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Maryland officials rethink zoning laws about parking spaces

When it comes to commercial real estate in crowded downtown areas, it may seem that outdoor public parking lots are a dying breed. According to a recent article, many local residents of Bethesda and Silver Spring might share this sentiment.

Yet according to the Montgomery Department of Transportation, there are actually empty parking spaces -- perhaps thousands of them -- that sit empty within Montgomery County’s downtowns. One explanation might be the public transportation options, including the Washington Metro with its Metrorail stations in Silver Spring and Bethesda. Public bus routes also canvas the area. 

One transportation official estimates that a majority of downtown residents make their commute without a car. Another local parking policy study reached a similar conclusion, calling for a reduction or even elimination of parking requirements in urban areas due to the oversupply of parking spaces.

Last year, county officials passed a new zoning law. Pursuant to that new approach, developers and city planners considering new developments are not required to have as many parking spaces in downtown areas, with the exception of parking around transit stations. 

A real estate attorney knows that the intersection of commercial real estate transactions and local zoning requirements can sometimes present challenges. Planning a new development might take several years, during which city officials might change zoning laws. Depending on the scope of a project, such new laws might require contracts to be renegotiated. An attorney may have insight to offer about municipal procedures applicable to zoning, planning and land use. 

Source: Greater Greater Washington, “Thousands of public parking spaces in Bethesda and Silver Spring sit empty every day,” Dan Reed, May 6, 2014

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