Sale of Parkville parking lot opposed

Metered lot generates little revenue, Baltimore County says

April 13, 2010|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

At a ribbon-cutting in November to celebrate the completion of an 11-year, $9 million streetscape improvement project intended to bolster retail businesses in Parkville, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. invited shoppers to take advantage of free holiday parking at the newly landscaped lot on Lavender Avenue.

Five months later, the Baltimore County Revenue Authority is trying to sell the 56-space lot — and with it, the only metered parking in the area.

"The lot made less than $900 last year and less than $14,000 for the five years before that," said Lynnie Cook, the authority's executive director. "That does not even pay to resurface it. We are seeing a lot that is not being used at all."

Community leaders say ample parking has encouraged business owners to stay on Harford Road. Greater Parkville Community Council President Ruth Baisden, who attended the ceremony last fall, said she was "devastated" to learn of plans to sell the lot.

"The future of our business district is at stake," she said. "We can't attract business without parking."

Cook, whose quasi-governmental agency builds and operates parking facilities and golf courses in the county, said shoppers are finding street parking. He said the lot has never been a moneymaker, but a sale could provide funds for the authority's other assets.

An appraisal commissioned by the authority set the value of the half-acre at $278,000. Cook said one prospective buyer offered $325,000; he anticipates more bids.

Neighbors have asked the county to buy the lot, but a spokesman for Smith said fiscal conditions do not permit a purchase.

"The lack of use does not warrant our investment," spokesman Don Mohler said.

At the request of neighbors, state Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, a Democrat, introduced legislation that would have required the revenue authority to give the first right of refusal to the Parkville-Carney Business Association. The legislation was withdrawn when the authority agreed to wait six months before making a decision.

"We think six months is a reasonable request, and we will wait," Cook said. He said he would retain bids on the property.

Mohler said the prospect of a new, viable business rising on the site of the lot is good news for the revitalization effort. Neighbors counter that new businesses could choose from several vacant storefronts on Harford Road.

"We spent 11 years on the streetscape, which created an environment that would support existing business and attract more to the corridor," Baisden said. "The sale of this property will affect the stability of our business district."

Cook once lived in Parkville and used the lot, but most often at the free times.

"We respect what the community is going through," he said. "But we are running a business."

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