Planning Head Sees Ways To Expand Parking In Berlin

BERLIN – There may be more public parking available in the town of Berlin than common wisdom has shown, according to one town staff member, and increasing the numbers could cost the town very little.

During a Maryland Main Street Program meeting this week at The Globe, Berlin Planning and Zoning Director Chuck Ward told an assembly of local business owners that an internal parking study by town staff shows that the estimation of roughly 300 parking spaces in downtown Berlin is quite a bit lower than it could be.

The parking space numbers assessed include private and public lots as well as on-street parking.

Using the town’s Geographic Information System mapping capability, Ward said, staff analysis shows that Berlin could nearly double parking slots downtown if parking areas were designed and laid out more efficiently.

“There’s a lot more parking than what’s been discussed previously,” Ward said. “Our results indicate there’s a whole lot more parking than we thought.”

The lot east of Main St., behind Town Center Antiques and next to the current Berlin Senior Center, could add more spaces through better layout, for example. The ingress and egress points could also be better marked and enlarged to reduce confusion. Re-designing and re-striping the lot would be inexpensive, Ward said.

Terri Sexton, owner of The Treasure Chest in Berlin, hailed the idea as an easy fix to the town’s parking problems.

Parking is an ongoing concern for town business owners, particularly as the town works harder to attract more tourists from outside the area who are not familiar with the town or its basic facilities, such as parking.

Business leaders recently pursued a two-hour parking limit during business hours on Main St. and certain connecting streets, to ensure turnover and offer visitors a more convenient experience. Shop owners were concerned that people would not bother to stop if forced to seek parking on side streets or in obscure public parking lots.

Signs for the new parking restriction are ready and will be put up on local lampposts. Those signs incorporate Maryland State Highway Association standards and the historic, artistic look desired by the town. The $1,350 cost of the 18 signs was split between the town of Berlin and the Maryland Main Street program funding.