BRT is not going to get them to their job. They are going to need a car."

Chapman and newly-elected Vice Mayor Allision Silberberg voted against the proposal, but a majority of elected officials sided with the developer's plan to charge separately for parking and rent.

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