Tuesday, July 27, 2010
New Hope Business Leader Takes on Visitor Parking Tickets
Joel Roberts, like many raised in the Midwest, is the type of guy who tries to be friendly and helpful to everyone he meets.
He owns Mechanic Street Mugs in New Hope, PA and helped start, and runs, the Mechanic Street Merchants' Association and Second Saturdays in New Hope.
Some too young too know any better mistake him for Jerry Garcia; actually, he's related to Benjamin Franklin, and if you look closely enough there's a resemblance.
Most days you can see him out in front of his store at 10 W. Mechanic Street, sanding wooden bowls or finishing a crossword puzzle. He likes Rib Night at the Candlewyck Lounge. He avoids talk of politics and religion whenever possible.
But something finally got his goat several weeks back: reports were emerging among fellow merchants as diverse as Meshell Kimbel (God Save the Qweens) and Frank Policare (Penn Wealth Planning) on Facebook and elsewhere about visitors' vehicles being ticketed by police during and after the weekly Friday Night Fireworks event which begins at 9:30 p.m.
Seems that when the borough took over Saint Martin's Church and its accompanying parking lot, one of New Hope's largest, the tacit policy of allowing patrons to leave their cars after the lot's closure at 9:00 p.m. was discontinued.
Says Roberts, "A lot of our customers every day, but especially on Friday nights now that fireworks have started, question us store owners about the wisdom of this policy. I tend to believe them and feel that having a public parking lot close at nine p.m. and then ticket those people that remain is a really BAD plan. How do we explain to them that they can move their car to a meter on the street if they can find one and park for free but the borough lot is closed to the public?"
If the borough hall is going to be the place where borough meetings are held, how do we expect to tell attending people that at 9:00 they must remove their cars and move them to a street meter when the meetings run past nine p.m.?" he added. "This policy or ordinance makes no sense and should be changed in my opinion and others here on Mechanic Street."
Roberts fired off a letter to Borough Hall and, following a second epistle, was invited to appear before Borough Council at its next monthly meeting on August 17 to present his concerns.
Explains Council President Sharyn Keiser, "We want to hear from everyone in the vicinity [of the parking lot]; Council is not going to make a decision without their input."
According to Keiser, not only are residents of New Street potentially affected by parking policy at the lot, but also those of West Mechanic Street and the nearby Riverwoods/Village Two housing development.
"We want to be fair to everybody," she said.
She also said that those attending official borough functions typically held in the evening, like Council meetings and community events, are not being ticketed.
And lately, the borough seems to have stopped ticketing vehicles parked in the lot during weekly fireworks displays on Friday nights, although their owners shouldn't dawdle too long after the show is over in returning to their cars and trucks and moving them.
Still, Roberts will be seeking clarification and improvement of Borough Hall parking lot policy at the August 17 meeting so that New Hope's evening visitors throughout each week aren't turned off by unexpected violation notices on their car or truck windshields.
"I think that the parking lot policy could also be changed to "No overnight parking" and accomplish the same thing as attempting to close a public lot and leave people to only park on public streets at public meters," he said.