The most significant occurrence at the New Paltz Village Board’s February 25 meeting came at the very end, when nearly all the attendees had gone home rather than wait through a long executive session. But when the board members emerged — sans mayor Jason West, who had recused himself — it was to announce that they were ready to let bygones be bygones. The trustees voted 4-0 to authorize the settlement of the mayor’s lawsuit against the village as negotiated by their attorney, David Wise. The terms of the agreement compensate West in the amount of $12,345.82 for the 2013/14 fiscal year, restoring most of the amount that he lost when the board reduced his salary in his absence from $35,000 to $22,500.
Earlier in the meeting, the board plus the mayor unanimously adopted a new Affordable Housing law; authorized West to move ahead with Central Hudson to install new streetlights; and approved the purchase of reusable, washable shopping bags for free distribution to residents, in support of the recent ban on retailers’ use of disposable plastic bags. And with trustee Sally Rhoads abstaining, the remainder of the board voted to endorse a resolution provided by the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater urging General Electric not to dismantle its dredging and dewatering equipment until the PCB-laden sediments in the upper Hudson and Champlain Canal and their floodplains are thoroughly decontaminated.
But timewise, most of the meeting was dedicated to further point-by-point discussion of 22 proposed changes to the village’s parking regulations, continuing from where the board had left off at its previous meeting. Trustee Sally Rhoads announced that the idea recently floated of beta-testing two-hour parking zones on three streets against four-hour zones on three others had been vetoed by the village attorney. “It can’t be an experiment,” she said. “He said he can’t find anything that permits that in the code.”
That idea was one of several to which David Santner, proprietor of the Bakery and a member of an ad hoc committee of downtown business-owners who came up with their own list of parking recommendations last year, objected both in his comments at the meeting and in a letter submitted to the board. He questioned what objective parameters could be used for quantifying the results of a six-month test of different approaches to the persistent problem of people hogging on-street parking all day long and even overnight in the business district.
Santner also opposed proposals to privatize two municipal parking lots — one connecting Church Street with North Chestnut Street behind the Bistro, and the other adjoining the Post Office parking lot, behind Chestnut Mobil — simply because the income from their meters does not cover the village’s costs of maintaining them. He cited an economic development study from New Jersey that emphasized a whole-systems approach to parking issues: “It is a given that some facilities will not generate enough income to pay for themselves, and that is considered acceptable as long as the complete parking system is self-sustaining,” he wrote. Such structures, according to the study, “yet may play an important role in satisfying the parking needs of the community. They are in effect subsidized by other parking lots and on-street meters.”
While acknowledging the unpopularity of the privatization idea, Rhoads hastened to add that the village was moving in the opposite direction with another parking lot: trying to acquire the private lot belonging to Bobby Downs behind 56 Main Street. If successful, that would “provide 29 more parking spaces…so that everyone feels like winners.” Rhoads noted that it was Downs who had first broached the idea to the village “two years ago,” and Mayor West said that he had been “playing phone tag with his attorney.”
Part of the scheme, if that lot should become public, is to turn the alleyway leading from it to Main Street — which Rhoads described as “very dangerous in winter” due to obstructed sightlines when snowdrifts are high — into a passageway for pedestrians only. Making the lot accessible by automobile only from the Plattekill Avenue side would also obviate the need to eliminate the parking meter next to Rock Da Pasta to improve visibility. “Then there could be a crosswalk to the curb cut by Likwid,” enthused trustee Ariana Basco.
“I like the idea of the village taking it over. My concern is with the tenants of Mr. Downs who live in the apartments in 56 Main,” cautioned trustee Rebecca Rotzler. “I would like to keep part of that lot for his residents.” West asked for more time to work out details with Downs’s attorney, saying that he would present a resolution at the next meeting on March 11.
The mayor also noted that the owner of Likwid was supportive of the parking committee’s proposal to eliminate one metered space in front of his store, saying that “he has seen a lot of accidents there” with westbound cars making the tight right turn onto Church Street. Rotzler added that there was a problem with ice building up in the crosswalk there as well, which would be “easier to be taken out” if plows could get closer to the curb. After some further discussion the board voted 5-0 to authorize Rhoads to draft a local law eliminating the parking space nearest the corner in front of Likwid.
No objections were raised to the idea of developing the parking area on the roadway leading to the Gardens for Nutrition just off Huguenot Street into a municipal lot, with a solar streetlight to be purchased with funding left over from a grant. Rotzler noted that it “doesn’t necessarily need repaving” but should be measured, restriped and have debris piles cleaned up in order to create additional parking spaces. Rhoads said that formal action on creating the new lot would be taken at the March 11 meeting.
Rhoads also noted that few local businesses were taking advantage the long-term parking being offered at the lot behind Village Hall, and suggested making passes available to SUNY staff and students at the same $100 annual fee. Rotzler responded that she had “spoken to a number of local business-owners who felt that the rate was prohibitive,” and suggested making the passes available on a quarterly basis to accommodate shops that are not fully staffed year-round. Rhoads said that she would ask the Building Department to send another letter to Main Street businesses advertising the long-term parking before pursuing the matter further.
The board also agreed to replace some metered parking spots along Elting Avenue with two-hour free parking in order to accommodate coaches and parents attending games in Hasbrouck Park. The 20 meters to be removed should be relocated to Main Street near midtown businesses, Rhoads urged, noting that the machines “cost $500 each.”