Mayor's first veto stops Hampden parking lot

O'Malley's action angers area merchants

July 12, 2000|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley used his veto powers for the first time yesterday to kill a bill for a public parking lot in Hampden.

The mayor's veto came as no surprise to area merchants. For weeks they have known that their hopes for a 27-space lot on Roland Avenue would not get past the mayor. Still, they expressed disappointment.

"We gave our full support to the mayor during the election," said Vincent R. Cuffari, owner of "The Avenue" Ice Cream Shoppe. "People don't forget. It's like, `We trusted you, and now you're doing us wrong.'"

O'Malley said he hopes a comprehensive study of Hampden's parking needs will offer a better solution than the proposed lot. He held out the possibility of a future proposal when the City Council reconvenes in September.

"I'm trying to do the best I can. What can I say?" said O'Malley, who met with Hampden business leaders yesterday. "I think that, overall, people just want to continue to see their neighborhood grow, and I think we'll be able to do that. We won't be able to do that on the back of this one parcel or on the back of this ... bill."

At issue are four parcels on Roland Avenue, north of West 36th Street.

Initially, the council bill would have allowed the Baltimore Development Corp. to condemn the properties and solicit proposals to develop the space. It was understood that Royal Farms, which has its corporate headquarters nearby, would have been able to buy the land and build a parking lot.

But area merchants rejected that idea, and the council adopted an amendment that would have designated the land for a public lot.

Merchants say public parking is in desperately short supply along West 36th Street. There are 172 businesses along West 36th Street, and 116 spaces with parking meters.

Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., a Democrat who represents the area, said a public lot with parking meters could bring in as much as $100,000 a year for the city. Mitchell said O'Malley's veto could harm the mayor politically in Hampden. t.

"In my opinion, he's definitely passing up a golden opportunity to keep the honeymoon going in Hampden," said Mitchell.

Wayne Gioioso Sr., who holds the mortgage on the land, is not taking sides on the matter.

"All I want is my money," said Gioioso. "I don't care if the city takes it. I don't care if Royal Farms takes it, just so long as they give me my money."

Alice Ann Finnerty, head of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, said she cannot understand why O'Malley vetoed a bill to help a thriving business strip in a city neighborhood.

"To me it seems like apple pie and motherhood," said Finnerty. "This is a community that has revitalized itself, rejuvenated itself."

O'Malley said he understands the concerns of Hampden's merchants and said he hopes a compromise can be found.

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