By Sydney Hakes
After years of free parking in downtown Plattsburgh, the plan to install a paid parking fee structure took effect Oct. 11. The Common Council passed the decision (4-2) in June despite concerns from community members.
Street parking and select spots in the Durkee Street lot are still free, but for two hours only. Paid parking is in effect Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at $1 an hour, paid by card or cash to kiosks.
While this fee doesn’t seem expensive, it was still a big change for locals and business owners.
Plattsburgh local Hannah Laurin lives in an apartment on Bridge Street across from the Durkee lot. Her two-bedroom apartment allows one parking spot out back, so her brother Brandon is forced to use street parking or the lots.
“We’re mostly gone during the day and they don’t enforce it after 4 p.m. so it hasn’t been bad,” Laurin said. “But he does take long lunch breaks in the afternoon, and I’ve seen other vehicles with tickets on them multiple times so it just seems like a risk to be parked in the same spot too long.”
Local businesses were also strongly opposed to the plan, worried that paid lots may deter customers from coming. Rebecca VanValkenberg, an employee at Antique & Variety Mall on Margaret Street, said they have definitely been impacted by it.
Although locals are pretty aware of the hours paid parking is in effect and where free two-hour parking may be, people traveling from other towns are not.
“The issue is that communication didn’t get out, so we have people from Malone or Massena or Elizabethtown calling us confused about where to park or if they’ll get ticketed,” VanValkenberg said. “There are a lot of questions.”
The Antique & Variety Mall has two locations on the same block, with three employee parking spots behind the building for both locations. VanValkenberg said one of the mall’s employees has to pay to park when they work.
Carolyn Tetreault, owner of the gift store A Beautiful Mess on Margaret Street, said that while she has only two employees, they have no reserved parking spots. She opted for the parking permits over hourly payment, as it “made the most sense.”
She hasn’t seen a change in the number of customers stopping in, citing that the two-hour street parking is typically available during their business hours. But overall, she thinks the plan has been “a pain.”
“I personally feel that the employees shouldn’t have to pay,” Tetreault said.
The City of Plattsburgh government site has a page with information about downtown parking, including how to use kiosks, getting a parking permit, instructions for delivery drivers and a map of what lots are two hours or paid.
Semi-annual or annual parking permits can be purchased for $90 or $171. Employers have an option to purchase multiple permits at once for their employees if they wish to do so, like Tetreault did for her employees.
The city website also noted a Plattsburgh Parking Advisory Committee, whose goal is “to advise the Common Council on parking and related matters as well as to guide and review the preparation of parking plans and programs.”
The Community Development Office was not aware if the committee had an expiration date that passed, but they hadn’t been active recently.
When the plan was passed in June, Mayor Chris Rosenquest spoke in a press release about the benefits paid parking could provide, mainly the revenue that could be generated. Rosenquest said the newly approved fee schedule is hoped to bring in about $20,000 per year to go toward downtown improvements.
But concern still lingers for small business owners that only time will sway. Addressing those concerns, Rosenquest said, “We’re prepared to make commonsense adjustments when necessary.”