The Chamber attended Bloomsburg Town Council’s meeting on December 14th to request that any changes to parking enforcement in the downtown be part of a comprehensive strategy for managing parking. A plan being discussed would increase fees for parking meters and change enforcement times. The Chamber and others expressed concerns over the potential impact on customer patterns and businesses.
The Chamber learned of the plan to change the fee for parking at a metered space from 25 cents per hour to 25 cents per 30 minutes, and enforcement would change from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays and 10 until 2 on Saturday. The fee increase is to help cover the cost of the new meters, according to Council. The reasoning for changing the enforcement times is to deter college students living in the downtown from taking up public parking that could otherwise be used for customers. The changes would be implemented first on Main Street with the replacement of meters, followed by other areas in the downtown. At the Council meeting, the Town’s solicitor clarified that any such changes would have to be through an ordinance and/or resolution, which have not yet been developed.
The Joint Governmental Affairs Committee of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau discussed these proposed changes, and has a number of questions about how they were developed, including any data that was used to support this plan. Also, there are concerns about how these changes could impact consumer patterns, which could harm existing businesses as well as future business development. Several other downtown businesses attended the meeting to express similar concerns.
In March, a parking study was presented at the Greenly Center as a student research project by students and faculty in the Department of Environmental, Geographical and Geological Sciences (EGGS) and the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. Additional support for the study was provided by the Columbia County GIS Office, the Town of Bloomsburg Police Department, Downtown Bloomsburg Inc., and the Bloomsburg University Center for Community Research and Consulting. Downtown Bloomsburg Inc. and the Chamber had asked at that time that the study be carefully reviewed before any changes to parking management be made.
“Parking concerns in Downtown Bloomsburg have been discussed for many years,” said Fred Gaffney, Chamber President. “We believe that finding long-term solutions to these issues requires a comprehensive approach with substantive data including metered and permit parking, in lots and on streets.”
The matter will now be referred to a Town committee for further discussion and the Chamber will be participating in those meetings.