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Parking lots could become parks in downtown Bethesda

To park or to play — as coins go into meters, drivers in downtown Bethesda are giving their two cents.

“You can drive around for more time than you’re going to spend in Bethesda looking for parking,” said Christopher Bolton, who used to work at Benihana’s where customers rely on county-owned parking lots.

There’s a push by the Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents to turn over four county-owned parking lots and make them green space for parks.

“We’re in a bit of a park drought in the downtown area,” said Amanda Farber, with the Coalition of Bethesda Area Residents. “It’s important to have a balance of development and green space and park land."

Dr. Rochelle Nunez agrees, but she says her patients at Devine Smiles Dentistry on Wisconsin Ave. would suffer.

“So a lot of my patients come because it’s free on the weekends. So by taking this away, that will really affect my business. It will affect my patients,” said Nunez.

Bethesda would lose about 500 meters and parking spaces if the coalition has its way.

County Council President Roger Berliner tells us he asked the Department of Transportation to do an analysis of parking needs in downtown Bethesda. Berliner shares the goal to create more parks in the area as the county moves forward on a master plan.

No driver ABC7 News spoke to Thursday denied the importance of green grass but they say its value will wither as more buildings go up and more people search for parking.

“I would definitely encourage keeping it or somehow making parking on the streets free on the weekends,” said Nunez.

Berliner says it will take DOT at least a few weeks to analyze the parking in downtown Bethesda. The Montgomery County Council will have the final say on what happens with the parking lots.

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