- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

D.C. residents and community leaders are criticizing a District Department of Transportation plan that might allow churchgoers to double-park on Sundays, saying the agency is favoring non-tax-paying institutions over tax-paying residents.

Many churches in the District serve members who don’t live in the city, community leaders say. Their double-parking frustrates city residents, who are required to pay for parking permits and are ticketed when they park illegally.

Now, DDOT has proposed giving churches special parking permits that would allow congregants to double-park in areas surrounding the churches.

“Their double-parking basically nullifies the values of those parking permits,” said Todd Lovinger, a community activist whose complaints sparked an overhaul of the parking at Logan Circle. “First of all, they are requiring D.C. residents to buy permits to park in their own city. Then, they are saying that out-of-town people can come in, park in front of your car and park wherever they want. They are giving these out-of-town parishioners greater rights than they are us.”

The proposal to give churches the special double-parking permits is part of a plan presented this week by DDOT to community member and churches. The plan suggests a variety of options to ease church parking concerns, including church use of private or public parking garages and valet service.

DDOT also will investigate the option of adding parking spaces to neighborhoods where double-parking on Sundays is rampant, by reconfiguring current parking schemes, officials said.

DDOT officials said the new parking plan is meant to sooth the traditionally rocky relationship between churches and neighborhoods, not to make things worse.

“The overall answer is that where there’s a problem we work with all sides to get a solution,” said Bill Rice, a spokesman for DDOT. “For church parking, yes, we might allow double-parking regulated in some way, but that would be worked out with the communities and churches.”

Mr. Rice said a permit to allow double-parking would have to be approved by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and would have community input before it takes effect.

Christopher Dyer, a commissioner for ANC 2F, said that although he doesn’t support the special permit proposal, he doesn’t think that allowing it will cause problems for neighbors.

“There’s a legal process in order to create a special event zone and there [are] procedures in place that the neighbors have to sign off, the ANC has to sign off on and then there’s a review by DDOT,” he said. “The simple reality is that churches do have a legitimate right to meet and congregate in the city and people that attend church should have a reasonable access to parking.”

Double-parking is illegal, but no legislative changes are necessary for DDOT to issue special double-parking permits because it is legal for the agency to temporarily allow such activities, Mr. Rice said.

The special permit zones likely will not be needed in Logan Circle where DDOT is adding 77 permanent and 78 Sunday-only spaces by reconfiguring some spaces and allowing parking adjacent to medians, officials said.

Spaces that run parallel to the curb will be redrawn to create spaces diagonal to the curb on several streets in the Logan Circle area. Drivers will be required to back into the spaces to park.

The new Logan Circle parking plan is expected to take effect next month.

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