The Gaithersburg City Council is facing the first appeal for a waiver of a parking requirement since it established its Old Town district in October.
James Parker has applied for the waiver on behalf of Times Enterprises, a firm that wants to build a Hard Times Cafe in the Belt Building at 227 E. Diamond Ave.
The 80-year-old Belt Building has three available parking spaces, and the owner said he cannot realistically comply with the minimum requirement of 44 spaces set by the council, said Marjie Eyler, a staff assistant at City Hall.
Proponents of the waiver said the empty building is an eyesore badly in need of renovation, Eyler said. They argued the restaurant may bring increased business to the area.
But several business people complained that the Old Town area, near East Diamond and Summit avenues, lacks sufficient parking and said the new restaurant would create an additional burden.
Opponents said the restaurant's proposed hours conflict with the time of the worst traffic crunch: at midday, when the restaurant will be open for lunch.
"The council has a decision to make in terms of granting the waiver and putting an additional burden on the lack of parking or having a vacant building stay in the old downtown area," City Manager Sanford W. Daily said.
He pointed out the city spent about $400,000 on new parking areas in the city over the past five years.
"Part of the problem is a conflict between commuter parking for the commuter train and business parking," Daily said. The city has acquired about 450 parking spaces that are helping move commuter parking away from the old downtown area.
Daily said when Metrorail opens, scheduled for 1984, 60 to 70 percent of the commuters who park in the Old Town area will use the Shady Grove station, substantially easing the city's parking problems.
The council also held a hearing regarding storm water management requirements for builders. Currently, each site must have some drainage method, such as a pond or a gravel pit. The council proposed to change the code to give builders options for storm water management.
"This gives developers the opportunity to put a facility on the site or contribute to a larger centralized facility. There has to be a plan that within a given area there will be a facility, for them to have that option," Daily said.
The advantage of this proposal for builders is that they do not have to use part of their land for storm drainage, Daily said. For the city, he said, the facility would be easier to supervise and maintain.
Citizens have until March 14 to file comments with the city on the storm water management proposal and parking waiver.
In other action, the council approved 3-to-0 an emergency ordinance adopting the Montgomery County code on business and home security systems.
The city made a few modifications to the code, including requiring alarms to be licensed and increasing the fee if there are more than five false alarms for any owner, Eyler said. The city also declared any failure to comply a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $500, she said.