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Bel Air’s town commissioners were divided Monday over a proposal to lower the town’s parking requirements at housing for the elderly from 2.5 to two spaces per unit.

Commissioner Terry Hanley wanted to expand the reduction to include all multifamily housing, regardless if they are age-targeted. The planning commission had earlier recommended against a blanket reduction.

Hanley introduced an amendment to that effect, which failed after Commissioner Edward Hopkins was the only other member of the board to support it.

The original proposal, to lower the requirements for age-55-and-older housing only, was ultimately passed by a 3-2 vote.

Developer Mike Jones spoke at Monday’s town meeting in support of lowering parking requirements at all multifamily developments, noting the town’s existing requirement and the planning commission’s recommendation still create far too much excess parking.

“English Country Manor and some other multi-family [developments] are less than 2.5,” he said. “The 2.5 [rule] provides significant excess parking and it basically assumes all members are home at the same time... I think both multifamily and over-55 [housing] should be consistent with the county, at least.”

He said the national average for such parking is about 1.5 or 1.6, well below even two, which is the standard in Harford County outside of Bel Air’s boundaries.

“You have to accept that there are times when the parking is going to be full,” Jones said, adding that mall parking lots are a great example because they are only full 10 percent of the year.

“I would encourage you to vote on this based on what the numbers actually say, not what other jurisdictions have done based on their unique circumstances,” Jones said.

“The layout affects it more than the parking [amount] does,” he went on. “Without fail, everyone wants to park as close to their front door as they possibly can.”

Hanley agreed, pointing out English Country Manor, which is inside the town, has 1.6 spaces.

“I know it’s a little tighter today, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem,” he said.

Hopkins said he was not influenced by Jones’ speech; however, he thought decreasing the amount of parking might lead to developers building more green space around their projects.

“I am more influenced by a common sense perspective,” Hopkins said after the meeting. “You just see that spaces are not being utilized.”

Also at Monday’s town meeting, Timothy Coale was appointed to the historic preservation commission, and Lois Kelly was appointed alternate planning commission member.

Town offices will be closed Monday, Jan. 17 for Martin Luther King Day. The next town meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 18.


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