City council meets

The City of Milton Common Council passed on Aug. 6 a first reading of language within a city ordinance affecting on-street parking restrictions on the east and west sides of Merchant Row. Two more readings, unless council waives the third reading, are required before the new language is codified.

New language would remove on-street overnight parking restrictions from the west side of Merchant Row, but they would remain on the east side, City Administrator Al Hulick said. Changes were driven by a desire to bring language more in line with current law enforcement practices, he said.

Offering some history, Hulick noted that in 2016, 34 public parking stalls were added along the north end of Merchant Row. The additional stalls changed the mix of available parking.

Working with the Milton Police and Public Works departments, city administration drafted an ordinance regulating on-street parking on both the east and west sides of the street. The ordinance restricted parking between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. in order to prevent individuals from parking cars for multiple days in prime spots used by businesses for their customers, Hulick said.

After reviewing parking ordinances governing the area, Hulick said, “it became clear that the ordinance language was inconsistent with how enforcement was being performed in the area regarding overnight parking.”

With the creation of the northern parking lot, Hulick said, overnight parking restrictions on the west side of Merchant Row were not being enforced. Both the police department and the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce were in agreement that the restriction was only necessary on the east side of Merchant Row, he said.

New language was developed to “match policy with practice,” by keeping the 2:30 to 4:30 a.m. on-street restriction in place only on the east side of Merchant Row. Approximately 48 angled parking stalls located directly in front of businesses are affected, Hulick said.

Speaking during public comments, Mike Jacobson, owner of Jake’s Junction Pub, 130 Merchant Row, expressed dissatisfaction with the new language. He said his customers were acting responsibly when opting to leave their vehicles overnight while taking a safe ride home.

“They use Uber and get rides home. We have a cleaning crew that comes in and they get tickets,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said the ordinance was old and hadn’t been enforced, he alleged, for 15 years.

“I don’t know if this is a necessary ordinance. For snow removal, I totally understand,” he said, asking: “Why do you think we need 2:30 to 4:30 (a.m.) no parking?”

During discussion, Mayor Anissa Welch addressed some of Jacobson’s comments, saying: “We had four or five meeting about the parking situation. We’ve been working on this for a few months now trying to come up with something reasonable.”

Milton Police Chief Scott Marquardt said the ordinance language was developed with both the Merchant Row and the Parkview Drive areas in mind. On Parkview, he said, business owners had requested some restrictions placed on overnight parking to keep stalls crucial to their businesses open for their customers.

Hulick said parking restrictions on the west side of Merchant Row could more easily be removed because they were not directly in front of businesses.

Council could choose to lift restrictions on both sides of the street, he said, but that would require the drafting of a new ordinance.

Lori Jacobson also addressed council, saying area businesses were not competing for parking stalls between the hours of 2:30 to 4:30 a.m. when the restrictions were in effect, but her customers and cleaning staff were getting $50 tickets.

Both Mike and Lori Jacobson said they had talked with other business owners who were in agreement with their view.

Addressing the Jacobsons’ comments, Marquardt said other business owners had shared with him a different position.

“We have two competing interests here,” he said.

Welch noted that Parkview Drive business owners had asked the city recently for more on-street parking restrictions.

Said Hulick: “the dynamic here is exactly the opposite of what we were asked on Parkview.”

Marquardt said he was looking to strike a balance.

Council member Larry Laehn suggested clearly marking the 48 stalls affected on Merchant Row to avoid confusion.

“I understand both sides and I want public safety, but I also respect that businesses want to see that (parking) turnover,” Laehn said.

“Businesses were upset because residents were taking up their prime parking,” council member Lynda Clark said.

“The ordinance is less restrictive than what’s already in place and an ordinance passed now does not have to be forever. This is a bit of an adjustment, but it does head in the right direction,” Council member Bill Wilson said.

Clark suggested passing a first reading of the measure, without waiving the second and third reading, so that community members could learn more about the issue and have opportunity to weigh in.

The motion passed 4-1 with Theresa Rusch casting the “no” vote. Ryan Holbrook was not in attendance.

Hulick said the ordinance would return for a second reading on Aug. 20.

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