Parking in downtown Gardner continues to be an issue, and recent enforcement of the two hour parking limit has brought it to the forefront.
“The fine is $35” Gardner Police Chief James Pruetting
The general boundaries of the two-hour parking are from Sycamore to just before Gardner City Hall on Main St. and from alley to alley on Elm St., Monday thru Saturday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Parking enforcement is complaint-driven. There are 322 downtown parking areas, and 84 of them have a two-hour limit.
“Although enforcement of the downtown parking area is not generally a priority for the department, it has been enforced several different times over the years,” said Jim Pruetting, Gardner police chief. “The recent enforcement effort was initiated after the department received complaints from business owners downtown who indicated that the number of vehicles violating the two-hour limit was negatively impacting their businesses as their customers had no place to park.”
“The fine is $35,” Pruetting said. “Originally there were court costs of $50 included, but the judge contacted the department and asked that we not add the normal court costs of $50, lowering the fine to $35.”
The procedure is that an officer chalks tires and then returns in two hours. During this recent enforcement effort, this was typically done once or twice a day,” Pruetting said. Recently, one officer a day has spent about two hours a day chalking tires and monitoring the area for violations.”
There have been 22 citations issued. “With regard to warnings, we contacted businesses in the areas where the violations were reported to give them notice in case their employees were parking in the two-hour spots throughout the day,” Pruetting said. “The spots are also properly signed warning drivers of the two-hour limit.”
Jason Camis, Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce, said the recent enforcement had been a surprise for many, and he said the chamber would be happy to work with the city and talk with businesses.
“Right now I think it’s important that businesses know about the issue and just warn/remind their patrons accordingly,” Camis said. “That was part of the issue a few weeks ago when enforcement started happening. . . . . . I had a couple calls of disgruntled public about it, both because of the issue and the initial cost ($85, since changed to $35). But even $35 is steep compared to a town like Lawrence where it’s like $7.”
Camis said the chamber gets few complaints regarding parking.
“The concern some of the businesses have is people might do multiple things downtown now and two hours comes quickly,” he said. “For instance, if you go to the gym or a yoga class, then grab a coffee or happen to go to dentist, two hours is not a lot of time. That said, even places like Groundhouse that frequently have folks stay more than two hours understand and are ok with two-hour limit.
Currently there is no committee to discuss parking issues.
“However, this will be one of the topics we hope to discuss at our May luncheon,” Camis said. “The topic will be downtown development, and we’re either going to have a speaker or panel to discuss downtown specific issues.”
“As the city embarks on their downtown/Main st. corridor plan this year our hope is that parking is addressed somehow,” Camis said. “Maybe a census or available parking and types and locations. That might also lead to some signage, because right now for public parking beyond the standard two hours I don’t think folks know where to go.”
“At this time there are no plans to increase parking in the downtown area,” said Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, Gardner public information officer. “ However, our planning department is currently working with Mid-America Regional Council and a consultant team to complete a Planning Sustainable Places study of the Main Street Corridor from Waverly Rd on the west to I-35 on the east. “
Marshall-Oquendo said the study will provide input on transportation and public investment strategies and opportunities for improvements of the Main Street Corridor.