Town Officials Vote To Start Charging Handicapped Motorists Parking in Metered Lots


Those who park in the handicapped spaces at Morse Court will need to pay at a meter mid-block. Streetview

Town officials recently voted to start charging handicapped permit-holders who park in designated spaces in metered lots such as Morse Court and Center School, changing the longtime local practice of allowing them to park for free.

Members of the Parking Commission at their Jan. 10 meeting voted 4-1 to make the change.

Chairman Keith Richey said during the meeting that handicapped motorists park for free on downtown streets such as Elm, just as non-handicapped people do. 

“But then there are handicapped spots in some of these metered lots, like Morse Court, and right now we are not not charging,” Richey said during the meeting, held at Town Hall. “And Center Lot, there are a couple [of handicapped spaces] there. So the idea is: Why shouldn’t they be paying? They are handicapped so they are getting a privilege in terms of location, but shouldn’t they have to pay? And I can’t think of a reason why they shouldn’t have to pay.”

Along with Richey, Commissioners Chris Hering, Peter Ogilvie and Stuart Stringfellow voted in favor of the change. Commission Secretary Pam Crum voted against, raising questions about the fairness and feasibility of forcing people who are handicapped to make their way to what would feel like distant pay meters, such as at Morse Court, where the handicapped spaces are located by the Mobil Station and the pay machine mid-block. Similarly, Crum said, it may take people in a wheelchair or with crutches longer to make their way back to a parked vehicle. 

To Crum’s suggestion for a grace period for handicapped motorists who are late returning, Richey said those driers can “pay for more parking like anyone else, pay for more time.”

“We have people delayed by doctors’ appointments and other appointments and we say, ‘You guys should have paid for more parking.’ And we say the same with the handicapped: ‘OK, it has taken a little longer to walk back? OK, pay for more parking. It’s 50 cents.’ ”

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, who had presided over an organizational meeting at the beginning of the Commission’s regular meeting, said that other towns charge handicapped permit-holders for parking.

Though New Canaan also historically has made special allowances for handicapped drivers parking in permitted commuter lots such as Lumberyard—those with handicapped permits have been allowed to take whatever spot they want, even if they’re not permit-holders—the Commission limited the changes to metered lots for now.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the change would take hold. Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg said that some handicapped spaces would need to have numbers assigned to them in order to start charging.

Moynihan said the conversation about charging for handicapped spaces arose because New Canaan wasn’t charging for them in state-owned lots near the train station.

[Editor: This article has been updated at the Commission’s request to reflect a voting record recorded in its minutes.]

13 thoughts on “Town Officials Vote To Start Charging Handicapped Motorists Parking in Metered Lots

  1. i do not believe this to be right, necessary and in fact, it is a bit shameful. The more pressing aspect of handicap parking is usage of the spot when the handicapped person is not present in the vehicle. When the permit is issued the applicant should be identified as such and space restricted to that person. When this situation then occurs the violator should be ticketed severely.
    The original purpose of providing handicap spaces was to make the village more accessible to those who otherwise would find doing their chores and pleasures to be problematic . Everyone goes to the bank, to lunch, to stores to shop handicapped or not. Etiquette should be of primary importance to administrators and citizens alike regardless of any circumstance.

  2. Before commissioners revoke “perks” for people who already have an arduous time getting around our inaccessible town, governing bodies need to look into the locations of curb cuts and striped pedestrian crosswalks, accessibility to/from the parking meters and the accessibility of those meters, etc., as well as the lots themselves — how exactly is a person with limited mobility expected to get down either set of stairs from the lots by the former teen center, and what is the point of parking there if one cannot use the stairs and is not headed toward Town Hall?

    As Commissioner Crum alluded, in Morse Court a person with limited mobility would need to walk up or down the street from the lot to the curb cuts on either South or Main before then traversing the brick sidewalk to the meters. That may be a simple inconvenience to an able-bodied person but it is a more complex task for someone who requires an accessible parking permit, which equates to more time and, thus, more money. That seems an unfair burden placed on the disabled visitor, but not the able-bodied visitor. The “privilege in terms of location” to which Commissioner Richey refers is lost when the visitor is expected to stop first at a location that is not conveniently accessed.

    I appreciate that Crum spoke to this point, and can appreciate the town’s interest in charging everyone to park, but am disappointed that a decision was made without any input from the disability community – which is, in fact, alive and well in New Canaan, and more than willing to assist in these matters. An easy solution? Payment should not be expected from accessible parking spots until a mobile parking app is implemented to access meter payment from cell phones.

    A word on verbiage: “handicapped” isn’t used anymore – disabled and accessible are the terms that should be applied here. The DMV that is issuing the permits no longer calls the permits “handicap”. The spots are for people with disabilities/disabled people (depending on how that person wants to be identified), or it is accessible parking — they are not “handicapped” spots and the people who use them are not “handicapped”.

