Saying the spaces should be left to short-term shoppers and diners, members of the Parking Commission last week voted 3-2 against offering eight additional permits for the Park Street Lot.
Tucked behind Elm Street near the corner of Park, the 126-space lot already accommodates 36 “commercial permit” holders, 25 individuals with grandfathered permit spaces and about 17 municipal employees, officials say.
Issuing eight more permits for those who work downtown would squeeze out those seeking to pay by the hour for spaces in order to visit retail shops and restaurants, according to Parking Commission members who opposed the measure.
In addition, those who work downtown should be directed to buy a permit for lots located further from the center of town, such as on Locust Avenue or on the former Center School site along Maple Street, according to Commissioner Chris Hering.
“The further out you get, the longer you are able to park,” he said at the March 4 meeting, held in Town Hall. “By adding more Park Street permits, you are enabling people that you are trying to get to park further away, and you are reducing the number of high-turnover spots.”
Hering voted against adding the eight permits, along with Commission Secretary Pam Crum and Peter Ogilvie. Commissioner Laura Budd and Chair Keith Richey voted in favor.
In an effort to get those who work downtown out of coveted free parking spaces on Main and Elm, the town three years ago began offering a limited number of “commercial permits” in Morse Court and Park Street Lots. The program has proven popular, as permits for both lots are sold out, and there’s a waitlist of eight for Park Street, according to Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg.
Richey said he didn’t understand his fellow commissioners’ reluctance to expand the program to meet demand.
“This program has been a success,” he said. “People have used it. People have enjoyed it. The town hasn’t lost any money. It’s just a different way of collecting the revenue from people who use those spots. So I don’t understand why you want to make life difficult for people who are working in New Canaan. Because that is the only thing you’re achieving.”
According to Richey and Budd, no one now feeding a meter to pay hourly for spaces in Park Street Lot would be displaced, because those are the very people who would purchase a $438 annual permit.
Budd said, “People want to park close to where they are. A lot of permits go to real estate agents who want to come and go throughout the day. I know Rosie was really happy to grab some because they have catering. So they come and go during the day. And it’s the ability and not necessarily the money. A friend of mine who is a real estate agent said this has changed her life, and we are making less money out of her because she was paying so many tickets. It’s given people who need to get in and out of their car, or who want to park close to where they are—I know one woman who walks her dogs at lunch—we are giving them that flexility. They are paying a premium for it. We are giving them an option to park at Center [School] for the least amount of money. And now we are saying if you want to park close, they are paying for that.”
Yet most of the Commission was unswayed. Crum noted that if the eight additional permits were issued, just 48 spaces would remain for those seeking to park in the lot and pay hourly. Hering said that if the lot were re-striped and parking stalls made wider, it would probably lose at least two or three spaces.
Ogilvie asked who parks in the lot now.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, a guest at the meeting, said, “You are going through same debate the the utilization study is going to tell us. Because the consultants have to understand the complexity of our pricing and what time of day people are parking. It’s a very complicated picture.”
After the vote, Moynihan suggested the Commission “revisit” the matter.