Though it started off on an ominous note, the much-touted community discussion of a proposal to reserve one side of every street in Georgetown for resident parking was lively and civil at the Dec. 4 meeting of the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
The loud clatter of a police helicopter in se arch of three alleged robbers could be heard over nearby Volta Park. Neighbors walking to the meeting at Visitation School didn’t know whether to run, hide or stay at home, they told police at the meeting. The police were there to give the monthly crime report (100 incidents, down from 110 in November 2016).
But attention quickly turned to Georgetown’s m ost s tubborn and perennial problem: what to do about parking as residents with children and SUVs increase in number, along with workers, shoppers and other visitors.
Commissioners Joe Gibbons and Jim Wilcox are members of the Department of Transportation’s Georgetown Parking Working Group. Until Dec. 1, they had planned to present the one-side, resident-only parking proposal for a vote. The plan would allow residents to park on both sides of the street, while out-of-zone parkers could only park on one designated side for two hours. No changes would be made to the current, more loosely regulated Sunday parking.
“But the DDOT requested that the commissioners hold off a vote until the proposals could be fully examined at three more scheduled meetings,” said Gibbons.
The Georgetown residents and small business owners packed into the school auditorium were knowledgeable and passionate. They all seemed to recognize that competition for permanent street parking as close to residents’ homes as possible is as important as flexible parking for the customers of the many stores, restaurants, services and other businesses in Georgetown’s commercial areas.
They talked about the need for everyone to understand all sides. Small business owners expressed concern that w ith the loss of one side of the street to resident parking — plus subtractions of metered street parking due to bike lanes, expanded sidewalks, construction sites a nd months’-long dumpster filling — would make some customers already teetering about the parking situation to give up on the destination altogether.
For some residents and business owners who had been in Georgetown for several decades, the discussions and issues were familiar. Maybe it was Trump fatigue, déjà vu or the general comity engendered by the beautiful Christmas decorations at the school. But during the 40 minutes or so of discussion, most of the residents and commissioners who spoke out urged compromise.
“There is compromise here somewhere,” said Billy Martin, long time owner of Martin’s Tavern. “We’ll just have to work together to find it.” Commissioner Zachary Schoepfer suggested that the issue be decided by consensus.
There is time. Commissioners did not expect any new parking proposal to come to an ANC vote before early March.