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September 25, 2012

Councilors assail parking plan

Salem officials will vote on some changes this Thursday

SALEM — City planners knew the new downtown parking plan wasn’t perfect, but they wanted 90 days to collect and analyze data before recommending changes to a document that took two years to draft and was implemented only this summer.

The City Council can’t wait that long.

On Thursday night, the 11-member council will vote on changes they want in place before the Halloween hordes descend on the city. Other possible amendments are waiting in the wings.

Last night, City Planner Lynn Duncan asked a council committee to hold off for a few weeks to give her department time to study the data it has collected and to submit formal recommendations to “tweak” a comprehensive plan that covers several thousand parking spaces in the downtown.

“We feel it’s premature to start making piecemeal changes,” she said at the start of a meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Ordinances, Licenses and Legal Affairs.

Despite her plea, the committee voted to recommend two changes right away: the elimination of monthly zone passes for a section of Congress Street and a change in parking meters on one side of lower Lafayette Street.

Before voting on the changes, several councilors gave the overall plan a vote of confidence.

“I think, for the most part, the plan is working,” Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel said. “I don’t think we can take this whole plan and tear it up.”

However, there are parts Turiel and others want to see discarded.

As part of its plan, the city created $25 monthly passes that allow motorists to park in zones, some of which are on streets around the perimeter of the city. The idea, planners said, was to create low-cost options to give employees an incentive to park outside of the heart of the downtown, which would leave those more expensive downtown spaces open for shoppers and diners.

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