  3. Any time the Parking Commission members would like to find out for themselves what it’s like to park in the “accessible” spaces around town, they are welcome to join my husband who has mobility issues. A “privilege?” That wouldn’t be the word I would choose. Not by a long shot.
    Perhaps the Town should consider swapping out some of the 15 minute spaces in Morse Court with its accessible spaces so at least people wouldn’t have to try and cross Morse Court. As to other locations, the accessible space for his bank is a joke. It is behind the building and requires climbing up a hill.
    And don’t even get me started on the accessibility of voting at Saxe for people with mobility issues.

  4. Kevin Moynihan said at the meeting… “that other towns charge handicapped permit-holders for parking.”

    Well, if your best friend jumped off a bridge, does that mean you would too??? Remember when your mother said that to you?

    Who cares what other towns do? REALLY. We need to do the very best for our community. Do you honestly think that the town is going to make a lot of money off of charging disabled persons to warrant what it’s going to cost THE TOWN to implement this change?

    Now that I think of it, the town won’t be making any money on the parking meter costs that the disabled will be paying. The town will be making money that the disabled person will have to pay for the parking ticket they received because they couldn’t get back to the meter in time to put in a couple more quarters! If making money isn’t the bottom line, then what is?

    Thank you Pam Crum for caring about the community. I am not disabled but would like to see this “new rule” not enforced.

  5. WOW, ….and so the ‘softer, gentler New Canaan’ community joins the less empathetic segment of our world. I am so sorry to see it happen.

  6. While this wasn’t highlighted in the article, one of the key reasons for payment for any spot in town is circulation/turnover of spots. Without payment there is no time limit in paid lots, thus little incentive for drivers to manage time or move their car and open spots for others.
    This type of loopholes for time limit enforcement means cars can sit in these spots indefinitely during any day. These filled spaces will drive others drivers with accessibility issues blocked from those spots to find alternative parking in spots further from their destination.

    As a voting member, my vote was not motivated by the $3-4 fee but to drive circulation so that the spots are used by those who need them at the time and curb any incentive to abuse the policy as noted by former commissioner Franco above. I fully support the efforts made to make the town more ADA accessible and welcome suggestions to the team on recommendations and gaps in the accessible spot network in town.

    Its also worth pointing out that the commission recommends the penalty fee structure and highest penalty in the parking code is for blocking an accessible spot. Some examples below.
    Group D
    60 Parking Wrong Side $50.00
    70 Double Parking $50.00
    71 Obstruct Crosswalk $75.00
    72 Obstruct Hydrant $75.00
    92 Fire Zone $50.00
    93 Boot Removal $100.00

    Group E
    91 Handicapped Zone $150.00

    For sake of fairness with regard to comment on debate and solicitation of feedback, there was representation in this vote by those who hold these permits and by those involved in the Getabout service which is very focused on this same topic of accessibility.

  7. This is a sad situation when the elderly who have served worked, and contributed all their life to have this happen. It’s not only the civilian folks but Vets who have served this country and have disabilities. When I became a senior citizen I realized the wonderful perks offered by this country and what I received from the V.A. Recently after applying for a handicap sticker it made a difference in getting to my destination.
    It is a gross insult and disgrace for this to happen. I have seen folks getting out from their cars walking without the aid of walkers, canes or wheelchairs or who don’t walk with great difficulty have a sticker. They are violating the law and taking away spaces that are really needed by a legitimate sticker holder. Maybe they could be ticketed for this violation. The money made by doing this, will it make a difference? And is this the main reason, to make an extra buck? It would behoove the commission to take some inventory on this matter.
    Norm Jensen
    USN Vet

  8. If the committee wants to charge for accessible spaces, then they should put individual meters in front of those spots. It is absolutely ridiculous to ask a person with mobility issues to walk over to the pay station before heading to their destination. Imagine someone parked in the Morse Court accessible parking spots near Mobil in order to go to Mackenzie’s. The committee now wants that person to walk over to the pay stations by the back of JCrew and then backtrack past their car to get to Mackenzie’s?! The fact that town administration actually thinks this is appropriate is disrespectful and absurd.

  9. This came up this morning at a group coffee and the sense of the room was that this proposal was not worth pursuing on many levels. As one attendee pointed out, is this the culture we represent in New Canaan? Another thought is How can one be expected to pay a meter when in fact the meters aren’t accessible to anyone confined to a wheelchair for example. I urge anyone wanting to learn more about the discussion at the Parking Commission meeting to read the draft minutes which are posted on the town website. Aren’t those needing these permits already paying a price?

  10. I get it. New Canaan has a parking problem and a revenue shortage (see upcoming gigantic tax increase), so let’s address both by hosing afflicted seniors and mobility-challenged others. But why the half-measures? All handicapped spaces should be metered, at rates double other spaces to reflect their proximity advantage. Additionally, the already-feared parking cop with chalking stick should be tasked with fining/arresting or calling police whenever a person without a walker or crutches is seen leaving or entering a car with a H/C placard in a handicapped space. (note – oxygen tanks or canes would not cut it.) Revenue so raised could be applied toward a new ice skating rink or added Waveny soccer fields in case the handicapped might use them.

    Some might say that this is just one more turn of the screw in making New Canaan a less desirable place to live, that maybe we need a Get Out agency to help seniors instead of a Stay Put group.

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