Darien parking fee public hearing attracts small crowd
Despite facing a potential increase of nearly 30 percent in the parking fees for the railroad station lots, few commuters turned out to ask questions or voice concerns.
Darien resident John Tomaszewski was the first of only a handful of residents to address the board about the potential increase. However, his issue was not with having to pay more, but he extremely limited number of parking permits available.
"I've been on the waiting list for six years at Noroton Heights," Tomaszewski said. "Something has to be done; town residents should be able buy a permit and it's first come, first served."
Democratic Selectman Callie Sullivan pointed out that the board is not allowed, by law, to limit who parks in the lots.
Administrative Officer Karl Kilduff also addressed the fact that the Noroton Heights lot is state owned.
"There are different rules for who owns what lot," Kilduff said.
Another resident, Eric Voigt, expressed similar concerns with the amount of time he and his wife had been on a waiting list to get a permit.
"My wife and I are daily commuters and we got on the list five years ago," Voigt said. "At this rate, it would be 16 years before we'll have a chance to get a permit."
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman and RTM member Jim Cameron addressed the limited number of available permits.
"I'm thrilled that we have the number of commuters that we do," Cameron said. "These are the people I feel for."
Cameron told the BOS that more permits needed to be issued and to consider requesting proof from people that they commute on a regular basis. He also suggested requiring people to renew their permits in-person during regular commuting hours.
"It's not unrealistic to ask if people really need that permit," Cameron said. He also acknowledged a modest increase in the parking rates would be acceptable as long as modifications were made to the stations.
During the board's regular meeting session addressing the proposed parking fee increase, Republican Selectman Gerald Nielsen said the turnover rate of yearly permits had stagnated and that the Noroton parking lot needed significant work.
Democratic Selectman David Bayne suggested taking incentive parking lot spaces and offering them to people who were on the waiting list. As a daily commuter, Bayne admitted the problem will never be solved completely.
Bayne was concerned that increasing the parking rates without giving commuters anything in return was wrong.
"I've been involved in Darien government for a long time," Bayne said. "To just take money today and say you'll use it in the future rubs me the wrong way."
Sullivan suggested selling permits in-person at the stations to help weed out commuters who don't care enough to purchase one in person.
However, Kilduff cautioned against selling permits in person at the stations because of the amount of work that would have to be done before the permits could be sold.
"There are other ways to get things out of the system," Kilduff said.
After further discussion, the board unanimously voted to approve increasing the parking fee to $345.