Parking changes mulled to entice development
City reviews requirements
The City of Gaithersburg is reconsidering its parking requirements for new building projects in hopes of attracting more development and increasing the city's tax base and coffers.
Residential developments must provide a set number of parking spots per unit. Some say the requirements are too strict and detract builders.
Pete Henry of BP Realty of Potomac said the council should consider "shifts in the population," adding: "You really are becoming more of an urban area."
Gaithersburg's planning staff agrees that requirements should change. Regulations could be having an adverse effect on luring developers, said Gaithersburg Planning and Code Administration Director Greg Ossont. Depending on the project type, each structured parking space could add another $15,000 to $25,000 in development costs.
Ossont met with the mayor and council last month to present recommendations for shrinking parking requirements for apartment and condominium projects to match those of Montgomery County. The proposed changes would decrease requirements for the proposed Archstone-Smith project on East Diamond Avenue from 730 to 536 parking spaces, for the proposed Suites 355 project on Frederick Avenue from 443 to 341 spaces, for the Fairfield project underway at Frederick Avenue and East Deer Park Roads from 585 to 428 spaces and for the Residences at Olde Towne proposed along Frederick Avenue from 318 to 248.
The city has waived 89, 47, 10 and 77 spaces for the projects respectively, Ossont said.
If the city were to match the county's ratios, new requirements would be 1 space per efficiency apartment, 1.25 spaces per one-bedroom, 1.5 spaces per two-bedroom and 2 spaces per three-bedroom.
The city's rules call for 1 parking space per efficiency apartment, 1.75 spaces per one-bedroom, 2 spaces per two-bedroom and 2.5 spaces per three-bedroom apartment, plus 1 space for every square foot of 400 feet of "assembly area," such as a clubhouse, Ossont said.
The requirements which increased incrementally since the city required 1.25 parking spaces per residential unit in 1955 have not been changed since 1981 and he said.
The City of Rockville, Montgomery County and Alexandria, Va., all require less parking, according to city planners, who said that Rockville, for example, requires 1.5 spaces per three-bedroom apartment. The Rockville Planning Commission can offer parking waivers to reduce parking requirements by up to 15 percent if the building's entrance is within 2,500 feet of an entrance to the Metro or if 10 percent of the lot area is set aside for tree preservation or other environmental use.
The City of Frederick has similar requirements to Gaithersburg's and the city of Alexandria, Va. "actually parks at a higher rate than the city," Ossont said.
The Suites 355 and Residences at Olde Towne projects call for underground parking and changes would save Kentlands developer Rich Koch of Keystone REI "significant dollars," he said.
"If it's $1.5 million to build a project in the City of Gaithersburg, versus the City of Rockville, assuming all other things are equal, that can be a competitive issue for the city," Ossont said. Koch who raised concerns about barriers to development during his 2009 mayoral campaign has said, citing high costs and delays, that he has no further plans to build in the city after he completes his Suites 355 and Residences in Olde Towne projects.
City planners recommended adding waivers for projects close to bus stops, stops planned for the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway and MARC train station, for projects in the central business district and for moderately-priced dwelling units.