Bill seeks to ease parking woes

Annapolis official urges residents' input on proposal

January 21, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,[sun reporter]

Seeking to ease the downtown parking crunch, an Annapolis alderman has introduced a bill that would step up enforcement, establish a parking fund and enhance the shuttle service.

The legislation, which is the subject of a public hearing tomorrow night, also calls for organizing a new parking commission and expanding the role of the city parking coordinator.

Alderman Richard E. Israel, making good on a campaign pledge to look closely at the parking in the historic district, has been meeting with business owners and residents over the past weeks to get input on the ordinance.

"We're trying to reconcile the 17th-century street plan with the motor vehicle age," said Israel, a Democrat who represents downtown. "This isn't the definitive solution because we can't solve the parking problem, but we can manage it."

Israel said the city should expand Annapolis Transit's shuttle service for long-term parkers who use Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium outside of downtown.

The city would aim to limit the monthly permit holders for municipal garages to about 60 percent of capacity to make room for customers whose stays exceed two hours. The number has climbed to as much as 80 percent in recent years.

In a companion resolution, Israel is proposing an escalating fine schedule rather than a flat $25 fee for parking violations.

Revenues would go to the new parking fund, which would help pay for the shuttles and expanded policing.

A parking committee made up of representatives of St. John's College, the Naval Academy and business owners would be assisted by a full-time parking coordinator who would report to the mayor. Chuck Weikel is the city's part-time coordinator.

Israel is lobbying to have the surface parking lot adjoining the House Office Building open to the public after business hours and on weekends.

Many of Israel's recommendations are in keeping with the findings of the city's parking price committee, which issued a report in March 2005.

Weikel, chairman of that committee, said the legislation was "pretty common-sense and noncontroversial."

He said that Hillman garage on Duke of Gloucester Street will be refurbished within the next five years and that the city has to make every effort now to minimize the disruption.

Chance Walgran, manager for Laurance Clothing on Main Street and a member of the Annapolis Business Association, said he supported Israel's ideas.

"The problem with parking is that we don't have good viable alternatives right now," he said. "It will get better if we can find a way to move employees into better parking situations."

Often employees end up parking on residential streets, Walgran said.

For residents, the concern is that downtown employees and visitors are taking up the few available parking spaces in their neighborhoods.

Carl Larkin, who lives on Prince George Street, said he rarely lands a parking spot in front of his house. He often ends up a few blocks from his front door.

"I don't think they are going to find spaces for the residents to park near their homes all the time," Larkin said. "But Alderman Israel has come up with a reasonable and balanced compromise."

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