Thursday, June 7, 2007

Parking meter rates to go up in July

Additional revenue expected to help build proposed College Park parking garage

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Beginning July 1, it will cost 75 cents per hour to park at a meter in College Park.

Currently, drivers pay 55 cents per hour to park on city-owned streets and 50 cents per hour on non-city-owned streets, such as Route 1, which is owned by the state.

The City Council approved the change May 22 to one flat price to eliminate the disparity in fees and help pay for a proposed 300-space, five-level parking garage at Yale Avenue and Knox Road.

‘‘You get the same value for various coins,” which was not the case before, said Stephen Groh, the city’s finance director.

Officials, residents and business owners spoke in favor of the garage during a May 29 hearing, stating it is needed to alleviate a parking crunch downtown.

So far this fiscal year, which ends June 30, the city has collected $385,716 from the meters and expected to reap $425,000. Groh expects the city to reap an additional $212,500 the next fiscal year as a result of the increase.

Parking fees for less than an hour are also increasing. It will cost a nickel to park for four minutes, a dime to park for eight minutes, 20 cents to park for 16 minutes and a quarter for 20 minutes, according to the ordinance. Currently, a nickel provides six minutes on city streets and seven minutes on non-city-owned streets.

It will take until July 1 for the change to take effect because of the need to recalibrate the city’s 737 meters, Groh said.

After July 1, the meter money will go into a parking debt service fund, which some city officials hope to use to help pay for the parking garage.

The change was not unanimous. Councilman John E. Perry (Dist. 2) abstained, and Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3) was absent. The other six council members voted in favor.

Perry said he felt a decision should be made about whether to build a parking garage on a 13,000-square-foot parcel of land on Yale Avenue before changing the meter rates. City officials have long debated whether to build the garage, which would cost $8 million to build and would charge a parking fee. The construction money would come from bonds, the city’s reserve fund, which currently has about $5 million, and the parking debt service fund.

Some officials said that revenue generated by the garage would offset its building costs.

Mayor Stephen A. Brayman said the garage is needed in the city to alleviate a parking crunch and the rate increase will help make the construction a reality.

Ted Ankeney, president of Downtown College Park Management Authority, a business group, told the council his members favored the increase.

Resident Jack Robson said because the city is home to a large university, many of whose students are from wealthy families, the city could afford a larger increase.

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