More than 50 people have signed a petition to stop the implementation of a new parking meter program in Historic Ellicott City, according to the petition’s creator, but it is not clear what, if any effect that petition will have.
Sara Arditti, who owns the Still Life Gallery with her husband David Dempster, said she plans to attend Monday’s County Council work session to present the petition.
On the work session agenda is Council Resolution 142, which sets new fees for some parking meters, including the fees for the new multi-space meters, which are set to be installed along Main Street later this year.
The resolution will raise meter fees from 25 to 50 cents per hour in two of the Historic District’s parking lots and set the fee for the new meters on Main Street and Maryland Avenue at $1 per hour.
County Executive Ken Ulman announced the meter project at a meeting on Aug. 21. Some merchants said they did not know about the project before it was announced, but according to county spokesperson Kevin Enright, “We have been working with the [Ellicott City Business Association] and [Ellicott City Restoration Foundation] for almost a year.”
ECBA President Dave Carne said that the Association discussed the plan at four or five meetings over the past year. The ECBA takes no official stance on the project, he said.
“The county came and asked us our opinion,” he said. “You’re not going to get a general consensus and the ECBA will not come out with an official stance because no one will ever agree," Carne said.
As a business owner, Carne, who owns The Wine Bin, said he deferred to a parking study done by Desman Associates (attached), which recommended installing paid meters along Main Street.
The administration is aware of the petition, Enright said and "Will respond once we have seen it."
Since the County Council did not approve the project, it does not have the authority to stop it, but Arditti said she hopes if the council does not approve the fees for the new meters, the project can be blocked or delayed
“The most important thing people can do at this point is go to the work session,” Arditti said in an email, “And tell [the County Council] that we do not want any change in parking rates.”
She said at a public hearing last week that what the Historic District needs is more parking, not paid parking.
The work session is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Mon., Sept. 24 in the George Howard Building.
Council member Courtney Watson, whose district includes Main Street, said last week, however, the meters can go in without council approval, "But approval is needed to set the rate charged by the meter.”
Public Works Director of Special Project Stephen Lafferty said the new meter rates would raise $170,000 for the rest of this fiscal year and $219,400 next year. The money would be used to pay for the parking meters, he said.
At last week's public hearing, Lafferty said that program would cost the county this year because of the capital investment and time lost because of the train derailment, but that in upcoming years, the fees from the meters should pay for the program.
Even if the Council does not approve the new fee schedule, he said, “The project is moving forward … if they should reject [the new fees] we’ll just have to revisit how we’re going to pay for the program at this time.”