Parking fee fury

LAKE PLACID – Local residents and workers lashed back at the village Board of Trustees Monday in response to parking hikes passed earlier this month.

One trustee said it was the largest turnout at a board meeting in half a decade. Attendance ballooned to more than two dozen people, with several standing in the hallway as others discussed the village’s complex short-term and long-term parking problem for more than 45 minutes inside the board room.

Marlene Prue handed the board a petition with signatures from 94 Main Street residents and employees who oppose the increases.

Most all of the attendees were annual permit holders who shared discontent about the short notice permit holders received from the board about the tripling of annual permit fees from $50 to $150, or from 14 to 42 cents per day.

The parking resolution was passed at a May 2 board meeting. May 10 was the renewal date for annual permits, but the board pushed that back to June 10 at Monday’s meeting.

The attendees questioned where that money was going to be used and how the board came to decide on those figures.

“It’s unrealistic, because there are so many people I know on Main Street, they can’t do it (financially),” said Troy Tetreault, a Main Street resident and Lake Placid Gourmet employee.

Attendees were most upset with the lack of permit spaces near their Main Street employers and residences; the board’s recommendation to park for free at the train station parking lot on Station Street, pointing to a station-to-Main Street shuttle they described as unreliable; and the lack of supply and high demand for permit spots.

Several attendees expressed a desire for a downtown parking garage and pressed the board on how the fee increases could lead to a garage or some other solution.

The board is in the process of financing a massive rebuild of Main Street, including its sewer, stormwater and water infrastructure. In March, Mayor Craig Randall said Main Street is “in its very early fledgling stage.” He said that rebuild would include changes to remedy the parking problem, likely including a garage and taking around five years to complete.

Randall said some of the additional parking fee revenue would be put toward that, and Trustee Peter Holderied added that the village is also seeking grant funding. Randall said a parking garage would be costly, roughly $20,000 a space, according to his research. With an eye on a 275-space garage, he said it could cost more than $5 million.

The village also increased the rate for parking curbside and in public lots on Main Street, from Saranac Avenue to the post office, from $1 to $2 per hour.

Peeved attendees were also adamant that the village must improve enforcement of metered spots meant for visitors. Some suggested towing or booting delinquent cars rather than the current practice of a $25 fine – a figure Randall said the board agrees isn’t high enough.

Randall said towing of vehicles on Main Street is not optimal, considering its narrow width. He added that booting has been been done in the past and that village police have added three members to help with enforcement.

The number of designated parking spots in the village will increase by 52 to 108 total once signs are installed. Randall said the village sold 340 permits in the past year. He acknowledged those numbers don’t add up.

“We are still short, when you do the math, but we are bringing it closer to the reality of what we are able to do,” he said.

He then suggested parking at the train station, about a mile from the busiest portion of Main Street, where he said there is room for 175 cars at a minimum. He said the board is working to improve the free Placid Xprss trolley service, which people at the meeting said isn’t adequate for them.

“There is a conflict between the various classes,” Randall later said. “We are very aware of it, and we are aware it’s getting worse. That’s the short-term, this-year fix.”

Andy Seligmann, a black fly control technician for the town of North Elba, said the shuttle system must be “lock solid” if permit holders are pushed to park at the train station. He also recommended the village hire a professional parking planner to help remedy the problem. Randall said the request was valid.

Seligmann also said an unnamed village police officer told him enforcement of payments of the annual fee would be waived until June 10. Randall recommended the board honor the June 10 date, and the board approved the recommendation.

Along with the new annual fee of $150, for the time period of Sept. 10 through May 10, permit passes now cost $120, for Nov. 10 through May 10 they are $80, and for March 10 through May 10 they are $40.

Trustee Jason Leon said he opposed the parking changes throughout two months of board work sessions. He was not present at the May 2 meeting due to sickness.

“There is a need to address parking, but it does seem to squeeze the employees and the people who live on Main Street,” he said after the meeting. “I feel like I wish they would have been taken into account a little bit more.”

Tetreault was one of several attendees advocating for a phase-in of the $150 annual permit price. Leon motioned the board to consider a phase-in, but it failed as no trustee seconded it.

At the end of the meeting, after all attendees had left, village Clerk Ellen Clark said the biggest complaint she saw was the short notice. She asked if the board could consider allowing payments of the $150 in two payments instead of requiring it “up front off the bat.” Randall said that would be something to discuss in a work session, but village Treasurer Paul Ellis said it was a bad idea.

“I wouldn’t be in favor because you are not only duplicating work but adding to the workload, because now you have to set up a tracking system and a follow-up system, Ellis said.

“We are giving them a month for those that need some time,” Randall said of the extension to June 10. “I really think, given the present configuration of how the permits are set up, that’s probably the best that we can do.”