Joint Statement on Parking Concerns Sent to Bloomsburg Council

On Monday, January 25th, Bloomsburg Town Council voted to advance proposed changes to parking enforcement in the downtown. The Chamber and WHLM Radio presented results of polls that showed significant opposition to the plan. While increasing parking fees on Main Street was approved by resolution, a final vote on enforcement times is scheduled for February 8th.

The Town’s Administrative and Finance Committee recommended the plan to increase fees on Main Street and in the Square from 25 cents per hour to 50 cents per hour. The reason given by members of Council for this increase is to help pay for new parking meters. The increase was approved by resolution on a 5-2 vote.

Changing the enforcement times requires an ordinance change. Enforcement on Main Street would change from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. The reasoning for this change is to deter people living in the downtown area from parking in public spaces, keeping those spaces available for business customers. Advertising the changes was approved 4-3. Council is expected to vote on the ordinance change at their meeting at 7 p.m. on February 8th.

The Chamber has heard concerns from a number of business and property owners that these changes could impact customer patterns and be harmful to businesses in the downtown. A poll was created asking if people supported or opposed these two changes. Of 299 respondents that provided their contact information, 77 businesses and property owners were represented. Of the total respondents, 90.6% oppose the fee increase, and 93.5% oppose the new enforcement times. The WHLM poll asked only about the parking fee increase. With over 500 responses to that poll, 77% were opposed to the fee increase.

Detailed results of the Chamber’s poll are available here.

Following the January 25th meeting, a meeting was organized for business and property owners in the downtown to discuss the changes. A joint statement was developed and has been forwarded to Council.

Downtown businesses and property owners are also strongly encouraged to attend Council’s February 8th meeting. To guarantee that your comments are heard prior to the vote, contact Amy Seamans at Town Hall at 570-784-7123 ext. 117 no later than Friday, February 5th at noon.

Member Loan Fund Expanded

Members now have access to low interest loans of up to $20,000 through the Chamber. The maximum loan amount was recently increased from $10,000. Fixed and variable interest rates are also available. The changes were recommended by the Low Interest Loan Committee and approved by the Board in January.

Funds loaned by the Chamber can be used for a variety of business needs including renovations and equipment purchases. The Committee reviews all applications and makes a recommendation to the Chamber Board, typically within 30 days. For additional details, download the guidelines and application or contact Fred Gaffney at the Chamber.

Chamber & Visitors Bureau to Elect Directors at Annual Meeting

The Chamber and Visitors Bureau’s Board of Directors are recommending the following slates of candidates for election to their respective boards:

Nominated to serve on the Chamber Board:
3-year term
Mark Gardner, M&T Bank
Marc Nespoli, Fuel Fitness
Jeff Watson, Carriage Manor Builders
Karen Wood, Service 1st Federal Credit Union

1-year term
Diane Ljungquist, Berwick Hospital Center
Jim Micklow, Press Enterprise
Tim Wagner, Wagner’s Trophies

Nominated to serve an unexpired, 3-year term
Denise Stone, Geisinger Health System

To be appointed by the Chair for a 1-year term:
Travis Petty, Borough of Berwick
Jeff Whitenight, First Columbia Bank & Trust Co.
Sharon Wilkin, CSS Industries

Nominated to serve a 3-year term on the Visitors Bureau Board:
Matt Hickey, Holiday Inn Express, Bloomsburg
Chris Hill, Pine Barn Inn
Al Luschas, Derr, Pursel, Luschas & Naparsteck, LLP
Lauren Martz, Town of Bloomsburg
Adrienne Mael, United Way of Columbia County
Stacy Ososkie, Knoebels Amusement Resort
Joe Scopelliti, BIDA

Members will vote to elect new board members at the combined Annual Meeting, scheduled for February 11th at Rolling Pines Golf Course & Banquet Facility. An alternate ticket or tickets may be nominated by at least fifteen members by posting a ticket at the Chamber’s main office at 238 Market Street, Bloomsburg, at least five days prior to the Annual Meeting. New board members will begin their terms on April 1, 2016.

Chamber Calls for Comprehensive Parking Plan

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.

Welcome Edith’s Kitchen to Danville

The Chamber will be hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony for Edith’s Kitchen in Downtown Danville this Friday at 4 p.m. Edith’s Kitchen will be serving light refreshments after the celebration. Their special for the day will be all you can eat fish and homemade crab cakes served from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.