By Mary Spicer
“Employees in downtown Meadville who park in spaces where our customers should be parking are a detriment to the economic development of this community,” downtown business owner Viki Allin told members of Meadville City Council during their first study session of 2013.
The solution, according to Allin, is for council to step up to the plate and change the city’s parking regulations to prohibit employees of businesses located in Meadville’s central business district from parking their vehicles at meters in the district while they’re at work.
As owner of The Creative Crust, a Chestnut Street bakery whose rear entrance opens onto Market Square, Allin was making her second appearance before council in recent months to plead for official relief from what she sees as a chronic lack of available customer parking.
During her most recent presentation, Allin presented examples from around the country of municipalities she said had successfully implemented such a ban, singling out Kirkland, Wash., for special praise.
In late August 2012, “No Employee Parking” signs were posted in several parking lots in key areas of downtown Kirkland, a suburb of Seattle with a population of approximately 80,000.
A circular announcing implementation of the program posted on the City of Kirkland’s website notes that “an estimated 80 parking lot stalls are being occupied by employees and business owners daily; this represents nearly one-half of available parking stalls in these lots.”
Noting that “requiring your employees to keep those spaces free benefits you and your customers,” employers are urged to “promote alternative ways for employees to get to work like transit, carpooling or biking.”
The circular encourages employees to obtain a free parking permit from the city to park free at a municipal garage located near the public library.
“As a downtown business employee, you’ll appreciate free parking and not being cited by the Police Department for a parking violation,” the circular continues. “A first violation is a warning with subsquent violtions escalating from $35 to $50 to $75.”
In Kirkland, an “employee” is defined as “any person who is a business owner or an employee, contractor, consultant, temporary worker or volunteer of a business or non-profit entity within the central busines district.”
According to the Kirkland Municipal Code, the prohibition is in effect from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. except Sundays and holidays and applies “whenever the central business district employee is at their place of employment within the central business district.”
Although no time frame has been established for implementing any change in Meadville’s parking regulations, a committee consisting of councilmembers Nancy Mangilo-Bittner and Bob Langley has been formed.
According to City Manager Joe Chriest, the evaluation of the city’s parking situation should begin with an examination of the “Downtown Meadville Parking Study” prepared for the city by Desman Associates in 2008. “It’s a good baseline to start looking at,” Chriest said.
Under Meadville’s current parking ordinance, the central business district is defined as Pine Street to North Street and Water Street to Liberty Street, Chriest said.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.