South Silver Spring residents plan to push for an exception to a parking garage fee in a neighborhood they say is devoid of parking options.
Residents in several apartment buildings — including Eastern Village Cohousing on Eastern Avenue — want a decreased fee for residents at the Kennett Street Garage.
Their complexes provide no parking spaces and there only is two-hour parking on the surrounding streets. Residents contend a decreased rate would bring in more money for the county because the 592-space parking garage sits largely empty.
“It’s hard to have an overarching philosophy when an empty parking garage is staring you in the face,” said Evan Glass, member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.
Many South Silver Spring residents pay to park in the Kennett Street Garage. The garage’s fees increase from $95 per month to $113 per month at the beginning of the year.
The South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association met with Rick Siebert, chief of management services in the county’s Division of Parking Management and Montgomery County councilmembers George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park and Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring to discuss the issue Monday night.
Siebert told about 40 residents that fees for parking passes fund the maintenance and construction of parking garages in the Silver Spring central business district. Siebert worried a fee decrease would create a deficit in the budget.
“We raised rates because we need money,” Siebert said.
Rafael Mazuz, 28, who lives in the Aurora Condominiums on Eastern Avenue, argued a fee decrease for residents would encourage more people to buy, ultimately resulting in more money in the budget.
Mazuz works at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, which is about two miles away. Mazuz has paid for a monthly parking permit since he moved into the building in July.
“You have to put a car somewhere,” Mazuz said. “You can’t fold it up and put it in your foyer.”
This month, however, he switched to an “AM/PM” Parking Permit in which he can park in the garage anytime before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. This permit costs $20 per month.
Mazuz, said he would prefer to walk or bike to work, but leaving his car at home costs more because he can park at work for free.
The community has been pushing this issue for several months. Brian Savoie, 37, who lives in Eastern Village, wrote a letter to the Montgomery County Council and Department of Transportation in the fall.
Stephen Nash, chief of the county’s Division of Parking Management, told Savoie in a letter it would be discriminatory to grant one group of people a parking discount and not others with similar frustrations in the county.
Ervin and Leventhal said at the meeting they and their staffs would research the issue.
“We are listening,” Leventhal said. “We have to map out different options. It’s clear to me having parked in it, the garage is ridiculously underutilized.”
Savoie said he and other members of the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association plan to draft a specific plan for a residential parking permit to bring before the county council during budget hearings in April.
“The most likely scenario is we are going to push forward with residential parking permits to classify people who come in from out of the area,” Savoie said.