-Special to the Record
Overnight parking restrictions could soon be coming to a street near you if the City Council adopts a new set of parking regulations authored by City Manager Jay Ash and adopted by the Traffic Commission. To inform its pending decision, the City Council will hold a subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, May 3 at 6 p.m. and a public hearing on May 9 at 7 p.m. both at City Hall.
“We want to give everyone and anyone another chance to comment on the proposed regulations before we take action,” said Council President Marilyn Vega Torres. “The plan has already been the subject on community forums, public hearings, subcommittee meetings and informal discussions, so there has been a lot of great input in the process. We’ll review this these last times before we make a final decision, and so the public can continue to give us their feedback.”
Ash describes the new parking regulations as a “complete overhaul” of the process of parking on public streets. Major changes include the requirement that all vehicles parked overnight on public ways have a City parking sticker and an allowance for commercial vehicles of six wheels or less and nine feet high or less to secure parking stickers.
“These ideas and others have been fully vetted with the public, especially during a special community forum we held on the subject last year. I believe the new regulations respond to the needs of the public and will help ensure that vehicles registered in Chelsea have a better likelihood of securing parking close to the homes of the operators,” advised Ash.
The requirement that all vehicles parking on public ways from midnight to 5 a.m. or 2 to 5 a.m. in several business districts, may have the greatest impact on that stated goal of Ash’s. All vehicles with passenger plates or commercial plates which have six wheels or less and are nine feet high and under will be eligible to purchase a yearly parking sticker for $10, with that fee being waived for active military and veterans. Ash explains that there are a number of reasons for the restriction.
“Somewhere between 10-20% of vehicles parked overnight aren’t registered in Chelsea, meaning that out-of-towners or those who are not legally registering their vehicles here and thereby not paying local excise taxes here are taking up parking spaces from those who do live here and are paying their fair share. The problem is especially acute on the municipal border with Everett, which has had an overnight parking restriction for some time, the result of which has been to push vehicles not complying with the Everett regulations into Chelsea.
“There are some side benefits as well, including increasing the likelihood that vehicles have proper insurance and are up-to-date on their excise taxes, parking tickets and other municipal charges. The two I am most excited about are the potential the program will have of clearing out late night parties, as party goers with vehicles not registered in the city will potential face a parking ticket, and that the enforcement will be done by police officers, adding more visibility in our neighborhoods late at night. Those should help our public safety and quality of life efforts, especially in more crowded neighborhoods,” explained Ash.
Perhaps the most controversial of the proposals is to allow out-of-town vehicles to pay $600 annually to park on public ways. That charge would be broken up into two, six month stickers costing $300 each.
“The justification here is that the charge is substantial enough that people won’t choose that option to avoid paying the local excise tax or to park and ride the bus. But, it will give those working at local establishments, which do pay taxes here, the opportunity to park near their work, and residents who have company cars that can’t be registered in the city to still park here and contribute their fair share towards the upkeep of local streets.
“Frankly, if someone wants to pay $600 to park on our streets, I’ll gladly accept their money and put it towards repaving those very streets,” quipped Ash, who did note that neither this provision nor the overall plan is being implemented as a new source of revenues. Ash believes parking revenues will barely exceed the cost of enforcement.
The program will not be in effect for private ways, including all of Admirals Hill, although any resident who has a legally registered vehicle in Chelsea can purchase a sticker. That sticker will entitle the vehicle to legally parking in any restricted area of the city at any time.
“We currently have residential parking restrictions on lower Broadway and upper Central Avenue. We’ll add two more, around the commuter rail station and up at the Whidden Hospital. However, unlike the current sticker program which limits parking to only those people who reside in that neighborhood, the new regulations will allow anyone with a Chelsea sticker to park at anytime, anywhere, in a legal parking space in Chelsea,” informed Ash.
For example, a resident of Cook Avenue could legally park during the day on lower Broadway. Ash says that rationale for that change is that all Chelsea vehicles pay taxes to pave all city streets. Even with that change, Ash does not believe there will be major inconveniences for neighborhood residents.
“And, if there is, we will make adjustments as we need to. This is certainly an inexact science, and, while we think we have a solid plan, we’ll be sure to keep an eye and ear open and make any merited adjustments,” pledged Ash.
Other aspects of the new regulations include the ability of residents to use up to 2 visitor passes at a time and a total of 156 visits for guests a year; free parking passes for documented care givers, and parking passes to be available for landlords and contractors. The regulations specifically exclude commercial vehicles, which would be defined as those with more than 6 wheels or taller than 9’, from parking on public ways from 7p to 7a.
“I’m pleased at the process we have undergone, including the input from more than 100 residents, including those on the Traffic Commission, which has done a great job on the regulations. Additionally, I believe more than 500 hours of combined thought about the issues has also been undertaken. It will certainly be an adjustment in the way we live, work and park here, but I am confident that this plan is worthy of implementation,” stressed Ash.
If adopted soon by the Council, Ash says the new regulations will go into effect on August 1st. Ash says that substantial public outreach will be undertaken prior to the start of the program.
For those interested in reviewing the entire proposed regulations, the City’s website, www.chelseama.gov has a copy on the main page under the heading of “Chelsea in the News.” Additionally, the proposed regulations are available in the City Manager’s office and can be mailed by calling 617-466-4100.