February 05, 2014 - Several business owners spoke up to say downtown Clarkston has no parking problem and issuing tickets is the wrong message to send to visitors.
Councilwoman Peg Roth, who is on a newly formed Streets, Sidewalks and Parking Committee, said the committee should have had a chance to address the issue and make suggestions before parking tickets were issued.
Instead of waiting for committee suggestions, the city council voted to issue citations starting Jan. 16 to drivers parked on city streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. cars parked longer than two-hours in time restricted spaces.
During the first few days, almost 20 citations were issued.
"I think the enforcement process is a concern," said Doug Scott, general manager and owner of Movement, at the Jan. 27 council meeting. "There is a general sense there is no parking problem in the city, but if there is, I think we can find a better solution than top-down enforcement."
Scott said better communication between the city and local business owners, rather than the city deciding to immediately issue citations, would have been a better solution and may have helped prevent the problem.
Many of his employees use both the public parking lot on Washington Street as well as a private lot behind Clarkston Mills, and often violated the two-hour rules in the Washington lot, he said.
"I would say we were definitely a violator of that two-hour parking because it was just easier for us to come in and out," he said.
Scott said he has directed employees to park behind the Clarkston Mills from now on, but remains concerned over his clients visiting his office and returning to their car to find a parking ticket.
"My personal concern is that I will have clients come in and stay for more than two hours and it would be embarrassing for them to go out to their car and have a parking ticket," he said.
Scott suggested the city back off enforcement, and has heard many retailers express the same sentiments.
"This is sending the wrong issue to visitors," he said.
Christina Calka, owner of the Village Fashion Boutique, agreed with Scott and told the council several fellow business owners in the Clarkston Retailers Group asked her to speak at the meeting on their behalf.
"As a retailer it's very disheartening to give people who come in to support our town parking tickets," Calka said. "Two hours does not give people who are spending money in town long enough to stay and explore."
She added visitors should be allowed to stay as long as they want without time constraints, and she, along with other retailers, believe issuing citations is the wrong answer.
Clarkston Mayor Joe Luginski said the goal of issuing citations is not to discourage people from visiting town—it is just to make sure parking spots are available.
"There are parking problems as far as lack of space and it's tough to find spots," he said. "The idea is to get parking spots moving. We would like to keep these spots turning over."
Luginski said the new committee was formed to explore parking problems and make suggestions to resolve those problems.
So far, one committee meeting has been held.
"We are trying to solve the problem, but maybe we have created a problem," Luginski said.
Councilwoman Peg Roth said Councilman David Marsh, chair of the committee who was absent at the Jan. 27 council meeting, expressed interest in meeting business owners to gather their opinions so the committee can make suggestions.
Roth said the issue was acted upon too quickly and disagreed with the city council's decision to act before the committee was able to discuss the issue in depth.
"What's the point of the committee," she asked.
Bob Roth, her husband and owner of Washington Management, said parking issues should have been discussed more before the city decided to issue tickets.
"Some businesses are being given permits to park," he said, while others are not. "If there is a two- hour parking limit, it needs to be enforced, but we need to treat everyone the same."
In an email to The Clarkston News, Paul Kampe of Independence Township asked why Sharon Catallo did not abstain from voting whenever local restaurants were discussed.
"It was apparent she did not abstain from commenting against the business. It seems like she should not be involved in discussions about impending downtown business decisions due to her son's ownership of the city's two main nighttime and weekend destinations (Clarkston Union and Union Woodshop)," he said. "Sounds like a conflict of interest to me."
Besides issuing citations, other recommendations included installing signage to let visitors know where to find additional parking or readjusting parking spots. Luginski said he encourages residents and business owners to come to the committee meetings.
"The more input we have the better," he said. "We want to make it work for you guys."
Catallo said enforcing parking issues is no easy task, and definitely not a money maker for the city.
Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.