As both a business owner on Main Street and someone that owns a house in Cooperstown, I am not in favor of paid parking on the streets for several reasons. I do agree that Cooperstown is having financial difficulty, as is the rest of the country, but to institute paid parking will have a long-term negative effect on Cooperstown, its residents and the businesses on Main Street.
Main Street and its businesses are struggling. There are many shops that are closed and others that are in the process of closing. It will be difficult to bring other potential businesses into the village with paid parking in place. When I talked to business owners the last time this situation was before the board, one comment stuck in my head. A new restaurant that had come to town said that it would not have come if there had been paid parking on Main Street.
When I was on the board, we talked about trying to get new and diverse businesses to Main Street, businesses that weren’t necessarily tourist-related. However, paid parking goes directly against this endeavor, encouraging only stores that rely on tourists. Other stores and restaurants rely on region and repeat local business. Paid parking will have a negative effect on this target group, hurting diverse businesses directly.
In this market we need to encourage tourists and others to come to Cooperstown and not throw another hindrance on the people that will keep this community alive. There are only so many ways to punish tourists before they stop coming altogether. The Hall of Fame attendance numbers show this is happening, whether it is because of the economy or not doesn’t matter, as any other obstacles will certainly cut further into already-declining numbers.
I have heard from the paid parking proponents that it will not hurt business. This is false; there is no way that business will not suffer if we charge people just to park on Main Street. It will drive down local and repeat business and these people will not come back in the “off-season” once they have gone elsewhere.