A shouting crowd of South Baltimore residents, angry because the new baseball stadium has brought permit parking to their streets, persuaded the city's parking chief last night to put a moratorium on ticketing and towing during ballgames until the community can petition the city to rescind the permits.
The residents objected to having to pay $20 a year to park on their blocks during games and $5 for one visitor's permit.
The moratorium does not affect the neighborhoods directly surrounding the stadium in Otterbein or Ridgley's Delight, which also have permit parking for residents.
Anyone parking without a permit on blocks in those neighborhoods during games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards will continue to risk being ticketed or towed.
The moratorium affects 23 blocks scattered farther south of the stadium. Most of them are south of Cross Street, particularly along Hanover and Charles streets.
More than 100 people attended the meeting called by the South Baltimore Improvement Association at Grace United Church of Christ. After an hour of heated debate, Robert T. Schaffner, chief of the city's parking management division, agreed to a moratorium until May 12 on ticketing and towing to permit the residents to circulate petitions.
The permits will then be dropped if 60 percent of the residents of a block oppose the parking system.
Although petitions were circulated to establish the parking permits, many residents said they never saw them.
Many at the meeting were working-class people or elderly couples.
"We love the stadium; we love the Orioles, but we're poor people and times are bad. Give us a break," shouted George Furman Jr. of the 1400 block of Marshall St.
His neighbor, Terry Helms, asked why she should pay $20 to park on her block "when we pay high taxes."
Eileen O'Brien, a member of the South Baltimore Improvement Association, told the crowd that a representative of the Stadium Authority was invited, but did not attend.
Her organization had prepared a name plate at the head table for Ed Cline, the Stadium Authority's deputy executive director, who did not show up.
City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and City Councilman Perry Sfikas, D-1st, convinced those present that they could take matters into their own hands by petitioning to remove the parking permit system from their community.
If they do, they will receive refunds for permits already paid for.
The improvement association circulated a petition asking the Stadium Authority to pay the permit fees.
Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th, told the crowd he had just introduced a bill in the City Council that would exempt residents in a specially designated area near the new stadium from paying the permit fee.
"There's a difference between moving to a nuisance and a nuisance moving to you. Why the hell should you have to pay for it?" he said, expressing many residents' sentiments that they did not want the stadium built near their community.
Some people were concerned that without a permit system, fans would take over scarce parking spaces in their community.
Others said they are too far from the stadium to worry.