Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Kensington considers parking district

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The Kensington Town Council and business owners think they have a way to attract new stores, which may have been hesitant to open in town because of hard-to-meet parking requirements.

The council will look to create a special parking district that would levy a new tax on businesses. The money raised would be directed to a fund to help offset the costs of the parking lot planned for the site of the former Konterra cement plant on Metropolitan Avenue.

The parking district could also allow Kensington businesses to waive county parking requirements when opening a new store.

Businesses in the county are required to supply 20 parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of shopping space. On-site parking is scarce in Kensington along Howard and Armory avenues, and new businesses have a tough time meeting the requirements.

Kensington Town Councilwoman Mary Donatelli, head of the downtown revitalization committee, said a parking district is the next logical step to usher in revitalization.

‘‘We can do our best to tax [business owners] the minimum,” Donatelli said at the Thursday town meeting. ‘‘The purpose here is not to raise revenues. ...It’s the next step in revitalization.”

Council members believe the Konterra lot will provide enough parking spaces for shoppers so Kensington businesses could be exempt from the county parking requirements.

Town Attorney Suellen Ferguson said the council would have to decide which stores to include in a parking district and how much tax to levy on businesses that would reap any benefit from loose parking requirements. Also, businesses that provide the county-required parking could be exempt from such a tax.

The parking district would most likely include the ‘‘east Howard Avenue” stores, Donatelli said, and not the businesses along Knowles Avenue on the west side of Connecticut Avenue. It is difficult to cross Connecticut Avenue from the Konterra lot to those stores, she said.

‘‘I think it’s grand,” said Dennis McCurdy, head of the Kensington Business District Administration. He said that previous councils tried to create a parking district, but there wasn’t sufficient open parking in town.

McCurdy owns several stores on Armory Avenue and said that the business owners renting the space must park elsewhere to leave the storefront spaces for customers.

‘‘[The lease] says you can’t park there or I’ll fine you,” he said.

The council and McCurdy said they will have to talk with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission about how to create a special parking district, and would have more information later this month.

Kensington lookingfor town manager

The Kensington Town Council will hire a temporary, part-time town manager as they search for candidates who could fill the new permanent, full-time position, town officials said at Thursday’s town meeting.

The town manager position would replace the old public works department head, taking over the duties of that position, which include hiring and firing the town crew and overseeing trash collection, maintenance and construction of town parks, roads and buildings, in addition to day-to-day activities of the town, Mayor Peter Fosselman said.

Hiring a town manager would require changing the way that Kensington government operates. Kensington town staff currently report directly to the mayor, whereas in other municipal governments, the staff report to a town manager, according to the council. The town staff includes a code enforcement officer, clerk-treasurer, administrative assistant, and special assistant to the mayor.

But before anyone is chosen as town manager, the town will hire an interim, part-time town manager so the council can evaluate the pros and cons of the new system of government.

Whoever serves as interim town manager could be eligible for the full-time position, but will also be responsible for helping the town council search for a full-time manager.