Businesses planning to expand or move into Lovettsville might need to reconsider their parking situations.
The Town Council last week voted unanimously to approve a zoning amendment to increase the required number of parking spaces for commercial and civic uses, including banks, restaurants, museums, retail shops, libraries and schools. The amendment would be applied to all town businesses only if they plan to expand or undertake renovations that significantly change their building’s character. Existing operations are grandfathered, allowed to operate as legal non-conforming uses.
“I can’t make people go in after the fact and put in more parking,” said Zoning Administrator Josh Bateman.
Certain businesses in the Community Commercial District, however, could be exempt from the requirements, such as when a business opens in a vacant commercial space previously used by another business—such as if a new restaurant moves into the former Lovettsville Pizza & Subs building.
Bateman said that exemption should invite new businesses to town, since they won’t have to worry much about parking. “It’s for downtown revitalization,” he said.
Businesses with expansion or serious renovation plans are also exempt if up to 25 percent of the parking spots in a public lot or 25 percent of on-street parking spaces within 500 feet help it meet the new requirements.
The only public parking lot in Lovettsville is at the Town Office, with just a few businesses located within 500 feet of it, including Andy’s Pizza & Subs, Market Table Bistro, Back Street Brews and The Painted Pig. The town’s Capital Improvement Plan does, however, have a goal to build another public lot in fiscal year 2023 for $35,000.
Businesses that can’t claim an exemption will have to follow the new rules.
Sit-down restaurants are now required to have one parking space per 150 square feet of total gross floor area, plus one additional space for every four seats of outdoor seating. Previously, they were required to have one parking space for every four people based on the maximum occupancy load and one additional space per 300 square feet of outdoor seating.
Thaiverse Owner James Cameron said the new ordinance won’t affect him much, since he doesn’t plan to expand. Even if he did, he has more than enough parking, with about 40 spots in the back. “I don’t think it will have much of an impact on us,” he said.
The amendment could also affect Lovettsville Elementary, since elementary schools are now required to have 0.25 parking spaces per student, as opposed to the previous one space per 25 classroom seats. With 521 students enrolled and 582 total classroom seats, that increases the number of required parking spaces from 23 to 130—meaning the school would need to add in 25 spaces if it adds a classroom or two.
Government buildings are now required to have one space per 65 square feet of assembly area, with an additional 1.25 spaces per employee. Even though the Town Office is not subject to town zoning, it does meet that requirement.
With about 660 square feet dedicated to assembly space and seven employees working there each day, the office would be required to have about 19 spaces. It currently has 21.
The new ordinance also allows businesses to share parking lots. If town approves any shared uses, up to 25 percent of the two buildings’ total number of spaces could be reduced from their overall parking requirement. Bateman said this would make the most sense, for example, if a professional office were to share spaces with a sports bar, since their peak operational times would be at different points in the day.