Local Holiday Shopping Boost: Town Designates Free Parking in Municipal Lots Through Dec. 27

The town has designated free parking in all municipal lots through Dec. 27, officials say. Members of New Canaan’s Parking Department are placing signs on meters in town to let shoppers know they don’t need to pay. Carl Franco of Francos Wine Merchants on Elm Street said he was “very happy that the Chamber of Commerce worked out with the town free parking for all municipal lots.”

“I think that will be very inviting for the shoppers to give one last boost to all the merchants in town,” Franco said. The designation, which took effect Monday, follows an unexpected loss of some parking and traffic difficulties late last week due to utilities work on Elm. 

Laura Budd, executive director of the Chamber, said the “last few days before Christmas are very important to our retailers.”

“The Chamber and the municipality wanted to remove all barriers to our residents and visitors who are shopping local for all their last-minute holiday gifts,” Budd said.

Parking Commission Voids $25 Ticket Issued to Elm Street Motorist

Saying it had been a long time since parking enforcement officers issued their last verbal warning to her, town officials last week voided a $25 ticket issued to a woman who overstayed her time on Elm Street. 

Under New Canaan’s parking regulations, motorists approaching what is now a 2-hour time limit for the free spaces downtown cannot simply move their vehicle to a different area of the same street to reset that timer. If someone is not aware of the rule, “we try to educate them, usually the first ticket around, because it is not posted anywhere other than in the town ordinance,” according to Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg. Yet in the case of Lara Tiramani of Bridgeport, she was made aware of that when she similarly overstayed a space in 2016, Miltenberg said during the Dec. 8 regular meeting of the Parking Commissioner. Tucker Murphy, administrative officer for the town and a guest at the meeting, said the purpose of the rule is to ensure the free spaces serve those who wish to patronize downtown business and restaurants rather than those who work in those places.

Town: Parking Permit Renewals Down As Commuters Wait-and-See

Demand for commuter parking lots near the Metro-North Railroad line is still in flux and remains low overall compared to pre-COVID figures, officials say, as New Canaan residents try to figure out whether it makes sense to purchase an annual permit or use daily pay spaces as needed. On a given Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, lots such as the Lumberyard downtown are at least two-thirds full—less so on Mondays and Fridays, according to Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg. Yet renewals for permits are down this year as increasing number of permit-holders ask to be listed on a “deferral list” that allows them to put off a decision until next summer, Miltenberg told members of the Parking Commission at their regular meeting last week. It’s unclear “how often people are commuting,” Miltenberg said at the Oct. 6 meeting, held via videoconference.

Commission Voids $30 Ticket for Obstructing a Fire Hydrant

Town officials this month voided a $30 fine issued to a restaurant worker who had been ticketed for parking too close to a fire hydrant on Main Street. Edith Mendoza told members of the Parking Commission during her Aug. 4 appeal hearing that a police officer working early that Sunday morning had instructed her on where to park, due to a shortage of available spots during a popular car show downtown. 

According to Mendoza, some of those who attended Caffeine & Carburetors on April 24 kept Spiga Restaurant very busy, and she was unable to get back outside from about 8:30 a.m. to past 11 p.m.

“We were busy all day,” Mendoza said during the hearing, held via videoconference. 

Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg said, “It seems like one of the police officers directed her to park in a certain area, and that area happened to be a fire hydrant. She parked there and went to work and it got very busy. What happened in the meantime, the police officer’s shift changed and other officers came on, she was unable to move her car because the restaurant was very busy and she was ticketed for blocking a fire hydrant.”

The ticket was issued at 5:35 p.m., records show, at Main and Cherry Streets.

Town Holds Fees for Commuter Parking Permits as Demand Remains Low

The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday voted to hold flat the fees for permits for three commuter lots in New Canaan. The selectmen voted 3-0 during their regular meeting to keep the current rates for the Lumberyard ($663.62), Talmadge Hill and Richmond Hill Lots (both $504.10) for the next commuter parking permit year, which starts Sept. 1. The fees at Talmadge Hill would apply to nonresidents (who used to pay $630 per year there) as well as residents, according to Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg. Currently, there are eight nonresident permit-holders in the Talmadge Hill Lot, she said.