Commuters, residents vie for Halethorpe parking

New spaces for MARC due by end of 2002

April 06, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The parking chess match begins shortly after 7 o'clock every morning at the MARC train station in Halethorpe.

Cars spill out of the 350-space parking lot onto the street, like 10 pounds of potatoes trying to fit into a 5-pound bag. The drivers take every strip of legal asphalt on both sides of Southwestern Boulevard before they run to catch the train to Washington.

But when the cars overflow from Southwestern into the adjacent neighborhood streets, the true battles begin. Neighbors tired of the auto invaders do everything they can to preserve the parking spots in front of their houses. They use signs, trash cans, lawn chairs or nasty notes under the windshield to dissuade parking.

"They tend toward vigilante parking control," said Jason Kerpelman, who catches the 7:42 a.m. train to Washington. "They forget it's a public street."

The neighbors see it differently.

"They're a pain in the backside," Judy Kaiser of the 1400 block of Avon Court said of the train riders. "I feel sorry for these people, but I live here and there are many times when I can't park at my house. All of us are tired of it."

The problem isn't going to end soon. MARC has purchased property as part of a $3 million plan to build a 428-space lot adjacent to its current Halethorpe space. That project, which involves demolishing a building, isn't expected to be completed until December next year.

The continuing dispute has forced Baltimore County police to act as referees.

"It's usually a resident calling with a complaint," said Officer William Rubie. "When they're legally parked we can't do anything about it, and when they're illegally parked we issue a citation."

So neighbors continue doing what they can to keep space open near their homes. Dale Wheeler acknowledges that on trash day she puts her refuse in the street to protect her parking spot.

"We feel like we're being invaded; we really do," Wheeler said. "I've been cussed out by several riders before. They leave their trash, and they're rude."

The operator of Captain Dick's Crabs Galore on Southwestern Boulevard applied to the county and received a sign outside his establishment that limits parking to two hours.

Another resident built a parking pad behind his house.

"Knock on the doors of any of the people around here and you'll get an earful," said Vincent Jordan, operator of Captain Dick's. "It's aggravating."

Commuters such as Bobby Coleman understand. Coleman said he tries not to park in front of people's homes.

"If I lived over here, I'd be [angry] every day," he said.

"I've incurred the wrath of the neighbors," said another commuter, Charles Oppenheimer of Catonsville. "One lady came out and called me a four-letter word."

Neighbors say they feel they have no choice but to push back at the daily car invasion.

"We're not a parking spot," Kaiser said.

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