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Square parking hits snag
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By Tere Dunlap

MONROE - State law may have the last word on adding parking spaces on the Square.

The Common Council on Tuesday directed the city police, fire, engineering and public works departments to look further into state laws and definitions to see if it is possible to add an extra parking space near each of the four mid-block crosswalks around the Square.

Monroe Police Chief Fred Kelley and Al Gerber, Monroe engineer supervisor, told the council that state law requires at least 15 feet between the edge of crosswalks and the nearest point of a parked vehicle.

To explain the problem, Gerber took pictures of a truck parked in one of the areas being considered for an added parking stall. Its bumper was only 5 feet from the edge of the crosswalk.

Even narrowing the crosswalk, from the current width of 12 feet to the state-required 10 feet, is not enough to fit a parking stall, Gerber said after the meeting.

Shifting parking spaces further down the block toward the corner would not work either, Gerber said, "because a vehicle would have to back into the intersection to leave" the end parking stall.

Kelley said the mid-block crosswalks were designed and installed to be crosswalks and are designated by their colored and patterned surfaces. The city most likely would not be able to eliminate them by covering them with paint or by other measures, he said.

Nancy Maliszewski, owner of Nancy's Ladies Apparel on 11th Street, submitted late last week to the city a petition with 31 signatures from downtown business owners and employees. The petition asked for one parking space on each of the four sides of the Square next to the mid-block crosswalks.

Addressing the council, Maliszewski said convenient parking is one of the customer services that downtown businesses, in competition with "big box" stores, can offer.

She also said one additional parking space could bring up to $70,000 a year in customer sales. Maliszewski based that dollar amount on her store's average sales transactions. Also, parking next to the curb is safer and more convenient for mothers with children and for the elderly, she said.

Ryan Wilson was the only person attending the council meeting who spoke against the additional parking spaces. Wilson is chairman of Monroe Main Street Board. He was also employed in 2009 by Fehr-Graham & Associates, the engineering firm hired to oversee the entire streetscape reconstruction project. Wilson and his wife, Claudia, own Cafe Claudeen's, which sits at the end of one of the mid-block crosswalks.

Wilson said the role of parking spaces has little or no impact on a business' success.

He also said what business owners want was not a significant factor in making engineering decisions.

"That's why we go to designers," he said.

Wilson said the crosswalks, "for the first time in years," define the access to the Courthouse and wheelchair access, and allow people to cross safely.

"They accomplish what was intended," he said.

Wilson said the designers were charged with developing a plan that would "slow down traffic and provide a pedestrian-friendly environment and highly beautifying surroundings."