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Private police force proposed to handle Ellicott City parking Officials also seek a one-hour limit for vehicles on Main Street


To help solve Ellicott City's parking woes, Howard County may hire private parking police.

Under a proposal to be introduced Nov. 6 at the Howard County Council meeting, the county would hire the private ticket writers and free regular police officers of the time-consuming duty.

Officials also want to limit parking on Ellicott City's Main Street to one hour.

Ellicott City places no time limits on parking on Main Street, only on some side streets.

Additionally, the council plans to place parking meters in four Ellicott City lots, but not along Main Street, said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning.

Coins from the meters would pay for the private parking regulators -- as they do in Baltimore and Montgomery counties.

"We think this will improve the situation," Ms. McLaughlin said, warning that parking will never be perfect in the historic town known for narrow streets and antique shops.

"It will never be like a mall. It's just not the nature of Ellicott City," she said.

For about 18 months, the Ellicott City Parking Committee has studied ways to get workers and shoppers in and out of stores while permitting traffic flow along Main Street.

Two Main Street antique dealers reached Friday were not happy with the proposals.

"I'm totally against it," said Charlene Townsend, owner of Maxines Antiques & Collectables. "If [shoppers] get a ticket, they're not going to come back."

Amy Nelson, of Caplan's Antiques, also described the proposals as a deterrent to shoppers.

"I can't imagine feeding a meter just to come shop at a tourist attraction," she said.

But Ms. McLaughlin said the policies will free parking on Main Street.

Shoppers get tickets so rarely, they have flouted regulations intended to keep clear shop and restaurant loading zones along Main Street, she said.

The private ticket writers also would enforce a proposed regulation to limit parking on Main Street to one hour, a plan about which the antiques dealers also complained. Visitors tend to stay for more than an hour, they said.

Ms. McLaughlin hopes the new parking policies will go into effect by March.

Eventually, she said, the county will have to build a parking deck to serve Ellicott City. The meters would be a start for collecting money to pay for the deck, she said.

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