No quarter: North Adams City Council nixes meters for Center Street parking lot


NORTH ADAMS — Downtown businesses have successfully lobbied against a proposal to install parking meters on Center Street.

In a reversal from its Aug. 6 vote, the council unanimously quashed a proposal to charge $0.25 per hour in the spots currently designated as free two-hour parking. Met with sharp criticism by representatives from downtown businesses after the council's initial approval, the proposal had been introduced by Mayor Richard Alcombright in July as a way to simplify enforcement of the parking lot.

Ordinance changes require two votes to officially pass, and several councilors noted that information and perspective provided by key stakeholders swayed their vote.

"This was a perfect example why we have two readings," said Councilor Keith Bona, who opposed the measure in both votes.

Though there is a two hour limit on the free spaces, the kiosk that is supposed to charge for additional time has long been out of order. This has essentially left half of the lot with free parking and the other half reserved for parking pass holders.

City officials argued that a lack of enforcement of the free parking limit will discourage residents and workers at downtown businesses from purchasing the passes.

"From a purely enforcement perspective, the meters would have been the easiest and most efficient way to go," Alcombright said, but he added that "the administration would certainly accept a no vote with a smile and we'll definitely look at this again over the next couple of months."

Councilor Kate Merrigan noted that businesses that account for 80 percent of the parking passes were represented at the recent committee meeting, yet they still opposed the meter plans.

"It was really valuable," Merrigan said of the input from the meeting. "It changed the way I see this, which was really useful."

The cost of installing the meters was estimated at about $5,000, not including the labor to install them. An estimate of potential revenue from the meters was not provided by the administration.

The proposed ordinance change was approved by a 7-2 vote at the Aug. 9 council meeting, but required a second vote to be finalized.

In an uncommon move, the public safety committee held a meeting after the full council's vote to hear from downtown business owners who opposed the plan but were not present at the committee's first hearing on Aug. 8.

At the Aug. 16 committee meeting, business owners pleaded with the council to hold off on passing the plan until more data about the parking lot's use and its potential impact on downtown parking can be made available.

The consensus was clearly in opposition to the plan, which many argued would be solving a problem that doesn't really exist.

"I think the meter issue kind of went away for me when we found out a majority of the permit holders are not frustrated with free parking," said Councilor Joshua Moran.

On Tuesday, the council reversed its vote, acting unanimously against the proposal.

"I think this was a great example of how things should work "[we] heard from the people, I think we reacted accordingly," said Robert Moulton, Jr., who chairs the public safety committee.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376


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