Council Relents On Parking Fees

Garages Will Charge Less Than Originally Budgeted

August 02, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

The Annapolis City Council has voted to reduce a fee increase at three city-owned parking garages, responding to complaints from the business community that higher rates would drive away visitors and hurt downtown businesses.

Monthly passes at the Gotts and Hillman garages will still increase, but not to the same level approved under a rate plan passed in the city's 2010 budget. Those plans called for increases in the parking rates as high as 60 percent.

The biggest jumps were at the Hillman garage on Duke of Gloucester near Main Street, which was scheduled to begin charging $275 for a monthly pass, up from $175. Last week's council vote will set that rate at $225. At the Gotts garage on Calvert Street near West Street, a monthly parking pass will now cost $190, up from the original rate of $175 but lower than the increased rate of $250. At the Knighton Garage on West Street, the price of a monthly parking pass will dip lower than the original price - decreasing from $150 to $125. It was originally to be increased to $225.

Business owners in downtown Annapolis had decried the increased rates as an affront to their viability. The discussion of parking issues in downtown has grown increasingly heated since the opening last October of Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, a $400 million shopping and entertainment complex on the edge of the city. Some have said the development is threatening downtown Annapolis' role as the major retail and tourist draw in the city.

Robert O. Shuetz, director of central services, said an examination of the city's parking revenue showed a significant increase in hourly-rate parking, projecting a higher revenue stream for the year.

Those findings were reported to the Economic Matters Committee, chaired by Sheila Finlayson, a Democrat representing Ward 4, and the Finance Committee, chaired by Sam Shropshire, a Democrat representing Ward 7. Both committees supported the changes.

The council also decreased the flat fee nightly rates at the three garages from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. The rate will fall from $6 to $4 at Hillman; from $5 to $3 at Gotts; and from $5 to $2 at Knighton.

Alderwoman Classie Hoyle, a Democrat representing Ward 3, said that although the council had decreased some of the fees, if revenues don't meet expectations, more changes could be made.

"We certainly want to say to the community that these recommendations are based on what happens in the future," Hoyle said. "They're not etched in stone. If revenue doesn't happen as we've predicted, we'll come back and look at things again, in either direction. Absolutely."

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