Manny Hidalgo 0

Say No to Saturday Parking Meters

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On July 26, 2007, a petition with hundreds of signatures from residents and small business owners in Montgomery County voiced strong opposition to increasing parking meter hours in Downtown Silver Spring, Wheaton, and Bethesda. Unfortunately less than 2 years later, the Council is once again debating the value of extending parking meter hours to Saturdays in FY11 to generate more revenue for Montgomery County’s general operating budget during this fiscal crisis. The proposed parking meter changes would go into effect on July 1, 2010 essentially extending parking meter enforcement in Silver Spring, Wheaton, Montgomery Hills, and Bethesda to include Saturdays for street parking, lots and garages except Garages 60 & 61 (the garages on Ellsworth & Wayne Avenues that serve the new Downtown Silver Spring development). While we can support increasing the hourly rate of parking meters in these areas to raise much needed operating revenue for the County we strongly oppose extending meter operations to Saturdays. For starters we believe that extending parking meters to Saturdays will unfairly benefit the new Downtown Silver Spring development since they will have the distinct advantage of being able to offer free parking on Saturdays. As 5th District Councilmember Valerie Ervin stated in 2007, “this inequity will hurt the many new existing small businesses and restaurants in South Silver Spring, which rely heavily on on-street and surface lot parking to serve their customers. Under this new plan, I believe that individuals will use the free garages more frequently, thus decreasing pedestrian traffic and patronage of businesses outside of the downtown core.” This statement rings truer now than ever before since the start of the recession in fall 2008 when more small, independent businesses began going into bankruptcy than in recent decades. It is absolutely essential that small, independent businesses that have thus far survived the recession are not handed any more obstacles to overcome than the weakened economy has already created. Another major concern we have involves the Fenton Street Market which was launched this past Saturday, April 17 after two very successful trial runs last fall. There were close to 60 vendors and hundreds of customers shopping at this Saturday’s public market while live music played and Pyramid Atlantic provided free, hands-on silk screening lessons to families and children. A big part of the Market’s success is the fact that parking in the lots and garages next to it is free on Saturdays so losing that would be a serious blow to the Market’s chances of success. Lastly, the Fenton Street Market is part of a larger marketing concept to get people walking between the Fenton Street Market and Downtown Silver Spring to encourage them to experience other businesses in Fenton Village and spend the day in Silver Spring. If people are feeding a meter, they will likely drive after an hour at the market and park free in Downtown Silver Spring, thus defeating the “feet on the street” concept and miss the approximately 100 businesses between Fenton Village and Downtown. It will also significantly overcrowd residential parking in the area near the Fenton Street Market thus causing some residents to oppose it. We believe that Silver Spring and Wheaton in particular are true "mixed use" communities where residential and commercial entities work together and add value to each other’s existence. Expanding meters to Saturdays would seriously hamper this important balance of business and commercial interests in these neighborhoods. In conclusion, we urge the County Council to avoid harming the viability of small, independent businesses in South Silver Spring, Fenton Village, and downtown Wheaton as well as the Fenton Street Market. What we need is more proactive efforts to help strengthen these businesses and more commercial-residential partnerships that make these neighborhoods some of the most unique the County has to offer.

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