Neighborhood Parking Hard Problem To Solve Around Military Medical Center

Street parking in the Parkhill neighborhood near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Freda Mitchem says residents in her neighborhood have noticed an increase of Military Medical Center employees and students parking in her neighborhood over the last year.

On the other side of the Naval Support Activity Bethesda base, the Parkview Neighborhood is getting ready for a public hearing on establishing residential parking permits to keep base employees out.

Since Walter Reed moved to the Military Medical Center in 2011, residents in a few neighborhoods outside the base fence have reported employees parking on their streets.

The command on the base has tried to help, according to NSAB Public Affairs Officer Joe Macri, but the reality is there isn’t much that can be done to stop people from parking on public streets.

“It’s a really complex problem,” Macri told Mitchem at a Montgomery County BRAC Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday. “We’ve sent out mass emails and done an education effort. When it comes down to it, unfortunately you’re probably going to have to do the restrictive parking.”

Obtaining the restrictive parking — the residential parking permits — is no easy feat.

The county law establishing the residential permit program, in effect since 1974, was meant to provide parking relief for residents whose neighborhoods are close to public facilities, especially Metro stations.

Residents or a civic association must submit a written request to the Department of Transportation that includes a petition with signatures from at least two-thirds of the houses on each block that wants the permit parking. MCDOT then evaluates the request, establishes the border of the area and sets up a public hearing after getting a $250 public hearing fee from the civic association.

The county executive then issues a written decision in a process that can last a year.

Getting two-thirds of the homeowners on each block to agree to the process can be difficult, especially with owners who rent out their properties.

Mitchem, the president of the Chevy Chase Valley Citizens Association, said she’s gotten more and more complaints from residents on Parsons Road, Montrose Road and Spring Valley Road. Chevy Chase Valley is a small neighborhood just west of Connecticut Avenue and within walking distance of the Uniformed Services University entrance on the base.

“It’s not that it’s occasional commuters,” Mithcem said. “We have lots of photos of the cars and they have stickers from USUHS and NIH and so forth. Clearly, neighborhoods are not intended to be the parking lots for public institutions. That’s just not what they’re supposed to be.”

Mitchem said the parking is of particular concern when utility projects are going on in the neighborhood.

The off-base parking in neighborhoods has long been a known problem.

Macri said NSAB can keep contractors from parking in neighborhoods through their contracts. But keeping base employees parking on-base is more difficult. NSAB does not keep records of employee license plates. NSAB command does not have authority over all of the employees on the base, who come from a variety of military units and agencies.

Macri said NSAB will throw its support behind any neighborhood group that goes to Montgomery County for the residential permits.

The Walter Reed merger and campus expansion projects have led to a huge increase in estimated number of visitors to the base — from 500,000 per year to 1,000,000 per year.

A new set of construction and expansion projects was recently approved and will add about 270 full-time employees to the base. At the meeting on Tuesday, NSAB Commander Capt. David Bitonti confirmed interim medical buildings will be built on an existing parking lot while a group of old medical buildings are demolished, renovated and rebuilt.

Bitonti said the people who park in the affected lot will have parking available on-base with the completion of a new 500-space garage elsewhere on the installation.

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