Pittsfield councilors to review metered parking flap

Columbus Avenue controversy draws attention

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PITTSFIELD — Ward 6 Councilor John Krol had hoped that Mayor Linda Tyer's administration would work with Berkshire Nautilus on a parking resolution, but "that is not happening."

Now, councilors are calling for a larger conversation about metered parking at the new Columbus Avenue parking lot, and how that fits into the downtown parking scheme.

Several councilors said during their Tuesday meeting that it's time to talk again about whether the city should be in the parking meter business.

"I think this is something we really need to look long and hard at," Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said, asking for a cost-benefit analysis for the current parking system. "Especially going through the budget process."

Jim Ramondetta, owner of Berkshire Nautilus, told city councilors on Tuesday that he collected 800 signatures from people who, like him, feel strongly that free three-hour parking should remain at the Columbus Avenue lot across the street from his Summer Street business.

That, he said, would send the signal that "Pittsfield is open for business."

The issue erupted last month after Ramondetta realized the city planned to install metered parking at the lot. He said the move acts as surcharge for his roughly 800 members, and that it would unfairly hurt his already-struggling business.

Tyer has said she's working to implement the parking plan — an initiative that she said began before she took office. It's important, she said, to implement it equitably "to not just his business, but to all businesses."

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The new Columbus Avenue lot is scheduled for June completion.

Tyer's formal response, filed as a letter to councilors, outlines traffic orders approved by the City Council in 2016, which render the Columbus Avenue lot among the metered zones. If councilors desire a change, she suggested they file a petition seeking it.

To that point, Krol's petition — which councilors voted on Tuesday to refer to the Traffic Commission — called for the removal of parking meters at the lot. He suggests deploying 90-minute parking instead.

"I think this is worth a conversation," he told his colleagues. "I think this is democracy in action."

When it comes to metered parking, Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said it's time to ask: "Is it doing what we wanted?"

But not every councilor was eager to revisit the parking meter issue.

"I'm downtown almost every day," said Councilor at Large Pete White. "I see our current parking plan working."

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


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