On Monday night, the Newark City Council voted down Bill 17-54, which would have increased parking meter rates in certain areas, and given direction to the city manager to increase lot rates at certain hours. The City Council unanimously voted against the current version of the bill, citing that they needed new information from the city manager to make a correct decision. Due to widespread public criticism and a lack of convincing consumer data, the City Council has been under significant pressure to vote down the proposed parking fee increase.
Currently, the metered cost of parking on Main Street is $1.25 per hour. Bill 17-54 would have nearly doubled the hourly rate to $2 during the newly determined “peak” hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Monday through Friday. Parking rates would have remained $1 per hour on weekends, off-peak hours and during the summer months.
District 3 Council member Jennifer Wallace said she was unwilling to vote on the bill until a “comprehensive plan to control parking demand” was presented by the city manager.
Bill 17-54 was first introduced to the Council on Sept. 27 and debate began on Nov. 27. Council members Mark Morehead of District 1 and Chris Hamilton of District 4 support the measure, citing the parallel rise in other city service prices.
“We can’t provide parking for free,” Hamilton said. “As a city, we shouldn’t be losing money on our utilities and operations. This tax only affects users of the parking spaces. Our finances are going up, and it doesn’t look like our income is gonna match that otherwise.”
Council member Jerry Clifton of District 2 strongly opposed the bill because he believes it would have discouraged business growth in Newark. On Monday night, Clifton claimed that it was unfair for meters west of Chapel Street to increase to $2 per hour while meters east of Chapel Street remained at $1 per hour.
“My issue with the rate increase is that it benefits people on the east side of town and no one else,” Clifton said. “We’re not here to pick winners and losers. For that reason alone, I’m still against this tonight.”
On Monday night, a representative of the city manager’s office claimed that he and his staff had originally recommended a metered price increase of only $0.25, bringing the original $1.25 figure to $1.50. Council instead proposed to raise it to $2.
Morehead advocated “throwing out” the bill until more information was brought forward by the City Manager’s office.
Several business owners have complained about the current parking situation in downtown Newark. Economically, increased prices would free up spaces in city lot but possibly decrease commerce on Main Street. Many business owners called for the construction of a new parking garage as an alternative to the Main Street meter parking fee rise, indicating the need for more parking options in Newark.
According to Hamilton, the construction of a new parking garage would require increased city revenue, which would potentially have to funded by increased parking rates, rendering the outcry for decreased meter fees irrelevant.
The increase would have matched the price of parking in on-campus university lots or parking garages. Polly Sierer, the mayor of Newark, claimed this increase would encourage citizens to park in university parking to free spaces for Main Street patrons. Many businesses on Main Street do not cover parking costs for their employees, so Monday’s price increase would have created a larger expense for the business owners.
“With a parking pass, I still have to pay six times what a UD employee or student pays,” Barbara Day, the director of marketing and development at Unique Impressions, said. “I’m a good salesperson, but with the parking increase, my yearly parking expenses would be $11,000. We must make it so that Main Street business owners and employees don’t feel the brunt of this.”