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New London may require downtown parking permits

New London is considering permits for overnight parking in downtown city-owned parking lots. John Faucher Photo

Public Works Committee recommends ordinance

By Robert Cloud

The New London Public Works Committee voted Feb. 5 to recommend an ordinance for enforcing its downtown parking policies.

The policies focus on requiring people who use the city’s public parking lots to obtain permits for overnight parking.

“During the 2023 construction, it was a time-consuming process to locate owners of vehicles to get them moved,” according to a Feb. 1 memo from Public Works Director Robert Garske. “Having that resident register for a parking stall will provide all the contact information we need to contact them immediately.”

Garske told the committee that he put together the policy with input from City Administrator Chad Hoerth and Police Chief Jeffrey Schlueter.

“No parking on any city parking lot between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. unless that vehicle has been registered and approved for a permit,” Garske said.

Vehicles with a valid permit are required to park in designated areas and permits must be displayed by hanging from the rearview mirror, the proposed ordinance says.

RVs, campers, trailers, vehicles with a gross weight over 12,000 pounds, ATVs, UTVs and box trucks will not be allowed in permit parking-only areas.

City-owned vehicles or vehicles owned by city employees while they’re working will be exempt from needing parking permits.

Garske also recommended that permitted parking is only available for individuals who own a vehicle, reside in the downtown district and do not have an option for parking where they live.

Downtown district

The proposed ordinance defines the downtown district as all properties that front West North Water Street from Shawano Street to Pearl Street, Pearl Street from Waupaca Street to East Beacon Street, St. John’s Place from North Water Street to Waupaca Street, Lincoln Court and State Street.

Garske also recommended that permit holders must have a valid driver’s license and a legally registered, licensed vehicle.

Applicants for a permit will be required to visit the Public Works Department and fill out a form.
“The most important information will be a phone number so that way we have the ability to reach them immediately if we need their vehicle moved,” Garske said. “They will also sign off on a waiver at that point holding the city harmless.”

Garske said the city will notify permit holders by text message at least 24 hours in advance when their vehicle needs to be moved.

When the city must plow the parking lot, permit holders need to move their vehicles to areas where the city has already cleared out the snow. They will still need to display their permit.

“That way if the PD goes down to check these areas, if they’re hanging their permit, they know they’re allowed in that alternate location,” Garske said.

Mayor Mark Herter said he was concerned about requiring parking permit holders to have a driver’s license.

“You don’t have to have a license to own a vehicle,” he said. “I can own a vehicle and have somebody use my vehicle to transport me around. I don’t think you should be discriminated against.”

Ald. Tim Roberts said he believed those with permits would start parking in private lots or take spaces closer to the businesses whose customers and employees use the lots.

“What’s going to happen when those businesses start complaining that tenants are parking in their private parking lots?” he asked.

Ald. David Dorsey said the permits should not be granted per resident but per vehicle since some people have more than one vehicle.

Roberts seeks survey

“I’d like some communication with the owners and tenants,” Roberts said, noting that the city should have more information about how many tenants would be using the parking permits and how many spaces will need to be set aside.

He recommended instead of permits, the city should prohibit parking in the front part of the new parking lot from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.

“What if we back up and say the whole point of this is so that we have more downtown parking?” Roberts said.

“I don’t think then you’ll have a way to enforce moving so you can get the snow plowed,” Ald. Mike Barrington said. “I think this is a good starting point. We’ve got to do something.”

Regarding the survey of business owners, Barrington said, “You can’t spend six months trying to find people to talk to them.”

“Just having them at least register with us, we’d have the contact information,” Hoerth said.
He noted police officers must spend a significant amount of time trying to identify and locate the owners of vehicles that need to be moved.

Herter said he constantly fielded questions about there not being enough parking in downtown New London.

“And then once we put in that new parking lot and it snowed, then it went on a rampage of all the people that are parking up front that their cars are still full of snow three days later,” he said. “That’s how we began this discussion. There is a problem downtown that we need to address.”

The committee voted to recommend the parking ordinance with the conditions that the permits be for registered vehicles belonging to downtown residents and they do not need a driver’s license.

Roberts cast the lone vote against the committee’s recommendation.

After the vote, Herter suggested that Roberts recuse himself from voting because he owned property downtown and had tenants who would be affected by the permit requirement.

Roberts responded that the permit requirement affected his tenants and not himself.

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