Downtown Westminster parking deck proposed Council also to get ideas on user-friendly signs, meter changes tonight

March 11, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The latest initiative in Westminster's decade-old discussion of downtown parking is a proposal to make parking meters and signs more user-friendly and eventually to build a parking deck.

The City Council is scheduled to hear recommendations at tonight's meeting from a seven-member committee that reviewed downtown parking proposals contained in a 1995 study.

Committee Chairman and City Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard said the new proposal is different from other parking problem remedies that have been offered since 1986, because it requires a "This is what we're going to do" commitment from the council.

Mr. Beyard said he was pleased with how the committee worked. "People have really been approaching this from, 'What can we do?' rather than arguing about the problem," he said.

Council members generally reacted favorably to an outline of the proposals they received last week.

Among the committee's recommendations:

Change all meters to accept nickels, dimes or quarters. Standardize charges at 25 cents an hour for all meters except those in front of the post office, which would remain 5 cents for 30 minutes. The changes would be phased in by June 30, 1998.

Build a parking deck by June 30, 1999, probably on the Longwell or Sherwood parking lots. Mr. Beyard said the deck probably would be one level above ground, designed to add levels as needed.

Phase in an increase in monthly parking permit fees from $10 to $20, with the additional income to help pay for the parking deck. The $10 fee generates about $50,000 a year, City Finance Director Stephen V. Dutterer said. The fee would rise to $15, then to $20 by July 1, 1997.

Retain a consultant to develop signs directing drivers to parking areas and promote free parking after 3 p.m. Parking meters have been free after 3 p.m. for several years, but the 1995 study concluded that many drivers didn't know it.

Install meters in front of the Courthouse Annex, 55 N. Court St., and limit parking to one hour at the request of Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. The judge reported that courthouse employees are using the spaces for workday parking.

The committee decided against recommending any changes in the Sherwood lot, despite crowding in late morning and early afternoon. Mr. Beyard said the committee felt that free parking on the lot is a plus for downtown businesses.

Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro said he wasn't sure the council would endorse the parking deck timetable. "Two things are clear," he said. "We need to find a way to create more short-term parking in the downtown area so shoppers can come in for just an hour, [and] we need to seriously think about when we need to plan for a parking deck."

Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said he supports a parking deck, but added, "We can certainly wait five years or more" to build it.

The Greater Westminster Development Corp., an organization of local merchants, supports the recommended changes. President James H. Dulany said GWDC members recognize that "part of the problem is that shop owners and their respective employees are utilizing a lot of the available parking."

Mr. Dulany said he didn't know how to persuade downtown employers and employees to leave Main Street meters open for customers, other than to "try to impress upon them what we're trying to accomplish here."

Committee member Laurie Walter said she thinks the recommended changes will help alleviate confusion over whether the meters take dimes, nickels or quarters, and better signs will reduce confusion over where parking is allowed.

"Nobody likes to pay for parking. I don't like to myself. But the fact of the matter is, we have to monitor it, and we have to provide income," she said.

Pub Date: 3/11/96

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