Annapolis Floats Plan To Relieve Parking Squeeze

January 31, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Heather Clark used to come to work half an hour early just to park her car.

On sunny summer days, when Annapolis' picturesque City Dock was teeming with tourists, finding a parking spot was almost impossible. If she did happen into a spot on Main Street, she had to run outside every few hours to dump money into the meter.

Soon the 18-year-old college student realized she was "spending all my paycheck on parking." She resorted to one of the most popular strategies among Annapolis workers -- parking on residential streets.

The downtown parking battle in Maryland's capital has pitted tourists and shoppers against workers and residents for years. Now, a committee of civic and business leaders has come up with some controversial strategies to ease the city's parking woes.

A proposed satellite lot and expanded shuttle service is the centerpiece of the package recommended by the Ward 1 Sector Committee.

The plan also would ban parking at City Dock and replace the metered spots with a garage, dramatically increase residential permit fees and encourage more people to park at city garages.

If the City Council endorses the nine-page report, some of the proposals, including raising the residential fees by 150 percent, would take effect in June.

"They have tackledall of the long-standing critical issues of downtown parking," said Eileen P. Fogarty, the city's planning and zoning director.

The report was based on the committee's recognition that the city will never have an ample supply of downtown parking spaces. Parking has to be "viewed as a service" and assessed appropriate fees, the group decided.

One of the biggest problems in the downtown neighborhoods is that 1,300 permits have been issued for just 830 spaces, said Mary Burkholder, director of economic development. Some families park two or three cars on the residential streets, leaving little room for their neighbors.

Employees from City Dock restaurants and shops often park in the neighborhoods to avoid meter hassles. The committee suggested lengthening residential parking hours to discourage that practice.

Businesses also will be encouraged to purchase parking vouchers atthe Noah Hillman Garage for their employees, Fogarty said.

Under the plan, residential parking would run from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, instead of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., to allow residents to park close to home at night. But the benefit comes with a high price. Permit fees will be raised for one car from $20 to $50, the increase to be phased in over three years. Families who own two or three cars will have to pay up to $125 a year to park on the streets.

To lure shoppers to Annapolis, the committee suggested extending the free parking on weekends from two to three hours. Parking at the Hillman Garage would cost a flat rate of $1 after 5:30 p.m. instead of $1 an hour.

Parking at City Dock would be banned to create a "focal point" and to free the space for a park, recreation area or multipurpose center. Tooffset that loss, the committee has recommended building a small garage on Board of Education property on Compromise Street.

Some residents and tourists praised the proposals, while others were skeptical. But most agreed that parking is a problem downtown.

Perched on aledge at City Dock, Janelle Stalnaker and her mother, Patricia, discussed the shuttle service between bites of ice cream. An Ellicott City resident, Janelle Stalnaker brought her mother to see Annapolis' waterfront. She was surprised to find a parking spot right at City Dock.

"I think it would be nice if they had nice shuttles," she said. Her mother, visiting from Seattle, agreed but wanted to know if the service would be free.

The committee has recommended opening a satellite lot off Rowe Boulevard, possibly at the Naval Academy stadium or Elks Club. A small kiosk would provide visitor information, and shuttles would run daily during the peak season, Fogarty said.

"They definitely need to do something about the parking," Annapolis resident Connie Robinson said while shopping at City Dock. "I think the citywould encourage a lot more tourists and shoppers if they did."

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