On May 23, 2007 the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation (the "Department") received a petition for residential permit parking for a limited portion of Saul Road in Kensington, Maryland (Exhibit 2). The petition seeks a designation of the east side of Saul Road from Franklin Street to Oldfield Drive across the street from Kensington-Parkwood Elementary School ("KPES") to be designated as permitted parking only on school days from 8 AM - 4 PM. The petition was submitted pursuant to Montgomery County Code Section 31-48 which authorizes the creation of permit parking in certain residential areas to address non-local parking attributable to public facilities resulting from government action that cause non-residents to park on streets in residential neighborhoods.
Following notice of hearing and opportunity for comment posted on signs in the community (Hearing Exhibit 5) and published in the Gazette on September 5, 2007 and September 12, 2007 and in the Montgomery County Register on September 1, 2007 (Hearing Exhibit 6), a hearing was held on September 20, 2007 at 4:00 PM in the lobby level auditorium of the Executive Office Building at 101 Monroe Street, Rockville, Maryland. At the end of the hearing the record was held open until 5:00 PM, October 4, 2007 to receive additional written comments and testimony. On Monday, November 5, 2007, the time for issuance of a determination in this matter was extended by the County Executive for a period of 11 days to Friday. November 16, 2007.
At the hearing, Mrs. Jean Gries presented information on behalf of the Department and 11 individuals presented testimony. Prior to and following the hearing through the close of the hearing record, approximately 65 comments (some sent multiple comments) in the form of letters, facsimiles and emails were received on this matter.
The petition submitted by area residents was for designation of a residential permit parking during school days. The request was limited to a single block on the east side of Saul Road from Franklin Street to Oldfield Drive as shown on Hearing Exhibit 4 attached to this Opinion. In response to the petition, the "ultimate area" proposed by the Department for designation as a residential permit parking area was much broader as shown on Hearing Exhibit 4. The impacted community is estimated to contain 900 homes. The "ultimate area" proposed by the Department is bounded by Parkwood Drive, Cedar Lane and Westbrook Lane. COMCOR Section 31.48.01.4 allows for an expanded area to be considered, "[i]n the event that additions to the area designated for immediate implementation of permit parking are desired, they may be requested and evaluated according to Sections II and III of this Regulation without requiring additional public hearings. These additions must be within the "ultimate area" defined under the initial public hearing."
A residential permit parking occupancy study of the block proposed by the petitioners was conducted on February 12, 2007. The study concluded that of the 45 possible legal on-street parking spaces on the requested block of Saul Road, 33 spaces were occupied which translates to a73% occupancy rate and of those 33 spaces occupied, 26 were non-local residential parkers which equals a78% non-local residential parking rate. See, Hearing Exhibit 2. These statistics meet the threshold criteria for eligibility for permit parking set out in COMCOR 31.48.01.03 which requires that in the block or block face for which permit parking is requested, average curb space occupancy must exceed 50% and that non-local residential parkers must make up at least 50% of the existing on-street parkers in the block or block face for which permit parking is requested.1 No residential permit parking occupancy study was offered for the "ultimate area" proposed by the Department.
There is no dispute about the source of the parking problem for the petitioners. KPES is located on Saul Road between Franklin Street and Oldfield Drive. It was modernized in 2005 and reopened in January, 2006. Prior to modernization of the school, there were no parking restrictions on Saul Road and the school seemed to have had adequate parking. When the school was reconstructed a decision was made to decrease the planned size of the parking lots by 20 spaces in order to conserve green space. Although several of those providing comments allege that some of the petitioners advocated for less parking for the school in favor of the green space and therefore cannot now complain about the lack of parking convenient to their homes, there is no evidence to support this assertion. The only indication of where this decision came from is a Montgomery County Planning Board Staff recommendation to the Montgomery County Planning Board during the mandatory referral submittal for the school. There is also an anecdotal reference to a resident on Franklin Street making such a request, however the resident is neither named, nor a petitioner.
