HUDSON -- The new parking system downtown will look a little different and the Common Council approved changes to it Monday, Feb. 24.
The changes were recommended by the parking advisory committee, and City Administrator Aaron Reeves said most of them are common sense changes.
The most notable is the addition of free four-hour parking in the Beach House Lot off First Street and the Williams Lot behind the old fire station as well as the angled parking on First Street north of Vine Street. This will add 161 free parking spots.
The system will now have only two parking zones, one for three hour parking and one for permit parking. Ticket prices will rise from $7 to $15.
Other changes include consistency and clear communication of information, and evaluating placement of 15-minute parking spaces on each block.
Computer software will take about 30 days to update, Reeves said, and the signage and communication will go out sooner than that.
The public safety committee reviewed and recommended approval of the changes. Reeves said staff had no recommendation as the system is still new and they only have a few months of data.
Reviews of the parking system, with the company that did the city’s original needs study in 2017, will be conducted in July and at the end of the year.
Council member Randy Morrissette said the public safety committee was cautious of making a knee-jerk reaction without statistical data, but wanted to fix some of the ill will generated by the new system. He said this is just the start of addressing the parking issue.
Council member Joyce Hall said she didn’t want to make changes before seeing how the new system is working, but the city needs to support business and make sure parking issues aren’t keeping people from downtown.
Eric Raley, whose wife owns Dick’s Bar, said the parking system is hurting their business. He said there are people who are not coming to happy hours or Saturday breakfast because they have to pay to park.
“I know we have a parking issue, I get that, but you’re killing downtown right now,” he said.
He also said their employees now have to park further away, leaving them walking alone at 2 a.m. or early in the morning when their shifts start or end.
Business owner Art Doyle said parking has been an issue for his customers, and he favors trying a new approach with the changes.
“It’s technically no harder to park now than it was before, it’s just more confusing and more intimidating,” Doyle said.
He said he is in favor of paid parking, as free parking will not solve the problems. He encouraged the city to take advantage of the flexibility of the stationed system, and also said the city needs more parking in general, such as a parking garage.
Mayor Rich O’Connor said he’d like to bring a proposal to create an official utility for parking with a committee of appointed citizens and business representatives that has meetings open to the public.
Previously the downtown parking advisory committee has been an unofficial committee that meets without notice and without the public present, O’Connor said.
Council member Sarah Atkins Hoggatt said the committee itself has had discussions about doing so and would approve of the proposal.