Parking in Florence
The Meters Are Coming,
The Meters Are Coming,
Or Maybe They Aren't
By Edward Shanahan
I’d heard the rumor and so it was time to challenge Northampton Parking Czar William Letendre as we stood in line recently at the Florence Post Office.
What about the story making the rounds that the city is going to start enforcing the parking regulations in Florence?
As soon he can add another enforcement officer to his staff, Parking Czar shot back, meters will be installed in Florence’s downtown and enforcement will begin.
Wow. He better not spend much time in Florence, if he’s prudent. Parking meters in Florence would be as welcome as anthrax. And those posted signs which limit parking to only an hour, have never been observed since they were first installed years ago.
In fact, it is my understanding that when the TOPICS program was reluctantly accepted in Florence and resulted in new sidewalks, traffic signals, street lights and shade trees, there was an unstated agreement that there would be no meters and no parking enforcement.
Why enforcement now, anyway? I had heard the city was waiting to move on this as soon as last November’s election was decided.
Because the city needs to deal with what has become a parking problem in the center of Florence, Parking Czar explained.
How soon will this happen? Well, he needs to get the additional enforcement officer on board and the necessary municipal ordinances written and approved. Probably in the fall, he said.
Maybe Parking Czar Letendre was pulling my leg with his provocative comments about parking meters, but when I told him I as going to post his comments on downstreet,net, he did not say he was just kidding.
And later that day as I made a few stops at Florence businesses and passed along the Czar’s comments, I got an earful from various merchants, such as Bill Rogers at F.J. Rogers sporting goods, Jim Brazeau at Murduff’s Jewelry Store, and Timothy Shea, who owns most of the rest of the downtown retail real estate.
“There’s no parking problem,” Shea said unequivocally. And if one develops, he said, it is because the city has issued special permits for new businesses or reuses that do not meet existing requirements for providing off-street parking spaces.
Shea makes a distinction between traditional run-in and run-out businesses - the Post Office, Bird’s Store, the hardware store, flower shop, whose customers use on-street spaces, and so-called sit-down businesses, such as restaurants and other businesses where customers linger.
In bringing up the subject of parking, we seemed to have touched a raw spot among the merchants we talked to, and that was a generalized hostility toward city government. Among the long-time Florence business people, there seemed to be a lot of anger ready to be released, all that was needed was a trigger.
An exception was Patrick Goggins, who had many positive comments about Mayor Clare Higgins and her administration, especially her support for the development of more affordable housing in the city. We did not talk about parking, as that’s not much of an issue for him at the new Northampton Co-op Bank complex where he is based and where there is a good deal of off-street parking.
Shea, Brazeau, and Rogers, on the other hand, seemed to believe that any parking enforcement move or the introduction of meters in Florence was motivated by the goal of generating revenue for the city, not because there was a “parking problem.”
Also, they said, pressure to install meters in Florence seems to be coming from downtown Northampton businesses that want Florence to experience the same parking restrictions they have to deal with.
According to Shea, when asked recently about meters and parking enforcement in Florence: Parking Czar said:“Not on my watch .”
Additionally, he said, the Parking Czar made the same “Not on my watch” statement to Mike Flynn of Flynn’s Barber Shop, who is active in the Florence Mercantile Association. Seems as though Parking Czar has now changed his tune, said Shea.
Shea suggests citizens of Florence might consider wearing “Not on My Watch” buttons as a statement of community opinion about parking enforcement and meters.
Parking Chief Restates Position
on Parking Meters for Florence
To the Editor
I saw your website article about the Parking Czar. Let me set a few things straight. I have told many folks in Florence, such as Tim Shea and Mike Flynn, my intentions regarding meters in Florence. My position has not changed one bit from six months ago.
Then I said that putting meters in Florence was the last thing I would do. I have also said that if there are no parking problems in Florence that meters are unnecessary.
Since making those statements I have received many complaints from Florence residents about the current lack of on-street parking at certain times of the day. I am sending one of my enforcement people to Florence twice a week to assess the situation and report back to me.
This has been done once. It will be done again on Thursday. She has been instructed not to ticket anyone. I'm simply trying to see if there is a real problem or a perceived one.
I will say again that I have no plans to install any meters in Florence.
In your story you said that the only reason that we would install meters is for the revenue. That is completely false. I would never use revenue as a reason for installing meters. Meters are installed to control parking period.
The revenue generated by meters in Florence would be a losing proposition. When you factor in the cost of the meters, the cost of installation, the cost to maintain them and collect the nickles and dimes, and the necessary enforcement, it is a losing proposition.
I do agree with the statement that the planning board and zoning board have allowed buildings to be renovated without taking parking into account. We all pay taxes to the City of Northampton whether we live in Florence, Leeds or Bay State. I think we need to start working together to come up with creative solutions to our problems instead of acting like we are in separate countries.
City of Northampton
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