Post #541: A couple of corrections: Beulah Road Park; $9M parking garage.

Posted on March 7, 2020

Here are a couple of non-correction corrections.  The first is fact, the second is speculation/reason/guesswork.

Fact is that the Town referred to its 8-acre Beulah Road property as a park for decades before it decided to use it for mulching (Post #526).   The documentary evidence for that is overwhelming (see first section below).

Speculation/reason/guesswork is that the town roughly doubled the estimated cost of the Patrick Henry Parking Garage, out of nowhere (Post #531), as a ploy to get somebody else to pay the full cost of the garage.  Funding agencies will want to see the Town pay half the cost.  But the Town wants somebody else to pay for all of it.  So, just claim that it costs twice as much as it actually does.  That’s a fraud, but so is the claim that this garage will serve large numbers of Vienna Metro commuters, which is how the Town justifies asking for regional traffic congestion relief funds for this.

Beulah Park Mulch Yard,Post #526.

First, in Post #526, I offered up the following wishy-washy statement:

“Historically, some Town of Vienna documents marked that tract as park land. “

This is about the 8-acre property on Beulah Road, surrounded by single-family homes, that the Town uses now for mulch processing, used in the past to store construction materials, and would like to use in the near future as the parking lot for the Town’s police cars (as the police station is rebuilt).

In response to that, some kind citizen sent me the photos.   These are pictures taken from old Town documents showing that this was unambiguously considered a park.  I figure I owe that citizen the courtesy of posting those here.

So in addition to what the North East Vienna Citizens’ Association claimed some years ago, there is more-than-adequate documentary evidence that this was, for years, treated as a park, referred to as a park, marked on Town maps as a park, and so on.

2000 Comprehensive Plan:

1995 Comprehensive Plan

1988 Comprehensive Plan

1982 Comprehensive Plan:

1979 Plan:

The curious incident of the cost-doubling parking garage (Post #531)

And nobody barked.  That’s the curious incident.  So, a) the estimated cost of the Patrick Henry garage doesn’t-quite-double, and b) there’s not much in the way of an explanation, and while c) my jaw drops, I see that d) nobody on Town Council or Town Staff says boo about the change.

Sometimes I’m a little slow up the uptake.  But that fact that nobody said anything about spending an extra $4M or so has to mean that maybe everybody on Town Council was in on the joke.

The joke here being that maybe the cost didn’t suddenly double.  The joke being that the Town isn’t really going to pay twice the going rate for garage parking places.

Instead, maybe the joke’s on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission ( NVTC, as referenced in post #515.

If you bothered to read my “reduction ad absurdum” post (Post #446), or my fraud post or followups (Post #515, Post #520), you’ll be able to guess at the logic, such as it is.  I think it goes something like this:

OK, let’s claim that all the spaces in the Towns’ portion of the Patrick Henry parking garage* will be used by Vienna Metro commuters, and ask NVTC to pay for all of it.  No, wait, that won’t work because it’s crazy (see “reductio ad absurdum).  OK, let’s assume that only half the spaces will be used by Vienna Metro commuters — that’s ridiculous, but that story worked for getting some funding for the Mill Street Church Street garage.  No, wait, that won’t work because we have to get the Patrick Henry garage* free, because there’s no more room left in the capital budget (e.g., Post #488, Post #504).

* and library

I got it!  We’ll pretend that half the spaces will be used by Vienna Metro commuters AND pretend that the garage costs twice as much as it actually does.  Genius!  Whereas neither lie, by itself, gets us exactly what we want, the combination of both lies works perfectly.

So maybe only the outsiders — meaning, just regular Vienna Citizens — were fed that information on the garage cost and were then stupid enough to take it at face value.  So there I was, doggedly trying to make sense of the information the Town was providing to the public.  And kind of shocked and outraged that nobody on Town Council gave a rat’s be-hind about the now-ludicrous cost of the project.

In any case, that’s purely speculation.  I’m just trying to figure out why nobody barked.  You can see the 188-space plan in the prior version of the Capital Improvement Plan at about half that cost.  Then it’s $9M in the next version.  And … not a yip.

Caveat:  I can’t rule out “just don’t care about cost” as an explanation.  The $9M garage works out to around $50K per parking place.  Just six years back, the Town’s original plans for a Church Street garage came in at just over $20K/space (see this Town of Vienna web page.)  Just two years back, at least one Town Council member balked when the Town planned to spend $38K/space for a Mill Street garage (see this post).

But for the most recent iteration of (taxpayer-financed) parking-at-any-cost, it seems like the sky’s the limit.  Assuming I read the Town’s 2020 Capital Improvement Plan correct, the Town is proposing to spend (at least) $65,000 per parking space (possibly $78,000 per space, I can’t quite tell) for 60 spaces in a Church Street garage.  Heck, that makes the $50K/space at Patrick Henry seem like a downright bargain.

And, of course, if 100% of it is paid for in Somebody Else’s Money, why should the Town care about it?  I just find it hard to believe that any revenue authority in this area would agree to pay for 100% of any very localized capital-improvement project.  Maybe NVTC is just a particularly generous funder?

Tough to say on that one as well.  Look that how the funding evolved for the Mill Street garage (50% of 120 space) evolved into the same taxing authority dollars for the (now) Church Street garage (59% of 60 spaces).  It’s not nothing matters and nobody cares.  And if the payer doesn’t care, why should we?

Caveat 2:  I also can’t rule out that Fairfax County just builds really expensive library buildings.  Fairfax is asking for $1000/square foot for library construction, which vastly exceeds norms published by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Possibly, the apparently high cost of this garage is “real”, in the sense that Vienna is agreeing to share in the cost of a very-high-cost Fairfax County library building.

That said, this does leave me with the feeling that I’m the only one in the audience paying attention.  But as I’ve said so many times here, I’m not confused because I’m stupid.  I’m confused because I’m paying attention to what they are saying.