Council introduces bill to build parking garage

$2.6 million in bonds issued by the state would fund project

January 08, 2002|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Looking to add more parking to downtown Westminster, the Common Council introduced an ordinance last night that would allow the city to use $2.6 million in state bond money to build a parking garage.

The city wants to fund the $2.5 million Longwell Parking Garage through the State Infrastructure Financing Program, part of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. The extra $100,000 would cover the costs of bond counsel, insurance, printing and related expenses.

"This is a big step toward the revitalization and continued redevelopment of downtown," said Council President Damian L. Halstad.

The city looked into a variety of ways to finance the Longwell Avenue garage before settling on the bonds, which allow the city to benefit from the state's credit rating, said Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro.

"The state sells the bonds," Pecoraro said. "We'll pay them back with interest."

Because the state intends to sell the bonds late next month, the Common Council had to call a special meeting to meet the deadline. The council first has to introduce the ordinance, hold a public hearing, then adopt the ordinance before the project can proceed.

"We have to act and get everything wrapped up before then," said Thomas B. Beyard, director of planning and public works.

The 2 1/2 -story parking deck would add about 200 parking spaces to the 125-space Longwell Avenue parking lot, which is in front of Westminster City Hall. Construction could begin in the spring, Beyard said.

More than 1,100 downtown parking spaces are on city-owned parking lots and at street meters, but merchants and shoppers have long requested that the city increase parking.

"People are waiting with bated breath for this," said Councilwoman Suzanne P. Albert, who originally opposed the deck but now supports it.

Mayor Kevin Dayhoff said that although he wanted the parking deck, he had concerns about how the city would repay the loan.

In a 1994 report on Westminster's downtown prepared by consultants HyettPalma of Alexandria, Va., 63 percent of the more than 200 city residents and downtown business owners surveyed rated the improvement and availability of downtown parking as "very important."

Also planned for downtown Westminster is a 162-space parking deck on the former Farmer's Supply site on Liberty Street, south of Main Street. The parking deck would adjoin a four-story office, retail and residential project known as Westminster Square. Construction on the deck is expected to begin soon.

The city will hold a public hearing on the Longwell Parking Garage during the council's regularly scheduled meeting Monday. The council likely will vote on the ordinance at that meeting.

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