Parking friction: Permits are an issue in Ridgefield
The town has lost oversight of 34 parking spaces behind two Main Street buildings, as the landlords have declined to renew the $1-a-year leases that give the Parking Authority the right to post and enforce time limits on the properties.
“They took our signs down and put up their own signs,’’ First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the Board of Selectmen.
The agreements not renewed concern two buildings in the Addessi Center: the building with Lucy’s and Ridgefield Running Company as its Main Street storefronts, owned Carleen Addessi Baer, and the building with The Toy Chest and Prime Burger facing Main Street, owned by Deborah Addessi Bush.
The selectmen did renew a lease agreement with for the 24 parking spaces associated with the Love Realty property at the other end of Main Street — the building includes Designs by Ursula and the former Village Tavern restaurant space.
The Addessi Center lease renewals had been on the selectmen’s Feb. 5 agenda, but Marconi began the discussion by announcing the lease renewal requests had been withdrawn.
“They do not want to move forward, they’re withdrawing,” Marconi said.
A two-hour parking limit remains, posted on the new signs put up by the landlords, but the Parking Authority’s enforcement officer will no longer be ticketing cars that overstay the posted limit.
“We’re not going to patrol that lot,” Marconi said.
“If we don’t monitor, people can park there all day long and it’s the landlord’s responsibility,” Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark said.
Carleen Addessi Baer, the managing partner in the Addessi Center I properties at the north end of Main Street, said she’d tried to negotiate with the town and might be willing to talk again, but couldn’t sign an agreement that would result in her tenant business owners not being able to find parking spaces reasonably near their stores.
“The same town two-hour ‘customer parking rules’ apply in the Addessi Center lot as it has for decades, which prioritizes the needs of our tenants and their customers,” she wrote in a Feb. 10 email response after being contacted by The Press.
“The Board of Selectmen proposed changing half of our parking spaces to ‘customer parking only’ without offering viable alternative parking for our tenants. Their stores open at 10 when the Governor lot is already full.
“For many years landlords have requested employee parking options in our end of town. For example, there are small parcels of land such as next to the Post Office or next to Victoria Gate which could offer limited employee parking.
“It would be beneficial for the BOS (Board of Selectmen) and Planning and Zoning to work with the Parking Authority to identify additional convenient employee parking at both ends of town.”
At the Feb. 5 meeting Marconi recalled that the Parking Authority was created years ago at the request of the Chamber of Commerce and village landlords and merchants, who were troubled that all-day parkers — often workers in downtown businesses — were taking up choice spaces and making it more difficult for customers to park near the town’s shops.
“The Chamber originally brought this to us, back in the ’80s,” Marconi said.
As a result, the town posts time limits and its parking enforcement officers patrol and hand out tickets to cars parked too long in lots that include about 700 or the more than 1,500 parking spaces in the village commercial district.
The town retains lease agreements covering the CVS lot next door to the Addessi Center properties, the Amatuzzi lot behind Planet Pizza, the Donnelly lot across from Veterans Park School, the Love Realty property, and it also enforces time limits in the public parking lot off Bailey Avenue and most of the mix of private parking areas that border it — including the Willett Properties and Urstadt-Biddle buildings.
The town also retains enforcement of most of the street-side parking along Main Street.
Parking is free and without time limits in the town lot off Governor’s Street, below the RVNA building and lot. The only restriction there is against overnight parking.
During a lengthy discussion of parking at the Board of Selectmen’s Feb. 5 meeting Jessica Wilmot of the Parking Authority discussed the negotiations that had preceded the withdrawal of the two Addessi Center buildings from the agreements with the town.
Wilmot also described the Parking Authority’s successful negotiation of a renewed $1 lease that will have its enforcement officer continue working in the 24 parking spaces behind the Love Realty building on Main Street, ticketing cars that overstay posted limits behind Ursulas’s and the restaurant space which is expected to be reopened later this year.
In both negotiations there was a focus on the issue of parking permits — which make cars displaying them exempt from enforcement — and how many permits the landlords would be given to distribute to their tenants.
For the last few years the Parking Authority has been trying to regain control over a situation in which town officials felt too many permits had been given out for use by businesses’ employees. The Authority has been trying to cut down on the numbers of permits handed out as the $1-a-year leases were renewed.
This initiative grew out of a consensus among town officials and business people that the distribution of parking permits had gotten too lax. So many permits had been handed out through landlords and tenants that the workers were filling up too many of the spaces near the business they worked in — leaving a shortage ofconvenient parking for customers.
“She wanted 41 permits, which is more than she has spaces,” Wilmot said.
Carleen Addessi Baer explained that only half those permits are used daily. “Many part time retail employees work on opposite days, and our office tenants are there at random times and do not use the permits daily,” she said. “Parking has been working fine for our tenants and their customers. There is no need to create 'customer-only parking' in our lot. We own the lot and should be able to have a say in these decisions.”
The Parking Authority had proposed 16 spaces — a little under half the spaces in the 34-car lot — to be kept permit-free, available for two-hour customer parking.
“I thought isolating 16 spaces for customers would make her tenants happy,” Wilmot said.
With the landlords withdrawing from the $1-a-year lease agreement with the town, enforcement by the town parking officer in those lot ceased.
“No one is going there ticketing,” she said. “...It’s her property.”
Without the town’s ticketing system, the selectmen wondered, could landlords try enforcement through towing?
At this point, Wilmot said, there’s no potential for the landlords to use towing for enforcement, since he posted signs don’t threaten violators with it.
“I don’t think anyone can tow unless it says you will be towed,” Wilmot said.
In the Love Realty lot, an agreement was reached which will give the landlord 23 permits for a lot that has 24 spaces — but the situation is different, according to Wilmot.
The Love realty building has two street level commercial tenants — Designs by Ursula and the former Village Tavern restaurant space — and eight one-bedroom apartments on the upper floors.
The landlord, Sandy Heaslip, requested 23 parking permits, saying she wanted to give three each to the two commercial tenants, have two each to the eight apartment tenants, and she wanted to keep one for herself.
The Parking Authority’s expectation is that 16 permits for the apartment dwellers won’t be a problem.
“People living in apartments, second floor on Main Street, are generally not home during the day — they go to work,” Wilmot said.
When people come home after work, parking isn’t difficult since most of the offices and shops are closed.
Still, Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark was troubled at the direction things seemed to be going, with the landlords’ requesting substantial numbers of parking permits.
By giving out too many permits, Kozlark said he town is regressing “back into the old bad habits.”