Canton wants just a little elbow room, please Marina crowd takes precious curb space

November 26, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

Most folks living near the Canton waterfront love the East Baltimore neighborhood's nautical character -- the salty breezes, the sunlight twinkling on the Patapsco River, the nimble sailboats, the plodding tugs on shifting tidal waters.

But they hate the fact that with the influx of boat owners come cars -- scores of them, hundreds even, on warm summer weekends, overflowing marina parking lots and hogging parking spaces along nearby residential streets.

It has been enough to make many a Canton resident very, very angry.

"Between the marina and the Ukrainian church you can't buy a parking space, particularly on Sunday," said Douglass Lee, who lives on Fleet Street, three blocks from the Anchorage Marina.

But help may be on the way.

The City Council voted preliminary approval yesterday of a bill that would require new marinas to provide at least one parking space for every two boat slips. The council, which normally meets only on Mondays, is expected to give final approval at a special session scheduled for noon tomorrow.

Yesterday's council action strengthens the parking requirements included in a marina master plan adopted by the city planning commission in 1989, which required one parking space for every three boat slips.

Two existing marinas -- the Anchorage and Lighthouse Point -- plus a proposed marina being held up by bankruptcy proceedings are "grandfathered" into the parking plan, meaning they would be exempted from the stricter requirements as long as they did not increase the number of boats they could handle by more than 25 percent.

Community leaders had lobbied hard for the stricter parking requirement. By not requiring marina owners to provide adequate parking, they argued, the city was allowing marina operators to rake in profits while dumping their parking problems on residents.

Community sentiment was so strong that the current bill has remained before the council for more than a year, as some residents have sought to make the parking requirement apply to new and existing marinas alike.

"Obviously, when condos and hotels and offices are built they have to provide parking with it," said Nelson H. Adlin, a past president of the Fells Point Business Association, who also owns a boat slip in Canton. "There is an inequity there."

But Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, chairman of the council's Land Use Committee, said it would have been unfair to require existing marinas to expand their parking because that could change the conditions upon which they have structured their finances.

"To bring them back to the drawing board would be unfair because their financing was predicated on [their original plans]," Mr. Ambridge said.

Dwayne Stevenson, president of Marina Ventures, which built both the Anchorage and Lighthouse Point marinas, said the more stringent parking requirement would likely make it harder for marina developers to build in Canton, but he believed it to be a fair compromise.

"It will make it harder to make the economic model of a marina work, because the cost of land is higher," Mr. Stevenson said. But, he added, "I don't think it is necessarily an unfair law."

City planners said they wanted the parking issue settled so that a plan would be in place when the economy and marina developers' interest revived.

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