Intense opposition to legislation that would ban large commercial vehicles from parking in residential areas of Montgomery County and would require garages for smaller ones has prompted local officials to reconsider the measure's restrictions.

Both County Council and planning board staff members stressed the need to rework a zoning amendment that would have banned trucks and vans of more than 10,000 pounds gross weight (fully loaded) from parking overnight on residential lots. At a recent hearing on the issue, blue-collar workers said they would suffer significant hardships if the council adopted the restrictions.

The legislation also would require owners to park commercial vehicles that weigh between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds gross weight in garages. Moreover, the measure would allow only one commercial vehicle under 6,000 pounds to be parked on a residential lot overnight. A Ford Ranger pick-up truck, for example, has a gross weight of 7,000 pounds.

Council member Neal Potter introduced the proposal for the vehicle ban last November in response to homeowner complaints that large commercial trucks parked on residential lots and on neighboring streets were creating eyesores, excessive noise and traffic problems.

Edward Milenky, who represents the Manor Lake Civic Association in Aspen Hill, said truck owners in his neighborhood often park on the street, which creates obstacles for fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. The measure would also clarify current commercial vehicle restrictions that allow owners to park one light commercial delivery vehicle in front of their homes.

A county judge had ruled that existing restrictions were unconstitutional and too vague because they did not define a light delivery vehicle. The issue arose last year when a Bethesda homeowner appealed a county citation for parking a business truck in front of his house that county inspectors felt exceeded permissible weight limits. As a result, county environmental protection department inspectors have been unable to enforce vehicle restrictions, according to Robert Seely, chief of the department's construction codes enforcement division, which enforces zoning violations.

Seely said his division receives about 50 zoning violation complaints a month. He estimated that 10 of those involve oversized trucks parked in residential neighborhoods.

But blue-collar workers and trade group representatives who packed the hearing to testify against the proposed parking ban argued that the measure would pose a severe burden on them, because many of them have vehicles that exceed the proposed weight limits.

William Collins III, who operates a heating, plumbing and air-conditioning repair service in Bethesda, said that "all of our employees in Montgomery County and other areas take their service vehicles home with them each night. They {the vehicles} are not only a means of transportation, but also allow employees to provide emergency service to customers at night and during weekends." He said that although his company's vans and pick-up trucks have factory ratings of one ton or less, "all will exceed the 6,000 pound gross vehicle weight requirement" because of the supplies and equipment they must hold.

Consequently, if the parking ban is adopted, employees who might live in Poolesville and work in Gaithersburg "would quit work at 4 p.m. and have to drive down I-270 to turn in their trucks and pick up their personal vehicles and drive back home." That would force many to buy cars and would prevent employees from providing emergency service. "If an employee gets a call at midnight, and he lives in Poolesville and the call is in Gaithersburg, to run down to Bethesda to pick up the vehicle to run the call and then return it afterward would not be economically feasible," he said.

Gary Richard, another worker, said owners of 6,000-to-10,000-pound trucks would have to add a garage to park near their houses, something many people "may not be able to construct or to afford." Other workers with larger vehicles requested that the council raise weight limits.

Herbert Washabaugh, who operates a baked goods delivery service from his home and owns a 10,000-pound delivery van, said that although "I've never had any complaints in the 12 years I've run my business, I will have to find another place to park and that would mean having the added expense of buying another car to get to and from the truck." Washabaugh, 65, said his only alternatives are to "find a job, which is hard at my age, or I can move to Howard or Frederick counties."

Most council members and planning officials agreed the measure as introduced may be too harsh. "We have two diametrically opposed interests. Tradesmen want to do business and homeowners want them when they need them. But on the other hand, we have huge vehicles and unauthorized businesses being conducted, which is totally unreasonable. The catch is to find the middle of the road," said council member William Hanna.