Pay to park at Aquinnah Circle?
Already the only Island town that charges visitors to park in a town beach parking lot, or to use a public bathroom, Aquinnah selectmen agreed to study a proposal to install a pay parking system for about 30 public parking spaces at the Aquinnah Circle used by visitors to the Gay Head cliffs.
A Minnesota company, Amano McGann, has submitted several proposals to the town. Among them is a "solar powered pay and display payment unit" that would dispense parking passes for a fee. Typically, the payment units accept bills, coins, and credit cards. The pass would be displayed on the vehicle's dashboard, and the vehicle could be ticketed if the time stamped parking pass expires. The systems have gained popularity in large cities as a low maintenance, unattended system to replace individual parking meters.
"I'm making the pitch because we need cash flow," said selectman Jim Newman. "We could realize a couple thousand dollars a week, which would probably cover the cost of the officer who has to be there anyway."
Selectmen took no action on the proposal other than an informal agreement to study it further. But selectman Camille Rose, who works in a shop near the circle, left no doubt about her opposition to the idea.
"I would be embarrassed," said Ms. Rose, "as much as I want the revenue." She also questioned whether the town would have to put signs up explaining how to use the devices.
"You've seen these in cities all over the country," said Mr. Newman. "The people who are coming here know how to use these things."
The Gay Head Cliffs are designated as a National Natural Landmark, and are a scenic magnet for Island visitors, bringing thousands of tourists to the area each summer. Ms. Rose said she often finds herself explaining the cost of providing bathrooms for those tourists, and envisions the same complaints about pay parking.
"I spend the summer apologizing for the pay bathrooms," said Ms. Rose. "It must be a hundred times a day, I hear it. I have a set speech."
The circle lies within two separate districts of critical planning concern (DCPC), where the Martha's Vineyard Commission strictly controls development.
Aquinnah, like the other Martha's Vineyard towns, is facing difficult budget constraints, with state revenue dropping, and consumers spending less. This year voters in the town approved a $100,000 Proposition 2.5 override to fund the town's operating budget.
"We don't have the tax base other towns have," said selectman Spencer Booker.
Mr. Newman said the proposal may or may not turn out to be a good idea, and that visitors may react negatively.
"All of it is going to be part of the consideration," said Mr. Newman. "It's a legitimate question."