The volunteer commission that oversees municipal parking lots in New Canaan last week upheld a $20 ticket issued to a town woman, despite her insistence during a public hearing that she deserved a pass because her dermatologist had been running late.
Kristen Schlim told the Parking Commission during its May 5 meeting that she had been undergoing a cosmetic procedure at Morse Court and was “shocked” and “annoyed” on emerging to the lot there to find a ticket saying she had overstayed by nine minutes.
“In my opinion, there’s not a lot I could do,” Schlim told the commissioners at their regular meeting, held at Town Hall. “I made a very reasonable estimate of how long I thought I was going to be in there, and she [the dermatologist] was running late. You can’t really leave once you’ve started a procedure so I just thought, ‘Why don’t I write a letter and explain?’ I was nine minutes late, I put a normal amount of money in the meter. What’s the big deal? I love to shop in New Canaan. Why would you want to make somebody pay a $20 ticket over something like that?”
The commission voted 5-0 to uphold the ticket.
Chairman Keith Richey told Schlim that if she wanted a “safety margin” to ensure she wouldn’t overstay her parking time, that she simply could have paid for it.
“It will cost you a quarter,” Richey said. “Fifty cents.”
Schlim reiterated that it is “not easy to leave when you are in the doctor’s office” and “very hard to predict how long you are going to be somewhere.”
“If I were on Parking Commission and I wanted people to think favorably and shop in town and not think, ‘Oh, I’m going to go to Bloomingdale’s instead for my clothes so I don’t have to worry about it,’ I would have a 10-minute or 15-minute grace period. Why wouldn’t they?”
Though she argued her case, Schlim maintained at the same time that it wasn’t worth her time to do so.
She opened her defense before the commission by stating: “My girlfriends are all out tonight at a festivity thing that I wanted to be at, so this is not worthy.”
“It is not worth it to me personally—it is not worth $20 to give up my Thursday night to come here,” Schlim told the commissioners, who have given up their own Thursday nights, six times per year—in some cases for nearly two decades—to review and hear appeals, and advise town officials on parking matters.
When Schlim asked rhetorically “why in a nice town like New Canaan are they making people who shop a lot” pay a fine for overtime parking, a straight-faced Richey replied: “Because we’re just mean.”
He quickly added: “Tell us about your ticket.”
To that Schlim replied: “I don’t really care that much about my ticket, but I will tell you why I was annoyed.”
When Richey asked where the appointment was, Schlim gave the name of a local dermatologist and said she was having a “cosmetic procedure” done. An attendee at the meeting clarified for Schlim that the commission only wanted to know in which lot she had parked her car.
Schlim said she filed a written appeal of her ticket and only decided to come to the Parking Commission to argue her case in person after a positive, in-depth conversation with an employee of the New Canaan Parking Bureau.
Richey asked: “Why would you think, whether you show up or write the letter that when you are telling us you overstayed your time by nine minutes, that we would listen favorably to your appeal?”
The commission during its meetings typically discusses each in-person appeal and then, later, votes to void or uphold the ticket. The group took 12 seconds to vote 5-0 in favor of upholding Schlim’s ticket. The only comments were made by Richey. He noted that, in effect, the appealing party’s perception of herself was perhaps at odds with others’.