Street of gold Howard County: Ellicott City's historic district should share in parking plan's success.

March 25, 1997

PARKING VIOLATORS aren't cheering, but the new parking system for Ellicott City's historic district has generated a windfall since it took effect last July. Parking enforcers have dished out $85,514 in tickets, plus change, from new meters. Parking spaces are easier to find to the delight of shoppers and tourists, at least to those who don't overstay their welcome.

Except for special occasions, there never has been a lack of parking spaces in the historic district. The area has 1,050 spaces, including 180 on Main Street. The plan simply sought to regulate the way spaces are allocated.

"I no longer feel I have to be the first person in Ellicott City in order to get a parking space," remarked Eileen Strange of Reisterstown. Hers was exactly the response planners had sought.

Merchants complained -- some still do -- that time limits and meters would hurt their businesses. It has, more than likely, done the opposite. Store owners and their employees no longer are taking prime spaces in front of shops that should be left to customers. They should reap more good than harm from the change.

A bigger benefit to them could come if Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of planning and zoning, succeeds in her effort to recycle revenue from tickets and meters back into the community. Ms. McLaughlin says she will ask Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker and the County Council to create a separate fund for parking revenues collected in the historic district. That could happen next fall, after the county pays a private enforcement contractor and covers the cost of installing meters.

There is no reason for money from parking fines in Ellicott City to go into the county general fund. The intent was not to seek a new revenue stream for Howard government.

This money could, however, help build a parking garage that shop owners want and possibly help promote and beautify one of Maryland's most attractive downtowns.

The area is a major tourist attraction and premier dining center in the county, with its fine collection of restaurants, antique stores and specialty shops. The new parking system has not come without controversy and rancor.

But businesses should be pleased that the plan has accomplished its main goal: satisfying customers.

Pub Date: 3/25/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.