A survey of small businesses in the Wheaton Urban District found that the top three "immediate business concerns" are parking, rent and safety.
The Wheaton Redevelopment Program, which is part of the county's Department of General Services, conducted the survey in April and May. There was a 36 percent response rate; of the 298 surveys given to businesses, 108 were returned.
Peter McGinnity of the Wheaton Redevelopment Program said the survey will help to inform the county's Department of Economic Development, as it tries to flesh out Bill 6-12. The bill, which was passed earlier this year by the County Council, calls for assistance to small businesses negatively affected by county development projects.
The survey showed that the top concern for Wheaton small businesses is parking, and the Coalition for the Fair Redevelopment of Wheaton, whose members include small business owners in Wheaton's Urban District, is advocating for a comprehensive parking study.
Before the parking study can take place, the Department of General Services and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission must create a Memorandum of Understanding for the office building that will be constructed in Lot 13, McGinnity said. The agencies are in the process of working out this MOU. After the Montgomery County Council approves this stage, DGS can begin work on the parking study required in the council's approved CIP budget, McGinnity explained.
With construction of this office building taking place in the middle of the chief parking area for the small businesses in the Wheaton Triangle area, business owners worry that their customers will not be able to reach them.
"And the general consensus among these businesses is that the loss of that much traffic will cause us to go out of business," said Raymond Rose of Barbarian Comics in Wheaton. Rose presented the Coalition's response to the survey results at the Nov. 13 meeting of the Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee.
The Coalition continues its request for a written pledge from the county government that states its support for assisting Wheaton's small businesses through the redevelopment process: creating a transition parking plan, funding the small business assistance program and running marketing campaigns to inform the public about changes in the Urban District.