|North Adams Traffic Commission Advises Parking Fees After Solid Sound Success|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
04:32AM / Wednesday, July 20, 2022
|St. Anthony's Municipal Parking Lot has more than 100 spaces. It's been free on weekends but this year, the city charged $40 a day for Solid Sound parking, pulling in $11,000.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Traffic Commission is recommending a parking event fee of $40 a day after Solid Sound Weekend in May pulled in some $11,000 for the city.
Chair MaryAnn King said the focus would be on St. Anthony's Municipal Parking Lot and for events at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. But the ordinance can't single those out and has to be broader in terms language.
"I don't think you're going to see us do it for other events," she said at Tuesday's commission meeting. "It's unfortunate, I really think in the ordinance it's going to have to say events, but I don't foresee us charging for downtown events. I really see, you know, like concerts."
Officials have talked on and off over the years about how to tap into the thousands of vehicles that descend on the city for Mass MoCA concerts and festivals. Eric Rudd, in a run for mayor nearly a decade ago, had argued for parking fees, including in the museum lot, as an untapped source of revenue.
King, longtime parking enforcement officer and dispatcher, put the talk into action at the last minute this year after conferring with Mayor Jennifer Macksey.
"It was kind of like a short notice and we had a week to plan this," King said. "[The mayor] did bring it to the council, mentioned it to them because unfortunately, we didn't have an ordinance for it at the time. ...
"I just couldn't see just throwing that money away."
The city alerted the museum director, who had no issues with it, and King and her husband, Leon, volunteered to run the parking lot. Private individuals and organizations have also been charging for parking spaces during the festivals, with St. Elizabeth's Church charging $35.
"We didn't want to undercut the church," King continued. "The church was charging $35 a spot. We charged $40. We didn't want to take any of the parking away from them. We figured let them fill up first, then the overflow, if they want, can come to us."
She reported the lot was at capacity on Saturday, and less so on Friday night and Sunday. The festival ran May 27-29 and brought in around 8,000 people.
King said three spots were reserved for the permitted overnight parkers and spots under the Veterans Memorial Bridge for Marshal Street customers.
They also tried to run some parking spots in the Center Street lot by blocking off permitted areas with signs and horses but it was difficult to do with just two people and some help from the mayor.
"We're going to have to sit down and think what we're going to do there in order to do it the right way," King said. "We have to have someone police it."
Commissioner Paul Markland, highway foreman, said perhaps the city could partner with organizations or youth groups. King said it was possible but noted the amount of money involved and how that could be handled.
"When you bring the groups in, I mean, when you're looking at $11,000 plus dollars, you have to really have checks and balances," she said.
King said the weekend worked out well. They used a handheld credit card reader and took down license plates and phone numbers. People who wanted to leave and come back were able to keep their spots. In one instance, the festivalgoers were so excited they took off with their car still running. Luckily, they also left the vehicle unlocked so police shut it off and locked it up for them. King said they left a note in the car explaining what happened.
"The only complaints we really got about the price we charged were some locals," King said. "We had such a great group of people. They were so friendly."
Other commissioners agreed that the price was right for "prime parking" compared to other communities. Commissioner Marie T. Harpin said she'd paid $40 for spot near a beach in Connecticut.
The City Council isn't expected to take up the ordinance until its August meeting.
The commission also voted to recommend the east side of Central Avenue be a no-parking zone. King said Police Chief Jason Wood had asked for this to be put on the agenda.
Apparently a new resident on the street, which runs between Franklin and Barth streets, has been parking on the street and making it difficult for vehicles to get through. King said all of the homes on the street have driveways and off-street parking.
"He's been asked not to do it, one of the officers went up and spoke with him. I believe the chief did also and it just continues," she said.
Harpin brought up a complaint from a resident of Highland Avenue who said it was often difficult to back out of their driveway because of cars parked along the street.
Highland runs from Davenport down to Hoosac Hall on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus. Employees and students often park along the street.
Markland and King said it was legal to park on the street, except overnight during the winter. Harpin asked about parking close to driveways but that also is not in ordinance, they said.
King said they had put a 5-foot setback on a section of Church Street to accommodate houses that had stairs that ended on the street so people could get out of their houses without being blocked by cars. Harpin said she would speak with the residents again.
She also brought up the odd placement of the "no right on red" signs at the bottom of Eagle near St. Joseph's Court and resident Alan Horbal said tractor trailers were coming down narrow, winding East Main Street and questioned what happened to a sign warning it was closed to commercial trucks.
Markland said he would look into both issues.