Parking plan progressing ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE

November 23, 1992|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Motorists who search in desperation for a parking space in historic Ellicott City may find relief soon.

Plans for an 82-space parking lot in Oella have been approved by the Greater Oella Community Association. And a Baltimore County councilwoman who initially opposed the idea said she would support the plan as well, clearing the way for approval by the Baltimore County Council.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing the plan because the location is near the Patapsco River and in a flood plain. If it falls within the corps' jurisdiction, the engineers will have to approve it also, said Edward Walter, Howard County's chief traffic engineer. Construction could begin in the spring of 1993.

Ellicott City merchants, who attended the association meeting Wednesday night at the Westchester School Annex, were overjoyed to hear the news.

"I was just thrilled to death," said Margaret Smith, who owns a gallery of the same name in Ellicott City. "It will give Ellicott City a little breathing space."

Ellicott City has 863 parking spaces, said Ms. Smith, who heads the Howard County Tourism Council and is a member of the Ellicott City Task Force.

The latest events give new life to a decades-old plan to build a parking lot in Oella for Ellicott City patrons. After 16 or 17 years of disinterest, plans to build the Oella parking lot were renewed when Mr. Walter began looking for off-street parking for Ellicott City in 1989.

Of six possible locations, Mr. Walter found the Oella site, near Oella Avenue and Route 144.

"It turned out to be a terrific spot," he said.

The one-acre site belongs to Joe Morea, who owns a gas station and tavern adjacent to the lot, and Charles Wagandt, president of the Oella Company. The men said they want to donate the property to discourage vagrants from gathering there, and reintroduce historic ties between the two communities.

"This will re-energize this whole area," Mr. Wagandt said of the parking lot. "I'm very encouraged because this represents a joint effort to move forward on both sides of the river."

In 1990, Howard and Baltimore counties tentatively agreed to jointly build the parking lot, with Howard financing the $325,000 project and Baltimore managing the lot.

Under current plans, the parking lot would be open free 24 hours, and would feature 30-foot lights. Twelve red and sugar maple trees would be planted to protect residents who live alongside the lot from the glare of parking lot lights and car headlights.

The plan has received support from Ellicott City merchants, who want to increase parking and ease congestion in the narrow streets of the historic district, and from Oella residents, who want to discourage vagrants from gathering on the lot, which is studded with shrubs and brush.

But not everyone is pleased with the proposal.

Therese M. Chatain, who lives next door to the lot and has fought plans to put a parking lot there for the past three years, seemed resigned to her fate after the Wednesday night meeting.

"I feel violated right down to the bone," said Ms. Chatain, who fears that noise and glare from parking lot lights and car headlights will keep her and 15 other families awake at night.

"We've gone as far as we can go," she said.

The approval of the Greater Oella Community Association was critical to the success of the parking lot because Baltimore County Councilwoman Berchie Manley pledged to vote for the plan based on the residents' decision.

"I had advised [Greater Oella Community Association President] Henry Debaught that I would support whatever they supported," Ms. Manley said.

Two of the seven Baltimore County Council members indicated that they would observe Ms. Manley's wish to build a parking lot in Oella.

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