Parking Garage and the Shared Parking Program – The Main Article

January 31, 2013 § 2 Comments

F.  ISSUE NO. 4 — WHEN WILL THE GARAGE BE BUILT? This issue first came up in 1991, when Mr. Ahmed, as a part of his offer of proffers, proposed to spread his payment of $223,200 over a 15-year period, but conditioned his offer on the town’s returning his payments if it had not committed to building a garage within five years.  The staff had no particular problem with this proposal, but Mayor Tom Rust did not like the fact that the money had to be returned and questioned the staff.  The staff and the town attorney tried to explain, but it was clear that they had not thought through this issue. Lets take a look at how both returning the money or not doing so is tricky.

1.    Town Must Return the Money

Under this scenario, the return of the participants’ share will diminish the Town’s ability to build a garage.  Had such a policy been in effect, the $1.3 million contributed by the participants over the last 17 years would have been returned to them.  Consequently, the Town’s parking fund would have been empty and it would have had to raise more money to construct a garage.

2.   Town Does Not Return the Money

Under this scenario, the Town would not make a commitment to build a garage at any time, but would keep people’s money until it is ready to build the garage.  It will be in the driver’s seat.  Indeed, seventeen (17) years after the start of the program, the construction of the garage is nowhere in sight. This scenario has a major drawback.  Potential participants would want to pay as little as possible and would delay paying the money as long as possible. In this case, downtown property owners objected to the size of their share in the 1990s and again in the 2000s to keep their share at $3,267/space.  Mr. Ahmed whose application was approved initially in 1991 delayed submitting his site plan by about 10 years. He did not start making payments until 2002.  Similarly, Mr. Nachman did not start paying until he absolutely had to in 2009. Except for Mayor Rust, none of the councilmembers raised even an iota of concern about the delayed payments in either 1991 or 1994.  In 1991, Mr. Rust lost the vote when the majority voted to approve the return of the payments after 5 years.  However, Mr. Rust got his chance once again when Mr. Ahmed applied for an extension to submit a site plan.  In order to make his application acceptable, Mr. Ahmed’s attorney offered to excise the “return of the payment” clause.  Even then, none of the councilmembers made any comment about this issue.  It should be noted that Mayor Rust also did not explain the reasons for his objections.  An issue as important as the timing of the construction of the garage was never discussed.  We still do not know when the garage would be built.


The location of the garage, even though approved in the 2010 Downtown Master Plan (DMP), would be controversial for many reasons, including the following:

    • It is almost certain that a 575-space garage cannot be built at the proposed location.  There is just not enough available land for the necessary footprint.
    • The Town will have to buy additional land from Ashwell LC (the owner of the Subaru Auto property) to build any garage.  It will take time and will increase the costs significantly.
    • Many of citizens believe that structured parking should be kept out the downtown area (As in the Reston Town Center, for example).
    • The proposed location is bound to be inconvenient to the employees and customers of many businesses in the downtown.
    • The subsidized spaces will put other structured parking (a total of 1500 spaces were contemplated by the DMP) at a serious financial disadvantage.
    • The garage will not benefit additional businesses because practically all the spaces have already been reserved for the existing participants in the program and/or apparently the Art Center.
    • Citizens will object to subsidies for downtown businesses and the Art Center.

Alternatively, the Town could build a 3 to 4 hundred-space garage right behind the TPI center, if it is possible to do so. This location will mitigate some of the disadvantages, but the size of the subsidies will remain troublesome.  Finally, one more related issue requiring careful thought and analysis must be mentioned. It is often asserted that a garage could be built under the public-private partnership program, in other words, by exchanging the land (with a builder for a garage). It is reasonably certain this cannot be done at this location.  For one thing, no builder is going to accept $1 million or $2 million worth of land for building a $6 million or $10 million garage!  He would want to extract a high price if he even considers joining the Town in a profitable partnership.

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§ 2 Responses to Parking Garage and the Shared Parking Program – The Main Article

  • Howard DeFelice says:

    This is excellent information and should have been presented to the public a long time ago. I only became a resident of Herndon in 2008 so much of this is new to me. I came here from Long Island, NY and I have seen what this type of governmental omission of fact produces. Home ownership on Long Island has become impossible for young families and people on fixed incomes because of the tremendous property tax burden. Your blog describes how this happens, quietly and over long periods of time. Property taxes in Suffolk county where I used to live average over $1,000 a month and are still climbing. THIS COULD HAPPEN HERE ! Massive taxpayer expenditures that subsidize pet projects of a few board members is not acceptable. Trying to make downtown Herndon resemble Reston Town Center is ill conceived. Reston Town Center was planned and built from the ground up starting from a clean sheet of paper. Downtown Herndon is a historic site whose charm and attraction is it’s visual link to the past. Massive public works will destroy the very thing that makes it special.


  • Jeannette Gallup says:

    I thought this article was very informative, and surprising.
    I moved to Herndon as a young child in 1963, attended Herndon Elementary, Herndon Intermediate, and graduated from Herndon High.
    All of Herndon was historical to me, this is when the train was still running, farms were still being worked. There was something about downtown Herndon, it was special then as it is today. I bring my children down town, share with them about growing up here, they know how important it is to be able to go back and enjoy the things of historical value and beauty.
    I moved my business back to Herndon because of the love I have for it.
    We have developed so much around the town and down town, why more. Everyone that grew up in Northern Virginia could probably say they grew up were there is an historical down town, and would respond the same way. Please for all who enjoy the historical charm of downtown Herndon, and concerned tax payers, say something, do something.

    “Please do not let this massive project ruin Herndon’s downtown charm.”


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