“Your parking requirements stink!  What do you mean we have to provide 25 times the number of parking spaces than what the ITE says, or we have to get a variance? What is our hardship other than your requirements haven’t been updated in over 50 years? If your parking requirements were a car, they would be considered antique!”

“Your project doesn’t have enough off-street parking! All those vehicles will park in my spot on the street in front of my house and block my three driveways! How will the plow truck get through? Where will the neighborhood kids play?”

Obviously, these outrageous statements are made up, but the underlying premises are true: parking is and continues to be a contentious issue in numerous communities (for example, see here and here). 

The main issue seems to relate to the number of parking spaces required, proposed, and provided. While most developers and builders seek flexibility to provide parking in accordance with industry trends or neighborhood conditions, neighbors and community officials want assurance that projects are provided with adequate off-street parking facilities that do not block driveways or cause congestion on nearby streets.

Traditionally, to address these issues, communities have incorporated parking regulations into their zoning ordinances, including the minimum number of required parking spaces. However, in most cases, parking space requirements are not only based on outdated data and figures, but they are also inflexible. Further, deviations from the parking space requirements in zoning ordinances usually require applicants to request variances and demonstrate hardships to zoning hearing boards, which is, in most cases, a difficult threshold to meet.

To modernize and ‘right-size’ parking space requirements, thereby reducing the need for variances, some communities have begun incorporating new approaches into their zoning ordinances. We have discussed several of these modern approaches in a series of three blog posts (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).

While these approaches still deal in terms of zoning, other communities are altogether thinking outside of the ‘zoning’ box when it comes to regulating parking. These communities have removed most – if not all – parking requirements from their zoning ordinances and have instead incorporated parking standards into ‘non-zoning’ ordinances.

For example, Silver Spring Township has placed its parking requirements, including the required number of spaces, into its subdivision/land development ordinance. Rather than requesting variances from the zoning hearing board as part of a separate approval process, alterations of parking requirements may be granted by the governing body in connection with subdivision/land development plan approval.  

Additionally, East Pennsboro Township – despite recently adopting a new zoning ordinance and subdivision/land development ordinance – placed its parking requirements into a separate, newly-created ordinance entitled Design and Natural Resources (here and here). This ordinance also includes standards for signs, natural resources protection, streets, and mobile home parks. 

Again, since these parking requirements are found in ‘non-zoning’ ordinances, applications for alterations of the parking requirements are requested through the governing body, not the zoning hearing board.

It should be noted that both Silver Spring’s and East Pennsboro’s parking standards also incorporate a few of the ‘rightsizing’ solutions discussed in our prior blog posts, including use of accepted parking studies and shared parking. These novel approaches provide flexibility to ‘right-size’ parking standards outside of the traditional “hardship” context that comes with zoning variances. As parking continues to be a source of contention among municipalities, developers, and neighbors, innovative solutions to the issue – such as the ones discussed above – may become more common.

Please feel free to contact any member of the McNees Wallace & Nurick Land Use Group for assistance with any land use or development issues and/or if you have any questions regarding this post.