Obscure D.C. Parking Regulation Could Add Extra Drama to your Night
by Tim Treanor
For those of us Maryland and Virginia residents who frequent theatres and restaurants in the District, and for the additional thousands planning to attend this year’s Capital Fringe Festival, DC Theatre Scene has learned that our cars could be ticketed or even impounded because of our VA or MD plates.
Washington’s Registration of Out-of-State Automobiles (“ROSA”) regulations permit the City’s Department of Motor Vehicles to ticket out-of-state vehicles if they are spotted in the City as infrequently as twice within a thirty-day period, even if they are parked legally. According to the DMV website “[i]f an automobile has been observed a second time within a thirty-day period, a warning notice may be issued indicating the automobile is eligible for the issuance of a citation and/or impoundment,” unless the car’s owner goes to a DMV office and produces a copy of a current utility bill or similar document proving that he lives out of the District.
The Capital Fringe Festival, which anticipates hosting120 events in a 20-day period, has traditionally attracted a significant audience from the Virginia and Maryland suburbs. Many out-of-District theatergoers attend multiple events on several different nights. According to the DMV website, this would make them targets of the ROSA regulations – even if they parked legally every time they came to D.C.
D.C. officials, while denying that as few as two visits per month from out-of-District drivers would result in warnings or tickets, admit that typical Festival-goers might run afoul of ROSA. “I’m told that it is very well possible that a vehicle from out of town that parks in the same neighborhood in DC (even a commercial corridor) once or twice a week can be flagged,” said DC Department of Public Works spokesperson Nancee Lyons. Ms. Lyons noted that ROSA is not enforced on Fridays or Saturdays.
Other D.C. officials gave a lower estimate. One official, speaking for background only, estimated that someone who visited once or twice a week for two or three weeks could be ticketed, but admitted that some first-time visitors might be ticketed if a resident complained.
“This is a huge threat, not only to the Fringe Festival, but to theater in DC generally,” said one out-of-District theater buff, who declined to be identified for fear of becoming an enforcement target. “I don’t imagine they’ll ticket people in parking garages, but how about audiences coming in to see theaters located near residences like Church Street or Studio? And pity the poor actor or stagehand. He has to be there maybe thirty days in a row. I can’t imagine a better way for the city of Washington to tell Marylanders and Virginians that we’re not welcome here.”
Tom, a DCTS reader and Virginia resident has already received a DMV warning and sounds a similar note. “I have been warned that because my car has VA plates, and has been seen parked 2 times during the last 6 months in DC, that I will be fined or my car impounded if I do not go to the DC’s DMVand prove non-residency with an original mortgage, a utility bill and the vehicle’s registration.”, he wrote.
D.C. officials insist that the purpose of ROSA is simply to prevent District residents from maintaining out-of-state license plates. “The goal is not to penalize out of towners, but to identify D.C. residents who have moved into the District and not yet relinquished their out of state tags and registered in the District,” according to Lyons.
Another official advised recurring out-of-District visitors to register with the Department of Motor Vehicles in advance to get a 180-day renewable exemption to the ROSA regulations.