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Richmond councilman wants to strike rules governing parking requirements for new developments; panel agrees to study
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Richmond councilman wants to strike rules governing parking requirements for new developments; panel agrees to study

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20190716_MET_RICH_01

The Richmond Planning Commission voted on a plan to rezone the Monroe Ward area of downtown Richmond VA. Here is a parking lot at Main and 3rd Streets. MARK GORMUS/TIMES-DISPATCH

A collection of photos from the Richmond Times-Dispatch archive that show the city from the sky.

Richmond City Council members on Tuesday advanced a proposal to study striking rules about the minimum number of parking spaces new developments must have.

The three-member Land Use Council Committee unanimously backed a proposal from 1st District Councilman Andreas Addison that directs the administration to study how to erase existing parking requirements in city code.

“The goal is ultimately ... to get rid of that requirement,” said Addison, who sees proscribing parking spaces for developments as project cost-drivers that ultimately hamper the building of affordable housing.

The proposal, which is slated to head to the full Council for consideration on Monday, drew concerns from members who worried it could worsen parking in neighborhoods with short supply.

“I don’t think the city is at a point where we can just eliminate them wholesale right now,” said 2nd District Councilwoman Katherine Jordan. “Knowing the parking situations that we deal with currently, I don’t think this ... can be realistic.”

City planners in recent years have promoted the concept in principle, adopting new zoning and future plans that emphasize public transit and converting commercial and public parking lots into buildings that generate more tax revenue.

Examples of this can be found in the city’s recent adoption of new zoning in the Monroe Ward and Scott’s Addition areas, which was intended to spur development after the 2018 launch of the GRTC Pulse rapid-transit bus line.

“I do believe this is worth examining,” said Kevin Vonck, acting director of the city’s planning and development review department. “I think it’s pretty clear that we’re an established city. We’re built out and our boundaries can’t expand, so we need to make the most efficient use of our land. Surface parking lots are definitely one of the most inefficient uses of that land.”

Vonck said surface parking in a development project can range from $10,000 to $20,000, so it adds a cost burden to developers who will often pass it on to whoever buys or occupies a building.

Council members Michael Jones and Ellen Robertson said they support the resolution; both expressed hope that officials will take a comprehensive look at how to manage parking throughout the city.

“I’d be more than happy to co-patron this paper, but I would also like to make sure that we’re putting provisions in place to not only minimize it but to also prepare for any adverse impact that it could have as it relates to automobiles,” Robertson said.

Jones raised a similar point.

“The question is; if you put 40 units (in a development), where are the cars going to go?” he said. “How will we manage this as a council when it comes back to us in real time?”

As part of the Tuesday’s meeting, the land-use committee also discussed tentative plans to update the process for creating parking districts in densely populated neighborhoods like the Fan, where parking is largely restricted so that area residents who pay $25 for special permits can park near their homes.

Addison said similar districts in other neighborhoods could also be created to help manage parking if the city were to eliminate the development parking requirements.

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