Parking Requirements Revisited

Please note that CPHA was not able to attend this worksession. All reporting for this entry is based off the video of the worksession which was posted online.

For the June 10 worksession the Land Use and Transportation Committee continued its review of the tables.  First up for discussion was the table on permitted encroachments. The permitted encroachments table states where certain improvements on a lot are allowed to be placed. For example, a garage can be placed in the rear yard of a lot, but not in the front yard or interior side yard. There was a question from a member of the public who had some concerns about the placement of compost bins. They said that compost bins, which the proposed code only allows in the rear yard, were not all that different from other lot improvements that are allowed in the front and interior side yards. They didn’t understand why the compost bins were being treated differently. A representative from the Department of Planning explained that the permitted encroachments were designed to inform residents and developers where to put certain lot improvements and were supposed to bring predictability. The member of the public complained that they felt these standards did not bring predictability.

A representative from Planning then gave an explanation about the page that discusses off street parking dimensions.  It was explained that the off street parking dimensions page shows how large each parking space and the aisles around it are supposed to be.  There are standards for parallel parking, head in parking, and parking that is at different angles.

The next page contained the parking calculator for collective and alternating shared parking.  Collective and alternating shared parking is an innovation not present in the current code.  This arrangement is most relevant to mixed use developments, and is based on the idea that since not all uses will be in use at the same time, parking spaces can be shared among those different uses. For example, the parking spaces of an office will be in use during the day while residents will most likely be away at work.  Therefore, the office and the residence can share some of their parking and less parking will have to be built overall.  The parking calculator shows the formulas for how shared parking is determined.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke noted that this arrangement was already in place in certain parts of the city.  Planning noted this was indeed true, but the idea was to now provide clear standards.  Councilwoman Clarke also had some concerns about how she would explain this to her constituents.  Planning said they would prepare an example of parking requirements using the formula from the calculator for the members of the committee.

After the lengthy discussion on the collective parking calculator, the committee next went to the parking requirements themselves.  Planning explained that the parking requirements are the same as, or even stricter than, the current code.  However, there are certain places that are exempt from parking requirements.  These include C-1 zones, downtown, and historic buildings.  They also noted that unlike the current code, they are the same in all districts.  For example, an office would have the same parking requirements, regardless of whether it is in a C-2 or office-residential zone.

Councilwoman Clarke announced that she wanted to increase the parking requirements for banquet halls.  She also reiterated her opposition to the waiving of parking requirements in C-1 zones.  Clarke said that she was aware  that not all structures in C-1 zones could accommodate parking, but those that can should be required to.  Planning responded that businesses will build off street parking when possible, but that the exemption in C-1 zones recognizes that in most cases, there just isn’t enough room.  They also noted that the zoning exemption doesn’t prohibit them from building more parking should the owner wish to.

A member of the public then spoke and claimed that no one knows what the new parking regulations are based on and that there should be a firm basis for any changes that are made.  They also mentioned that the city does not have a transportation plan and that nothing should be done until one is published. Councilman Jim Kraft then chimed in to note that the city indeed does not have a transportation plan and that this is problematic.

Planning responded by noting that they worked with national experts on developing these parking requirements and that the council could always go back and change them later.  They also reminded the council that the current requirements are based on a zoning code published in 1971.

Councilman Kraft then reiterated his concern about the city’s lack of a transportation plan. He also mentioned that he was worried that the city had no alternative plan should Governor Hogan decide not to build the Red Line.  CPHA would like to briefly address Councilman Kraft’s statement about there being no alternative to the Red Line.  The Red Line came about because Baltimore needs a high capacity, high speed east to west transit connection.  It has been in planning for over a decade and both Baltimore City and Baltimore County have committed money to the project.  According to the Federal Transit Administration,  since 1991, 90% of the transit projects that get this far along in the planning process are constructed.  Instead of trying to somehow come up with an alternative to the Red Line, the city and transit advocates need to focus on getting it built.

The committee then briefly discussed parking requirements for bikes.  Committee members wanted to ensure that Baltimore’s active biking community was consulted when these requirements were developed.  Planning assured the committee that they indeed were.

The last two pages in the tables section deal with off-street loading requirements and freestanding projecting sign regulations.

This marks the end of the committee’s overview of the tables.  The next worksession will be announced at the upcoming City Council meeting.

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Gregory Friedman

Gregory Friedman

This article was written by Gregory Friedman. Click here to meet our writing team.

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