UPDATE No. 3 (5:10): County spokeswoman Esther Bowring confirmed the DOT has suspended the meter installation and will consult with the community on a residential permitting system. Bowring said the county did advertise the project and the Council did receive some public comment from residents. She also said the meters were not a revenue tool, they were planned purely to prevent commuters and downtown business-goers from parking for free on residential streets.
UPDATE No. 2 (4:35): It seems the installation of parking meters on Chevy Chase Drive and Offutt Lane has been called off. Connie Neuman emailed us this afternoon with the news that DOT Deputy Director called a Bradley House board member and said the meter installation is off, and DOT will begin the process of residential permitting.
UPDATE (2:10 p.m.): Council President Roger Berliner issued a letter today to Department of Transportation Deputy Director Al Roshdieh, asking DOT to review residents’ suggestion of establishing residential permit parking on Chevy Chase Drive and Offutt Lane instead of parking meters. The PDF of the letter is after the jump.
Tucked into Montgomery County’s fiscal year 2013 parking budget was the creation of 28 parking meters on Chevy Chase Drive, a decision residents there say they didn’t know about until workers began installing the meters this week.
Now, people from a number of condominiums and apartment complexes are outraged the county would place meters in a heavily residential area already short on parking.
“Our neighborhood is getting taken away from us,” said Debrah Shaver, who is on the board of the Bradley House Condominium Association. “They’re going to subsidize their budget off of the people who are living in the neighborhood.”
Chevy Chase Park Condominium resident Connie Neuman said residents were never informed the meters were coming. She sent a letter to Council President Roger Berliner’s office on Wednesday asking the county to reconsider installation of the meters.
“I’ve been living here since 1982 and parking has always been bad,” Neuman said. “But now to put in parking meters is just really obnoxious.”
In the report for a meeting of the County Council’s Transportation Committee on May 2, Council staff cited the Department of Transportation as arguing for the meters because “visitors to Bethesda are using these free on-street spaces just outside the [Parking Lot District's] boundary and thus evading fees.”
In 2011, Edgemoor residents west of Glenbrook Road complained of Metro and other commuters parking for free during the day on their streets.
Shaver said the same is not true for Chevy Chase Drive.
“We’re not a place where people are going to be coming and parking to go shopping in downtown Bethesda and people aren’t parking here before they commute from somewhere else,” Shaver said. “It’s the residents who are parking here. If they’re so concerned about that, why aren’t we just zoned for residential parking?”
The new meters outside the Bethesda Parking Lot District (PLD) will include 100 on Bradley Boulevard and 17 on nearby Offutt Lane.
Chevy Chase Drive is about half a mile from the nearest major shopping center. It’s east of the Capital Crescent Trail and buffered by a series of row homes and condos south of Bradley Boulevard, the main road in the area.
“When I lived just north of here on Strathmore Street, I never knew this road existed,” Shaver said. “People don’t know about this road. This is just to make money.”
Shaver said she and others began making phone calls to the County Council office yesterday. She said Council staff told her Wednesday afternoon they were asking the DOT for the rationale behind the meters.
The 171 total planned new meters outside the Bethesda PLD (and the meters in the Bethesda Library lot) were estimated to increase Bethesda parking revenues by $30,000 (to $97,331) creating a net revenue of $32,780 for the General Fund, according to the staff report.
But meters recommended for Battery Lane, a residential area similar to Chevy Chase Drive, were cut out of the budget at the request of Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) who also serves as the chair of the Transportation Committee.
Residents there were active in asking that the meters be taken out of the budget, for many of the same reasons Chevy Chase Drive residents don’t think meters should be installed in their neighborhood.
Emily Struck, president of the Chevy Chase Condominium Board, said residents were not made aware of the plans.
“It just doesn’t even make sense,” Struck said. “You can put your zoned [residential] parking in fine and raise your money just fine.”
In her letter to Berliner, Neuman said she didn’t know the meters were a part of the budget.
“We’ve lived with parking difficulties for quite a while, but this,” Neuman said, “is unfair.”