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DDA seeks council’s help to free up parking

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena City Manager Rachel Smolinski, left, and Matt Wojda consider a pair of parking proposals for parking downtown while at an Alpena Downtown Authority meeting Tuesday. The DDA is asking the city council to increase fines for people who continually violate parking regulations downtown.

ALPENA — People who repeatedly violate parking regulations in downtown Alpena will pay significantly more than they do under a new parking plan by the Alpena Downtown Development Authority.

To help free up more curbside parking near local businesses, the DDA is asking the Alpena Municipal Council to implement a escalating fine scale where penalties double with each new offense and to also consider doing away with all overnight curbside parking in the DDA year-round.

Currently, a person who receives a citation only has to pay $20 per violation, and the fine doubles the longer it remains unpaid. The new plan would have the first ticket remain at $10, but jump to $25 for a second violation and $50 for three or more citations.

The fines would continue to escalate as penalties are applied for tickets that aren’t paid in a timely manner.

Council must sign off on the new fines at a future meeting before they go into effect.

Mike Mahler, president of the DDA, said several business owners have expressed concern about a lack of prime parking spaces downtown, how some abuse the system, and that parking isn’t available for customers. He said the higher fees could motivate people to follow parking rules.

“If you’re a frequent violator of downtown parking rules, you’ll probably reach that $50 mark pretty quickly. Then if you don’t pay it timely, it is going to double and then it’s $100,” he said. “Right now, we just feel this is the most efficient way to improve downtown parking.”

By not allowing curbside parking overnight, the DDA hopes prime parking spots will be open in the morning when businesses open and many people do their shopping. Mahler said residents who live downtown would have to park in a nearby parking lot that allows overnight parking and leave their automobile there and walk to their home.

Parking downtown has been an ongoing issue and a subject of debate between council, the DDA, business owners, and residents for many years.

As the downtown continues to grow and develop, officials say a long-term plan needs to be crafted to address the additional traffic expected. That could include parking meters, or a parking structure that would charge people to park their car.

Those options are not imminent, but will be explored as a new parking strategy is developed, Mahler said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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