Residents of the Historic District are also shoppers, so where, one Main Street resident wanted to know, do residents fit in the county’s new parking project?
“Please keep this in mind,” Kelly Secret said at a meeting held Tuesday evening to address residential parking solutions. “We spend more money in town than any tourist."
About 30 people attended the meeting with Department of Planning and Zoning Director of Special Projects Stephen Lafferty to express concerns and offer suggestions for a residential parking program.
At a meeting on Aug. 21, County Executive Ken Ulman announced a plan to install multi-space parking meters on Main Street and Maryland Avenue and to introduce "Parker," a phone application that uses underground sensors to map out where, at any moment, there are available parking spaces.
The plan was guided in part by a study done in 2009 by Desman Associates. One of the study’s recommendations was to “develop a lower cost employee- and resident-parking program at the rate of $30 per month for peripheral lots and $50 for core lots.”
The study refers to lot D, behind the Howard County Welcome Center, and lot E, behind Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, as “core lots.”
But at the time the parking changes were announced, there was no plan to create residential parking program.
At Tuesday's meeting, held at St. Paul's Church, several Historic District residents said they were concerned that once meters went into effect – after Jan. 1 – visitors would look for free parking on the side streets.
“If we could get resident parking on the spillover streets,” a Merryman Hill resident said, “That would be greatly appreciated.”
The 15-minute grace period for meters, others noted, was not long enough for residents to bring groceries up to their apartments or shuffle loads of laundry from the laundry mat. "Sometimes it takes 15 minutes just to cross the street" one resident chimed in.
In addition to residential parking zones, where parking would be restricted to residents who obtained parking passes from the county, other suggestions included:
- Free parking using residential parking cards that residents would use in the parking meters. Having a card would alert the meter – and parking enforcement - that the user was a resident and, therefore, did not have to pay.
- Two additional hours of free parking during the week for residents.
- Street parking spaces dedicated to residents at certain times of the day
- A trolley service between the Historic District and outlying parking lots.
The meeting was the first step in a discussion between the county and residents, according to Lafferty. On Wednesday he said that there were “multiple ideas” that he would present to a group including the Departments of Finance and Public Works, the County Executive’s office and the Central parking vendor, among others.
Lafferty said Tuesday evening that he did not expect a solution by the time the county turned on the meters - Jan. 1. or soon thereafter.