Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bill would ban parking of large vehicles

Truckers encourage dialogue, outreach to parking lot owners

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J. Adam Fenster⁄The Gazette
Trucks parked on Wisteria Drive near Gunners Lake in Germantown will have to move if a bill proposed by County Council President Michael J. Knapp passes.
As the County Council gears up to debate a bill that would curb the parking of large vehicles along county roads, County Council President Michael J. Knapp says that the response so far has been ‘‘generally constructive.”

The bill, proposed June 24 and scheduled for a public hearing July 22, was sparked primarily by issues in the upcounty, where the parking of large vehicles has rankled residents in Montgomery Village, Germantown and Clarksburg for years.

If passed, Knapp’s bill would prevent commercial vehicles and RVs from parking along a county road within one block of a ‘‘private residence, apartment house, church, school, hospital or playground” unless the vehicle is ‘‘actively engaged” in work there.

It would apply to motor vehicles, tandem axle trailers or semitrailers used for ‘‘any commercial enterprise,” weighing more than 10,000 pounds; having a capacity of more than 1 ton; measuring more than 19 feet long; or eight feet tall.

Government-owned vehicles would be exempt. RVs would be allowed to park for up to 12 hours.

Parking large trucks has been a problem for the owners. Space in industrial areas is hard to come by and there are no truck stops in Montgomery County. It is usually cheaper to amass the $40 fines than to drive to Frederick and pay to park there.

Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown has received a steady stream of e-mails and letters, he said, ranging from residents expressing support for getting streets cleared to a national trucker magazine and a trucker in Arizona who voiced their displeasure.

The comments, he said, have been ‘‘fairly positive to middle-of-the-road.”

‘‘Most people in Montgomery County have been generally supportive,” he said. ‘‘... The biggest issue I’ve heard is ‘Man, so now what?’”

Knapp has proposed considering underused parking lots — such as the nearly empty state-owned lot at the Interstate 270 exit for Clopper Road in Gaithersburg.

Large truck parking has been something of a crusade for Montgomery Village resident Bob Anderson. For more than five years, he has been working with county police and the Montgomery Village Foundation to identify vehicles that are being stored or have been abandoned. The vehicles would be moved from street to street, largely because of the existing policy, derived from a 1995 letter by then-County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

‘‘The current law as it’s written is ambiguous,” Anderson said. ‘‘...I’m enthused in that the bill defines what is illegal now. It still lets the pickup trucks, it still lets the panel trucks, it still lets the working man park in the neighborhood. But it puts a stop to big trucks coming in out of the community and then driving back home to Olney or whatever. ... I’m hopeful that this law will clean it up so that the police will have some teeth and be able to do their job without having things reversed on them.”

But any prohibition that does not also open a dialogue on parking alternatives will only come at the expense of surrounding communities, said Anne Farro, president and CEO of the Maryland Motor Truck Association.

Farro is encouraged to see that Knapp is recognizing the crucial role that truckers play in getting goods to market. But with hundreds of thousands of commercial vehicles registered in Maryland, there must be a willingness to look at alternatives for truck owners, she said, such as outreach to parking lot owners.

‘‘As long as jurisdiction after jurisdiction keeps saying not in my back yard, then you’ve only pushed them out of your neighborhood and into another, and that will not solve the problem,” she said. ‘‘The challenge always is finding the balance and sitting down together to address the issues head-on. ... The only way to get there is to talk about it.”

Have your say

The County Council will host a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. July 22 at 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville. For more information, call 240-777-7955 .