Last week the following call for comments was sent to several civic groups through out the Silver Spring area.

“Lease of a Portion of Public Parking Garage 9 in the Silver Spring Parking
Lot District



Montgomery County proposes to lease a substantial portion of certain
property known as Public Parking Garage 9, located at 8040 Kennett Street
in Silver Spring, Maryland, consisting of approximately 300 parking spaces,
to Discovery Communications Incorporated, for a period of approximately 13
years. The leased area will be used by Discovery Communications for secure
employee parking, and may not be subleased or used for any other purpose
without the expressed written approval of the County.
Comments on this proposal are to be provided to Chief of the Division of
Parking Management, Department of Transportation, 100 Edison Park Drive,
4th Floor, Gaithersburg, MD 20878. Comments must be postmarked no later
than April 1, 2012. 00004812 1t 3/08/12″

This call for comments did not have much information to comment on, so I sent a letter to Rick Siebert, the acting Chief of the Division of Parking Management asking 8 specific questions to ascertain the nature of this proposed agreement between the county and Discovery Communications Incorporated.

The following is the introductory text of Rick Siebert’s responses to my questions.  Mr. Siebert has been very timely in responding to these questions and we should thank him for that.

Sorry for the delay.

Thank you for your inquiry and providing me the time to review the issue with my Department.  I know that our lease with Discovery will be of interest to many of your association members and I suggest the best course of action may be for me to come and answer your members concerns on a face to face basis.  If you can organize such a meeting, I will be happy to come down to Silver Spring at your convenience.   In the meantime I have provided some short answers to your questions below.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

I plan to talk with the board of the neighborhood association today and identify a time in the next few weeks to have Mr. Siebert and other interested parties come to discuss this lease.

What follows are my questions to Rick Siebert and his responses.

  • In the 7 years that I have lived in south Silver Spring, I’ve heard you or Steve Nash say on multiple occasions that you could not make spaces available for the exclusive use of any individual or group.  This was the reason why the ‘DCI only’ signs were changed to ‘DCI or PCS parking permitted signs’.  Has a regulation changed or is this agreement structured in such a way that those regs are not a factor?

RICK SIEBERT: This is not a parking space rental agreement.  Instead this is a lease of a part of the building.

  • If this type of agreement is available to DCI, theoretically, could the SSSNA apply for a similar 13 year lease for a set exclusive portion of the parking garage?  How could something like that work?

RICK SIEBERT: At its heart, this lease is based on the need to retain Discovery as a major employer and strategic economic asset of the County.

  • The call for comments indicates that a substantial portion of the garage would be leased.  Do you know what that substantial part would include?

RICK SIEBERT: Much of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors of the 5 level garage.

From Brian (NB):   300 of the 592 spots (453 PCS spots) will be leased to Discovery as per this agreement.

  • Would PCS permit holders be given concurrent access to this zone – or would (as the call suggests) this be truly exclusive?

RICK SIEBERT: The area leased will be for the exclusive use of Discovery.

  • How would DCI maintain this exclusive area?  Would they be installing any type of gate?

RICK SIEBERT: They will be installing a security gate and they are responsible for all routine maintenance of the leased area.

  •  Would the exclusive period be 24 hours – 7 days per week or would it be 5 days a week 7 am to 7 pm?

RICK SIEBERT: Their lease is on a 24 hour, 7 day a week basis.

  •  How much will DCI be paying for the exclusive access described in the call?

RICK SIEBERT: They will be paying $240,000 annually in advance.

  •  I understand that the call for comments is open until April 1, but when would you anticipate a contract being executed if this agreement moves forward.

RICK SIEBERT: The County does plan to execute a lease agreement with Discovery.

 

BRIEF COMMENTARY:  I will tell you that I’m very concerned about this development.  This agreement provides Discovery with everything that we, as residents, have asked for with regards to this garage including:

  • An affordable place to park (on a per spot basis Discovery will be paying $66 per month for the life of a 13 year lease).
  • SECURE parking – despite the presence of a 24 hour MCPD police officer (paid for by Discovery) break-ins still occur.
  • A solution to the problem of no parking on Saturday night and Sunday due to high church traffic (These users pay no property tax OR parking fees due to their time of use).
  • A solution to the inconvenience of needing to obtain a parking permit between the hours of 7:30 and 4:00 Monday – Friday.

