City Council votes down free parking on Summer Street

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PITTSFIELD — After months of debate, city councilors shot down a proposal to extend free parking at the newly finished Summer Street lot on Tuesday.

A vote on the amendments, which would have made parking in the city lot free for 90 minutes, failed 8-3, with councilors John Krol, Melissa Mazzeo and Kevin Morandi voting in favor. Currently, only the first 30 minutes are free.

The newly metered lot replaces the former Columbus Avenue parking garage, which was recently demolished. The second level had been closed since 2014, but parking on the lower level remained free after the city launched its metered parking program in early 2017.

Krol brought the measure forward in response to outcry from Berkshire Nautilus owner Jim Ramondetta, who argues paid hourly parking in the new lot hurts his business.

The Summer Street issue sparked a larger conversation about the downtown parking plan and whether it should be revisited.

Jesse Cook-Dubin, board president for Downtown Pittsfield Inc., asked councilors not to take apart the parking plan in bits and pieces. He said they should reconvene the parking committee that worked on the plan previously in order to consider it more holistically.

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"The stakeholders need to be pulled together," he said. "There's so many moving parts in this plan. I really urge you not to take just one lot and make a decision on that."

He said the committee could discuss the issue in detail as well as conduct surveys. Downtown Pittsfield Inc. could help, he said.

Mazzeo said after the meeting that she had hoped to provide relief to those using the Summer Street lot while the city embarks on an evaluation of the larger parking plan. She had planned to come back with more petitions to make parking free at the other surface lots for the time being, but following the Tuesday measure's failure said she would need to regroup.

Still, she said the parking plan begs for review.

"It's not working," she said. "We need to pull back and figure out we're doing, good and bad."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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