NVCC officials, nearby residents meet to discuss parking concerns

NVCC officials and nearby residents of the Annandale campus met to discuss parking and traffic issues along Wakefield Chapel Road.

NVCC officials and nearby residents of the Annandale campus met to discuss parking and traffic issues along Wakefield Chapel Road.

At a February 25 community forum, nearby residents of the NVCC Annandale campus met with college officials to discuss parking and traffic concerns along Wakefield Chapel Road.

The forum, hosted by Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock), brought out about 30 residents to Wakefield Forrest Elementary School.

“I understand parking of our students on the streets is an issue,” said Barbara Saperstone, provost of the Annandale campus. “We are listening. We are addressing some of those concerns as best we can. We are trying to get them back into the parking lot as best we can.”

Attendees raised both parking and traffic concerns along Wakefield Chapel Road, adjacent to the NOVA campus.

One forum attendee said that the street’s bike lanes, which were put in August 2010, have exacerbated the problem of students parking along the road, instead of parking on-campus.

“I really think you people have missed a lot of what’s going on,” said the resident. “The bike lanes provide a free space for students to park along Wakefield Chapel.”

“Prior to the bike lanes, there was always free available parking along Wakefield Chapel,” Cook said in response. “By narrowing the driving area, that speeds tend to come down.”

Several attendees urged the college to remove parking fees for on-campus parking to reduce incentive to park on Wakefield Chapel Road.

“When we get to the big solution to this problem,” said one attendee, “folks should know that if all the students parked in the lots like they should be able to do, all these problems…wouldn’t exist.”

Other attendees asked if parking costs could be paid for through other funds, or if parking revenue made up a significant amount of the NVCC budget.

“We cannot use the tuition money to pay for parking,” said Saperstone. “It has to be self-sufficient. My understanding is [the parking fees] have to be used for parking.”

In a letter to the college’s administration, presidents of five nearby neighborhood associations urged the administration to take action on the issue.

“In recent years, neighborhoods close to campus have responded to student parking and traffic by setting up residential parking districts,” read the letter. “In our view, this unfairly shifts the burden created by your parking policies to the tax paying residents of Fairfax County. In addition, those RPDs just shifted the problem to other streets, in particular Wakefield Chapel Rd, and has made the safety and traffic problems much worse.”

Janyce Hedetniemi, who was recently appointed as an at-large member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission, signed the letter as president of the Oak Hill Citizen’s Association.

Saperstone said that NVCC was aware of the problem and has been exploring ways to address parking and traffic, including an online carpooling program, increased shuttle service, and stagnated school schedules.

“I’m here to say that I am listening,” Saperstone said.