Co-op airs parking concerns regarding Elm Street lot

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BRATTLEBORO — Only the Brattleboro Food Co-op came forward with complaints about changes proposed in the parking system.

"Their issue was with the Elm Street lot because they're currently purchasing permits and the rate is going to almost double," Select Board Chairwoman Kate O'Connor said Tuesday during a meeting.

The co-op asked to be "grandfathered in" at the same $55 per quarter price so they would not have to pay $100 per quarter until 2022, when the new bridge to Hinsdale, N.H. is expected to be completed and make the intersection leading to the store not so daunting.

But the board did not adopt the ordinance change that would most affect the store.

Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland said the spaces were not the 15 free spots in the Preston Lot already reserved for the store under an agreement with the town that helped establish the Whetstone Pathway. He reported the town has sold all 40 permits available in the lot for the last two or three years.

The co-op claims it had purchased about nine to 12 permits every quarter for three years.

"As it is, we chase many from our lot who choose to park and walk uptown due to parking woes or avoiding metered spaces," Sabine Rhyne, general manager of the co-op, wrote to Moreland. "We ask as many of our staff as possible to park in the Elm Street lot, both the swapped co-op spaces and the permitted ones ... to make space for customers."

Rhyne said calculations indicate an hour in the co-op's parking lot represents about $47 worth of sales.

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"Our staff, meanwhile, is understandably grumpy about having to park at Elm Street, due to the inconvenience and all the panhandling and harassment that can happen on the way," she wrote. "In balance, this change feels very much weighted against our business."

Town staff looked at other options but felt making the prices for permits in the Elm Street lot the same as other lots was appropriate. They had wanted to reduce the number of permits for the lot to 20.

Town staff also suggested moving forward with making the Preston Lot available for overflow parking following a storm for snow removal purposes and allowing for two-hour parking at metered spots on Frost Street to meet the demand of new businesses, which the Select Board approved. But board members opposed the proposed changes on Elm Street.

"I think that raising the price that much on the co-op is unfair at this point without a little bit more time for them to adjust within their budget line, to double it per quarter without them having very much notice to take a look at their internal balance sheets to see how that needs to play in," said Brandie Starr, board vice chairwoman.

Moreland said changes will go into effect 60 days after a notice is published.

"That's quick," said board member Shanta Lee Gander, who felt the co-op should be given more space and time to prepare.

Ultimately, the board voted 5-0 to amend ordinances without the Elm Street lot change.

Town Manager Elwell said the rate increase had been recommended after new smart parking meters had been approved for installation. The idea was to raise rates throughout the downtown to cover that cost and future parking-related projects. It had been about 15 years since prices had gone up.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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