Farmington moves on ordinance to stop parking ‘shuffle’

Of the 891 parking citations issued in downtown Farmington between January and July of this year, about 37 percent went to repeat offenders.

One person alone received 18 tickets, at $25 a crack. And many of the 100 people who received multiple citations are employed in downtown businesses.

That’s the problem Farmington city officials say they’re trying to resolve with new ordinance language that would prohibit moving vehicles from one spot to another within the same timed lot. The modification, introduced Monday, would also prohibit vehicle owners from erasing chalk marks made by the city’s parking enforcement officer.

Parking Committee chair Todd Huffman narrated a time-lapse video that showed drivers in the parking lot north of Grand River and east of Farmington Road hustling out to move their cars to avoid being ticketed for violating the 3-hour time limit. Video taken during that time showed ample parking available in an untimed lot at the Masonic Hall just 100 yards away, he said.

While some have argued that downtown Farmington doesn’t have a serious parking problem, Huffman said that video taken in several areas shows “there are some areas that need attention.”

The new rule would allow people to move to different timed lots without penalty.

“We feel as a group it would be a logistical nightmare to track,” Huffman said. “If somebody goes to a movie and then goes to the post office, we’re not going to penalize for that.”

More signage

Council member Greg Cowley said it’s a “well-known fact” that some business owners and employees are shuffling cars and taking up spaces that he felt should go to customers.

“It’s just amazing to me that we have this issue, and we have it with a few individuals,” he said. “I think it’s sad.”

While he supported the new rules and wanted to ramp up fees for repeat offenders, council member Sara Bowman voted against the ordinance introduction.

“I’m not in favor of additional enforcement of an issue we haven’t fully evaluated,” she said after the meeting. “I am more in favor of signage. I don’t think we do a good enough job of leading people to (parking).”

Mayor Bill Galvin, who also serves on the Downtown Development Authority, said that while there’s no political opposition to more signs, there is “financial opposition.”

“That will clear itself up with the next budget cycle,” he said.

16 ways to get a ticket

Bowman said she has counted 16 ways for motorists to get parking tickets in downtown Farmington. Considering the number of repeat offenders, she wondered whether new rules would make any difference at all.

“I think it sends a very bad message, and it isn’t changing behavior,” she said. “I don’t want to become known as a city where you’re going to get a ticket.”

Galvin wondered why people aren’t willing to walk from nearby untimed lots.

“All they’re saying is they don’t want to walk, and we’ve created this walkable downtown,” he said.

While he supported parking enforcement, Galvin also said the city should better manage its parking lots and develop more public/private partnerships. He also pointed out that officials will be having this same conversation in five or 10 years.

“Parking is a continual adaptation,” he said. “It never ends.”

The ordinance will be brought to a future meeting and, if approved, would become effective upon publication.