Meadville Tribune

Local News

November 10, 2013

Meadville mulls eliminating free holiday parking downtown

MEADVILLE — Will an offer of free two-hour parking on the streets of Meadville’s downtown business district entice customers to do their holiday parking downtown — or will it simply encourage employees of businesses in the aforementioned district to park for free in spots intended for customer use?

That was the question raised by members of Meadville City Council in response to a recent request received from Christa Batten, executive director of Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce.

In a letter discussed during council’s recent monthly study session, Batten asked that the city “suspend the use, fines and costs associated with the parking meters in the downtown area to help support the local businesses during the holiday season.”

Batten even offered her organization’s assistance in accomplishing the task. “I understand that bagging meters in the downtown shopping area has been the tradition and we will be glad to place the bags on the meters, providing the city supplies the bags and locations of meters to be covered,” she wrote. “We all want to do our part to support buying local and supporting the downtown businesses,” she added. “We also encourage that residents and fellow business owners of Meadville consider purchasing items in Meadville before heading out of town.”

However, while he’s all in favor of encouraging downtown shopping, Mayor Christopher Soff isn’t sure that bagging meters is the way to go.

“It appears that the downtown businesses are not in favor of this,” he said, noting that the program “would undo the efforts of (council’s) parking committee and the Downtown Meadville Business Alliance” to discourage employee parking in prime downtown spaces.

In mid-October, an alliance representative outlined a plan his group believes may offer a solution to the problem of employees filling prime customer parking spaces as well as requested an opportunity for the four-month-old organization to meet with council to share its ideas about the city’s central business area. Those ideas, he added, include the creation of a “customer-only parking” zone in the central business district, surrounded by plenty of 12-hour metered spaces, especially in the city’s parking garages and surface parking lots.

At that time, council members Nancy Mangilo-Bittner and Bob Langley, who comprise council’s parking subcommittee, expressed a preference for moving ahead with formalizing their own recommendation to council, which includes changing the hours during which meters must be fed from the current 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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