Timed parking in Cannon Beach has been put on hold after complaints from the community.
The original plan approved by the City Council was to enforce a three-hour parking limit over the summer on Hemlock Street between First and Third streets, as well as on First through Third between Hemlock and Spruce streets.
The pilot area was chosen after a parking study surveyed the two busiest days of spring break, and found that Hemlock is the first to fill up. The restriction would help the city reach its goal of creating 50 new spots by the end of 2018.
While some business owners welcome the turnover, others worry that timed parking will adversely affect parking for employees and will rush customers.
Cannon Beach Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn said the city decided to postpone installing signs and enforcing the rule until it is discussed again at the July 10 City Council meeting.
“There’s been a lot of citizens upset by it,” said Schermerhorn, who will soon be the interim city manager. “(City councilors) are going to give citizens an opportunity to write to them or come to offer any different ideas.”
A petition outlining grievances with the plan started circulating about a week ago. As of Monday, the petition had 114 signatures, though many who signed live outside of Cannon Beach.
The petition, started by Voyages Toy Co. owner Jeremy Clifford, argued that timed parking would “negatively impact the relaxing atmosphere” of the town, “increase traffic congestion when cars need to be moved,” and “not allow visitors enough time to enjoy the restaurants and browse through the local shops.”
Clifford said there hasn’t been any evidence to show that higher turnover would lead to higher sales in a town like Cannon Beach.
“We want people to come out to the beach and then come into town to shop and eat in our restaurants. Three hours isn’t enough time to do that,” Clifford said. “Believe me: I want to make more money. And if I thought for one minute I thought the time limit would bring more customers in my store I’d support it, but I don’t believe it.”
In a year where sales across all businesses have been down due to an unusually harsh winter, Clifford said business owners object to experimenting during the city’s busiest season.
“The summer here is our Christmastime for other retailers,” Clifford said. “Best practices tells us you don’t do tests like this during your busiest season. If there are going to be negative impacts, you don’t want them to be huge.”
Clifford and others who signed the petition are pleased the city is postponing the plan to get feedback from the community. Ultimately, Clifford said he fears timed parking signage and an increase in parking tickets from violations would negatively impact the quaint, small-town visitor experience — as well as their desire to ever return.
“If (employees parking on Hemlock) is the problem you are trying to solve, then that’s a different problem to solve. Let’s all agree on that because I want the customers to have easy access to my stores,” Clifford said. “But the parking problem in Cannon Beach is larger than that. It’s connected to housing, commuting, city infrastructure — it will take many years.”
In an effort to clear up confusion about the city’s intention with timed parking, City Councilor George Vetter spent last week walking, measuring and counting all the parking within a five-minute walk of the corner of Morris’ Fireside at Hemlock and Second.
In total, Vetter counted spaces for 835 cars the size of a Dodge Grand Caravan. Of those spaces, about 100 are affected by timed parking, he said. Since his experiment, he said he has been speaking with some concerned business owners about what he found.
“My goal was to present the facts,” Vetter said. “The negative reactions from people seemed like they were fearing something they didn’t know all the facts about. So I wanted to inform them and let them decide.”
Vetter said that having a higher turnover rate would give more people a chance to park downtown, which in turn would increase the number of possible customers for businesses. The City Council voted unanimously for the pilot program in May.
“Everybody likes convenience. And the most convenient place is Hemlock,” Vetter said. “This is a way to have more people use downtown for parking to shop and eat downtown. And employees and beachgoers who use parking for eight to nine hours a day have 735 other options.
“It’s not easy to make money in this town,” he added. “You’ve got to maximize whatever you can.”
According to the city’s citizen survey last year, the community designated parking a high priority. Vetter said timed parking is the culmination of six months of conversations about solutions.
While Vetter still has confidence is the city’s test run, he said pushing back implementation until after the July 10 council meeting will give the community additional time to communicate with councilors and offer alternatives.
“There should have been involvement with the business community ahead of time,” he said. “We didn’t not do our duty, but we didn’t take it to the point necessary to achieve better results.”