The county's parking proposals drew a lot of questions and mixed reactions.

"I'd like to make sure that the business owners can get free parking permits in the lots," said Sara Arditti, who — along with her husband, David Dempster — owns Still Life Gallery on Main Street.

The Los Angeles transplants moved to the area three years ago, lured by an opportunity to fulfill their dreams of owning an art gallery. The couple bought the gallery on Main Street in May.

Arditti said she and her husband park in the lot that is located by Old Columbia Pike, and "parking is fairly plentiful."


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However, she said she's seen and heard of many business owners who park along Main Street, taking spaces away from potential customers.

"This sounds like a practice that has to stop," Arditti said.

Len Berkowitz, owner of Great Panes glass studio, said the county may see its proposal as solving the parking problem, but he doesn't.

"I don't see it as adding more spaces," he said.

Berkowitz always envisioned two parking garages that would serve downtown — one on the south end of Main Street near Oella Avenue and one on the north end near Ellicott Mills Drive.

But after having owned his business for 33 years, and seen five county executives and dozens of master plans related to downtown Ellicott City, Berkowitz acknowledged: "There doesn't seem to be an easy solution to parking."

'Mini-parks'

The town hall was set up so that after Ulman and Lafferty gave remarks, the 100 or so attendees could approach tables, each presenting a different aspect of the county's downtown Ellicott City revitalization efforts.

Information was available on the redevelopment of the Hilltop housing complex, a low-income housing community in historic Ellicott City that is being transformed into a mixed-income community with more than double the number of current units. Construction began in December.

Howard County Housing Director Tom Carbo said the first 45 units in the development are expected to be finished in October for residents to move in that month or the next.

County Stormwater Manager Jim Caldwell was on hand to discuss storm-water improvements aimed at limiting downtown flooding. The county, he said, is "doing a study to follow the flow of water down through the channel and see where the choke points are."

In implementing storm-water controls, the county is also planning to open up the oft-hidden waterways.

"I would love to see some more gathering places that celebrate the water," Ulman said, noting the potential to create "mini-parks."

n said, noting the potential to create "mini-parks."