Many, if not most, Howard County residents would be hard pressed to say just where Oella is. Still, county residents owe the people of this small community a note of thanks for going along with plans for a parking lot that will help alleviate the long standing, mind-numbing, parking crunch in the business district of historic Ellicott City.
Plans for the 82-car lot, which would be constructed east of the Ellicott City shopping district on the Baltimore County side of the Patapsco River, were approved recently by the Greater Oella Community Association. The group's approval is thought to pave the way for approval by the Baltimore County Council, with construction expected in spring 1993.
Even infrequent visitors to Ellicott City's Main Street know the frustration that comes with trying to find a parking space along its narrow roads and off-street lots. Any relief is long overdue and welcome.
Still, 82 parking spaces will put only a small dent in the problem.
Recent studies suggest that the 863 spaces currently available are paltry compared with the need, which is nearly double that amount.
With Howard County pushing tourism more than ever, its historic district is expected to become even more of a focal point than it is today. Marketing plans currently under review include further redevelopment of the historic area, a look at development along the river and -- of course -- more parking for the shopping area.
The fact that officials from Baltimore and Howard counties were finally, after decades, able to bring the Oella parking lot plan to fruition bodes well for future growth on both sides of the Patapsco River.
Rightly, Howard County has agreed to foot most of the bill for the parking lot project. Also, as a concession to Oella residents, officials have agreed to plant 12 maple trees around the lot to protect residents living near the site from the glare of car and parking lot lights.
All of this is well worth the investment. The quaint row of restaurants, antique shops and gift boutiques that line Ellicott City's Main Street is one of the jewels of Howard County. It's good to see it getting even a small measure of the attention it deserves.