Angry residents persuade city to stop adding parking meters

North Charles Street plan halted until June meeting

April 16, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

New parking meters on North Charles Street have created such a community uproar that city officials have agreed "as a measure of good faith" to suspend installing meters in the area until after a public meeting in two months.

With the arrival of new businesses and the recent renovation of the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood building -- which includes dormitories, offices and retail space -- residents near 31st Street are angry that the meters threaten their free parking and may cause a shortage of spaces.

"This has polarized so many people," said Robin Kellogg, a longtime resident who helped organize a protest and petition against the sudden appearance of parking meters in the neighborhood. "This could squeeze residents out toward the boondocks."

City public works officials said meter installation will stop until a public meeting June 16 in Charles Village.

Harsh exchanges between about 60 residents and a few civic leaders at a two-hour meeting Wednesday night at Homewood Friends Meeting in the 3100 block of N. Charles St. fractured a few friendships and showed the breadth of the community row.

Sandra Sparks, chair of the Charles Village Planned Unit Development Committee, wrote a Feb. 3 letter to city public works Director George G. Balog, requesting meters on the 3200 block of St. Paul St. and other village locations to serve the commercial district.

Sparks' letter was discussed during a Charles Village Civic Association meeting in January -- but most people at Wednesday's gathering say they were blindsided by it.

"This project was almost finished, and it makes all the sense in the world," said Sparks, formerly the head of Greater Homewood Community Corp.

She expressed bewilderment that 20 or so parking meters -- in effect only during the day -- could cause such a furor.

Alice Brock, owner of Images coffee and stationery shop on St. Paul Street, said the problem was the process, in which not enough information circulated. "It was done with the best of intentions, but if you don't bring people in, you end up with a mess like that [Wednesday's meeting]."

But, she added, "There's no simple answer."

Mike Donnelly, owner of the new Rocky Run Tap & Grill across the street from Images, said he does not think having more meters is a plus. "If it was me, I'd leave it alone," he said.

Pub Date: 4/16/99

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