In a move that is puzzling to St. Louis Street business owners, the city installed two-hour parking limit signs on First Street last week.
The business owners just waged a hard fought battle over parking limits on St. Louis Street that ended with the two-hour parking signs there being removed.
The First Street signs went up Thursday, March 28, one week after similar signs came down on St. Louis Street.
“This is mind-boggling,” said April Aubuchon, who fought to keep two-hour parking in front of her Kaleidoscope Consignment shop.
“It’s petty and personal,” said Brad Reed who also wanted the parking limits in front of his Reed Insurance office.
City Engineer Dan Rahn said he recently discovered that there is an ordinance limiting parking on First Street from St. Louis Street to Union Street.
Mayor Herb Adams called for a sign audit saying where there is an ordinance and no signs, that signs should go up. Where there are signs but no ordinance the signs should come down, he said.
In any case where the regulation was not clear, Adams said he would bring the issue back to the board of aldermen.
The one exception to the mayor’s rule was the no ballpark parking signs on South Fifth Street. There is no ordinance but Adams said he was advised by City Attorney Dan Vogel that the no ballpark parking could be enforced if the signs were listed on the city register of regulatory signs. Aldermen voted Dec. 4 to put the Fifth Street signs on the register.
Rahn said the installation of the First Street signs would be the last.
“We didn’t find any other streets where there is an ordinance and no signs,” Rahn said,
The put-up, take-down exercise began last November when Catawissa resident Austin Myers appeared before aldermen to protest the no ballpark parking signs on South Fifth Street.
Myers said the signs were discriminatory and there was no ordinance prohibiting ballpark patrons from parking on South Fifth Street. Myers challenged Alderman Jerry Eversmeyer over parking in front of Westside Personnel, even though there was an ordinance on the books limiting parking on St. Louis Street to two hours.
It was uncertain when the two-hour parking signs had first been put up on St. Louis Street but Ward 1 Alderman Ed Gass, former public works director, estimated that it could have been as long as 30 years ago.
After Myers’ second appearance before aldermen, Mayor Adams instructed Rahn to research the ordinance and put the two-hour parking signs back up.
The mayor also asked a downtown business group to discuss whether there should be parking limits on St. Louis and after a heated debate among businesses and aldermen, the board voted 4 to 2 to remove all time limit parking on St. Louis Street and the signs were taken down.
The First Street signs went up in front of businesses that faced high opposition in the St. Louis Street arguments.
Ron Sansone, who signed the petition calling for the removal of two-hour parking signs on St. Louis Street, now has two-hour parking signs in front of the antique mall that he owns and operates at North First and Union streets and his construction office on St. Louis Street.
The main argument by Alderman Mike Pigg against two-hour parking on St. Louis Street was because he takes his mother to the beauty shop and her visit often takes more than two hours. It was unreasonable, he said, that beauty shop patrons should have to go outside in the middle of getting their hair dyed to move their car. He said they’d be getting hair color all over their car upholstery.
There is no beauty shop on St. Louis Street but there is one on First Street that now has a two-hour parking in front.
Pigg said when he made the beauty shop argument, he did not identify the beauty shop and would not do so now. He was just making the case that two-hour parking is not long enough in front of a beauty shop.
Pigg also said he would not oppose the two-hour parking signs on First Street but would wait until he heard from businesses on the street or from the public. If there are no complaints, he said, he would not initiate any action to take the signs down.
Alderman Mike Bates who argued that one regulation should be applied to everyone was also ambivalent about the First Street signs.
“I tend to think that all the downtown parking would be the same,” Bates said. “But I’ll wait until we see if anyone complains about the First Street signs.”
Aubuchon said aldermen who did not see the availability of parking in a business district as a business issue were missing the point. She cited Eureka, Union and Washington as cities where street parking is limited in older business districts.
“This is to keep the parking for customers who want to get into those businesses,” Aubuchon said. “If people don’t come into my business, I’m not going to have a business.”
Reed, who fought hard to keep the two-hour parking in front of his business so other business owners and their employees would not park there all day, also said putting the signs up on First Street, around the corner from his business and Kaleidoscope, sent a message of city hall confusion.
“There is no describing how silly this makes everybody look,” Reed said. “And I’m sick of it.”