Lenox drops summertime $10 parking fine
LENOX -- By popular demand, parking tickets with $10 fines will not return to Lenox this summer.
The two-month experiment of random enforcement during last year's tourist-season crunch created ill will among residents and visitors, Town Hall and business leaders agreed.
So, although the posted daytime two-hour limit downtown will remain, there will be no similar enforcement, according to Lenox Select Board Chairman David Roche.
That is, unless the local business community demands it, he told The Eagle this week.
But local merchants know their bread is buttered by visitors and second-home owners -- 25 to 30 percent of the total Lenox population, according to Town Hall -- so there's no visible support to resume the crackdown on parking violators.
"Being the town we are and the fact we need to have visitors spend as much time in town as possible, I don't really think we need to have a parking restriction," said Lenox Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ralph Petillo.
"The problem arises with employees of the businesses," he said, "and if we could designate parking areas for them with stickers or some kind of posting, that would alleviate some of the problems and would eliminate the necessity for parking restrictions."
Petillo also recommended that the town explore the potential purchase of available vacant lots near the heart of downtown that could create 20 more parking spaces.
"If you come to town as a guest and are encouraged to eat at one of our restaurants, that alone could be a two-hour experience," said Petillo.
"When you hand out tickets to a visitor, it's not necessarily good PR," he noted. In addition, according to Town Hall and police officials, some local residents who received fines were outraged.
"It's one of those cases where you really can't please everybody," Roche said. "You try to do what you think is best for the business community. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.'
Last summer's Select Board decision to enforce the two-hour limit from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. stemmed from some concern that local business employees were parking all day on downtown streets, reducing the number of spaces available to customers.
"We'll have to have something, I think, just for the merchants; they have problems," said Town Clerk Jen Picard, who was on the front lines last summer, collecting complaints and begrudgingly paid fines from ticketed locals and visitors. "We did get grief, for sure," she said. "Was it worth it? I don't know."
"What really bothered us was that some people were upset and said they're not coming back to town," she added. "They came to town to shop or go to a restaurant and even though the fine was only $10, it was a slap in the face."
"The parking is a problem," Picard acknowledged. "But we also need to have it clear to people where they can and can't park, so we probably need more signage, and I don't know whether that's coming."
As she put it, "the merchants are the ones who suffer. If somebody parks in front of their business the whole day, if they aren't ticketed, or haven't got the threat of a ticket, it's not good for them."
Last summer, she tallied 324 tickets issued between early July and the end of Labor Day weekend.
According to Town Treasurer Marie C. Duby, 233 fines were paid; the $2,330 in revenue went into the town's general fund, to be spent as Town Meeting voters determine.
Roche, who acknowledged that inadequate signs contributed to last summer's pushback, suggested that on-street spaces subject to the two-hour limits could be "stenciled" with paint so drivers would know the specific time-limit rules.
Parking-ticket enforcement for the summer would be considered by the Selectmen only if so requested by the business community, he explained, "but we're not going to initiate it."
Although some business owners were pleased by last summer's crackdown because they had more open spaces, Roche stated, others such as restaurants and service businesses said they couldn't accommodate their customers within the two-hour limit.
He favors more signs directing motorists to designated public parking areas behind Berkshire Bank, behind Town Hall and in a lot at the corner of Church and Housatonic streets, among others. "We have ample public parking, but we haven't done a good job telling people where it is," he said.
Town Manager Christopher Ketchen, in his fourth day on the job, said he's "looking forward to seeing how Lenox manages" its summertime parking. "I'll see for myself," he added.
Lenox Police Chief Stephen O'Brien, who hired Cam Sibley, a 17-year-old Police Explorer and special officer, for parking enforcement last summer at the behest of the Selectmen, said that whatever town leaders ask him to do, or not do, is fine with him.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto
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