County limits parking in front yards
6-3 vote also restricts expansion of home businesses into residential areas
Some county homeowners accustomed to parking in their front yards will have to find new places for their cars in the coming months.
The Montgomery County Council voted 6-3 Tuesday in favor of a zoning text amendment that restricts the encroachment and expansion of home businesses within residential neighborhoods, limits the paving of front yards and limits heavy commercial vehicles in residential zones. It also prohibits excessive parking on front lawns and requires home business owners to prove they live in the residence from which their business is operated, according to a statement from the county.
The zoning text amendment goes into effect April 24 of next year, while excessive parking must cease by Oct. 24, 2011, according to a statement from the county. Property owners in violation of the code could face up to $500 in fines per day.
Council President Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park, Councilman Mike Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown and Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring voted against the amendment
Floreen said at the beginning of the nearly three-hour discussion she would withdraw her initial support, saying the wording of the amendment could cause confusion.
"I don't know what we're solving except creating interpretive issues," she said. "If anything, [this amendment has] the potential to make [the situation] worse."
The zoning text amendment allows for a $25,000 public information campaign, which would be used to educate Montgomery County residents, said Council Legislative Attorney Jeff Zyontz.
While the remaining six council members voted in favor of the zoning text amendment, some seemed hesitant. Like Floreen, Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park raised questions about the clarity of the amendment, asking Zyontz how the code will be enforced.
The council was told that residents can call 311 to file a complaint against a homeowner who appears to be violating the code.
"You're going to have neighbors snitching on neighbors," Leventhal said.
Councilwomen Nancy Navarro of Colesville (D-Dist. 4) and Duchy Trachtenberg of North Bethesda (D-At large) and Councilmen Philip Andrews of Gaithersburg (D-Dist. 3), Roger Berliner of Potomac (D-Dist. 1) and Marc Elrich of Takoma Park (D-At Large) also voted for the amendment.
A member of the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee and supporter of the zoning text amendment, Elrich said that in spite of some hitches, the new rules will work themselves out. The PHED committee recommended to the full council that the text amendment be approved.
"This might not solve all the issues, but is solves some of them and gives [residents] peace," he said "I view this as a positive step, if not perfect step in moving further."
Donald Becker, a board member of the Aspen Hill Civic Association, could not be reached Tuesday afternoon for comment, but said last week that the zoning text amendment would have a large impact on Aspen Hill residents who have complained about the lack of county code enforcement.
"People have been complaining for many years to the civic association of residences that have at least 10 cars parked in driveways and streets that are blocked by commercial vehicles," Becker said.
Staff Writer Mimi Liu contributed to this report.
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