Greenport Village officials say they are proposing to install parking meters downtown in order to improve traffic turnover and help increase business at local shops, but some store owners are concerned the move will deter shoppers from visiting their stores.
Perry Angelson, owner of Harbourfront Deli and The Loft, has owned his businesses on Front Street for the past 22 years. During that time period, traditional parking meters were removed under former Village Mayor David Kapell’s administration in an effort to make Greenport more visitor-friendly.
“We had meters and they didn’t work and that’s why they took them out,” Mr. Angelson told The Suffolk Times this week. “I don’t see any pros to [parking meters] at all. I just see it as another tax.”
During the Village Board’s monthly meeting Monday night at the Third Street firehouse, Mr. Angelson submitted an anti-parking meter petition signed by 626 people. Over the past few weeks, copies of the petition were circulated at his restaurants, as well as at D’Latte, Colonial Drugs and Sweet Indulgences. In addition to hard copies of the petition, Mr. Angelson posted an online petition at Change.org.
Mr. Angelson said he drafted the petition after he heard that the Village Board held a meeting Feb. 7 with a representative from New Jersey-based Metric Parking, the same company that installed meters in Port Jefferson Village. While the Village Board hasn’t approved a contract with Metric Parking, it was given a private demonstration by the company on how the machines work.
Village Administrator David Abatelli said the Village Board came to a consensus following the demonstration to pursue a pay-by-space method. This involves the village painting numbers on about 90 parking spots located on Front and Main streets. Metered parking is proposed for all of Front Street and along Main Street starting at Front Street and ending at either Central Avenue or Park Street.
Drivers will have to enter their parking space number at a meter, which will accept both cash and credit cards. Once a parking space is paid for, the machine will issue a receipt indicating what time the meter will run out.
The parking meter spaces are expected to cost $1 per hour and will have a two-hour limit. Drivers wishing to park over two hours will have to feed one of the seven solar-powered parking meters once the two hour time period expires. Mr. Abatelli said the company also offers an online system where drivers can pay through a computer or smartphone.
Initially, the village was looking to pursue a different method called “pay and display.” With this method, drivers would have to display a ticket on their dashboard after paying for a parking spot. This method is less expensive because the village wouldn’t have to maintain the painted numbers within parking spaces, Mr. Abatelli said.
But the Village Board ultimately decided after the Metric Parking demonstration that pay-by-space is a more user-friendly option. In order to make up for the additional maintenance costs associated with this method, the village is expected to purchase one less meter, for a total of seven parking meters.
In June, the Village Board approved a $100,000 bond to pay for new parking meters, road striping and signs letting drivers know of the changes. Metric Parking’s meters cost about $8,500 each. In addition, the village is allocating $12,000 to pay for a Southold Town Police traffic control officer to enforce village parking regulations full-time during the summer.
The village has been wrestling with the best way to handle the congestion for the past few years since many people now park on Main and Front streets early in the morning and leave their cars there all day, making parking more difficult for visitors during the swamped summer months.
The Village Board had a downtown parking study completed in 2009 called the “Village of Greenport Parking Management Workshop” after business owners expressed parking concerns. According to the study, parking rules and regulations won’t work without appropriate enforcement.
Many business owners who spoke at Monday night’s meeting said they would rather see a traffic control officer issue tickets to parking violators instead of village-installed meters.
Village Trustee Chris Kempner said there is no budget for a traffic control officer to enforce any of the parking laws without the revenue generated by the meters.
Greenport Business Improvement District president Peter Clarke said he’s looking to build on the work done by his predecessor Mike Acebo, who assisted with crafting the parking meter study in order to find solutions to the downtown parking problems. Mr. Clarke said he’s aware of the “loud opposition” to the Village Board’s current plan and asked that business owners reach out to him with their concerns.
“At this point, what I have read and surmised of the situation, both the study and the recommendations made by the Village Board makes sense to me,” he said. “However, I believe it’s incumbent on me to not only continue the polices set by my predecessor, but to listen to the members that constitute our group.”
The Village Board is expected to vote on the parking meter contract at a special meeting at 5 p.m. March 8.