NEWTOWN >> The Newtown Borough Council on Thursday pulled paid kiosk parking out of its budget for 2017, meaning kiosks will not be installed at the borough's municipal lot next year.
The decision comes days after council heard overwhelming opposition to the idea from residents and members of the business community during a special meeting held on October 17.
Council had been considering the purchase and installation of three self-service parking lots kiosks as a way of recouping the cost of repaving the municipal lot and to supplement the borough's street repairs budget.
The idea, however, did not sit well with the town's merchants and professionals who argued that turning the three-hour lot located between Washington and Centre into paid parking would drive away customers and change the character of the town.
During the coming year, the council will instead enter into a dialogue with residents and the business community as it reviews its parking ordinance and looks for alternatives and viable solutions.
That discussion is expected to begin on Tuesday, Nov. 1 when Mayor Charles “Corky” Swartz updates the Newtown Mercantile Group on council’s decision and opens a dialogue with regard to parking.
“Where we need to start, more than anything else, is to look at the ordinance we have,” said the mayor. “Maybe we need to rewrite the ordinance from the standpoint of what we want to institute with parking, with signage, with hours, with fees, with parking fines and making them higher for those who disobey. Those are the things that are going to create a discussion point by the borough, residents and the merchants. It will give everyone a say.”
The business community “needs to be part of the solution,” said Council President Bob Walker Thursday night. “It’s a mutual opportunity/problem that we can only solve by working together,” he said. “But the answer is not to pass the expense of maintaining all the roads and the municipal lot onto borough residents. There has got to be some middle ground that can be reached. It’s going to require a little more work.”
Councilor Bob King said he sees an open dialogue with the community as an opportunity to make sure the parking lot is used for the purpose it was intended “and that is to have parking for businesses in town. To have people get up and say they move their car every three hours to they can park there, that’s not necessarily why we have the parking lot there.”
Councilor Perry Warren, who called for the public hearing prior to a council vote on the kiosks, agreed with pulling paid parking out of the budget and recommended that council “put the idea to bed.
"I did not see coming how virtually unanimous the opposition was going to be," said Warren. "While it makes sense from a budgeting standpoint, this is something the public clearly doesn't want," he said. “I think it’s been divisive in the community and it was a good idea to hold the public meeting to air things out and to see where people stand. The best thing for this community is to take it off the budget tonight and put the issue to bed while looking at alternative options going forward over the next couple of years.”
Walker agreed with removing paid parking from next year's budget, but disagreed with Warren over shutting the door on the idea.
"Paid parking is inevitable,” he said. “It may not be in 2017 or even in 2018, but it will happen when Steeple View" comes on line, said Walker, referring to Allan Smith's redevelopment project that will include a paid public parking element at its planned multi-level parking garage.
"It is inevitable. It will be in the borough. And we have to recognize the inevitable steps this community will end up taking once the full scope of Steeple View is realized,” said Walker.