Historic Ellicott City looks to solve its parking crunch

September 12, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Armed with cameras, clipboards and surveys, Alan Feinberg and Sharon Suarez hope to solve historic Ellicott City's parking shortage.

"We're going to figure out how to have parking for all and minimize the impact of traffic," said Mr. Feinberg, president of FeinDesign Associates Inc., a Frederick-based planning and design firm, which is conducting a $17,200 parking study of the area.

The study, which started last month, will identify the community's parking problems, devise long- and short-term solutions, and calculate the costs of those solutions.

Ultimately, the study will look at whether there "should be some type of parking management program that would pull all these elements together," said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the county's planning and zoning department.

Partially financed through an $8,000 grant from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, the remaining $9,200 will be funded by private donors, the county, the Ellicott City Business Association, the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation and Historic Ellicott City Inc.

For years, merchants and visitors to historic Ellicott City have complained about a dearth of parking in the tiny neighborhood. Merchants say there's a shortage of parking spaces in the

eastern end of the district, near the Patapsco River, while there is an abundance in the western end.

During the next six months, the consultants will consider options ranging from metered parking to a parking authority with the power to issue revenue bonds for projects such as parking garages. A final draft of the study is expected by January.

Those living and working in historic Ellicott City are optimistic that the parking study will benefit the area.

"It's always great to have an outside group looking at something objectively," said Barry Gibson, former president of the Ellicott City Business Association.

To better understand the scope of the parking problem in Ellicott City, the consultants are studying how motorists use available parking spaces.

Ms. Suarez and Mr. Feinberg recently snapped photos of rush-hour traffic along Main Street and spent Labor Day noting the most popular parking lots for holiday motorists: those behind the local post office and fire station.

"Everybody wants to park downtown," Ms. Suarez said. "The 'C' lot and 'D' lot were filled on Labor Day, but nobody parked at the courthouse parking lot," which is north of the center of town.

In addition to their observations, the consultants are relying on merchants and residents for solutions to the parking crunch. Earlier this month, the pair mailed a one-page survey to 114 merchants asking a variety of questions, including their hours of operation and where their employees park during business hours.

Ms. Suarez hopes to submit the survey in two weeks to the county planning and zoning department.

"We'll probably see a lot of consensus on possible problems and a lot of consensus on possible solutions," Ms. Suarez said of the survey.

The consultants also plan to observe parking and traffic patterns during a routine weekend this month. Studying traffic patterns is important, the consultants said, because it indicates who is using parking spaces and when.

"There are solutions here," Mr. Feinberg said. "It's not just physical design, but fiscal design."

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