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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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Timmy Kaye September 20, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Anon....its the job of the president of the ecba to gather those opinions and look out for our interests. Instead the president decide to talk to fox45 about how he personally liked the parking idea...when he has his own private parking. Great leadership.
Brandie Jefferson September 20, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Any business owners that I haven't spoken to feel free to call me - 410.499.2592 or send me an email: brandie @ patch.com.
Sara Arditti September 20, 2012 at 01:59 AM
SIGN THE PETITION TO STOP THE PAID PARKING PLAN! Come to STILL LIFE GALLERY 8173 Main Street tomorrow -Thursday,11-5) Friday,11-6, or Saturday 11-6 to sign it! Or call Sara at 410-461-1616, or email me at sara@stillLifegallery.net
Dan Jenkins September 20, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Hear that sucking sound? It's the residential rental property dollars being sucked out of the pockets of the property-owners. Also, it's going to be tumble-weeds around here when Ulman adds to the alienating meter-system this smart-phone-based parking-spot alert system, which will certainly drive away the tea-house/antiquing/wedding/B&B crowd. The red hat ladies want to stay a little longer -- they have to use an app, you say? This plan was hatched by Ulman and his cronies without input from anyone at all. That might be why there are so many obvious problems to which no has been attentive, and to which no one, even now, is being responsive. I called Ulman's office today and got no response. I guess he was on Google Play downloading the reelection campaign app.
Dan Jenkins September 20, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Also, is anyone else shocked -- and I mean shocked -- that Ulman is on the Democratic ticket? All this unilateral action designed to make money for a leader and his henchman, with total disregard for how people just trying to live their lives in peace will be affected...it sounds so familiarly Republican. It certainly doesn't resound with the values espoused at the DNC.
Dan Jenkins September 20, 2012 at 02:27 AM
And one more thing -- the last meeting was scheduled on Rosh Hoshana, the holiest holiday in the Jewish faith. Way to be sensitive to the largest growing religious minority in Howard County.
Sara Arditti September 20, 2012 at 02:32 AM
The Smart Parking App encourages illegal and dangerous behavior- it is ILLEGAL to text or send/receive electronic messages on a screen (GPS is exempt) while driving, even at a red light. Is everyone aware that Howard County is spending approx $450,000 of taxpayers money on this and that almost of of it going to 2 private companies- Streetline in California, and Duncan Solutions in Wisconsin? The contract had only one bidder-Streetline. We need to ask why that was the case.
Dan Jenkins September 20, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Sounds like a job for the state's attorney.
Timmy Kaye September 20, 2012 at 04:18 AM
We need moe parking. Not paid parking. That's the bottom line.
Timmy Kaye September 20, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Abby we have a president of ecba who has his own parking that goes on. Tv all in for ken uhlmans "let's turn a historic district into a tech parking place" without even knwing the clientelle. But hey. What do the business owners who've been here. For fifteen years know...
Timmy Kaye September 20, 2012 at 06:25 AM
lets be clear, this is not the same article most have responded to. its been completely changed.
Blair Wright September 20, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Paid parking creates more parking by discouraging our clients from coming into town. Brilliant. Also, good job picking a phone app for parking Howard County. Whoever made that decision should be fired for misappropriation of funds, or maybe pulled over for using their phone while driving.
Dan Jenkins September 20, 2012 at 11:24 AM
This was supposed to be a feather in Ulman's cap. It was envisioned and executed by his office. I suggest that in addition to signing the petition, we stage a public protest to be held the night the meters are put in place. We can alert the news media, who can then put the voices and faces of those misplaced by the meters on the 10 o'clock news.
meg trager September 20, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Deja vu ... is no one checking the history of this issue? When the meters were here before it was a hotly contested issue at ECBA meetings. Consensus is that the meters were bad for business. Considerable $$ spent to remove the meters and fix the sidewalks. Now, they're going to do it again? Typical government politicians who know nothing about business.
business owner September 20, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Notice even though the Wine Bin has their own parking lot the Wine Bin van is parked in the public lot!
Brandie Jefferson September 20, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Timmy, the only changes to this article were the addition of a quote by Dave Carne, noted at the top of the article in italics and the rewording of one sentence to clarify attribution. Nothing else.
Brandie Jefferson September 20, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Abby, this was a decision made by the county administration: http://patch.com/A-xj28
Peter Edelen September 20, 2012 at 04:51 PM
There are still property owners who have no idea this is going on. I told to my landlord this morning and the first thing he asked me was "What are they doing for the residents?". He was not happy. This was poorly executed by the County Executive's office in not even notifying ALL the affected parties that will be impacted. Not only will it impact businesses, it will significantly impact property owners who are generating retail and residential lease/rental revenues. People are talking about moving. Sure, more people will take their apartments as I've often been reminded that there is a line of people to take my apartment, but the appeal will go down. Who wants to pay $1200-1600 for an apartment where the closest parking in 2 blocks away? Next time you walk up or down the street, look up at the 2nd to 4th floors over the shops. Count the windows. Do the math.
Brandie Jefferson September 20, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Peter, I posted this on the other article too, but Stephen Lafferty said yesterday that he was open to discussing permits: "We’ve not revisited the issue, but certainly it could be put back on the table."
Peter Edelen September 20, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Thanks Brandie, that is good to hear. When I talked to Diane Schwarzman with DPW at the 'town hall' last month, she said it had already been decided against. Glad to hear they are considering revisiting. Thanks for the update!
Debbie Hebbeler September 20, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Parking is absolutely horrible in Ellicott City. There is enough available land that there could be two parking garages put up. One behind the old post office and the other by the railroad bridge. Additionally, there is not enough handicap parking. In the garages, there could be designated parking spaces (free) for those that own property or tenants along main street. Renters generally pay high rents and don't need the additional costs of ridiculous meter parking. It sounds like the local government isn't listening to what the true needs of the people are and are just looking to make more money.
Peter Edelen September 20, 2012 at 10:10 PM
$450K would have been a good start for a garage
Dan Jenkins September 20, 2012 at 10:15 PM
The current fiasco will cost at least as much, I wager, in maintenance, ticketing, and lost revenue. Think the smart chips in the pavement won't break periodically? That the software won't go down? That continual fees won't have to be paid to websites that have your credit card information stored? The list goes on.
Dan Jenkins September 20, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Permits MUST be given to residents if the meters are put in place. Period. This never should have been off the table. It never should have been possible for it to be off the table.
Amy Arnold September 21, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Lets not forget, next year when they look at the budget, realize how much more they lost than expected, well the only way to drum up more money is no free spaces and longer metered time frames. We all know how government works, we give a little, they screw up and demand more.
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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