Parking lot dispute causes uproar in Little Italy Request to use the site for 125 vehicles creates tension in community

August 03, 1996|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

An article in the Aug. 3 editions of The Sun on a dispute in Little Italy should have identified the owner of a Central Avenue property as the Baltimore International Culinary College, which hopes to open its School of Culinary Arts there.

The Sun regrets the errors.

A recent proposal to get scores of cars each day off the streets of Little Italy, where parking is a source of constant tension between residents and restaurant owners, should have made everyone happy. But in this historic enclave east of downtown, it caused an uproar.

The dispute revolves around whether a vacant parking lot on Central Avenue should be used to provide valet parking for customers of the area's restaurants.


Roger Chylinski, owner of the lot, approached the community's building committee to inquire of any concerns residents might have about using the site for commercial purposes. Chylinski made the inquiry in February after Harold's Valet Parking Inc. asked to lease the space for $1,500 a month.

Richard Ingrao and Robert Marsili, members of the building committee, responded to the Chylinski's query with a letter, but did not grant approval for commercial use of the lot, Marsili said. However, the letter began a battle royal between Marsili and Gia Blattermann.

"They didn't have the authority to respond," said Blattermann, who is one of six members, including Marsili and Ingrao, on an ad hoc leadership committee that represents 500 residents in Little Italy. The ad hoc committee was formed in May after leaders of the Little Italy Community Organization resigned. It will be in place until elections next month.

Chylinski bought the Central Avenue property -- the parking lot, with room for 125 vehicles, and the old No. 2 school -- from the city for $2 million in 1989. The sale agreement was amended in 1994, reducing the price to $60,000. The amendment was made so Chylinski could obtain additional loans to renovate the building, with the understanding that the Baltimore International Culinary College would open there within 48 months.

At a city Board of Estimates meeting, it was decided that a condition for approval of the amended agreement would be that the lot not be used for commercial purposes. It would be used free by students of the school, and on agreed-on dates by the community and nearby St. Leo's Roman Catholic Church, the board said.

However, the sale agreement did not include the condition in writing, which means it may not be binding.

"In my mind, Mr. Chylinski did what he was supposed to," Marsili said. "That lot is vacant right now. I say let them use it."

Blattermann also would like to see the lot used.

"I'm not against valet parking," she said. "What I'm against is the way [Marsili and Ingrao] tried to sneak this proposal past the community. The people did not have a chance to discuss it and vote on it. There are other issues involved here -- maybe the residents want some of the restaurant employees to park in the lot, instead of the diners, because right now they're one of our major problems."

Marsili said: "There was no reason to bring it before the community [because] we didn't grant approval for anything. We simply responded to a letter from Mr. Chylinski."

Residents said valet parking has made an already difficult parking situation worse because the valet drivers park on streets in the High Street corridor, especially in the evening when a two-hour parking limit in the area is not strictly enforced.

"I have to go out early and come back early because if I go out in the afternoon, I can't find a spot when I get home," said Rosaria Salconi, 82, a lifelong resident of Little Italy.

"The residential parking program works very well during the day," said Rosie Apicalla, one of five people on the community's parking committee, "but at night the meter maids are not as efficient, and cars don't get marked, so they don't move."

Harold McClelland Jr., owner of Harold's Valet Parking, said he encourages his 22 employees to park on Bank Street, two blocks from the center of the neighborhood.

"I tell my employees that if they do park in a two-hour residential zone and get a ticket, it's their responsibility," he said. "And last week I started a car pool program. Employees that car pool get to stay the latest, so they make the most money."

He provides service to six of the 10 Little Italy restaurants that have valet parking -- Sabatino's, Germano's, Capriccio, Ciao Bella, Panino's and Chiapparelli's -- and gets 800 to 900 cars off the street each week. The cars are parked in a lot at Exeter and Bank streets.

"I really don't understand what all the controversy is about," he said. "I'm just trying to get more cars off the street."

The Board of Estimates has asked real estate officer Anthony J. Ambridge to review the matter to determine "what was agreed to particularly what was agreed to in writing -- and the contracts that actually resulted."

Pub Date: 8/03/96

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