Prince George's County residents in some neighborhoods may soon have to purchase permits to park in front of their homes if several county councilmen have their way.
The councilmen are proposing legislation similar to measures which already restrict parking in parts of the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Arlington counties.
The Arlington legislation was taken to the Supreme Court and found to be constitutional. But residential parking bans remain a subject of controversy between commuters and residents of neighborhoods in which they used to park.
When residents have complained to county or city officials that they have no place to park, the officials have sometimes responded by erecting 2-hour parking signs in front of the residents' homes.
This often solves the commuter problem, but becomes yet another headache for the resident, who can now park for only two hours in front of his home.
The problem has caused so many headaches for county officials that Councilmen Francis B. Francois, who proposed the legislation, is willing to put the controversial parking plan to the test in Prince George's County.
"We modeled our plan after Montgomery County's plan and we are not really sure it will work here, but it is worth debating," said Francois.
Francois said the problem of commuter parking in residential neighborhoods will get worse as new Metro lines open. "I don't really know what will happen in New Carrollton, but its is a good bet there will be problems," he said.
"There are a lot of pockets in the county with this problem already," said Francois, who listed Cheverly, University Park and Hyattsville as examples.
In Cheverly, Francois said a soon-to-open Metro stop will tempt commuters to drive to the area around Tuxedo Elementary school, park, and walk across a bridge to the Metro shop.
"We have to anticipate this problem," said Francois. He said he was going to send a letter to all local jurisdictions in the county that are experiencing residential parking problem so they, too, will consider similar legislation.
"If the local municipalities do not act, the problem will just be shifted from our (country) hands to theirs," said Francois.
"Sure there are pros and cons. Many residents are going to ask how they are going to handle their visitors or social functions. This will all have to be worked out in the public session."
As the legislation is currently written, the county executive would be authorized to designate areas where parking is restricted. The permits would be issued after a traffic study determines the average number of cars parked in an area and the amount of available parking.
Public hearings also will be held to determine the need for controlled parking.
Parking permits will be issue to residents, visitors (not to exceed 30 days) and for those who do business with residents.
The bill would give the county executive the power to create a parking permit fee that will cover the costs of the parking permits and the signs that will restrict residential parking.
The proposed ordinance also says that any person convicted of unauthorized use of a permit or parking in restricted areas without permits will be subject to fines up to $100.
"We hope this new legislation will encourage car pooling," said Francois.