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Suddenly Illegal, 6 Parking Slots Get Taken Away in Winter Hill

jumpparkingspotAnger and frustration at a lack of answer from City Hall continues to mount among neighbors at and around the sleepy residential intersection of S. Virginia Ave. and James Court in the Winter Hill section of the City of Falls Church.

jumpparkingspot

SUDDENLY ILLEGAL, the marked parking space near the intersection of S. Virginia Ave. and James Court was rendered illegal for parking by the erection of a sign ahead of it last Sept. 22. No explanation from City Hall for why that, and five other marked spaces at the intersection, were subjected to the action has been forthcoming, as the anger and frustration of nearby residents grows (Photo: News-Press)

 

Anger and frustration at a lack of answer from City Hall continues to mount among neighbors at and around the sleepy residential intersection of S. Virginia Ave. and James Court in the Winter Hill section of the City of Falls Church.

On Sept. 22, City of Falls Church crews showed up at the intersection to post new “No Parking Here to Corner” signs, planted onto Winter Hill Condominium Association property, and leaving six marked on-street parking spaces suddenly illegal.

Local residents say those marked parking spaces have allowed for legal parking for over 35 years with no reported accidents at the intersection.

However, on the morning after the new signs were erected, Falls Church Police parking tickets with $35 fines for “parking in violation of an official sign” were issued to all cars who were in the slots they’d been used to using, legally, for over two decades.

No announcement of the change, or an explanation for it, was forthcoming to any of the neighbors, who now fear that in the parking-short neighborhood, similar fates may await other intersections, such as the one a block away at Gundry Drive and James St.

“We are extremely lacking for parking in our neighborhood,” a member of the Winter Hill Condominium Association told the News-Press this week. “To have six parking spaces suddenly removed, without explanation, is an outrage. The fear is that this is only the beginning, that the loss of many more slots is coming,” she said.

City Hall has stonewalled on an explanation, even when approached repeatedly by the News-Press for answers. City Manager Wyatt Shields, when first asked by the News-Press about the development on Sept. 25, said that he is normally advised of plans for such a move, was not in this case. He said he’d look into it.

Asked by the News-Press again on Oct. 12, he said all he’d learned was that it came in response to a letter from a single citizen. He said he still had no further information.

We had a big problem with the City Police coming onto our private property, the parking spaces owned by the Condo Association behind the condominium units, and ticketing there. That was stopped, but an officer still comes onto our property to issue warnings.

Repeated calls from the News-Press to Barbara Gordon, most recently this Monday, again produced no response.

Meanwhile, neighbors have begun openly expressing their frustration. In a letter published in the News-Press last week, Nancy Vorobey, describing herself as a 35-year resident of the Winter Hill neighborhood, having never seen an accident at that intersection, wrote, “Parking is already a big problem here so the loss of these spaces is no small matter. Can the City just do this without notice? Who authorized it and why? I think all of us in Winter Hill would be very interested in how this came about.”

Another told the News-Press that while she confirmed a letter about parking at that intersection came from a single resident, when that resident was asked by a neighbor, he could not come up with the name of a single other living resident who shared his concern.

Parking outside the marked spaces, closer to the intersection, has occurred frequently at that corner, but rather than ticketing those cars, for example, the City’s approach has been to eliminate six previously-legal spots.

Moreover, the action was accompanied by an aggressive ticketing of the newly-illegal parked cars by City Police, beginning the very next morning and continuing on an almost daily basis since, including on Sundays.

“We had a big problem with the City Police coming onto our private property, the parking spaces owned by the Condo Association behind the condominium units, and ticketing there. That was stopped, but an officer still comes onto our property to issue warnings,” a resident told the News-Press.

Furthermore, the ticketing continues while the parking space markings are still in place, acting as a lure, some say, to unsuspecting persons to park there, unable perhaps to see the signage after dark.

The deafening silence about all this coming from City Hall continues to frustrate  citizens concerned about the matter. The News-Press has agreed to issue a formal request for “Freedom of Information Act” (FOIA) access to all City records, including e-mails and inter-office memoranda, pertaining to the matter, and including the names of owners of all the vehicles ticketed for parking in the formerly-legal spots since Sept. 22.

“We are aware of the case earlier this decade of a rogue operation in the City’s public utilities department to place an unauthorized median at an intersection on E. Broad St. In that case, the median was subsequently removed and the head of the department was fired. We are looking into the legality of this current action to see if any local or state laws have been broken in its execution,” a spokesman for the News-Press said.

 

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