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October 25, 2012

Board reviews proposals for paid and permit parking

By JIM AUSTIN
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Monday night, the board of trustees approved moving ahead with two parking proposals — one aimed at relieving the village’s perennial parking problems for residents and the other to generate revenue for street maintenance through on-street paid parking.

The seven-member Parking Task Force, formed to look at a parking permit system for village residents, forwarded the results of its five-months of work to the board.

According to a memorandum from the task force, the permit system will allow residents to obtain permits that will exclude them from time restrictions on village streets outside the business district. The village has about 1,400 parking spaces, half of which are time restricted.

According to Trustee Lynne Mebust, who chaired the task force, members worked with village attorney Martin Tillapaugh and reviewed permit systems in use by other municipalities around the state.

To institute a parking permit system, the proposal must be approved by the state Legislature. The task force prepared a petition to be forwarded to the Legislature that includes the three required elements — identification of the parking problem, a list of streets to be included and the village’s proposed solution.

According to the memorandum, Tillapaugh has spoken with Sen. James Seward, who will introduce the petition to the Legislature early next year.

If approved by the Legislature, a local law will need to be drafted and adopted.

The petition states that pressure for off-street parking in the village has become particularly acute during the summer months when large numbers of tourists come to Cooperstown in addition to the employees of institutions and businesses in the village.

The ability to install a coherent parking permit system will enable to Cooperstown to improve the quality of life for its citizens and visitors, the petition stated.

The proposal covers all the village streets currently restricted to two-hour parking. It does not include those portions of Main and Pioneer streets in the business district. The permits will allow residents to exceed the two-hour limit on those streets. The permit system will not apply to the business district.

If the permit system is approved, permits will be issued by the clerk’s office and will require the payment of an administrative fee. Mebust said during the meeting that she believed the fee should be in the range of $10 to $25. The fees collected will be allocated to the general fund.

Residents who obtain a permit will be issued a sticker for their vehicle.

Signage on designated streets will include exclusions for permit holders. 

The board voted unanimously to forward the petition to Tillapaugh for review and then on to Seward for introduction to the state Legislature.

The second proposal, from the streets and buildings committee, would institute on-street paid parking on Main Street from River Street to Pine Boulevard and Pioneer Street from Lake Street to Church Street.

The proposal was introduced to the board by committee Chairwoman Cynthia Falk. She said the committee is concerned about the money required to maintain the village street infrastructure because it comes from village taxpayers. 

Falk cited the 2012 infrastructure report from Lamont Engineers that said the village should be setting aside $900,000 annually to keep up with street maintenance.

“The establishment of on-street paid parking in certain key areas provides a means for those who visit the village and use the roads to contribute to the cost of street upkeep,” the committee’s report states.

The committee recommends paid parking should be in effect from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It also recommends a higher rate of $2 per hour, payable in 15-minute increments, to encourage long-term paid parking in the Doubleday Field lot and more regular turnover of spaces on the streets. 

Falk said the committee had “quite a bit of discussion” concerning time limits. The committee compromised by recommending that drivers may return to their vehicle after the initial two-hour time to purchase additional time without being required to move their cars. 

“We are concerned about relief from paid parking for residents,” Falk said, adding that 15-minute and handicapped spaces in the business district would be exempt from any fee. 

That would, the recommendation stated, allow residents to access essential services within the paid parking area.

The committee’s recommendation does not include establishing a permit system for the paid parking area. It also recommends that pay and display machines be used to collect the fees instead of parking meters.

The funds collected, after expenses are deducted, should be designated for the streets reserve fund, which would help justify the use of paid parking to improve street infrastructure, the report stated.

Trustee Walter Franck said that before moving forward, it would be helpful to hear from the community about the proposal.

Mayor Jeff Katz, who was on the board when community meetings about paid parking a few years ago sometimes turned confrontational, said it would be fine with him if the board wanted to gauge public opinion with a town hall-style meeting.

Mebust, the only other member on the board during the earlier meetings, said she believes it would be helpful if the public had something specific to respond to.

The board members decided to review the recommendations of the committee and pass their comments on to Falk, who would work on drafting a proposed local law for paid parking.