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Vexxed Vienna residents get permit parking

Those living on Millwood Court cul-de-sac have been irked about spillover

Vexed by construction parking near the new Sunrise Senior Living building at 380 Maple Ave., W., and apprehensive about vehicular spillover once that facility opens, residents on Millwood Court, S.E., have pressed Vienna officials for years to impose permit parking on their cul-de-sac.

The Vienna Town Council voted 6-1 July 10 to grant them their wish, following a lengthy discussion over potential impacts on surrounding streets and the need for more effective regulations on construction-related parking.

Now only Millwood Court residents, and their guests, will be able to use those on-street spaces after obtaining permits. Exceptions will be made for police, fire, government, utility, service and delivery vehicles.

Millwood Court residents first brought the issue to the town government’s attention in 2019 and had a community meeting with Sunrise officials in March 2022. A parking study conducted by Vienna police from April 15 to May 8, 2022, when construction was active at the Sunrise site, found that during some periods the street parking on Millwood Court met the town’s threshold for permit parking.

Under town code, permit parking may be initiated on residential streets if more than 25 percent of vehicles are being parked there while their owners are elsewhere and more than 65 percent of the street’s parking spaces are occupied. The window for such scrutiny is on weekdays (except holidays) from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Only three other sections of town – near the Vienna Metrorail station, James Madison High School and Vienna Park Apartments – have permit parking, said Vienna Police Chief James Morris.

But Vienna police conducted another study from April 15 through May 8 this year, after Sunrise’s construction activity had abated, and determined that parking on the cul-de-sac did not meet the requirements during any time of day.

“We’re down to like three cars parking on Millwood Court,” Morris said.

Vienna police recommended tabling the item until the Sunrise development’s full impact could be determined and Millwood Court’s parking figures routinely reached the permit-parking threshold. Morris also suggested town officials could follow Fairfax County’s lead and implement an ordinance allowing temporary construction parking for projects estimated to last more than six months.

But the court’s residents were having none of it and worried not only about Sunrise’s impact, but of what will come next door with an approved mixed-use development at 444 Maple Ave., W. (The ground has been cleared for the latter project, but the developer may take up to another year to obtain a building permit, town officials said.)

“For our neighborhood, these four years have been immensely frustrating,” said Sheila McLean, who lives on the court. “Sunrise isn’t even open yet, so of course there are only three cars on the street this month . . . We do not believe that this problem has been resolved.”

The cul-de-sac will see more problems once Sunrise is operational, agreed court resident Nancy Logan.

“We’re looking for action,” Logan told the Council. “We’re looking for leadership. We’re looking for protection. We should look at this prospectively, not retroactively.”

Millwood Court resident Dan McLean said the Council’s actions – including its approval of the Sunrise and 444 Maple Ave., W., projects under the since-abandoned Maple Avenue Commercial (MAC) zoning ordinance – had “made our life a nightmare.”

“It’s dangerous to have all this traffic,” he said. “It has to end. I have no respect for what’s going on.”

Court resident Jay Creswell worried about a coffee shop at the Sunrise building, saying it potentially could draw up to 450 customers per day, and said the senior-living facility’s planned monthly festivals would “flood the neighborhood with cars.”

“I feel that an elderly lady such as myself should be able to park in front of her house,” added his wife, Sheila Creswell.

The parking crunch is both a privacy and safety issue, said court resident Yunjung Yi, the mother of two teenagers.

“We are not asking from selfish motivation,” she said. “It is purely to maintain our right to be safe and enjoy our homes.”

Another court resident, Khalid Hasan, urged the Council to view the situation from a risk-management perspective. Hasan said strangers had been on the court sitting in cars, blasting music, eating lunch, changing clothing, strewing litter and, on at least one occasion, arguing with residents.

“Is that something you would want to subject your child or family to?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”

The residents’ complaints resonated with the Council. Council member Steve Potter said Sunrise will operate three 35-employee shifts per day and have mandatory 30-minute shift overlaps. The building’s 75 parking spaces will not be sufficient for staff and visitors during shift changes, he said.

“To me, it’s the perfect example of a procedural failure,” Potter said, adding the proverbial can had been kicked down the road long enough.

Council member Nisha Patel, while sympathetic to Millwood Court’s residents, was concerned how permit parking there might affect nearby Glen Avenue, S.W., and Roland Street, S.W.

“It’s not fair to penalize other residents,” she said.

Colbert also sympathized with the court’s residents, but thought it would be wise to hold off on the decision for a while. She did not appreciate it when some in the audience howled at that remark.

“I did listen to you, did I not?” she asked. “Did I laugh at you when you spoke?”

Council member Ed Somers, who cast the lone vote against permit parking on the court, said the Council was using vehicle figures obtained during Sunrise’s construction and applying them to the future when such circumstances won’t apply.

Town Attorney Steven Briglia said the Council could use either Millwood Court parking study to inform its decision. Briglia alluded to a famous dictum from Mark Twain, who himself was quoting a remark attributed to Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

“I don’t think you’re going to parking-permit hell on this one,” Briglia said.