Downtown parking plan to be studied

February 14, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

The city is considering decreasing the number of parking spaces that developers are required to provide when they rehabilitate buildings downtown for residential use.

As it stands, developers must provide each unit in a building with 2.5 to three parking spaces, said Douglas S. Wright Jr., chairman of the Hagerstown Planning Commission. The proposal would decrease that number to about 1.5 parking spaces per unit, he said.

Wright said the decimal would be rounded up, so 1.5 spaces actually represents two.

The proposal is geared toward making things easier for developers who want to convert old downtown buildings into residential units, he said. There simply isn't enough room downtown for developers to put in enough parking spaces to satisfy the existing code, he said.

"We want people to live in the downtown and shop (to stimulate the economy)," he said.

The Planning Commission is considering the City of Frederick's model, which uses 1.5 parking spaces, Wright said.


"We don't want to reinvent the wheel if we can study what they've done," he said.

Chuck Boyd, Frederick's planning director, said 1.5 spaces seems to be sufficient for tenants.

People who live in downtown Frederick can buy up to two parking permits per household, Boyd said. The permits guarantee a spot, or spots, in residentially marked zones.

Although the tickets don't ensure street parking in front of a person's house, they have reduced "the frustration of residents trying to find spaces downtown," he said.

For streets with parking meters, Frederick charges $50 for the first permit and $100 for the second. If there are no parking meters on a street, the first permit is free. The second permit costs $100, according to the City of Frederick's Web site. Those fees are good for an entire year.

Hagerstown developer Mike Deming said the city's existing parking regulations create obstacles for developers who want to rehabilitate buildings for residential use. To meet the existing parking space requirement, parking decks would have to be built, he said.

"I'm happy they're working on it," Deming said.

He said the 1.5-space proposal is "workable."

City Comprehensive Planner Stuart Bass said the parking standards haven't changed in Hagerstown since the mid-1970s. Since then, times have changed, especially with the influx of developers who want to convert old buildings in the downtown area into residential space, he said.

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