Part of what makes downtown Ellicott City unique is also why we have so many challenges. Our downtown is situated in a granite-walled seam in the hills and graced with three rivers. Our natural boundaries and Mother Nature conspire to make sure we keep the character of Ellicott City –literally– down-to-earth.
That being said, our downtown is exactly what Main Street USA is about. It has resisted the homogenization of America, which is a huge benefit to us all.
One of a kind restaurants, retail shops, galleries, antique stores and confectioneries are a draw for visitors from all over Maryland, and have the potential to cast a much wider net for traveler dollars if we take advantage of some unique opportunities afforded by our location.
Below is a summary of what I have heard from citizens on their concerns about and vision for downtown Ellicott City
Vision 2024: We need to prioritize and establish consensus within the community about the future of downtown Ellicott City. I believe we should take advantage of our location and better leverage our historical and eco-tourism opportunities.
Eco and Historical tourism are rapidly growing industries that bring visitor dollars to the region without negative ecological impacts, and serve as a source for local jobs, and as additional revenue for restaurants and retail.
By working with the Ellicott City Historic Preservation Commission and the Patapsco Heritage Greenway organization we can identify the vision for our future together. We will keep our unique identity and grow in ways that establish us as a desirable destination, without destroying what makes us amazing.
Flood protection. We need to develop a 10 year infrastructure plan which reinforces the walls of the Tiber and Hudson rivers that wind down through Ellicott City and feed into the Patapsco. Maintenance of vegetation along these walls is critical in preventing the deterioration of the walls which ultimately leads to damming and flooding.
We also need to take a hard look at development upstream of our downtown. This may mean limiting upstream development. Clear-cutting areas by feeder streams and building homes using environmental waivers have disastrous long-term effects on our downtown and are simply unacceptable. We need to find ways to manage run-off and find alternate methods to mitigate flooding. Flood protection of downtown Ellicott City should be prioritized.
Parking. We need to reevaluate if parking enforcement on Main Street is negatively impacting customers and discouraging them from visiting our amazing downtown. We need to be more flexible on enforcement while encouraging customer turnover for stores.
We must be balanced in order to not discourage consumers. We can also make sure parking enforcement monies go back to Ellicott City investments. In the months after the system went online (February 2013 thru May 2013), 2,318 tickets were issued. Visitors who came to our downtown to shop and spend money in our local businesses instead have paid the county over $41,000 on tickets – four times more than the same period from the year before.
Some have had to go to court because the meter credit card system is faulty. How many of those visitors left with a bad impression? How many came back? How much of that revenue was folded back into the downtown community?
The parking system is potentially driving customers away and harming our incredible Main St businesses. Small business supporters will understand this delicate balance. We need to finalize a long term plan that expands parking. Ultimately, we must expand access and do it in a manner that doesn’t negatively impact the small businesses on Main Street. We have a geographic challenge, but that’s part of what makes our steep and stone-walled city so interesting.
Sidewalk maintenance. We need to make sure our sidewalks are safe. Recent investment in building a walkway down from the courthouse is a good start. We need to continue this investment across the historic area. Clean sidewalks in good repair create a welcoming and safe atmosphere. Pedestrian friendly crosswalks and seating at key locations will expand Ellicott City’s charm. Some recent proposals are heading in the right direction, but there is little point in making it lovely if all that work is flooded out during the next hurricane.
These are the main priorities I have been hearing consistently from people in the district. There are many others, but the above is intended to be a starting point for discussion. Let’s heighten our focus and identify the resources to showcase the best of Howard County. Ellicott City deserves to have a bright light shined on it. If government gets back to the basics, together we can make the County even better. If you elect me to office, I will be a true public servant and will apply my work ethic, experience, and passion for our community to make sure we accomplish our vision and goals together. I am asking for your vote on November 4th.
-Visit Kevin Schmidt’s website here.