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Citizen asks Vergennes to ease parking ban

VERGENNES — The Vergennes City Council on Jan. 12 agreed to take a look at the city’s winter parking ban law and see if some flexibility could be built in to allow for businesses that want to open before 6:30 a.m.
City resident Kathy Rossier attended the meeting and prompted the discussion on the ordinance, which bans parking on city streets between 2 and 6:30 a.m. from Dec. 1 through March 31.
Rossier told council members she runs an exercise class in a space above Linda’s Gifts and Apparel that begins at 6 a.m., a time that allows her roughly dozen participants to attend and still make it to their jobs on time. But in the winter, that timing creates a conflict with the parking ban.
Rossier said she hoped the council could give her and her patrons “some type” of leniency to avoid parking tickets when it was not snowing and city workers did not have to plow. She noted that Bristol and Middlebury, among other towns, have parking bans that end at 6 a.m.
Alderman Renny Perry suggested maybe a change to the law would not be needed and that her goal could be met by talking to the police department about a permit that could be displayed in customer vehicles.
But City Manager Mel Hawley disagreed. He said the ban generates complaints, and that exceptions made outside a change to the ordinance could create a double standard that he and City Clerk Joan Devine would have a hard time explaining to those who do receive tickets.
“It just puts us in a very difficult spot,” Hawley said. “I’m not good with it without an ordinance change.”
Any change to the law would require a 60-day petition period and would not provide any help to Rossier this winter, officials said.
Council members agreed with Rossier that an ordinance change, such as creating permit exemptions valid during clear weather, could benefit other businesses that wanted to open during winter months before 6:30 a.m.
They also agreed with Mayor Bill Benton to “keep it on the agenda and come up with something” that could help Rossier and others next winter.
In the meantime, Rossier said, she would look into another suggestion Perry offered, that she speak to the owners of nearby parking lots that are little used at that hour.
“There are three properties within a block that have parking lots,” he said.

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