Tisbury hikes parking fees; some doubled
Citing a need to deter parking scofflaws, the Tisbury selectmen voted Tuesday night to double fines for parking infractions from $10 to $20 and to increase fines for parking in restricted areas from $15 to $25 in Vineyard Haven. The increased fines will go into effect on May 1, 2008, to allow time for printing new tickets, changing signage, and publicizing the change.
The new $25 parking fine will apply to parking in a restricted area, while the $20 parking fine will apply to infractions such as parking longer than a posted time limit, too far from the curb, or in the wrong direction.
Looking around at the empty seats in the Katharine Cornell Theatre, Selectman chairman Tom Pachico commented on the public's lack of attendance at the hearing, despite advance publicity and advertising.
Crocker House Inn owner Jeff Kristal, the lone Tisbury businessman in attendance, had harsh words for his noticeably absent colleagues.
"I find it appalling that no one from the business community is here to talk about such an important issue that affects them," he said. Before the selectmen began their deliberations about how much to raise the parking fines, Mr. Kristal told them, "I hope whatever you do, you will stay in concert with the other two towns [Oak Bluffs and Edgartown] so that you don't price Tisbury businesses out with parking tickets. It would put this town at a disadvantage for shopping."
When contacted Wednesday in a follow-up call, Tisbury Business Association president Jon Nelson said that the absence of the business community was not indicative of a lack of interest in the town. "We most certainly do care and it most certainly affects us," he said. "I think you would see some business activity if you were going to start discussing loading zones, number of spaces, and issues like that - parking fines seem to be more of a town issue."
As general manager of Bunch of Grapes bookstore on Main Street, Mr. Nelson said he thinks the lack of signage in Vineyard Haven pointing visitors in the direction of downtown businesses is more damaging than the price of parking tickets. "I'm pro parking meters," he added. "Then you're generating revenue for the town whether people are there within limits or not, and you're getting extra money if people let their meters expire."
However, as Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel emphasized at Tuesday night's hearing, "This was not put on the table to generate revenue - it's supposed to be a deterrent." He specifically took issue with an editorial, "Parking at Any Price" published in the Vineyard Gazette on Sept. 7 which asserted that the town's main interest was revenue.
A summary of parking ticket revenues for fiscal year 2007 obtained from Dukes County parking clerk Carol Grant shows Tisbury's revenue was the highest at $115,544, followed by Oak Bluffs, $56,869; Edgartown, $33,765; Chilmark, $6,440; Aquinnah, $3,100; and West Tisbury, $1,800.
In addition to raising parking fines, selectman Denys Wortman said he thought that parking fines should accrue, so that offenders would receive multiple tickets the longer they parked illegally. Tisbury Police Chief John Cashin said he would check state law regarding the frequency of ticketing allowed per individual violation.
Although the fact that Tisbury is the only town that consistently issues parking tickets year-round was discussed briefly by the selectmen, they decided not to consider any changes at this time.
During other discussion about parking issues at Tuesday's meeting, Mr. Israel said the selectmen hope to develop an incentive program for employees who work in downtown Vineyard Haven to use the Park and Ride lot, instead of taking up spaces in the Water Street lot and along Main Street.
No mention was made about encouraging town employees to use the Park and Ride service by doing away with parking passes that exempt municipal employees from posted parking limits around town hall. Currently, nine town employees have been issued the passes, according to John Bugbee, Tisbury town administrator.
"We've always focused on the downtown area, not on parking around town hall," he explained. "This is to encourage people to use the park and ride service to free up spaces in the Water Street parking lot and along Main Street. If we were to expand the area of focus up towards town hall, we may look at doing that."
Mr. Nelson also touched on the issue of employee parking. "I would be more concerned as the president of TBA about convincing merchants to get their employees to park out of town than I am worried about how much they're going to charge for a parking ticket," he said.
The decision to increase parking fines stemmed from discussion with Ms. Grant at the selectmen's August 21 meeting, after she informed them the state increased the maximum fee allowable to $50. Ms. Grant provided a chart showing the number of tickets issued from April through July, the revenue from the current rates, and the increased revenue that would result by increasing the rates by increments of $5 up to $50.
In addressing Tisbury's parking issues in particular, Ms. Grant told the selectmen she hears many comments from people who say they consider a $15 parking ticket a small price to pay for parking their car in downtown Tisbury somewhere close to the ferry when they go off Island for the day.
Ms. Grant said that increasing the parking ticket fines would serve as a deterrent, and that the habitual offenders would be the ones most affected by the steeper costs. However, she added that her role was to provide information about the fees rather than make recommendations, and that she planned to make similar presentations to all of the Island's selectmen. Ms. Grant said she planned to make presentations to all of the Island's selectmen, as it was up to the selectmen in each town to set the rates. The consensus of the Vineyard police chiefs at a meeting last year was to increase the fees, she also noted.
Although the selectmen agreed that the fees should be raised, they differed on how much. They did concur that their purpose was raising the fines was not to increase revenue but to deter parking violators.
Discussions about parking fines continued at the selectmen's September 4 meeting, at which time they set a public hearing date for September 18. The public hearing notice listed the proposed increases in parking fines as $20 and $25, as approved Tuesday night.