The RHA struck down a resolution supporting the construction of a 1,000-space parking lot in a wooded area near the Xfinity Center at its Senate meeting Tuesday night.
The vote was 30-17, with no abstentions.
The resolution provided for permeable pavement for the lot and urged the Department of Transportation Services to place solar panels on top of it. But various Residence Hall Association members expressed concerns that the new lot would jeopardize the environment.
"Green spaces are increasingly … rare and increasingly more beneficial to mental health," said RHA finance and philanthropy officer Sam Bingaman, a senior environmental science and policy major.
Annie Rice, a senior environmental science and policy major, spoke from the open gallery during debate, representing the SGA sustainability committee.
"It's very contrary to everything that the university stands for," Rice said. "We pride ourselves on being this sustainable institution, but this parking lot would violate every single urban planning principle. The environmental services associated with a mature forest like this, they're priceless."
The lot would run parallel to Paint Branch Road north of existing Lot 4J and create the 1,000 additional parking spots as early as spring 2018. This university has already prohibited underclassmen from parking on the campus starting fall 2017 because of various construction projects, such as Cole Field House, which are expected to eliminate about 2,700 spots by fall 2018.
Despite the need for more parking, DOTS Director David Allen said the department intends to take the RHA's resolution into close consideration.
"Because [the resident student body] has the most to lose, we listen to them a lot," Allen said. "So I would say there's a good chance that we just won't build it."
Some students, such as Daniel Laffin, an RHA senator and freshman government and politics major, disagreed with turning down the proposal.
"This [parking] is a now problem," Laffin said. "So to build up rather than out makes sense in principle, but in practice it just won't work right now."
Allen said the university would have less than 200 uncommitted buffer parking spaces for visitor parking on the entire campus if no new parking is added. The proposed lot can't be used for other functions, such as buildings, because of its floodplain designation.
Prior to DOTS' proposal, the RHA had considered other options to provide additional parking spots for students, including the use of a park-and-ride lot in South Laurel about 13 miles away from the campus, according to a November Diamondback article. But the owners of this lot restrict overnight parking, making the usage of the lot impractical.