Monday, October 15, 2012

Ellicott City Parking Wars Two

I was having lunch with a senior county official last week when the topic of the new Ellicott City parking system came up.

“Some of the merchants are getting a little ugly about this,” I said referring to the group opposing the plan, which appears to be spearheaded by the owners of the Still Life Gallery. The issue has divided the town and created ill feelings up and down Main Street. Someone even hacked into a reader board changing the message to read “Ken Ulman Hates Ellicott City.”

“It’s this type of thing that discourages the county from trying to anything,” my lunch guest responded adding “we’re dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t.”

This morning I spoke with another Ellicott City merchant who has been instrumental in breathing new life in the historic district with First Fridays, Second Sundays and other events. This particular merchant was concerned that the increasing vitriol might undo the goodwill that the Ellicott City Business Association (ECBA) has built up with the county over the past few years.

And it’s all over parking!

It is as if some people believe that free parking on a public road, in front of a store or residence, is a god given right, enshrined in the Constitution.

Though I don’t own a store or live in the historic district, I do live close by, about a mile and half from Main Street. As such, we are fairly regular patrons of the stores and restaurants in Ellicott City. In fact, proximity to Main Street was one of the reasons we chose our home. Unfortunately, we do not enjoy pedestrian friendly access to the town which means that almost all of our visits are by car. This makes us acutely aware of the parking situation. We've always managed to find a parking spot, even during the busy times like Midnight Madness, but doing so usually involves a series of u-turns and something akin to a treasure hunt. Count us among those who applaud the fact the county is finally doing something to address this problem. I don’t know if it will work but from what I've read about it so far, it appears to be a good start.

Actually, I’d prefer to see a plan that eliminates parking along Main Street all together. That would allow for wider sidewalks and open up opportunities for outdoor seating at restaurants and performance spaces. I understand that the county has studied this idea as well as a way to help control runoff with rain gardens.

Judging from the reaction to this current plan, that probably doesn't stand much of chance of happening any time soon.
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