By DREW HOWARD
Rochester City Council members were split down the middle over Parking Advisory Committee (PAC) amendments that would affect business owners during their latest meeting on Monday, March 26.
The PAC proposed to council that costs be lowered to $55 per parking space for property owners “who are efficient in their site,” amounting to a total of $125,000. The proposal also requests that parking permit fees be raised from $20 a month to $25.
City Manager Blaine Wing explained that the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) will be budgeting in $50,000 to help offset the $125,000 total. Wing gave council members two choices: either accept the PAC’s amendments, or lower the proposed amount by $50,000 to $75,000.
At public comment, the owner of Rochester’s Fieldstone Winery suggested that the council consider charging for parking on the weekends to help offset costs.
“There’s an opportunity we’re missing, especially on Sundays – the parking lots are full, and we have a lot of brunch places,” he said. “We could easily offset that on Sundays. On Friday and Saturday nights the parking lots are full and we don’t charge those people.”
Council members were evenly split on the issue in their discussion following the public hearing.
“I think the idea of charging for night parking is a really good idea,” Mayor Pro-Tem Kim Russell said. “I know there is some give and take for that, but we have a lot of restaurant and night time activity – I’m not a fan of doing Sunday, though, I like to keep Sundays holy.”
Council members Nancy Salvia and Dean Bevacqua were both against raising the parking permit to $25 a month.
“I would like to see if we could keep the permits at $20 for one more year,” Salvia said. “With the DDA money coming in for $50,000, and looking at the numbers, I think we’re a little bit better than break even.”
“I also support keeping the costs at $20 instead of raising it to $25 for the folks who need that assistance most,” Bevacqua said.
Council member Ann Peterson agreed that permits should be kept at $20 a month, and was also interested in potentially charging for parking on the weekends.
Peterson was most vocal on what she considered to be a lack of financial support from the DDA.
“I’m tired of seeing business owners having to make up for this,” Peterson said. “I do think if it’s truly working then the DDA can put the money toward the capital, and it doesn’t have to come out of the business owners.”
Council member Stuart A. Bikson echoed Peterson’s comments on the DDA.
“The DDA should be much more involved in this than they are,” Bikson said. “To add a tax to business people to make up that the DDA doesn’t want to participate in the biggest project in the history of the DDA, I don’t think it’s right, and I will vote against it.”
With Mayor Rob Ray absent from the meeting, the council found themselves evenly split with a 3-3 vote on the matter. The council was unable to
find common ground, forcing them to abandon the issue for the remainder of the meeting.
The next Rochester City Council meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, April 9. You can watch this week’s meeting online under the “City Webcast” section at www.ci.rochester.mi.us.