The red bags covering many of the parking meters in downtown New Paltz might have local residents and tourists alike thinking that the holiday season started early this year, or that the village government was feeling the love and promoting its shop-local initiative during the busy Labor Day weekend. In reality, the bagging of many of the meters in the core business district was due to changes recently implemented in the parking law and the public outcry that resulted.
Last Wednesday’s Village Board meeting was filled with disgruntled business-owners and residents upset and frustrated with these recent meter changes, which reduced the amount of time allotted and increased the fees for metered parking.
Trustee Ariana Basco was the only member of the Village Board present who was in office when the parking plan was discussed, debated and finally adopted in April of 2013. She explained that, because some of the changes required funding, they did not go into effect until the new 2013/2014 budget cycle began, in June of 2013.
“We’ve received your e-mails, your phone calls, heard your frustrations and concerns and we have a draft amendment here tonight that, if we vote to approve, would change the amount of time allowed for metered parking back to two hours — as opposed to one hour — except for the meters on Main Street from Prospect to North Chestnut Street,” she explained. “We’re sorry!”
Deputy mayor Rebecca Rotzler, who is now the acting mayor while Jason West takes his one-month paid leave of absence, wanted to point out that she was “not on the board when this was discussed and adopted, and neither was trustee Tom Rocco.” Trustee Sally Rhoads, who worked on the parking plan with Basco and some members of the Downtown Business Association (DBA), was on vacation during last week’s meeting.
In preparation for Wednesday’s meeting, Rotzler reached out to the Department of Public Works (DPW) to learn how the meters might be changed if the Village Board decided to amend the current parking law. “Because the meters are digital, in order to make changes there is a specific device that the DPW utilizes from our meter company, that they have to individually go to each meter and reprogram them,” Rotzler reported. The issue is that the device that the DPW has can “only make two changes: They can program a meter for a limit of one hour or four hours, but not two hours, which is the proposal we’re looking at for several core business areas.”
Resident Mark Sherman said that he was very upset to learn what had happened, and wanted the Village Board to consider putting the meters on North Front Street and Church Street back to two hours and reduce the increase in fees. “I read the plan and I have to say it is lengthy, difficult to follow; there are no maps that define what the core business district is,” he said.