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Nashua merchants not sold on free parking proposal

Union Leader Correspondent

March 13. 2014 7:31PM

NASHUA — A proposal to allow free parking on Main Street during holidays is receiving negative feedback from downtown merchants.

While several business owners say they appreciate the gesture by elected officials, they stressed that free parking in December could be detrimental to their sales since vehicles will remain parked in prime spots for hours on end.

Alderman-at-Large James Donchess has submitted a proposed ordinance that would enact free holiday parking at downtown meters for a trial period from Dec. 10 to Dec. 26.

Under the proposal, parking fees would not be enforced during that time period in metered lots, garages and on-street parking within zones one through three downtown.

John Koutsos, owner of Alec’s Shoes, said that although the proposal is well-intended, it would prevent vital parking turnover that is essential to keeping Main Street restaurants and stores active.

“This has been done before, and it has really proven counterproductive for businesses,” said Koutsos.

Rich Lannan of the Lannan Co., who is a member of the Downtown Improvement Committee, echoed Koutsos’ concerns.

“People will park there all day. I am very much against that,” said Lannan.

In addition to a lack of parking turnover, Lannan said there will be less revenue coming into the city if the parking meters are not enforced during two busy weeks in December.

“I think that money is critical,” he said, noting the city collected between $32,000 and $40,000 during the last three Decembers from parking meters and parking fines.

If the proposal was enacted, the estimated loss of up to $20,000 in parking revenue during December would be significant, according to Lannan.

Although the parking would be free under the proposal, the recommended ordinance states that parking time limits would still be enforced during the holiday period.

At least one local resident, Paula Johnson, told the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure this week that she supports the free parking pilot initiative.

“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do this to bring people downtown,” said Johnson. “I just don’t get it.”

She maintained that parking enforcement officers will still patrol the downtown area to ensure that time limits are being followed.

Although some merchants are opposed to the proposal, they are supporting a separate recommendation to allow angled parking on a portion of the west side of Main Street in the area of Pearl Street.

Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy is suggesting that back-in angled parking be permitted between Alec’s Shoes and the Persian Rug Gallery, a change that he believes would create additional downtown parking spots along a busy section of Main Street.

Lannan said he would strongly support exploring the possibility of angled parking downtown.

Board members did not vote on either proposal this week, as both items remain tabled in committee.

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