Saying it would be more consistent with other municipal lots and would create more revenue for the town, officials are recommending that motorists start being charged for the Saturday use of two lots located behind Elm Street.
The Parking Commission at its May 6 meeting voted 4-1 to start charging for the Park Street and Playhouse Lots on Saturdays.
“We always try to keep the rules simple, and if we just say ‘parking is free Sunday and you pay on Saturday for all downtown lots’ it’s easier for everyone to remember,” Chair Keith Richey said at the appointed body’s regular meeting, held via videoconference.
Town officials already charge on Saturday for parking in the Morse Court Lot. Commissioner Peter Ogilvie said the town should have the same policy for Park Street and Playhouse, which are next to each other, as it has for Morse Court.
Commissioner Drew Magratten agreed, noting that Connecticut and the wider tristate area are on the verge of trying to reopen after more than one year of sweeping restrictions under the pandemic “to get back to some sort of normalcy.”
Consistency is important, Magratten said, “because as you can see from these appeals a lot of people people get confused—different rules [for] different lots.” He referred to ticketed motorists who appeal to the Commission in order to have violation fees forgiven.
Richey, Ogilvie, Magratten and Commissioner Jennifer Donovan voted in favor of the recommendation. Commissioner Laura Budd voted against it.
The Board of Selectmen is scheduled to take up the Commission’s recommendation, among others, at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Budd said she parks in the lots in question and that it’s “always crowded on Saturdays.” She asked Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg whether it’s possible to find out whether those using the lots on Saturdays are employees of downtown businesses who already have passes to park for free at the Center School and Locust Avenue Lots (yes, though it will take a few weeks to get that data).
“I am holding back for data,” Budd said of her vote.
She added, “I don’t want shoppers and diners and hopefully, one day, people going to the movies on Saturday not being able to find a place because of employees when they have a free space to park, but I want to make sure that that’s the reason.”
Richey noted that the town has lost much of its regular parking revenue amid the pandemic. The town suspended parking enforcement for a time (it’s now in effect) and also has put off fees for renewing some parking permits.
If approved by the selectmen, the change still would need about one month to take effect because new signs would need to be installed in the Park Street and Playhouse Lots, the commissioners said.