I feel that it is incumbent on the county to make implementation of this lease fair for all of the most impacted constituencies – namely the residents of South Silver Spring.   If the county executes this lease without making reasonable accommodation for residential parking, it will truly be picking winners and losers– business interest will have won and the residents of South Silver Spring will have lost.

Steve Nash (former chief of the Division of Parking Management), when writing in opposition to the idea of a Residential Parking Permit used as a reason for his opposition a desire not to choose winners and losers.

I hope the county will honor Mr. Nash’s desire and create some parity in this plan before it is executed.

 
  • Sandy Mack

     They say they will take “Much of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors of the 5 level garage,” but if they install the promised/threatened “security gate,”  how would non-Discovery folks get to the top level, a big piece of what they SAY they are not taking?

  • jag

    $240K seems far too cheap if that number doesn’t increase y/y.

  • http://twitter.com/WDCGardener Washington Gardener

    Why on earth is Discovery procuring ANY parking spaces for their employees?! Two blocks from a metro station/marc station/bus terminal?! And what happened to being “green” or was that last year’s flavor and not something Discovery HQ actually endorses?

  • CK

    Many employees at the Kennett St Discovery office work non-traditional hours when Metro and Marc trains are not running and would be stranded if they did not drive their car in to work. That has nothing to do with being “green.” I’m sure most 9-5 employees utilize public transportation but for those who don’t (and there are many), they would have no way home.

  • Jay

    Flip the question. If you pay to live in a neighborhood two blocks from the metro, why would you own a car?

  • tdacts

    One concern that should be addressed is that the remaining public spots in the garage are free during most of these non-traditional hours.  Discovery employees would likely park in these free spots on the lower levels rather than continue the drive up to one of the leased levels, without an incentive not to.  This would create a real decrease in the number of spots available to the non-Discovery population.

  • Sandy Mack

     And their remains the problem, I believe, that the fifth level would not be available to the public since Discovery plans to gate off its floors.  This has not been through through.

  • Sandy Mack

     Oops: “there remains,” not “their remains.”  Sorry.

  • denny shaw, 7981 since 11/04

    Let’s ask embarrassing questions to the parking mavens of Rockville:  who benefits? where’s the money?  WHO BENEFITS–where are the results of a usage survey? a “needs” statement?  Discovery has been here since we moved in to 7981–why the sudden “demand?”  what about the large Latino church that uses the garage on Wed eve and Sun morn?  Plus the congregants of St Mary’s and Ethiopian Christian church across the street.  When did Parking poobahs consult the community?  Where is Council person irwin?  WHERE’s the $$?  The County gains $240,000 per year or $657 per day.  Divided by 300 spaces, that’s about $2.19 per day for each parking slot.  In other words, non-residents who happen to work at Discovery park their cars for 10 cents per hour!
    Meanwhile, where’s the money from our property taxes used for community benefit?
    I don’t want South Silver Spring to be the Houston of the East–“pave & build” regardless of impact on water supply, power grid, etc.  In conclusion, this plan does NOT benefit those of us who settled in South Silver Spring 7 years ago, nor does it demonstrate prudent use of our exorbitant  property taxes. 

  • http://twitter.com/pwthornton Patrick Thornton

    The best solution to this problem is to vote our our Representatives that allowed this to happen.

  • Potential Resident

    This is extremely disappointing. I am
    getting ready to buy a condo in that area but might have to reconsider now that
    I learned about this information.

  • Concerned Resident

    I’m torn on this debate. As a South Silver Spring resident, I understand the necessity of residential parking space — an ever growing premium. However, I’m also keenly aware of the economic benefits that Discovery Communications brings to our area. That said, this shouldn’t be a one-or-the-other solution; let’s find a way to satisfy the needs of both our business community and residents.



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