Sunday, February 26, 2012

Arlington's Dumbest Attack Yet on Westover Beer Garden: Help People Drive More!

Arlington County has spent literally years asking Westover Market to jump through a series of hoops to maintain its Beer Garden, but the outcome to this point has been good for all sides - Westover Market has expanded its business and hired new staff, Westover residents have a new community gathering place that's jam-packed with customers when the weather's nice, and regulatory concerns have been addressed.

But that peace will apparently be short-lived, as reports County regulators are making a bizarre new criticism that may or may not be legally justified. In a community that prides itself on walkability and the car-free diet, Arlington says the dozens of parking spaces behind & in front of Westover Market aren't enough:
Arlington County has developed a web page specifically relating to the beer garden at Westover Market. On the page, it states that establishments with outdoor patios must have ample parking for the number of people being served, but that parking requirement is reduced if the establishment is near a Metro stop. The County allows establishments to get around the parking rule by becoming “seasonal” and closing for three or more months each year.

Because the Westover beer garden isn’t deemed as having enough parking, it’s supposed to be seasonal. However, Hicks points out the rule is technically a “guideline” and not an actual “ordinance.” He believes the county has been enforcing a measure that was never officially put in the books.

The County’s web page for Westover Market links to another County page, titled “Guidelines for Outdoor Cafes.” On that document it states: “Unless otherwise required by the County Board, outdoor cafes shall be exempt from any parking requirement.” It goes on to say: “There is no explicit requirement in the Zoning Ordinance that requires them to be temporary or seasonal.”
As a progressive, I'm a strong believer in government's ability to protect the common good - public health, public safety, and public resources. Which makes me even more upset when government resources are used for ... what? Providing people an incentive to drive by demanding an arbitrary number of  free parking spaces? And I don't get what being seasonal has to do with it at all.

The whole episode brilliantly illustrates the stupidity of minimum parking requirements. If stores (or condo developments, etc.) feel they'd get more business by providing parking to customers, they can build a parking lot and give away parking or charge for it. If they don't think they need more parking, people can use the land instead for homes or businesses or parks or whatever else they want.

And instead of sending zoning regulators out to count parking spots and telling people to turn down their Jack Johnson cover songs, the government can spend more time educating kids and reducing air pollution and other things that actually make life better. You can show your support for Westover Market through this petition.
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