New Canaan is not enforcing parking regulations and will decide whether and how to do so as the business district reopens, the town’s highest elected official said last week.
Parking Bureau enforcement officers are not out in the streets ticketing motorists “nor are police writing tickets,” according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.
He told members of the Parking Commission at their most recent meeting that they should make a recommendation on what will happen after May 20, when some types of businesses—including restaurants with outdoor seating—can reopen or begin to operate in a more accustomed way.
“Are we going to charge parking meter fees?” Moynihan said at the May 7 meeting, held via videoconference. “There is a sense that we shouldn’t. And will we reinforce enforcement when the lots and the streets become utilized again?”
The comments came as town officials prepare to eliminate parallel parking on some streets downtown so that restaurants can bump out onto the sidewalk, expanding their outdoor dining space while providing a pedestrian walkway.
To the question of whether New Canaan should pick up enforcement of parking regulations at some point, Commission Chair Keith Richey said, “I think we have to, it’s a public safety issue.”
Referring to the narrowing of streets such as Elm after the conversion of parallel parking into pedestrian walkways, Commissioner Peter Ogilvie added, “And we are soon going to face double-parking issues.”
Commissioner Laura Budd said the town should address and adjust its enforcement of parking regulations “on a month-by-month basis,” as shoppers, diners and other visitors to the downtown get back up to pre-COVID-19 public health emergency levels.
“Right now it’s wide open,” Budd said of parking availability.
She added, “There are tons of spaces and I should we should look month-over-month. When things start to jam up, then yes. But at the beginning, you have people who have been unemployed. To be charging employees for parking when there’s empty spaces everywhere at the beginning? I can’t see that as fair. As things open up and we start to feel tension on the street, then yes. When people are circling, looking for spots. But certainly, not right away, on May 20th, should we start charging for parking.”
Commission Secretary Pam Crum voiced concerns about parking violations that pose a threat to public safety.
“You drive around downtown and you see people parking where they really shouldn’t be parking—in crosswalks, handicapped, whatever,” she said. “In front of fire hydrants.”
Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg said the Bureau’s enforcement officers could be used in a different way as the downtown reopens.
“If we do see someone parking illegally, just let them know that we are starting to open up again and we need people to start parking legally,”she said.
Miltenberg added, “I don’t think we should go out there hot and heavy at the beginning. I think we should slowly just kind of get people back used to how parking used to be.”
Because Elm Street is expected to have a different configuration after May 20, the enforcement officers could be used as “ambassadors” to let motorists know what’s happening, Moynihan said.
He added, “We never suspended the meters. The meters are there and some people have been depositing money, not realizing we don’t enforce them. Should we perhaps June 1st begin to tell people if they have to pay at the meters or not? That is a decision you can talk about and make a recommendation. I personally don’t care too much about revenues in the current circumstance. We are trying to help Elm Street get back on its feet.”