STONINGTON — A town ordinance that would double parking fines and allow for electronic-aided regulation – an alternative to parking meters – is up for a second vote after failing by a narrow margin several months ago.
The ordinance, which will be voted on at a special town meeting on July 24, was introduced by the town’s Police Commission and would raise parking fines from $25 to $50, as well as allow ticketing in the town’s rights of way.
“It’s cheaper to pay a $25 fine than to follow parking rules – $25 is hardly a deterrent anymore,” said First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough at Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
Parking has been a growing and contentious issue in the town’s villages, including Mystic and Stonington Borough.
Chesebrough said the ordinance would regulate parking in designated areas using kiosks and parking apps, which represent an important change from the way the ordinance was described at the Feb. 27 town meeting when residents voted it down by 6 votes, 71 to 65.
“Before, we used the word ‘meters,’ and people were picturing meters lining downtown, which is not at all what will be happening,” she said.
The ordinance also allows police to ticket vehicles parked in the town’s rights of way, which, Chesebrough said, previously raised concerns among residents.
The current ordinance, which has not been updated since 1993, does not allow police to issue tickets in the town’s rights of way, even if there are “no parking” signs.
The proposed ordinance will aim at ticketing cars parked in unsafe areas within rights of way – such as blind curves or blocking driveways – and will be clarified by the police chief during the July 24 meeting.
The ordinance specifies that parking fees be used to maintain the electronic-aided system. A portion of the funds would also be set aside to support bicycle and pedestrian safety enhancement projects, including bike lanes, sidewalks and crosswalks.
“We’re struggling to find the money to do that,” Selectman Debbie Motycka Downie said.
Chesebrough added that the funds could be used to leverage or match grants for infrastructure pedestrian safety projects.
She said the town had participated in numerous in-person and virtual meetings about parking, and that she believed there is support for the proposed ordinance.
Stonington and Groton hired parking consultant John Burke to conduct a Mystic Parking Study that was presented in February.
The study, which was completed in 2021, covered a quarter-mile radius from the bascule bridge in Mystic, which Burke said covered “90 percent of the walking trips.” He studied the traffic and parking on a Thursday and Saturday in late September, and again in early November.
Among his conclusions were that turnover for on-street, two-hour spaces was poor – with one in four vehicles parked in excess of the two-hour limit, and one in seven vehicles parked for longer than four hours.
He said “space shuffling,” or moving one’s car every two hours, among employees is prevalent, and that employee vehicles use a significant number of the two-hour zone parking spaces, displacing retail customers and short-term visitors.
Visitors searching for parking also significantly contributes to traffic congestion, he said.
Burke recommended instituting a charge for on-street parking in the commercial district, expansion of employee parking outside of the district, and reinvestment of revenues to improve parking and transit or shuttle services.
Besides the parking ordinance, three additional items will be on the agenda for the July 24 meeting: A resolution allowing the waiving of outstanding tax balances in amounts less than $2; a resolution to amend the closing time of town recreational areas to 10 p.m.; and a resolution to appoint alternate members to the town’s Cultural District Commission.