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  • Staff file photo
    A parking meter in downtown Nashua is shown June 29, 2011.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph

    Nashua motorists will be seeing parking meter fees increase in the coming weeks, as well as less time per quarter, and a lengthened day to pay for parking.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph

    Nashua motorists will be seeing parking meter fees increase in the coming weeks, as well as less time per quarter, and a lengthened day to pay for parking.
Thursday, June 30, 2011

Downtown parking meters’ fees to increase

NASHUA – Find some more coins underneath the car seat because the cost of parking downtown has increased.

For the first time in a decade, the city has raised meter fees on downtown streets. It will now cost anywhere from $1 an hour to 50 cents an hour, depending on where you leave your vehicle.

Also, the maximum time allowed in parking spots will shorten, as city officials aim to end the practice of people beaching their vehicles for a whole day.

And whereas the city previously required use of meters between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., meters must now be fed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The most prominent change affects Main Street in downtown proper, where metered parking would cost 25 cents per 15 minutes and be limited to 90 minutes at a time.

Meter fees will be collected in this area Monday through Saturday, while other areas will have live meters only from Monday through Friday.

Vehicles parked for an entire day in two of three new designated zones – encompassing the downtown proper and some outlying areas – can get towed, even if the motorist has kept feeding the meter all day.

The old law didn’t allow police to tow a vehicle for parking meter violations.

The new law took effect Tuesday night, when aldermen approved the ordinance.

The city will need several weeks to change the stickers that state pricing and time limits, and to install any other related signs, according to Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy, the sponsor of the ordinance.

Until now, it has cost 50 cents an hour to park throughout the downtown. The roughly $728,000 generated each year from meters goes into the city’s general fund.

With more money expected to be collected from increased fees, aldermen are also reviewing a separate proposal that would allow any annual parking revenue above the $728,000 to be used for infrastructure and beautification work in the downtown proper.

Several downtown merchants earlier this year collected more than 300 signatures on a petition protesting a meter fee hike. The attempt to use some parking revenue for downtown improvements might satisfy them.

For instance, Ken Mermer, owner of Burque Jewelers on West Pearl Street, said earlier this month that downtown work funded by parking would be a “step in the right direction.”

McCarthy’s ordinance had been at the committee level since late April. It wasn’t on Tuesday’s meeting agenda, but the board voted to call it out of committee.

Some aldermen, even those who supported increasing parking fees, argued that the proposal required more time for study, needing further opinions from downtown property owners and the Police Department. But a majority of the board believed it was time to put it to a vote, McCarthy said.

Fees and maximum parking time will vary, depending on the zone.

For example, parking on the section of Main Street between East and West Hollis streets and Franklin and Canal streets will cost 25 cents for 15 minutes, or $1 an hour.

This part of Main Street – along with sections of seven other downtown streets, including East Pearl, West Pearl and Temple – would be part of “Zone 1.” There will be a 90-minute time limit in these parking spots.

“Zone 1” is also the only one that will require metered parking Saturdays; the other two zones require money in the meters only Monday through Friday.

The cost of parking would be less in “Zone 2” – 25 cents for 20 minutes, or 75 cents an hour.

The time limit would remain as it is now throughout most of the city: a two-hour window.

The section of Main Street between Franklin and Canal streets and Amherst Street would fall under this zone, as would parts of Court, Elm, Factory and several other streets. Railroad Square and Deschenes Oval would also be in this zone.

“Zone 3” will have meters requiring 25 cents for a half hour, or 50 cents an hour, but there would be no time limit to park here.

Sections of streets in this zone include Canal, Clinton, Cottage, East and West Hollis, Temple and several others.

Many streets overlap into two zones, and some streets fall into all three zones.

For instance, on relatively small West Pearl Street, parking on the section between Main and Elm streets would cost $1 an hour, but the other half of the street – between Elm and Walnut streets – would have cheaper meters, those charging 75 cents an hour.

The new law also aims to discourage motorists from repeatedly violating parking time limits, McCarthy said. Several aldermen agreed that downtown parking suffers because many people – including employees of businesses – leave a vehicle in one spot all day and keep feeding the meter.

The first meter offense carries a $10 fine; a second offense brings a $20 fine. A third parking offense will cost $50, and on the fourth offense, motorists will not only receive another $50 fine but could also have their vehicles towed.

Enforcement of time parked would apply to zones 1 and 2, but not zone 3, where there is no time limit.

While several aldermen praised the new law, others worried about the effect it would have on downtown businesses.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly prompted a few laughs when she said it takes about two hours for a woman to get a “color and a cut,” which means hair stylists in Zone 1 will have worried customers facing a 90-minute parking limit.

And Alderman Paul Chasse said that if he went to dinner at Martha’s Exchange on a busy night, he would probably need more than 90 minutes in a parking spot in that area.

To see the ordinance, visit nashuanh.gov/addons/legislation/bill_full_history/O-11-71.pdf.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com.