Parking tickets in the free lots in downtown Saline?
Not in the foreseeable future.
After hearing a report from Saline Police Chief Larry Hrinik on the parking situation in downtown lots, most city council members told city manager Todd Campbell that the status quo will do for now. City council members also agreed with Hrinik’s notion that the city needs to do more to educate shoppers, business owners and employees about all of the convenient parking options downtown. (For a map of Saline's municipal lots, click here.)
At a meeting of city officials, business owners and downtown residents in July, Downtown Diner partner Jeff Tritton complained that employees and downtown residents violate the three-hour parking limit daily in the North Ann Arbor Street parking lot known as Lot 1. Tritton said 65 percent of his customers are senior citizens who value close parking. He estimated the problem costs him hundreds or thousands of dollars weekly, according to a report from former interim Police Chief Mike Lindman.
But what to do? It's a problem that Jill Fair, owner of New Hairizons, has been hearing about from customers for 20 years.
Enforcement? Currently, the city does not enforce time limits in the lots. John Olsen, owner of Spotted Dog Winery and president of the Saline Downtown Merchants Association, doesn’t like the idea of his customers returning to their vehicle and finding a ticket on their windshields.
“I think we should keep our (time limit) signs. Most will abide. It’s not the customers who are the problem. (Saline downtown businesses) have lived through a tough time, economically, and been able to bring people back to town,” Olsen said. “I don’t want someone to come into town, get a ticket and then go tell his friends that Saline is a terrible place. Tickets leave a bad taste in people's mouths.”
Chief Hrinik and Sgt. Jay Basso have been observing the situation in recent weeks, paying special attention to Lot 1. They found the lot full once. At most times, they found anywhere from 3 to 15 spaces available. They also found plenty of vacant spots in the long-term lots, which are just a stone’s throw away.
Council member David Rhoads said merchants, for the most part, don’t seem to believe parking is a huge problem and the recent observance of parking lots by police seems to support that idea. Rhoads said he was not in favor of a “random spot check.”
“Then it becomes a gamble for someone and they’ll worry about whether or not today is the day the lot gets checked,” Rhoads said.
If there was a council member with an appetite for ticketing downtown shoppers, it was not apparent.
Council member Jim Peters said he thought the parking problem might be an employer-employee problem--not a city problem.
But, as Mayor Gretchen Driskell noted, landlords have told tenants not to take parking spaces from customers but they have no way of enforcing it.
Council member Jim Roth said that if the city has an ordinance it does not wish to enforce, the ordinance should be scrapped. But he did not find much support for the idea. Some council members said that removing the three-hour parking limit in lot one might exacerbate the problem.
“I’m opposed to removing the time limits even if there is not stringent enforcement. I have enough faith that most of my fellow citizens will abide by the guidelines even if they don’t see someone walking around enforcing the parking limits,” said council member Linda TerHaar. “No matter what we do, there will always be complaints about parking.
City Manager Todd Campbell asked city council members to give him a sense of what they wanted done about the issue. He said he wanted to lay to rest the issue of enforcement and tickets before word spread that Saline was set to begin ticketing customers.
Driskell called Saline’s free parking a great asset to the community.
City Council members favored Hrinik’s idea to come up with a plan to educate the public about Saline’s other free parking lots.