Greenwich: Chamber of Commerce ends parking program

The Greenwich Chamber of Commerce is putting its managed parking program on idle, two years after introducing it to holiday shoppers.
greenwich.jpgCiting the need for a broad strategy to fight downtown congestion, the business group said it did not want its program to conflict with ongoing efforts to consolidate the town's parking-related activities into a new office in the Department of Public Works.

Mary Ann Morrison, the chamber's president and chief executive officer, urged town officials yesterday to consider incorporating managed parking into any long-term planning.

"It is a concept that certainly needs to be looked at as one effective way for adding parking in Greenwich," Morrison said.

Two years ago, the town agreed to lease a portion of the municipal parking lot between Lewis and East Elm streets to the chamber for $1 during November and December. The chamber hired a valet company to manage the lot, where meters were covered with bags.

Motorists arriving before 9 a.m. paid $2 for all-day parking, with attendants parking and retrieving some cars. After 9 a.m., the fee was $3. Monthly passes were $40. Up to 168 cars could be parked in the southeastern portion of the lot, which was designed for 118 cars.

"It was a pilot project," Morrison said.

The town tried to reinstate the program last year without the chamber, but none of the valet companies the town approached was able to meet its insurance requirements.

First Selectman Richard Bergstresser warned yesterday that the program isn't likely to resume this year either, citing similar concerns as those that killed the plan last year.

"All it would take is a head-on of two Ferraris and a Rolls-Royce and it would be all over," Bergstresser said.

The first selectman was one of several town leaders who agreed with the chamber's decision to suspend the managed parking program in favor of a comprehensive approach to downtown parking.

A proposal before the Board of Selectmen would consolidate the collection of meter fees, upkeep of public parking lots, issuance of permits, enforcement of parking ordinances and development of long-range plans under a single office. Those responsibilities are currently divided between the police, public works and finance departments, as well as the first selectman's office.

Several leaders described the managed parking program as a small piece of a larger puzzle.

"To me, it's definitely a short-term thing, a Band-Aid, a short-term fix for a long-term problem," said Vince DiMarco, chairman of the Selectmen's Transportation Committee.
Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.
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