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Business owners blast city parking proposal
MONROE - The City Council heard from several downtown business owners and community members about a proposal to add four-hour parking on Main Street, and their reaction was markedly negative.
“The idea of limiting the number of customers that are able to park and shop downtown is counterproductive to a healthy business environment,” small business owner Andrew Abt said. “No business owner in their right mind would say please cut the number of customers in my store in half.”
Abt, co-owner of Sky River Bakery, is referring to a city proposal presented to the City Council earlier this month. The proposal adds four-hour parking on Main Street from Madison to Woods streets and on Blakeley and Lewis streets to encourage people to shop longer downtown. The area currently has two-hour and 15-minute parking zones.
“To us it makes no sense the idea of four-hour parking,” Abt said. “Where do you park for four hours at a time? At home or at work.”
Abt said he’s worried business owners or employees would take up those spots.
“The loss of a few customers each day could mean the difference between being able to pay bills or not,” he said.
Many people who spoke said the city needs to better enforce the parking rules downtown regardless of what the time limits are.
Paula Fortier, president of downtown business group DREAM and a downtown business owner, said she wants the Police Department to enforce time limits better. She said she sees some business owners and downtown residents leaving their cars on Main Street all day.
“There is no enforcement,” Fortier said. “If there’s no enforcement, having the time limits doesn’t do a bit of good.”
Mayor Robert Zimmerman acknowledged that most residents aren’t going to be spending four hours downtown. The four-hour parking idea was recommended as part of a study done by an outside consultant, he said, to begin boosting the number of non-resident visitors to the downtown core.
“Are we there yet? No,” Zimmerman said, acknowledging that the state of downtown might not be ready for the idea of four-hour parking.  
“People don’t view downtown as a destination yet; what can we do to change that?” Councilman Tom Williams said. “Lack of enforcement is also a big issue. At the end of the day, people just want to know that they can get to their businesses easily.”
Williams asked the Monroe Chamber of Commerce to get together with DREAM and come up with some other recommendations to solve the parking problems.
The City Council may address the issue again at a future meeting.


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