As indicated by the Principal for KPES, the school has 74 full time employees, plus some part time employees. Many of those commenting indicated that the school also has a steady stream of volunteers. When the school was reconstructed 49 parking spaces were provided onsite. Thus on-site parking is patently inadequate. The situation is compounded by the fact that following re-construction of the school, no standing/no parking restrictions were instituted on the west side of Saul Road alongside the school as a result of a joint school zone safety assessment conducted by the Department, Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Planning Board.2 At least one of the teachers presenting comments indicated that she used to park on the west side of Saul Road next to the school before parking restrictions were imposed precluding parking there. The number of spaces lost to that act appears to be approximately 11.
Those who support the request for permit parking on the limited east side of Saul Road indicate that they frequently need to park a block or more from their homes creating hardships and inconvenience when carrying children, groceries and other materials to their homes. They also indicate that they have tried to work with the school to remedy the problem, but have not met with success. Likewise, the Department testified that it tried to work with the school to remedy the parking problem, but did not find an acceptable solution. The residents on Saul Road are clearly frustrated and concerned about both the inconvenience and the safety of their children due to stopping and standing on Saul Road during school drop-off and pick-up. The hours for which permit parking is sought are limited to school days from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Several residents who provided comments opposed the broad area for permit parking suggested by the Department and urged that if permit parking is to be implemented that it be limited to the east side of Saul Road from Franklin Street to Oldfield Drive, as requested by the petitioners. Numerous residents provided comments in general opposition to the permit parking. The principal of KPES testified against the permit parking petition as did a few teachers. Many comments raised concerns about the impact of residential permit parking upon the ability of the school to attract and retain good teachers and volunteers and some raised concerns about the impact of parking on other neighborhood streets (which may be why the Department proposed an ultimate area significantly larger than that requested by the petitioners, although this is not clear from the record).
One thing that is crystal clear is that the decision to provide an inadequate supply of parking when the school was reconstructed has sadly divided a community. It has led to exchanges between community members and between the adjacent residents and school staff. The damage from this situation was evident in some of the comments received. Other comments were more understanding and offered suggestions. Several of those commenting acknowledge the problem and suggested that either the school parking be increased on-site or that it be reconfigured and that the parking restrictions put in place when the school was reconstructed be lifted in whole or in part. Unfortunately as of the time of hearing, the County, the Planning Board and Montgomery County Public Schools have not been able to come up with a solution that will not divide a community.
While I might strongly recommend that an on-site or other parking management solution would be a more holistic remedy and preferable to permit parking restrictions, alternative solutions are not part of the determination to be made as a consequence of the hearing and action to be taken on the petition. In determining whether or not permit parking should be implemented in a given area, Section 31-48 requires that the County Executive consider the following:
These considerations are discussed in order:
Effect on the safety of residents of the area of intensive use by nonresidents for parking of vehicles - 9 of the 12 houses referenced on the confronting block of Saul Road indicated that they are in favor of the permit parking. Comments received indicate that the stacking up of vehicles during drop-off and pick-up of students creates a dangerous condition on Saul Road. While this may in fact create a safety problem that requires proper traffic management, the safety problem would likely still exist with the implementation of permit parking.
Need of the residents of the area to obtain adequate on-street parking near their residences - Several of the petitioners that commented indicated that they end up having to park more than a block from their home which presents a hardship when carrying children, groceries, and other materials. Several of the homes do not have driveways and curbside parking is the only available option.
Difficulty that residences of the area have in securing adequate on-street parking near their residences because of widespread use of available parking spaces by nonresidents -The comments received indicate a widespread acknowledgement that parking spaces on the east side of Saul Road are used by staff and others going to KPES. The parking study conducted by the Department further indicates that on the day it was conducted 78% of the spaces occupied were non-local vehicles. Supplemental testimony submitted by the Department indicates that in addition to the study it conducted, staff had on another occasion collected license plate data on the subject block of Saul Road which indicated that more than 50% of the available curb space was occupied and more than 50%o of the vehicles were non-local. Residents on the 4700 block of Saul Road testified that they regularly have difficulties parking within a block of their homes. One commenter went on to state that while she knew when she bought her home that there could problem parking such as on Back to School Night, she had not anticipated a daily recurring problem and had she known is not convinced that she would have purchased her home.
The impact of major public facilities and programs on the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the area - The elementary school is clearly important to the neighborhood and an asset that is appreciated both due to the quality of the school and the park-like quality that is ascribed to the school and adds to the health. safety and welfare of the larger Parkwood community.
