Residents plan rally to keep parking in Parkville

Protest planned to oppose lot sale by Revenue Authority

March 31, 2011|By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

Parkville-area residents plan to hoist picket signs, unfurl a banner and take to the street once again Friday evening to save a parking lot on Harford Road they say is essential to the survival of their community's main street.

For the second time in 12 months, the area community association and business organization are calling for a rally at the Lavender Avenue parking lot in hopes of persuading the Baltimore County Revenue Authority not to sell the lot and to keep its 56 metered and two handicapped parking spaces available to the public.

"We're very frustrated," said Ruth Baisden, president of the Greater Parkville Community Council, which is co-sponsoring the rally. "We want our community's desires and voices to be heard."

"This is the main street of Parkville," said Ed Pinder, who chairs the Lavender Avenue lot committee for the Parkville/Carney Business and Professional Association. "You're talking about the parking lot across from a very stressed area" with 11 empty storefronts. Any hope of filling those spaces will hinge on parking, Pinder said.

"It's really going to make or break if we're going to attract new businesses," Baisden said.

Baisden and Pinder said they expect 40 to 50 people to show up for a protest between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. being billed as the "Park-In for Parkville II." As they did for the rally April 22 last year, the organizations will be handing out handmade picket signs emblazoned with messages such as "Save Our Shops," and "Passionate for Parking Here," and displaying a banner: "Save Parkville's Parking."

The two activists wondered why the Revenue Authority would consider selling the lot now, when it was only two years ago that the area completed a years-long state-county project to improve the streets, including rebuilding the entrance of and landscaping the Lavender lot. The point of that $9 million effort was to make the area more attractive for business and shoppers, they said.

The Revenue Authority, which owns the lot, has made no decision about selling it, but last year asked for bids and received three responses, which have not been made public. The subject of the Lavender Avenue lot was on the agenda for the authority's regular meeting Thursday, but that meeting was postponed for lack of a quorum and rescheduled for April 28.

County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, who represents the Parkville area, said Thursday that she opposes selling the lot. This week, she wrote to Revenue Authority Chairman Donald P. Hutchinson emphasizing the "important role that the Lavender Lot serves in sustaining the local business establishments along Harford Road and the Greater Parkville community as a whole."

Hutchinson — whose agency runs parking garages and public golf courses, operating independently of county government — did not return phone calls seeking comment for this article. The authority's chief executive, William L. Cook II, was out of the office and was said to be unavailable Thursday.

Cook was quoted in an article in the Northeast Booster newspaper last spring calling the Lavender lot "grossly underperforming." A Baltimore Sun article last year quoted Cook saying the lot made less than $900 in 2009 and $14,000 over the previous five years. Cook said one prospective buyer offered $325,000.

The lot — where parking costs 50 cents per hour between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. — brought in $5,000 in gross receipts in 2010, said Wayne Mixdorf, the authority's parking director.

That's 5 percent of the sum brought in by a comparably sized lot at Allegheny and Washington avenues in the much busier area of Towson, the county seat, where the parking rate is a dollar per hour, Mixdorf said.

The Lavender lot was nearly even or better in revenue in 2010 than lots in Essex and Arbutus, which also charge 50 cents an hour. A 31-space lot off Selma Avenue in Arbutus brought in less than $500 in 2010, and another with 48 spaces raised about $5,000 in meter fees and leases, Mixdorf said. Two lots in Essex with 72 spaces combined brought in about $10,000.

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