The College Park City Council will examine the price of parking permits during a work session on Feb. 7 after some city residents expressed displeasure with the increased cost.
In July 2016, the College Park City Council approved an action to raise the cost of residential permit parking in zones 11 and 11A — located behind Terrapin Row and adjacent from Graduate Gardens — from $10 every 6 months, or $20 annually, to a monthly fee of $60, according to the council agenda.
This change increases the cost of the permit by $700 annually, and was a result of the city's anticipation that Terrapin Row residents would need extra parking spaces. The development's garage, which charges $125 a month for covered parking, would not meet demand, according to the agenda.
The council will discuss the price adjustment again during the work session, city manager Scott Somers said. Although city staff does not have legislative authority, Somers said he decided to bring this matter to the council's attention because "it may not be appropriate or standard practice to develop a tiered market-driven fee structure for residential parking permits along public roads," according to a Jan. 3 city agenda.
"The staff doesn't have the authority to change [the council's decision], and yet in this situation I had thought, 'I'm not entirely sure that the mayor and council fully grasped the magnitude of this decision,'" Somers said.
The price adjustment follows a series of increases as the city changed the monthly fees for the downtown parking garage — located behind Ledo's — from $60 to $80 in January 2016, and again from $80 to $125 in July 2016, Somers said. These increases were also in response to market forces, as well as comparable pricing to other garages such as Terrapin Row and Landmark, according to city agenda.
"It's kind of a different animal, [the city garage] was never intended to be additional residential parking," Somers said. "… The city has historically taken a market approach to public streets. It may continue to do that, it may not, but I think that is a policy question that will be left up to the council."
However, zone 11/11A is not only used by Terrapin Row residents. The lots are also open to residents of Graduate Gardens, the remaining Knox Boxes unaffiliated with the University of Maryland and other properties on Knox Road, according to the city's website. But more development, such as MilkBoy ArtHouse — opening as soon as this spring — and retail underneath The Hotel on Route 1 begs a question of how much parking fees and permits will increase in the city.
"We have to strike a balance with parking, [and] it's a hard balance to strike," Mayor Patrick Wojahn said. "Making sure that people have the opportunity to come to downtown College Park and to go to the businesses we have. We also need to balance that with the interests of people of the community."
Mark Mullauer, a resident of the remaining Knox Boxes who graduated from this university in May 2015 with a degree in economics, purchased his parking permit for $10 every six months — which expired in December 2016.
Mullauer sought to renew his permit at the original rate instead of paying $60 a month, and wrote to city officials regarding his inquiry. During a city council meeting on Jan. 10, Mullauer spoke on behalf of himself and 17 other residents affected by the change in pricing.
"We didn't ask for [Terrapin Row] to be built," Mullauer said. "I, in fact, got kicked out of [my former residence] and had to find a new place to move into the day before school started my senior year."
Several days after the meeting, Somers notified Mullauer that he, along with the other 17 eligible residents, would be able to obtain a zone 11/11A permit valid from January through June 30, 2017 for $10.
This group of individuals is eligible for the $10 rate because they have existing lease agreements that were signed prior to Aug. 1, 2016, and because their previous zone 11/11A permits have since expired, Somers said.
"I'm not a policymaker," Somers said. "But I do believe within my capacity as manager that I could work within the existing ordinances, which I believe I have done to grant those specific people the ability to apply for six month permits."
As of Jan. 30, eight of the 18 eligible tenants have obtained their parking permits for zone 11/11A for the first six months of 2017, Somers said. The council could take action on this agenda item as soon as Feb. 14, Somers said, following their discussion on Feb. 7.