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Vergennes plans to extend downtown parking limits

VERGENNES — Vergennes-area residents and visitors to the city’s downtown should soon have more time to run errands, shop and dine with less worry of finding a paper ticket tucked under their windshield wipers indicating a $10 fine.
At the Vergennes City Council’s request, Vergennes City Manager Matt Chabot is preparing an amendment to the city’s parking ordinance that would extend from two hours to three hours the legal daytime limit to remain in a downtown parking space. Neither the current nor expected new limit applies to evenings or Sundays.
The council will consider and all but certainly approve that amendment at its Jan. 8 meeting, and the change will officially take effect 60 days afterward.
Most downtown streets in Addison County’s other two largest villages, Middlebury and Bristol, have two-hour limits during weekdays and Saturdays.
The Vergennes council has discussed the two-hour question in the past, especially at the request of shopkeepers who point out that two hours is a tight timetable for sitting down for a lunch at a city eatery and then stopping at one or more of their stores.
Chabot said the topic came up again recently when Police Chief George Merkel toured downtown to remind shopkeepers they should let customers know of the parking time limits, as well as remind merchants and their employees that they should be mindful not to take prime spaces.
Chabot said Merkel in turn relayed to Chabot and Mayor Renny Perry a message from downtown business owners, a message that he and Perry then shared with the full council.
“He had come back with the feedback that the merchants felt that two hours was not enough,” Chabot said. “The example that was given to me was that if someone came to the Bixby (Library) with their kid to story hour and then went across the street to Vergennes Laundry and got a cocoa, and then wanted to pop up to Linda’s (Apparel and Gifts), the two hours was not a sufficient amount of time.”
Merkel mentioned to the Independent that four hours was a possibility, but Chabot said council members quickly settled on three.
“Three hours felt like a good fit for the council,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of significant conversation about it.”
Chabot said the city would put up signs to indicate the new time limits in a district that includes Main Street between East and South Water streets, all of Park Street, and parts of Green and School streets.
But, he said, there were no plans to be “chalking tires to see who was there at 10 and is still there at 2 o’clock.”
Rather, Chabot said, city officials hope to raise awareness among and seek the cooperation of residents.
“It’s very challenging from a staffing perspective to even enforce a parking ordinance. I would prefer that our police officers spend their time elsewhere,” he said. “So what we are asking for is just a larger sense of community and an understanding that it’s easier if everyone participates and is knowledgeable, versus having to enforce the ordinance.”
Chabot is confident in that approach.  
“It’s a small enough community, and all of our business owners are vested in making sure that there’s adequate parking for patrons,” he said. “And if everyone is looking at if from that perspective we think it’s easily accomplished.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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