Wiltondale residents seek to limit Towson University student parking in the neighborhood

Some residents of Towson’s Wiltondale neighborhood say students from nearby Towson University are crowding them out of the community’s available on-street parking spaces.

As a result, Baltimore County Department of Public Works officials will host a public hearing Tuesday on whether to expand residential permit parking in the neighborhood.

“On most days I’ll come home from work and there will be no spaces in front of my own house to park,” Wiltondale resident Craig DeMallie said. “That’s the case with most of the people. It’s a safety and quality of life issue.”

However, not all residents agree that expanding the number of permits in the neighborhood would solve the problem. Some say the permits will merely shift student parking deeper into the neighborhood, farther from Towson University, where residents would have to apply separately to get their section of the neighborhood permitted if they desired.

The permits that officials are considering would allow residents on Worcester Road, between York Road and Aintree Road, and on Aintree Road, between Worcester Road and Coventry Place, to receive permits to park on the street at a cost of $32 for first-time applicants and $12 for each year after that. Fees are waived for those over the age of 65. The permits would restrict parking along the roads to permit holders only for a certain amount of time each day. The time frame is yet to be determined.

A portion of Worcester Road is already limited to three-hour parking for residents and non-residents alike, but residents say the limit is rarely enforced and that students regularly overstay the limit.

In addition, parking along Cedar Avenue in Wiltondale is restricted to permit holders from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Under the Baltimore County Code, residents may petition county officials to do a parking study to determine if a problem exists. If more than 65 percent of residents favor the permitting, the Department of Public Works conducts a study and presents its findings at a public hearing.

In response to a neighborhood petition circulated earlier this year, county officials surveyed portions of Aintree and Worcester roads on four dates in September and October, according to Department of Public Works spokeswoman Lauren Watley.

The results of the study showed that non-resident-owned automobiles exceeded resident-owned automobiles on all but one of the survey days. On the first day surveyed, Sept. 18, county officials found an equal number of resident and non-resident vehicles parked on the roads, Watley said.

The department’s recommendations for the permits will be presented to the public Dec. 5, after which they will go to Baltimore County Councilman David Marks for consideration.

Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, said he will attend Tuesday’s meeting with an “open mind” before making a decision on whether to introduce legislation to establish the permitted zone. The enactment of the zone would then go to the Baltimore County Council for approval, Marks said.

Paul Hartman, a member of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations’ university relations committee, said overflow parking in Towson neighborhoods has been an issue since at least 1988, when he moved into his Aigburth Manor home. The umbrella civic organization represents Towson neighborhoods. while the committee works to improve relations between the university and the greater Towson community.

“On-street parking is at a premium and that’s why the permits are necessary,” Hartman said.

However, Hartman said when permit parking is added, students move along to other streets that have free parking.

“You squash a balloon and it’s going to blow up on the other side,” Hartman said. “It’s to be expected.”

The plan to enlarge the East Towson residential parking permit zone to include portions of Aintree Road and Worcester Road has garnered support from a majority of Wiltondale residents, DeMallie said.

Of the owners or occupants of 17 homes that would see parking restrictions added to the front of their residences, 15 support the permits as the only way to alleviate the problem of students parking in the neighborhood, said DeMallie, who lives on Worcester Road.

DeMallie said some students may choose to park farther along the road to avoid the permit restrictions but that it would then be up to those residents to apply for permits or for the university to make parking more affordable for students.

“There will probably be some degree of shift,” DeMallie said. “Some will find spaces elsewhere or go farther down Worcester or go to Yarmouth [roads]. We’re the latest domino in this parking shift that’s occurring.”

Jim Kirschner, who lives on Worcester Road, said he is not sure that permit parking is the solution to solving the community’s parking woes.

“People park in front of my house all the time, but they’re there during the day and then they leave,” Kirschner said. “It’s part of living where we live. I’m not sure permit parking is the solution to stop it.”

Kirschner lives on a portion of Worcester Road that is adjacent to, but not part of, the section of the street that would receive the permitted parking under the county’s proposal. He believes more students would park in front of his home if the permits are approved, he said.

Though “sympathetic” to the lack of parking, Kirschner said it should be up to Towson University officials to come up with a solution.

“As Towson has grown, the impact of students parking in the neighborhood has grown but that’s a natural part of the growth of the university and Towson,” Kirschner said. “The university needs to alleviate parking conditions, not the residents who live there.”

One way to do that would be to lower the cost of permits, Kirschner said.

Students must purchase parking permits to park on campus. The permits range from $35 for a five-day school week to $349 for the school year, according to the university website.

Towson University spokeswoman Kelly Nagle said the university encourages the campus community to avoid parking in nearby commercial lots or neighborhoods through internal communications and in the parking section of the university website, Nagle said.

The university has ample on-campus parking with an average of 600 to 700 empty spaces each day and an extensive shuttle network for its 23,000 students, she said.

Of the 600,000 shuttle rides taken per year, half are off-campus users, she said, adding that the shuttle routes have been so successful that the university is in the process of adding additional buses on existing routes to meet the demand.

“We encourage our campus community to be good neighbors and utilize the campus parking garages and shuttles,” Nagle said.

The public meeting on the permits will be at 6:30 p.m. in the Lutheran Room of Ascension Lutheran Church, at 7601 York Road, in Towson.

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
36°