Ellicott City's wishing well

May 04, 1993

A recent survey of merchants in historic Ellicott City has concluded that, above all else, what the quaint row of shops needs is more -- guess what? -- parking. What other revelations will surface we can only imagine.

Anyone who has ever ventured into the cozy environs of the original Ellicott City knows full well how difficult it is to park there. Civic leaders have been saying that for years.

Still, merchants seem quite happy that their poll reveals what everyone knew anyway. Indeed, they've been positively energized by what they've discovered.

"It provided the business association with an agenda," crowed Michael J. Kerwin, who organized the survey. "It allowed the town to really say, 'OK, what do we want?' "

A better question might be, "What does it matter what they want?"

Ellicott City merchants have already turned thumbs down on the most viable proposal to achieve their goal of more parking.By rejecting the notion of a special tax district, shopkeepers have relegated themselves to the position of asking for handouts from Howard County government. With the competition for county funds so fierce, Ellicott City will have to wait along with other places, such as Savage and Elkridge, for their piece of the pie -- assuming that they will get a piece at all.

Not only might a special taxing district have solved some of the area's parking problems, extra revenues could be used for promotional activities and beautification projects as well.

Despite this compelling argument, Ellicott City merchants voted 34-4 against a special taxing district.

Why did so many object? Primarily because of a fear that a special district would result in uniformity by requiring set store hours and allowing only certain merchandise to be sold.

That, of course, was the worst-case scenario. We see nothing wrong with sacrificing a little autonomy when, in the long run, the results could benefit everyone involved.

No matter how many polls are conducted, the parking problem in Historic Ellicott City will come down to the same basic question: Who is going to pay to solve it?

Given the current economic climate, wishing alone is unlikely to produce results.

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