WHEATON—The Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee (WUDAC) met to discuss matters facing the community.
The beginning of the committee meeting, held on May 14, was consumed with talk over parking in the area.
James Mensah, a community member and business owner, commented on a proposal by the county council to expand paid parking hours in the Wheaton area.
Mensah, who owns two businesses in Wheaton, felt that expanding paid parking hours past six in the evening would discourage shoppers. He noted that some might want to avoid paying for parking by running specific errands after the meters expire and parking is free.
Mensah added that businesses that operate in the night economy, like bars and restaurants in the area that are open at later hours, would feel the impact of paid parking less than businesses like his that operate at a regular nine to five schedule.
Committee member Omar Lazo echoed Mensah’s sentiments. Lazo, another business owner in Wheaton, noted that often his employees struggle to find parking or end up coming in late because they have to wait for a spot to open up.
“Now we’re going to have to ask the employees that already pay until six to pay for another four hours,” he said.
Lazo also noted that his employees often have to leave their shift to go plug the meter if they’re paying with quarters.
Committee member William Moore also voiced his opinion against expanding paid parking hours in the Wheaton area.
He noted that people often use the parking lot he owns that is connected to the IHOP he owns, without paying or patronizing his business. He said that he pays $20,000 a year for the parking lot. His concern was that expanding the parking hours would entice more people to use his parking lot frequently, even though they run the risk of being towed, and would discourage paying customers because they can’t find convenient parking.
Moore said that he often has to patrol the parking lot himself.
Louisa Montero-Diaz, who serves as director of the Mid-County Regional Services, pointed out that the Montgomery County Division of Parking has been operating under a deficit in recent years.
One way to close the gap or at least make progress is to collect more revenue.
The Division of Parking collects revenues in multiple ways, according to the department. Ticketing cars and other vehicles that are parked illegally is one source. But a much-larger source is paid parking meters.
To increase the amount of revenue gained from parking meters, the division can expand the paid parking hours so that residents have to pay for more hours out of the day, or it could increase the hourly parking rate.
Jose Thommana, Parking Division chief, explained at an earlier meeting in Silver Spring that any given parking spot could bring in $1,200 to 1,500 in revenues each year.
Montero-Diaz noted that this issue is one members of the community and committee leaders could still bring to the attention of the county council.
“I think there is an argument for waiting for construction in the area to be over (before we discuss parking),” Montero-Diaz said.
She suggested that committee members and attendees sign up to testify at a council session or write a letter or email to voice their concern over the parking issue.
The committee also discussed their upcoming Wheaton Safety Audit Walk, which will take place May 18, starting at 10 in the morning.
The committee will hold its next meeting on June 11.