‘We Felt It Immediately’: Downtown Merchants on the Loss of Parking Spaces on Elm Street


One month after town officials preliminarily “lined out” a new parking configuration on Elm Street that loses downtown New Canaan more than a dozen spaces, some merchants say the change already is having a dramatic effect on business.

Though parking woes already were aired daily by customers, the new scheme that includes a legally required 25-foot buffer zone between a crosswalk and parking space “has had an immediate impact,” according to Maxine Berg, owner of Jade, a popular luxury fashion fitness boutique at 7 Elm St.

“We felt it immediately, the minute those spaces were taken,” said Berg, who purchases parking permits for the Center School Lot for herself and staff at the shop. “Especially on my part of Elm. There were four, five spaces.”

Prompted by a resident’s formal complaint about New Canaan’s non-compliance with what appears to be a seldom-observed state law, the town rather suddenly in mid-July was compelled to eliminate 13 parking spaces on Elm Street, which has five crosswalks. (Elm lost another two when officials increased the width of angled parking by six inches per space.)

The new parking scheme materialized one month ago in the form of thin white strips of paint on a newly paved Elm Street, though officials say it will be another two weeks or so until permanent striping is done. According to Public Works Director Tiger Mann, the town initially will use painted hashmarks to indicate newly designated ‘no parking’ areas for motorists. Depending on how well drivers comply, the town may introduce additional measures such as new signage, planters and bollards, he said.

Kathleen Millard, manager of Elm Street Books (see this event to be held Thursday night) said the new parking configuration has caused some griping among customers because many drivers don’t understand where they’re allowed to park. 

“I’ve also had customers in here saying they don’t understand why this is happening in New Canaan and not in other towns nearby,” Millard said. “Certainly we have had customers not satisfied” with the parking plan, she added.

Diane Roth, owner of L’Armoire destination boutique around the corner of 102 Park St., called the new parking configuration “ridiculous.”

“Of course it has an effect,” she told NewCanaanite.com when asked about it, adding that she holds the original complainant responsible.

Roth said one possible upside of the change is that “maybe they [local officials] will do something about parking.”

Rick Franco of Francos Wine Merchants on Elm Street, who served for decades on the New Canaan Parking Commission said it’s likely “too soon to analyze the what the effect” of the new parking scheme is on businesses because “we are not fully engaged downtown yet.”

Even so, “anyone should be able to see what December would be,” Franco added. “I think the word is ‘unpleasant.’ ”

New Canaan’s parking manager, Stacy Miltenberg, said she believed losing so many spaces would “make it tight on Elm Street for shoppers,” and added that the town still has permits available for merchants and workers in the Park Street and Morse Court lots.

4 thoughts on “‘We Felt It Immediately’: Downtown Merchants on the Loss of Parking Spaces on Elm Street

  1. The issue was triggered by Elm Street’s paving. Prior, Elm was grandfathered but the paving removed the grandfathering. It is of notice that Main Street’s lining has not changed. Of course however, it is of human nature to look next door.
    So are we to argue against a theory of enhanced safety? That would be a position of challenge. The rule is old (1949), the street one way, traffic generally orderly and we are a town of 20,000. It seems to be an overreach but nonetheless to ask our officials to publically take a stand against would be not fair to them on our part.
    I used the word “unpleasant” in theorizing about December traffic. This issue however, is not unlike other issues in a day such as “what do you mean our arrangement is no longer in effect”. We therefore, will “suck it up” and move ahead. It will not be “unpleasant”, instead it will be “bustle”, a word of a day gone by. Strap it on and move ahead.
    As always,

  2. Such a shame. I would think someone clever could find a loophole – NC is a tiny village (similar to a historic downtown) on a one-way street. So dissimilar to most towns in CT.

  3. Susan, there is more than a loophole. The state statute on its face does not apply to Towns that have their own parking regulations. That said, I do see safety benefits to the new configuration. The left turn from South Avenue onto Elm now has improved visibility for traffic coming up Elm. Also, there is better visibility to pedestrians entering the crosswalks.

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