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Hyattsville proceeds with residential parking revamp

HyattsvilleMunicipalBuildingHYATTSVILLE — Possible changes to residential parking permitting process could be moving forward after the Hyattsville City Council directed the city attorney to develop an ordinance amendment.

A process several years in the works is nearing its critical phases – drafting of charter amendments and a public hearing – after all but one on the city council voted to continue the process of changing the residential parking permit process on Jan. 17.

The vote came after two debates in the council and months of meetings of the ad-hoc residential parking zone committee, established in 2015, and directs the city attorney to draft changes to the city’s charter.

“The city council established the temporary residential parking zone committee to leverage the knowledge and skills of residents and volunteers to conduct a review of the city’s current residential parking zone program, exploring gaps in service, needs and best practices, with the intent of developing a set of recommendations for modifying the program in order to better serve parking needs in neighborhoods throughout the city,” Councilman Bart Lawrence said in a memo to the council.

The committee reviewed several aspects of the city’s parking program including how permitting works, if it is effective, the enforcement of the permitting, how grace periods work and more.

Lawrence wrote that the general guiding principle of the committee’s findings was the committee wanted to ensure the safety of residents, wanted “adequate evening and nighttime residential parking” and that the council should avoid any policies that harm local business.

From that work, 10 amendments to Article IV (Residential Permit Parking Zones) were recommended to the council for consideration. Those recommendations included reducing the grace period in residential parking zones from two hours to 30 minutes, changing permits to a two-year renewal process and solidifying and clarifying the process of creating a parking zone. The proposed legislation also lays out how the city would go about establishing and rolling out the new program.

While Jan. 17 was the second time the council had the motion up for debate, there was some hesitancy. Councilman Robert Croslin noted the changes require owners of single-family rental properties to gather permits from tenants at the time of a termination of a lease or face the consequences, such as no longer receiving parking permits.

Croslin said he wanted to make sure landlords would not be punished if a tenant did not adhere to the policy. City Administrator Tracey Nicholson said the city is working on administrative procedures regarding the possible changes and said, “clearly when there are things outside their control, the property owner will not be held accountable.”

Confusion around the guest permits arose again in this council meeting. In the proposed language changes, the ordinance states that residents will receive a booklet of 50 one-day passes for guests and only receive one booklet per every two years. Some residents and some on the council feared this meant residents would just get 50 visitor passes per two years. However, Lawrence said residents would only automatically receive one booklet upon receiving their residential parking permit, but they can get more visitor passes on their own accord.

“It’s not that they’re limited, it’s just they automatically receive that. That’s to prevent them – in case they don’t go down and get them right away, and then they have them on hand. As they get lower, it would be then up to them to go to the city and get another,” he said.

Councilwoman Paula Perry also voiced several concerns with the changes, based off of her experience with parking programs in the city’s past. She said unless the city is willing to permit the entirety of Hyattsville, nothing will prevent the extra cars - that would be parking in residential parking zones – from being parked on non-permitted streets.

“It ends up being a snowball effect, and that’s why we had people keep coming and asking for permit parking on their street because they were getting cars from two and three blocks away,” she said.

Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said the city would look into where residential parking zones are in the future but that this current legislation focuses on how to establish, monitor and give out parking permits, but that there would be more discussion about enforcement of such zones in the future. Several members of the council hinted at the upcoming budget talks as a place where further discussion on the effectiveness of implementation could be had, particularly around staffing of the code enforcement team.

Perry was the lone vote against directing the city attorney to draft the changes to the charter and code.

At the same meeting, the council discussed plans to begin a feasibility study into the possibility of city circulator – a bus with a route that hits major parts of the city. Councilman Edouard Haba brought the idea forward during last year’s budget work sessions, and the council had set aside $30,000.

Assistant City Administrator Jim Chandler brought the circulator up for discussion at the Jan. 17 meeting, to ask the city if they wanted to move forward with applying for a grant to fund the circulator study. The grant is available through the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG).

“The circulator study would look at everything from start-up and operational costs, feasibility to ridership projections based on specified lead times and then would provide you a fairly comprehensive report and series of recommendations and scale models,” Chandler said.

The entire study would be conducted by COG, Chandler said, making the grant highly unusual. Instead of the organization providing the city with funds to conduct the student, COG would be, instead, in charge of every aspect, with some guidance from the city.

Chandler said he has talked over the idea with some staff at the council of governments and said he received an indication that Hyattsville would have a “competitive application,” however if the city does not receive the grant there is another option for the study.

“If funding and resources are not provided by COG, the staff will recommend either an amendment to the transportation study project with Toole Design or solicit for services through a separate request for proposal,” Chandler wrote in a memo to the council.

The cost of such a project would be roughly around the $30,000 the council already set aside for the study. Chandler said he anticipates an answer from COG around the end of spring, leaving the city enough time to decide if the application is denied.

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