The impact of nearby facilities used by the public on the availability of on-street parking for area residents -- The parking problems caused by an intentional decision to provide inadequate on-site parking spaces at the school is being borne disproportionately by those living directly across the street from the school. While the additional green space realized by this decision is enjoyed by the entire community, it is done at the expense of those living directly across Saul Road. Their safety and welfare is negatively impacted by being forced to park a block or more from their homes.
The likelihood of increasing the availability of residential parking spaces through a parking permit system - Residential parking permits as petitioned for Saul Road from Franklin Street to Odenfield [sic] Road during school days and hours would address the problem as the parking spaces are being used by those either at KPES or conducting business within the school. The broader residential permit parking area suggested by the Department is however questionable and was not adequately addressed at the hearing or in submissions.
The desire of the residents in the area for a parking permit system - 9 out of 12 homes directly across the street supported the petition for a parking permit system during certain hours. As previously discussed, the greater Parkwood community does not desire a parking permit system for the Parkwood area, although some indicated that if imposed it should be limited to the area specified in the petition.
The fact that the residents of an area have contributed to the cost of construction or improvement of streets in the area by direct assessment or indirectly in purchase or rental prices - There was no evidence presented at the hearing as to contributions towards costs of construction or improvement of streets in the area by direct assessment or indirectly in purchase or rental prices.
The need for some parking spaces to be available in the area for use by nonresidents - It is clear that there is a need for additional parking at the elementary school and that if the larger area proposed by the Department were designated as a permit parking area, there could be significant problems for the school. On the other hand, with respect to the modest area requested by the petitioners, there would continue to be spaces available in the area for use by those working at or visiting the school. The spaces that the petitioners must use when parking is unavailable near their homes will continue to be available for use by those working at or having business at the school. No reason has been offered by any of those commenting why those spaces would be a greater hardship for those working and visiting the school to use than for the residents across the street from the school.
Other factors that the Executive finds relevant. The decision to provide inadequate parking for the school's needs was an intentional decision. It was compounded by the imposition of parking restrictions on the west side of the road where employees and visitors had found parking prior to re-construction of the school. While the community may benefit by additional green space resulting from the decision to reduce on-site parking, the burden that is resulting from the decision is being carried disproportionately by those living on Saul Road across from the school. The relief sought by the petitioners is limited and modest.
Based on the record and the factors that the County Executive is required to consider, I find that request for permit parking on school days from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM on the east side of Saul Road from Franklin Street to Odenfield [sic] Road is supported. The expanded area proposed by the Department is not supported by either evidence presented or testimony. There is no present intent to actually impose permit parking restrictions in the broader area. Creating a larger area at this time would avoid the need for an additional public hearing if a further request is received for permit parking on other streets. Given the degree of comments opposed to a broader residential permit parking area, if a decision is made in the future that a larger area is needed, a public hearing to present relevant information and receive public comment and information would be appropriate. For these reasons, I recommend against a residential parking permit program for the enlarged "ultimate area." Although I recommend that the petition for permit parking be granted as requested, I further recommend that the creation of the residential permit parking area occur no sooner than sixty (60) days from the date of this opinion with the intention that the Department, Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Planning Board have the opportunity to revisit the problem to come up with a better solution for the community as a whole.
Diane R. Schwartz Jones
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer
Dated: November 15, 2007
1 One commenter urged that the term "average" refers to studies over a period of time that when averaged reflect in excess of the stated standard. There is no requirement however in the regulation for multiple studies over a period of time.
2 In its supplemental statement dated October 4, 2001, the Department notes that while the parking restrictions came about after the school was rebuilt; there had been multiple prior occasions where the Department and Montgomery County Public Schools had been summoned to address vehicular and pedestrian traffic safety concerns. The Department also notes that changes in traffic patterns and increased enrollment at the school resulted in a need for more measures to ensure pedestrian and traffic safety around the school. As noted in the Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning staff memorandum dated June 4, 2002 (Attachment 5 to the submission from Mr Darin Bartram) the modernization resulted in an increase in enrollment from 395 to 459 students.
Link to the County Executive's decision
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