Special to The Eagle
LENOX -- Although residents and visitors won’t find parking tickets with $10 fines on their windshields this summer, the town plans a top-to-bottom review of its bylaws and enforcement policies for the future.
Town Manager Christopher Ketchen acknowledged that "the parking culture and behavior that exists today has evolved over half a generation. Changing that culture in a positive, community-building way will take much more time" than available ahead of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer.
At the most recent Select Board meeting, he questioned "whether or not the bylaws currently on the books are appropriate and, if so, whether a more active enforcement regime and any changes need to be considered."
Ketchen won a green light from the members to urge merchants to tell their employees and customers in no uncertain terms -- use the free, off-street municipal lots if they need to park for more than two hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week.
Outlining his recommendations, Ketchen stated that "by most accounts, the approach taken last year was divisive and, ultimately, did not serve the interests of the town government, merchants, tourists or residents."
He was referring to the random police enforcement ordered by the Selectmen last summer for July and August, which yielded 324 tickets, 233 fines paid and $2,330 in revenue for the town. But some visitors and residents complained vigorously; several tourists vowed not to return.
Signage for the two-hour daytime limit was deemed inadequate. There was widespread sentiment favoring a three-hour limit and better visibility for the free lots behind Berkshire Bank, on the corner of Housatonic and Church streets, behind the Lenox Community Center and several other locales.
In September, Ketchen will hold two "summer parking post-mortems" open to the public but targeted at merchants to brainstorm future changes, if any, to the town bylaws regulating downtown parking.
Proposed changes would require approval from voters at next May’s annual town meeting, followed by any necessary improvements, such as new signs, completed before the 2015 tourism onslaught.
"Town bylaws, in whatever form they exist, will be fully enforced in summer 2015," Ketchen said.
"Ultimately," he said, "government should enforce the laws that exist, or make changes that reflect the public’s values. Neither is happening today."
"I think that Chris has hit on a good policy, looking at where we’ve been and where we want to get to with this," said Selectman Kenneth Fowler, "trying to be diligent as we go forward so we have a plan in place that is fair to all and not unfair to anyone."
"This way, there’s going to be communication, give-and-take and feedback," added Selectman Edward Lane.
Fowler stressed the need for adequate signage advising the public of the rules -- "it’s critical." He cited a two-hour parking sign beneath a no-parking sign at one location, while Selectman David Roche recalled a three-hour sign in a two-hour zone.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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