Main Street Parking, 'Always ... A Hot Topic'

Main Street merchants, residents and shoppers have lots to say, little to agree on, when it comes to paid parking in the Historic District.

(Updated at 7:45 p.m. to include comment from Ellicott City Business Association president Dave Carne.)

More paid parking is coming to Ellicott City, but there appears to be zero consensus among merchants as to whether that’s a good thing.

On the agenda at a Howard County Council public hearing Tuesday was legislation that would raise parking rates in some of the Historic District’s parking lots and set the rates at the new, multi-space meters that will be installed later this year. 

Testimony, however, focused not on the rate increases, but on the plan to add parking meters on Main Street and Maryland Avenue, a plan that the Council was not required to approve and does not have the authority to stop.

For business owners, the issue was not that customers will have to pay, but whether or not paid parking will create more parking turnover – opponents don’t seem to think so while supporters do. 

“The administration’s position is that having this charge will turn over the vehicles more quickly?” Council person Courtney Watson, whose district includes Main Street, asked Stephen Lafferty, director of special projects for the Department of Planning and Zoning. 

That was the county’s position, Lafferty said.

“The Main Street spaces are the ones where we want to get visitors to come, customers to come, then to leave that space for another visitor,” he said, not to allow it to be used repeatedly by the same people.

The new rates -- $1 per hour on Main Street and Maryland Avenue and an increase of up to 50 cents per hour in the lot behind the Howard County Welcome Center and the Talbot lot – would encourage shoppers who planned to stay longer to park in the lots, allowing for more turnover on the streets.

A time limit will still be in effect for Main Street and Maryland Avenue once meters are installed, though visitors who do not pay for a full two hours when they park can add value to their parking using a cell phone application. 

Supporting the plan was the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation Inc., represented at Tuesday’s hearing by Edward Lilley, the Foundation’s president; some business owners; and Ellicott City residents who shop – but do not live – on Main Street.

Grace Kubofcik said that she frequented Main Street, often with her grandkids, which can make walking from one of the lots a chore. “I would like the convenience, when I do need it, that I be able to park in front of the place.”

The fact that there was a problem when it came to parking on Main Street was echoed by both supporters and opponents of the new plan.

“As a small business owner on Main Street, I am intimately familiar with the parking difficulties,” testified Tammy Beideman, owner of Sweet Elizabeth Jane. “I’m in favor of this legislation,” she said.

Beidman lamented seeing customers leave because after lunch and going to one store, they ran out of parking options.

“Parking is always going to be a hot topic around town,” she said.

Still Life Art Gallery co-owner Sara Arditti spoke against the plan to install new meters, saying that what Main Street really needed was more parking, a sentiment echoed by former Ellicott City Business Association President Len Berkowitz.

Arditti said that the ECBA endorsed the plan, and, “We’re not represented by the ECBA.”

However, current ECBA president Dave Carne, owner of the Wine Bin, wrote in an email to Patch: "The ECBA as an organization has not taken an official position on this issue, hence there is no endorsement."

Arditti said was upset that she and other businesses were not included in the earlier stages of the discussion. “Many business owners were not aware of the program at all until last month,” at a meeting on August 21.

She also said that the parking application that the county plans to introduce – whereby drivers can find available parking spaces on their phone – would foster illegal activity: using a cell phone while driving. “There’s no place to pull over on Main Street” and check for a spot.

Main Street resident Peter Edelen brought an additional perspective to the discussion. Edelen testified that when he moved to Main Street six years ago, “I knew the challenges with parking, but I adjusted. I know I’ll have to do it again, but I’m not really comfortable with the fact that I live on the lower part of the street and I’ll be completely surrounded by meters.”

The Council will discuss further the parking rate increases – and the rate for the new meters – at its next work session, Monday, Sept. 24 at 4:30 p.m. in the George Howard Building.

Related articles:

- Do You Want to See a Metered Main Street?

- Main Street: Parking Meters, Repaving and Derailment Repairs

- A New Vision for Downtown Ellicott City: Parking, Housing and More

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Karen Besson September 21, 2012 at 06:51 PM
The ECBA took no official position on the proposed parking changes.
Peter Edelen September 22, 2012 at 06:21 PM
If you are on Facebook and live, work, or own a business in Main Street or want to keep up to date on this and other issues/events, please request to 'Join'. https://www.facebook.com/groups/historic.ellicott.city/
wordbones October 15, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Sara, Did you consider that perhaps the passenger would use the app instead of the driver? Also, living just outside of the historic district I could easily check the parking situation before leaving my driveway. As a patron of the businesses in Ellicott City I find this to be a benefit.
Sara Arditti October 15, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Wordbones- I do not object to the safe and legal use of any electronic device within the limits of the law. If people use the app at home, or have a passenger do it, or place it into a dashboard mounting device, that's fine. My concern is that people will not bother to do this as they are driving around the Historic District, which is a very tight and narrow place with no wiggle room whatsoever for error. The texting while driving issue comes further down the list of issues I have with this system- the biggest one being it is a good example of how corporations are increasingly taking over our lives and wallets. In the next 4 years that sucking sound you hear is one million dollars ( $833,000 to Streetline alone) being drained from our local economy, off the backs of small merchants like me, and directly into the coffers of two out of state corporate vendors. Howard County will not even see any increased net revenue form this plan, due to the fact that most of the money generated by it goes to these two companies. If you support small local business over corporate / local government partnerships, you will not be in favor of this system.
Suomy Nona February 03, 2013 at 06:13 PM
It sure would be nice if they would have setup some kind of system that would allow business owners to validate parking for clients, and additionally a permit parking system for business owners who are here for 8-14 hours a day. I mean, how are we supposed to operate a high-end, boutique business that charges hundreds or thousands of dollars to a client for a luxury service and then make our clients pay the county and risk a ticket to visit us? Ridiculous. We are getting the hell out of this town asap and moving to a place with ample, free, and easy parking for our clients.


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