Ecker hears constituents' concerns in 'fire hall chat'

February 21, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

Talk of growth, crime, parking in historic Ellicott City and the proposed path of Route 100 dominated Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker's "fire hall chat" yesterday.

About 35 people, including 20 business people from historic Ellicott City, attended the Ellicott City fire station meeting, which lasted nearly three hours.

The businessmen and women came to hear Mr. Ecker talk about parking and a new report on the future of their commercial district.

They asked him to kill a proposal in the report, by an executive-appointed advisory committee, calling for the creation of a special tax district that would raise money for improvements in the district.

"I love what I'm doing," said Wrixie Bardaglio, owner of the Book Revue at 8225 Main St. "But I can't pay more taxes."

Mr. Ecker assured the business owners that he would not pursue the proposed tax this year, if at all. He noted that the committee that proposes the tax has not finished its study, called the Ellicott City Marketing Task Force Report. The committee is sponsoring a public hearing on the report Thursday.

The businessmen and women said a lack of parking is the biggest problem in the district. Some business owners said they would support a tax or fee that went strictly toward providing new parking. "Economically, we need parking," said Barry Gibson, president of the Ellicott City Business Association. "Increased parking means increased revenue."

Many business people cannot get customers to come back to their shops because of the lack of parking, Mr. Gibson said. He noted that The Mall in Columbia has 30 customer parking spaces for each shop, while Ellicott City has only two customer spaces for each shop.

Mr. Ecker said he wants to work with businesses to improve the historic district. He said small businesses form the "backbone" of the county's economic tax base.

"I'm a strong believer in the small-business man," he said. "We need to work with our businesses and make them happy, so that they can make it here and stay here."

Six residents of the Hunt Country Estates development south of Ellicott City also turned out yesterday to seek the executive's help in their fight against a proposal to build Route 100 near their neighborhood.

The residents said the proposed route would require several houses in their neighborhood to be torn down and harm the environment.

Mr. Ecker said he is willing to meet with the neighborhood's community association to discuss their concerns. He added, however, that the county has little influence with the state on the route of the new highway.

Frank Rura of Ellicott City went to the meeting to voice concern over how growth has led to overcrowded schools and congested roads. He said that he once had to face two traffic lights on his way to work. Now, he said, he has lost count. "I have not met any residents who are happy with the development here," Mr. Rura said. "Everything's a hassle."

Charles Lease of Ellicott City said the influx of residents and businesses may cause crime to increase in the county. "[Hiring] more police officers, to me, sounds like a Band-Aid," Mr. Lease said. "What else can be done about crime in this county?"

Mr. Ecker said the county plans to hire 40 officers this year, with most filling vacancies. The police department also plans to send officers into neighborhoods and schools to meet citizens and become part of the community, he said. He added that anti-drug education programs must be expanded to stop drug use.

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