Commission Votes 3-2 To Recommend Metered Parking on Main and Elm

Saying it didn’t make sense for downtown New Canaan’s best parking spaces to be free, town officials this month voted to recommend installing meters on Main and Elm Streets. The Parking Commission as part of its 3-2 vote at the May 2 meeting also is recommending that the spaces running along the northern edge of Morse Court, which now offer free 15-minute parking, also be metered. “By giving away free parking on the main streets, we create a perverse incentive for people to not use parking in the peripheral lots that are designed to take the load off [Elm and Main Streets],” Commissioner Chris Hering said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. Hering voted in favor of the change, along with Commissioners Stuart Stringfellow and Peter Ogilvie (who long advocacy for this idea was recorded in a recent 0684-Radi0 podcast). Chairman Keith Richey and Commissioner Pam Crum voted against the recommendation.

Editorial: A Change of Leadership on the Parking Commission

“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power.” —Seth Berkley

New Canaan needs a change of leadership on the Parking Commission. 

Chairman Keith Richey is to be commended for the length of his volunteer service on the appointed body, which works closely with the New Canaan Parking Bureau and makes recommendations about traffic circulation and off-street lots, including fees for permits and violations, and also hears ticket appeals. He was appointed July 21, 1998, according to records on file in the Town Clerk’s office, and elected chairman March 3, 1999. Yet Richey has failed to create a long-term vision for parking in New Canaan at a time when such forward-thinking is sorely needed, has failed even on minor matters to build consensus within the Commission and has failed by temperament and in practice to collaborate with or support his counterparts in Town Hall—a shortcoming that crystallized last week in his gross mishandling of an important matter now before the town, punctuated by menacing and inappropriate treatment of a municipal department head. New Canaan needs to have a frank discussion about whether its parking rules should change—the times at which enforcement starts and ends, for example, whether those who overstay should be granted a fixed “grace period” or even whether the town should introduce some form of free parking. 

Yet in railing against officers for enforcing parking rules that he himself is responsible for recommending, in wrangling with a parking manager at a public meeting after forcing her into a defensive stance and, after that department head stood her ground and attempted to lighten the mood of the meeting, in issuing a vague and menacing admonition for her to “be careful,” Richey showed himself to be unfit to hold the office of chairman. 

He should step down. If he won’t, we call on the Board of Selectmen to vote him off of the Commission, as per the Town Charter.