A proposal to limit parking outside homes near a major shopping center redevelopment in Hampden won preliminary approval in a tight vote by a divided Baltimore City Council Monday night.
The bill would create a resident-only parking zone in neighborhoods near The Rotunda shopping center, which is undergoing renovations to expand a movie theater and add restaurants, shops and 385 apartments.
The proposal originally limited visitors to one hour in the parking spots, but its sponsor, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, loosened it Monday to two hours in an attempt to allay fears that the measure was too harsh and would make the neighborhood seem inhospitable.
Those in opposition argue that the bill — which would affect stretches of Elm Avenue, 37th and 38th streets, Pleasant Place and other nearby roads — doesn't solve the parking issues, it merely pushes visitors away.
It passed with a narrow eight-vote majority: Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, Vice President Edward Reisinger, Bill Henry, Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, Sharon Green Middleton, William "Pete" Welch, Warren Branch and Clarke supported the bill.
Councilmen Nick Mosby, Robert Kraft and Eric Costello opposed the bill. Three others — Brandon Scott, Helen Holton and Carl Stokes — abstained, and Councilman Robert Curran left the chambers before the vote took place.
In his opposition, Mosby praised Clarke, who he said has "fought long, strong and hard" for her constituents' parking spaces, but he said he worries the problems will overflow into his district on the Northwest side of the city.
"It's not specifically in my area, but it impacts our area," he said.
Costello, who represents South and Central Baltimore, including the bar-heavy Federal Hill, objected because he said has seen restrictive residential parking measures fail in other areas.
Holton said she abstained because she wants to see a more comprehensive plan to provide better parking throughout the area, not just in a few neighborhoods.
Rene added, in an aside to Clarke, "It's their businesses. It's our lives."
Will Bauer, vice president of the Hampden Community Council, said the debate is being framed incorrectly as a conflict between merchants and residents. He said he and other residents in the council don't want to see a piecemeal approach to the issue.
"It creates a problem instead of solving one," he said, adding that such measures in other areas of the city have led to "serious tension among neighbors" over parking spaces.
"It puts a big sign up to visitors saying, 'We don't want you here,'" he said.
Clarke said the issue has been over-hyped. She pointed out that the area already has residential permit parking and said the bill would only update existing codes.