New Canaan’s local traffic authority voted unanimously Wednesday night to reject a proposal to start charging for parking on Main and Elm Streets.
The Police Commission voted 2-0 to deny the proposal for metered parking in the heart of the business district.
Chairman Sperry DeCew noted during the Commission’s regular meeting that officials are still investigating whether the business district can gain back 13 spaces lost last year due to the town’s decision to observe a state law regarding buffers near crosswalks.
“It was changed 50 years ago for pretty good reasons, and people have gotten used to having that enticement to shop and everything else,” DeCew said during the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department. He referred to the fact that Elm Street used to have parking meters.
“I have no inclination to change the current situation,” DeCew said.
He and Commissioner Jim McLaughlin voted 2-0 to deny the recommendation, which originated with the New Canaan Parking Commission. That appointed group had voted 3-2 at a meeting earlier this month in favor of the change, with advocates saying it didn’t make sense to offer up the most coveted spaces for free while charging for parking further out, and that it was the only way New Canaan would get employees of downtown businesses, stores and restaurants out of the free spaces designed to served shoppers and diners.
Asked for her opinion by the Police Commission, Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg, a guest at the meeting, said she personally didn’t support it.
“I don’t believe it would be beneficial to merchants or anybody coming into town to park,” Miltenberg said.
Another guest at the meeting, New Canaan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tucker Murphy, said the feedback she received on the idea of installing parking meters on Elm and part of Main has been negative. Murphy said that part of the problem now is many drivers on arriving in downtown New Canaan aren’t sure where they can park, adding that a soon-to-be-relaunched town website will include an interactive parking map showing motorists where they can park, for long long, at what cost and how many spaces are in different areas. In addition, Murphy said she’s working with public works, Planning & Zoning and parking officials on creating more helpful “wayfinding” signage for drivers.
“Believe it or not, I talk to many people who still don’t know where you can park or for how long,” Murphy said.
DeCew noted that the Parking Commission had provided no data or figures on the costs associated with installing meters.
McLaughlin said, “I think the annoyance factor would discourage people from parking.”
Commissioner Paul Foley was late to arrive at the meeting and missed the discussion and vote.