Going against the request of Mayor Kimberley Driscoll to give the new parking plan 90 days before making changes, the City Council voted Thursday night to take up the issue of parking meters near and the .
Steve's Quality Market at 36 Margin St., which was called “a Salem icon,” is that limit parking to 15 minutes in spaces in front and beside the store with four-hour parking meters.
The market owners have been . Ward 2 Councilor Michael Sosnowski pointed out that the number of signatures on the petition was more than all of those 2,957 people who voted in the last city election.
“If I have ever heard of anything that screamed mandate, this is it,” Sosnowski said.
Driscoll urged the council Thursday to delay making changes for 90 days to give the parking plan a chance.
“The City understands the concerns expressed and plans to work to address all of them in a number of ways,” the mayor's chief of staff Jason Silva wrote in a letter. “At present, we have a hodgepodge of parking arrangements largely because we haven’t looked at the parking system in a comprehensive manner. This plan does that and gives our downtown parking some structure and order. The implementation roll out has an education component for users, as well as a built in evaluation after 90 days.
“After the 90-day review period, the City intends to review the plan as implemented to determine if the new parking regulations are working as desired and, if they are not, how best to make modifications so that they are. We are also taking a longer look at certain areas of the downtown where meters are planned for installation that do not have them now, like the area surrounding Steve’s Market, to make sure that it is warranted.”
Ward 7 Councilor Joe O'Keefe urged his colleagues to wait the 90 days before making any changes in the parking plan. O'Keefe, who noted that he voted against the parking plan last June, said, “next week somebody else will want to change the parking in front of their place.”
'Some Things Can't Wait'
Sosnowski disagreed. “Some things can wait. Some things can't. This (four-hour parking meters in front of the post office and the market) needs to be addressed now.”
The issue was referred to Sosnowski's committee on Ordinances, Licences and Legal Affairs. He said he would have the committee address the issue as quickly as possible.
The parking plan also was criticized because it does not have 15-minute parking in front of restaurants and businesses that have short-term shoppers or customers seeking food carry out. There is also a lack of loading zones in some areas that need them, Sosnowski said.
“We are putting these businesses at risk,” he said.
In addition to Steve's Market and the post office, businesses that would be affected by the four-hour meters include New Life Cuts, Salon L'Ondina, Extra Effort Exercise Studio and North Shore Driving School.
Regulating Fortune Tellers and Tour Guides
In other business, the council moved a step closer to enacting an ordinance that regulates fortune teller businesses. There is currently a moratorium on issuing new business licenses for fortune tellers.
Under the proposed new ordinance, a business could not get a new license for fortune telling unless telling fortunes amounts to at least 70 percent of its total business.
The city is also preparing to give Salem tour guides a test to qualify as a certified tour guide.
In response to numerous complaints about tour guides who make up tales about Salem's history, the council has been trying to find a way to require the guides to know Salem's history.
“We have all heard these guides telling things that are not true,” Sosnowski said.
The mayor once heard one guide tell a group of tourists that the M&M candy was invented in Salem, several councilors said.
With the help of local historian Jim McAllister, the city is developing a test that tour guides would be required to take to be certified.
Certified tour guides would have a badge, which may give them a competitive edge over non-certified tour guides, Sosnowski said.
The challenge for the city is the hundreds of tour buses that bring tourists to the city, often with guides who know nothing about Salem history. “There are a hundred, maybe 200 of these bus companies,” Sosnowski said.
The city cannot require that the bus operators hire Salem-certified tour guides, Sosnowski said.
The city can put time limits and other restrictions on the tour companies.
Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy said there have been complaints about late night tours of cemeteries and people with candles trespassing through residents' backyards.
“The local companies are trying to do the right thing,” Sosnowski said.
Electric Cars Charging Stations Approved
The council also approved spending $12,000 to install electric vehicle charging stations in the city garages.
“This is a unique opportunity for Salem to have a place for people who have electric cars to go to charge them up,” McCarthy said.
As a green community, Salem applied and received the charging stations for free. The city has to pay only to have the stations hooked up.
“It is a draw for people to come to Salem,” McCarthy said.
It is unknown how many electric cars are in Salem. Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel said “Salem is clearly not awash in electric cars. The stations will encourage people to buy electric cars because they know they can fill up.”
The mayor has said the city may buy electric vehicles in the future for use in inspection services.