The Howard County Council is the first county legislative body in the state to request the Maryland Public Service Commission to investigate electric power reliability in certain areas of the county and the first to institute a tax credit to encourage property owners to make their homes more accessible to seniors and persons with disabilities.
Both proposals passed unanimously on Monday, Oct. 1.
In addition, the council voted to increase the maximum parking meter fees that can be charged in downtown Ellicott City to $1 per hour along Main Street and Maryland Avenue and 50 cents per hour in the four off-street lots.
Fulton Republican Greg Fox was the only council member to vote against the parking meter fee increase.
"I have a lot of concerns," Fox said, noting there are several issues still unresolved, such as how to accommodate parking for residents and loading/unloading for businesses.
Fox moved to table the legislation until some of those questions could be answered, but his motion did not get a second from any of the four Democratic council members.
The fee increase is a part of a larger effort by County Executive Ken Ulman to improve the parking situation in downtown Ellicott City.
A part of the plan is to meter Main Street and Maryland Avenue, where parking is currently free but limited to two hours during enforcement hours. Ulman's administration anticipates the meters, which will cost more than the metered spaces in the side lots, will help better promote turnaround of the 102 prime spots near various shops and restaurants. Parking in those spots will still be limited to two hours.
The metered spaces in the parking lots at the northern end of Main Street, one behind the old post office and one off Ellicott Mills Drive, will increase from 25 cents per hour to 50 cents per hour. The metered spaces in the two lots on the southern end of Main Street are already 50 cents per hour.
The 351 free spaces in the various lots will remain free.
Along with the new rates, the county is planning to replace the single-space meters with 13 multi-space meters to cover the parking lots and Main Street and Maryland Avenue. Each paid parking space will have a number for the parker to enter into the multi-space meter when he/she pays for the allotted time he/she plans to spend downtown.
The new meters are expected to be installed this month, but a date for the new fees to take effect has not been set.
In addition, Ulman is planning to have sensors installed in all 594 parking spaces downtown, both free and metered, to go with a smart phone and Web application called Parker that will show a live feed of what parking spaces are full and what parking spaces are empty.
The application, run by a San Francisco-based company called Streetline, will cost the county $148,000 for installation and initial hardware/software and then another $170,000 annually for Streetline to maintain the system.
Council member Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat whose district includes the historic district, said she's had several conversations with Main Street residents and business owners about the parking proposals.
"They do not agree on this," she said. "There are some that are in favor and there are some that are not in favor. And that's OK."
She said she talked to Ulman to ensure he includes their input as he moves forward with plans to address parking in Ellicott City.
"He did agree to certain provisions that he would pursue for downtown," she said.
Watson said Ulman promised his administration would meet with Main Street residents to discuss options for free residential parking, look at the possibility of a shuttle service for downtown Ellicott City during peak hours and create a parking oversight committee so residents and businesses can participate in the decisions being made going forward.
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