GAITHERSBURG — Residents of a Gaithersburg neighborhood say recent measures taken by the city have improved their quality of life.
In February and again in April, several residents of the Saybrooke neighborhood visited City Hall to testify before Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council. In their testimonies, residents complained that non-area residents were leaving their cars unattended on public streets in their neighborhood, sometimes for days at a time. Furthermore, several residents said they were harassed by some of these vehicle owners, who also littered and fought in the street, among other unsavory activities.
At the April meeting, City Manager Tony Tomasello and Police Chief Mark Sroka presented several staff recommendations to address the problem, including a temporary ban of overnight parking in the problem areas, such as Victory Farm Drive, a long public street near Kelly Park.
At Monday night’s council meeting, several Saybrooke residents testified that the ban has had a positive effect on the situation.
“Thanks to this parking ban, Victory Farm is a veritable ghost town,” said Jim McNulty, president of the Saybrooke Homeowners Association. “Not just between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 as outlined, but practically 24 hours a day. This test has shown that vehicles are being left for long periods of time, and now the word is out that Victory Farm is not to be used as a Park and Ride. For the first time since this trouble started, our homeowners are able to enjoy their property in peace.”
Last month, Samuel Bonilla, a resident of a nearby neighborhood, said the parking ban had created hardships for him, as he was no longer able to park near his home and now had to walk a considerable distance to his house after returning from school and work. McNulty responded to this testimony as well as emails from other residents voicing similar concerns.
“We would respectfully submit that any hardship that’s being imposed on this gentleman is not from the overnight ban on Victory Farm, but by his own HOA, which is limiting how many cars can park at his own residence,” McNulty said. “We would also submit that a more proper solution would be to provide parking closer than Victory Farm.”
Council Vice President Michael Sesma voiced similar sentiments.
“It’s clear that every action has consequences and hopefully most of them are positive,” said Sesma. “There are people who are having to deal with the consequences in of an inability for them to be able to park on public streets. In some cases, this is because where they live does not have adequate parking. We need to address this, we have some available lands, and I look forward to hearing staff recommendations.
The council unanimously passed resolutions adopting the proposed city budget, strategic plan and fee schedule for the coming fiscal year. The Council praised Tomasello and other city staff for their work on the budget.
“When I tell people I serve in the government of a city that is debt-free while still growing and maintaining a low tax rate, they often don’t believe me,” said Council Member Neil Harris.
Council member Henry Marraffa, who has been undergoing treatment for leukemia for several months, announced that he had been accepted for a transplant procedure at Johns Hopkins University and that he would be absent from council meetings for at least six weeks.
“I thank you all for your messages of support, prayers and well wishes,” Marraffa said.
Celebrate! Gaithersburg, an annual street festival featuring live entertainment in addition to a naturalization ceremony, will be held this Sunday from noon until 5:00 pm on the City Hall grounds.