Howard County representatives will meet with Historic District residents and business owners to try to smooth out what has become a contentious discussion about parking in the Historic District.
On Monday, the County Council approved new parking fees for two lots on Main Street as well as the fee for a new, multi-space parking system for Main Street and Maryland Avenue.
Rates in the lot behind the Howard County Welcome Center and the Talbot parking lot will be raised from 25 to 50 cents per hour. Parking at the new, multi-space parking meters set to be installed on Main Street and Maryland Avenue will be $1 per hour.
The plan to switch to paid parking on Main Street and Maryland Avenue was announced at a meeting on Aug. 21. At that meeting, County Executive Ken Ulman also announced the county would implement a parking application called Parker, which will allow people to find real-time parking availability on their mobile phones.
Council member Courtney Watson, whose district includes the Historic District, wrote in a letter to stakeholders that she voted to approve the new parking fees after receiving assurances from Ulman that:
- The administration will meet with residents to refine residential options for parking based on input from the residents. This will not involve a mandatory monthly fee.
- The administration will collect parking data through the smart parking technology which will be used to refine the parking plan in the future to maximize economic growth for the merchants.
- The administration will consider funding a shuttle as recommended in the Desman Study during peak times as determined by the data collected.
- The administration will establish a parking committee of area stakeholders as recommended by the Desman study.
The Desman Study (attached) was a commissioned investigation into the parking situation in the Historic District which, in 2009, offered suggestions as to how to improve it.
Officials have said that the study guided the decision to implement the new parking program, although in its final report, the study recommended the county institute a paid residential parking permit plan and not use multi-space meters on Main Street.
Some merchants have said that metered spaces will not ease the perceived parking problems on Main Street – the reason, according to Planning and Zoning Director of Special Projects Stephen Lafferty, is that the parking plan is being implemented. And some residents have said that without a permit program, metered parking will make it difficult for them to park near where they live.
Discussions about the pros and cons of the parking plan are lively on the Historic Ellicott City Community Facebook group.
Still Life Gallery co-owner Sara Arditti created a petition, which more than 50 Historic District merchants have signed, in an attempt to stop or postpone the plan.
Arditti has also been outspoken in her opposition to using the Parker application of which, she said, “if you use it, you’re breaking the law.”
Using a handheld device to text or make a call while driving is a traffic violation in Maryland, but the law does not apply to using a GPS system. It is unclear where the Parker application fits into the law, but the company that makes the software, Streetline, addresses this issue on its website, saying its Parker phone application can be used hands-free, similar to a GPS system.
A Howard County Polie Department spokesperson was unavailable for comment about the legality of the system at the time of publication.
Ulman's office has confirmed that the administration will meet with stakeholders. A date for the meeting has not yet been scheduled.
- Merchant Petitions Against Main Street Meters
- Do You Want to See a Metered Main Street?
- What Do You Say About Parking?
This article has been edited to indicate that a representative from the administration will meet with stakeholders.