By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — City councilors approved a small change to the downtown parking plan last night and agreed to wait on several other modifications they’re eyeing.
The board voted to repeal a monthly zone pass system on a portion of Congress Street, after Councilor Robert McCarthy said few passes had been sold and most parking spaces were sitting empty.
The zone passes are part of a comprehensive downtown parking plan that took effect July 1. After spending two years drafting the plan, city planners had asked the council to give the plan a 90-day trial period before making any changes.
The majority of councilors agreed the board is not dismantling the plan, but simply fixing its major problems — issues that are “sticking out like a sore thumb,” Councilor Jerry Ryan said.
“We are trying desperately not to interfere with the overall parking plan,” Councilor Michael Sosnowski said. “However, there are pieces that are just not working.”
McCarthy said he’s been monitoring the parking situation on Congress Street through the summer, and it’s simply “not working.” There are often 20 or more open parking spaces, he said.
The council also voted first passage last night on a change to parking meters on one side of lower Lafayette Street. The motion, which would decrease a stretch of parking meters from a four-hour to a two-hour limit, needs a second vote by the council to take effect.
Councilors said the four-hour parking limits were bad for business in the area, including a hardware store and optician.
“We’re trying to keep changes as minimal as possible, solve some of the most pressing problems we have,” Councilor Josh Turiel said.
Councilors Thomas Furey and Kevin Carr Jr. argued that the board should wait for data from the planning department — “feedback from the professionals,” Carr said — before making any changes.
“We are making piecemeal changes,” Carr said. “... We should wait for data on what’s working and what’s not working.”
Last night, the council agreed to leave in committee discussion of repealing the zone parking pass system on Gedney, Norman, Dodge Streets and Holyoke Square.
The parking plan will be discussed with city officials at the next meeting of the council’s Committee on Ordinances, Licenses and Legal Affairs.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.