HYATTSVILLE – Visitors to Hyattsville residents in residential parking zones may soon only have 30 minutes to visit friends and family if newly proposed parking regulations are passed.
The new proposals, which are suggested as changes to the current parking zones and not new parking zone laws entirely, come after months of research and discussion both on the council’s part and through an ad-hoc committee created by the council in 2016. It was through those two entities’ work that Councilman Bart Lawrence formulated the recommendations he put before the city council Monday night.
“We all know some residents in the city of Hyattsville have let staff know and councilmembers know over time that the residential parking zone program has operated at various levels of effectiveness,” he said. “So, with that, staff has reviewed it over time, we had an ad-hoc committee review it, its been discussed by our code committee and now council has put together a motion for discussion.”
The ad-hoc committee on residential parking met for the first time in April 2016 and was tasked with reviewing and formulating recommendations on Hyattsville policies related to the current residential parking zone program. It also needed to look at “gaps in service, needs, and best practices” “to develop recommendations for modifying the program in order to better serve parking needs in neighborhoods throughout the city,” according to the committee’s report.
In September of 2016, the committee issued its report to the council with 12 recommendations and one “additional recommendation” related directly to revamping the current residential parking zone program. Those recommendations included voiding all current parking zone permits, changing the program to a two-year renewal system, establishing a clear policy for guest permits, improving signage and eliminating the two-hour grace period.
The additional recommendation was to convert narrow two-way streets into one-way streets.
“Based on safety concerns for residents, the city should study and convert some two-way streets to one-way streets based on the width of the streets as determined by an expert. This would allow for additional parking availability to residents,” the committee’s report reads.
Lawrence’s proposal, detailed in a memo to the council and to city staff, took a majority of the committee’s recommendations into consideration. He asked for resident parking permits to be issued on a two-year renewal basis based off of a list of four metrics to determine eligibility. Those metrics also included parking compliance taking the number of off-street parking options such as driveways and garages into consideration when deciding the number of permits to issue and states that permits should not be issued to out of state-licensed car, barring special exceptions such as active-duty military and students.
“Additional permits may be granted based on special considerations such as onsite caregivers and others as may be determined by parking compliance staff,” Lawrence’s memo reads.
The recommended changes also detail how guest permits should be handled – 50 one-day passes per two years and one five-day guest permit at a time. Though, “upon proper request and proof of residency, five-day parking permits may be issued for the same vehicle up to three consecutive times.”
While there are many other changes included in the proposal, it is that particular proposed change that raised alarm with some residents. Michael Bovich was one of two residents to speak on the changes. He called the possible additions “not family-friendly.” He gave the example of his mother visiting, saying it make a family visit impractical.
“You got to go out, bring your mother in, hand her a parking permit and when she leaves – two hours might be reasonable, but a half an hour is almost, well is really – I’ll be nice – It’s not a good idea,” he said.
Bovich also took issue with the 50 permit per year limit saying he has children, grandchildren and a mother who all like to visit. Each one would either have to face a ticket, get one of the 50 permits or park far away from his house. Bovich and the other public speaker both insisted that the parking zones are working in some area and in other they are not even needed.
However, Lawrence and Councilwoman Shani Warner said they have more than enough calls and complaints that say other and, while “one-size might not fit all” zones, it would be impossible to institute customized zones throughout the city.
“The reason we’re trying to figure out what to do here is because it really does work in some areas of the city…but it doesn’t work in other parts of the city,” Warner said. “We’re trying to figure out, through engagement with the public and talking about it amongst ourselves. This is part of a process but we’re trying to figure out a way in which we can make it work.”
Lawrence also noted residents would not be limited to 50 one-day passed, but that 50 would be issued when the parking permit was issued.
“This is a misunderstanding. People are not limited to 50 passes over a two-year period. This is, again, a connivance thing. You get the booklet, its there for you. If you run out, you can get new passes,” he said.
Lawrence said there is still much to “work through together” to move the changes forward, but Bovich remains weary.
“It’s going to be very difficult to make that work and you’re going to end up with a lot of complaints,” Bovich said. “I’d like to put a sign up that says, ‘Welcome to the city of Hyattsville. If you drove here please leave in 30 minutes or pay.’”