Municipal officials said last week that they need more information in order to green-light a proposal to set aside some parking spaces in downtown New Canaan for valet services on Friday and Saturday nights.
Town resident Billy MacLeod told members of the Police Commission during their regular meeting Sept. 15 that he conceived of New Canaan Valet Services when his disabled 82-year-old mother during two separate visits was unable to find parking in the business district.
Stations set up on Main, Elm and Forest Streets would offer to valet-park vehicles with certified disabled placards for free, while also making it more convenient for seniors to enjoy the downtown and improving traffic flow at areas that see frequent double-parking due to a lack of available spaces, MacLeod said during the meeting, held via videoconference.
“We are just trying to solve problem and willing work with town any way you need us to to make sure that it works for you and it works for the residents,” said MacLeod, a U.S. Navy veteran who has managed valet companies in the past. He added that the local restaurateurs he talked to have said they would validate the $10 valet parking fee for customers—essentially covering the cost for patrons of New Canaan businesses.
Yet Tucker Murphy, a staffer in First Selectman Kevin Moynihan’s office, said that though officials “applaud the out-of-the-box thinking, we still have some concerns.”
According to Murphy, “if we were to allow them to have any town-owned property locations, there would be some, some—and they have the insurance, which they’ve showed us, which is great—but we would have to work through that. I did make a preliminary call to our insurance company and there were some concerns, so we would just have to work through that.”
MacLeod during the meeting said ArmorPark, which he described as the number-one parking insurance company in the country, offered New Canaan Valet Services the following liability coverage and limits:
- Each occurrence: $1 million
- Generate aggregate: $2 million
- Personal and advertising injury: $1 million
- Products and completed operations aggregate: $2 million
- Damage to premises rented to you: $500,000
- Medical expenses: excluded
- Garagekeepers legal liability, per vehicle: $350,000
- Garagekeepers legal lability, per location: $1 million
Ultimately, the Commission decided to postpone a vote on approving the company’s use of proposed spaces downtown until Murphy had a chance to “find out what the town can or cannot do.”
“She will do her homework and see what the lawyers say, because I don’t know what our liability is,” Chair Paul Foley said.
MacLeod’s proposal called for use of spaces on the north side of Elm between the crosswalks where South Avenue comes in, the first three spaces that run south on Main Street from Burtis Avenue, and three spaces on Forest Street just after the disabled parking spot at the pocket park. He said New Canaan Valet Services, which he created and co-owns with his wife, Meredith, is willing to work with the town to find the best locations for a valet stand. The company is already planning to offer valet services for special events at Roger Sherman Inn, he said.
Foley said there are issues with the proposed use of parking spaces on Main and Elm. Main Street doubles as state Route 124 in downtown New Canaan and the municipality cannot allocate spaces such as MacLeod has suggested, he said. And the town doesn’t want any cars pulling into the areas between the crosswalks at South and Elm because state officials determined it’s unlawful to park there, Foley said. The town also plans to widen the sidewalks on the north side of Elm Street at that intersection, which would preclude parking in any case, he said.
Regarding Forest Street, Foley said that he would like New Canaan to consider removing the “bump-out” barriers, which would reopen about 10 parking spaces on the east side of the road that now are used as the travel way.
In response, MacLeod noted that even if the barriers are removed, the town would still have a problem of accessibility given that Forest Street is served by just one disabled space (just after the diner).
“We are not looking for a permanent approval here,” MacLeod said. “I think that if we can solve a problem on Forest Street and you can see the way we work, let us prove ourselves, get some good feedback to you on a timely basis, I think you would be pleasantly surprised.”
Foley said that the Commission would invite MacLeod back to a meeting in October or November after Murphy researches the liability issue. MacLeod said he would like to be up and running by the holiday season. The valet services could be activated not only on weekend nights for restaurant patrons but also for special events downtown where convenient and accessible parking is difficult, such as the Sidewalk Sale, he said.
The Commission also asked about MacLeod’s past experience in valet businesses (managed Lone Star Valet in Dallas for seven years), what would happen if four cars pulled up at Forest Street to be parked at the same time (the plan is to staff that stand with four drivers) and whether a list of restaurants that are supportive of New Canaan Valet Services in the downtown could be compiled (yes).