Canton-area Residential Permit Parking plan ends; "wild west" to return

Canton residents near the Can Company redevelopment are about to lose the one parking privilege that has made their parking lives bearable-because it inconvenienced nearby residents and possibly Can Company developer Streuver Brothers, according to one resident.

"Everything was going according to plan," says Mike Beczkowski, the parking area representative for the neighborhood. "Then Jim Kraft got some blowback and he issued an administrative order ending Area 43."

At the Jan. 28 City Council meeting First District Councilman James Kraft presented an "unfavorable" committee report on a bill that would have extended Residential Permit Parking (RPP) in Area 43, a chunk of the southeast just off Boston Street, running from the 2400 and 2500 blocks of Hudson Street to those same blocks a block north, on Fait, with 212 houses.

After some confusion about what a "yes" vote meant (unfavorable reports of administration bills are extremely rare), the council voted to accept the unfavorable report on the second reader, dooming the bill to fail on the third reader. (As expected, on Feb. 4 the council voted to kill the bill.)

That means the RPP stickers allowing residents to park where they live indefinitely-instead of the two hours afforded to nonresidents-are now useless.

The parking problem had been building for years, Beczkowski says, and was worse in his neighborhood, just north of the Can Company development, in part because employees of the development's tenants were parking on the street. (Also, according to Kraft, because the area is acting as a "park and ride" for downtown office workers). In 2010 area residents asked the Parking Authority to study the problem. "They said, 'If anyone deserves it, you guys do,'" Beczkowski says.

The study found that a majority of those parked on the blocks were nonresidents. The neighborhood passed petitions around and, in November of 2011, signs went up announcing the pending parking restrictions (for nonresidents). The stickers came soon after.

"Parking became remarkably better for people living in the area," Beczkowski says. "But it got worse for others out of the area."

Therein lies the rub.

"The analogy was like a blown-up balloon," says Darryl Jurkiewicz, president of the Canton Community Association, made up mostly of people living outside Area 43. "If you squeeze one end, it inflates the other end."

People living just outside the tiny new parking zone suddenly faced even more parking headaches than they had before.

The community association opposed the sticker system, Jurkiewicz says, because it did not extend to the whole neighborhood and because the Parking Authority did not invite the association to the meetings-advertising only in The Daily Record, for example.

At the few meetings he was able to attend, Jurkiewicz says, "no one brought any solutions."

On that much, at least, Beczkowski agrees. He says Can Company representatives were at a meeting last May and that compromise solutions were floated then, but progress stopped soon after.

There was no effort to exclude the larger Canton community in the parking plan, Beczkowski says, and he always envisioned the sticker system expanding to the rest of Canton. He says he was led to believe the neighborhood would get to vote on an expansion last fall, but some time between the spring of 2012, when Councilman Kraft seemed in favor of modifying the hours of the RPP, and August, when Kraft grew cool to the whole RPP concept, something happened.

"I think a lot of backlash came from the mayor's office and Can Company businesses and residents," Beczkowski says. "Suddenly the parking system wasn't a viable solution."

Beczkowski offers many emails between himself and Kraft's office and others which lead him to conclude that something nefarious is afoot. He says Kraft told him the Area 43 bill was going to be merged with a larger RPP bill-which didn't happen-and that the neighborhood might get a vote on the proposed Area 43 expansion-which also didn't happen. "I kind of feel we were disenfranchised from the process," Beczkowski says.

The reality may be both more and less complicated. As Kraft told a Jan. 23 community meeting in a prepared statement, expanding Area 43 seemed like a good idea, until it was realized that it wouldn't work unless the RPP was expanded to all of Canton-and that that wouldn't work because Canton residents collectively own more cars than there is physically room for on the streets. "Preliminary discussions with the [Parking Authority] indicated that even by issuing only one permit per household within the entire area, there would not have been a sufficient number of spaces to accommodate all of the vehicles, and experience shows that everyone expects to have two permits," Kraft said.

The councilman did not say where all those excess Canton cars are parked now, without benefit of a sticker.

Kraft spoke of a larger "Complete Streets" plan, a project of the Parking Authority and the city's Department of Transportation. It is downloadable and numbers 65 pages. Kraft also spoke of a potential parking garage in which residents could get a break on fees-maybe $50 per month. That does not thrill many Canton residents, who pay something like $6,000 annually in property taxes.

And so it is stasis until some new plan emerges.

Summed up, Beczkowski says: "We'll go back to the wild-west situation that we had before."

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