WEST HARTFORD — Town officials are considering three different approaches to possibly change the town’s decades-long overnight parking ban.
Town Manager Matt Hart proposed the different options at the public works and facilities committee meeting on Thursday. The approaches include issuing permits for overnight parking, allowing overnight parking without permits or keeping the current overnight parking ban in place.
The overnight parking ban was implemented in 1957 and at that time prevented parking on streets for more than three hours between midnight and 6 a.m.
Sometime in the 1970s, Hart wrote in a memo to the committee, the regulation was converted into an ordinance and a system was developed to provide exceptions to the rule, such as people not being able to park in their driveways due to construction. In 1980, there was talk of removing the ban.
The current ban doesn’t allow parking from 2 to 5 a.m. but Hart temporarily lifted it during the recent pandemic. That has given the town time to study the impact of having no ban.
“We’ve really received only a handful of complaints,” Hart said at the meeting. “Most of those complaints have concerned nuisance activity, increased litter and noise.”
The police department said overnight parking would not “lead to increased criminal activity” or “make it harder for the police to spot criminal activity while on patrol,” according to Hart’s memo.
At the meeting, Hart proposed three different options for the committee to consider.
One of those plans proposes allowing overnight parking for residents through a permit system, and could be limited to specific streets or even a specific geographic area.
The location discussed at the meeting concerns spans from Fern Street to the north, Prospect Avenue to the east, Park Road to the south and Trout Brook Drive to the west.
This region, Hart said, is where the town has identified the most need for more parking.
A study conducted of that area showed there would be47 eligible properties with a total of 965 dwelling units among them. Currently, Hart said, there’s a net deficit of 683 on-site parking spaces within that study area.
“If we were to apply the standard I talked about, of allowing each of those units one parking space on street, we would have a deficit of 207 on site spaces,” Hart said.
The plan could even further be limited to allowing one permit to each household in multifamily housing with at least five units.
“The reason we presented this would be to provide homeowners and residents with more parking capacity,” Hart told the committee. “Some of our older apartment complexes in particular have struggled to provide adequate capacity for their residents because those complexes were built before the parking factors that we have in place today. They were also built during a time where people owned fewer automobiles.”
Kristen Gorski, the town’s economic development coordinator, said she’s been in contact with owners of apartment complexes.
“Some of the communications that we have had with several of the apartment building owners, especially along Farmington Avenue is that due to the date that when those apartment complexes were constructed some of those properties either have very limited number of parking spaces on site, or in some instances zero parking spaces on site,” Gorski said.
Many of the residents living in those buildings, she said, have relied on leases apartment building owners make with nearby restaurants, churches and other businesses and organizations. For some, though, those leases won’t be renewed.
“Those particular apartment complexes have heavily relied on off-site parking agreements for decades,” Gorski said. “Some of that parking is now going away. Some of those parking agreements are not able to be renewed.”
Hart added the timing is pressing.
“For some of these complexes, it’s urgent,” Hart said. “Some of those leases are due to expire and their tenants are scrambling to find spaces.”
A second potential option, Hart said, would be to allow on-street parking with no permit system.
“If we were to pursue that option we would have less ability to regulate,” Hart said. “It could result in abandoned or inoperable vehicles located on our local streets. We could have increased nuisance complaints. We would be concerned about doing this without an overnight parking system.”
Lastly, Hart said the committee could also recommend maintaining the status quo and not changing anything.
“You could leave the existing ban in place,” Hart said. “But we would not be able to address the parking capacity concerns we have, particularly in that geographic area.”
Hart told the committee he hopes that they can come to some decision and make a recommendation to the town council by the end of this year or early next year.