City Council Meeting: February 4, 2014

Thanks to Jack Moynihan for pinch hitting for me tonight on the city council note taking shift. Here’s Jack’s report on the meeting:

Mayor Elliot called meeting to order at 6:14. Minutes were accepted unanimously. The first motion is by Rourke to take the motion to appoint Salmira Mitchell to Library Trustees from the table. It passes 5 to 4. Councilors Elliot, Kennedy, Mercier, & Belanger opposed. The appointment is then voted on, and passes with the votes going the same way.

Communication 1. Urban Renewal Plan for Tanner Street area.C Milinazzo moves to send to Economic Sub Committee. Approved. A, Baacke explains that some planning department members will be continuing on to follow through with implementation . Baacke also explains that neighborhood and other groups have been involved in discussions in response to a question from Mercier. Communication 2. Belanger first asks a question about parking, but is satisfied with Lynch’s answer that additional parking spaces would be needed for National Park security officers. Motion approved.

Pevey St. development. Mr. Baake explains that it could represent a very positive economic development

General Public Hearings:

To discontinue a portion of Worcester Rd. to allow for some development. Attorney for developer speaks first. Mr. Baacke noted that the rest of the road had been abandoned previously. No one spoke in opposition. However, C Leahy expresses concerns about changing the character of a neighborhood by altering frontage requirements. C. Kennedy sees it a positive development. Passes unanimously

Pan-handling ordinance: Discussion of changes to original ordinance. No one spoke in favor. Troix Bettencourt asks for a definition of “aggressive” particularly with regard to sign holding. He also asked whether or not panhandling police calls could have been covered by already existing laws. In addition, he had some questions about how much “police discretion” would be involved. The City Solicitor answered that aggressive pan-handling was added to the amendment, With regard to sign holding, that would have to be accompanied by some sort of aggressive pan-handling. She also went on to give examples of the types of reported aggressive behavior. As for existing laws covering incidents, she cited how other communities have felt the need to add similar laws. Marty Lorre then spoke. He believes that his original motion has gotten off track. He feels that it is difficult to identify what is aggressive. He also thinks that the ordinance should not only cover the downtown. (I missed the name of the third person. He also questioned how we could define aggressive, and confining the ordinance to the downtown area. C Mercier then spoke about how this type of motion arises out of concerns raised by business owners. In addition, she gives some examples of how citizens have been intimidated by pan-handlers. C Belanger goes on to say that he knows of women, in particular, who were afraid. Motion to pass amended ordinance passes unanimously.

National Grid – Electrical main installation on Industrial Ave. Speaking for, an engineer for National Grid. The underground installation is to improve capacity and service. Looking to start in late spring. C Leahy asks how long the project should take, and where it would improve power. The response was that it would improve power in South Lowell and points west. No one spoke in opposition. C Mercier moves to refer to wiring inspector.

Reports: M Elliot reports that on Monday evening the Councilors approved Michael Geary to take over as acting City Manager when Mr. Lynch leaves.
Petitions: Claim for property damage. Referred to Law Dept.

Mr. & Mrs. Gordon spoke about an easement 135 Beacon Street. She and her husband are concerned that they might have liability regarding the easement, and that was not what they agreed with. She also has concerns about the communication, or lack thereof. Lynch explains that the city did not put the wall there and merely granted the easement. He offered to have the City Solicitor discuss the matter further. Atty. O’Connor noted that the city only learned of the entire situation recently. Ms. Gordon praised the Law Dept. for all of the help and concern shown. Motion passes to refer matter to Law Dept.

Request to move a utility pole on S. Whipple St. Approved.


C Rourke – requesting exploration of installing a ShotSpotter program. C Belanger asks if Rourke has looked into possible grant funding. Motion passes 9-0

C Rourke – asking about problems and complaints regarding the new trash/recycling schedule. Lynch explains that the city has a number of notifications in place to notify citizens of changes. Motion passes.

C Milinazzo – requesting reports on outstanding claims against contractors with schools built under the MSBA. Motion passes.

C Belanger – to refer current parking ordinance to the Economic Development SC for review. Karen Bell then spoke. She speaks of how ticketing can makes the Downtown seem less welcoming for business. Lynch explains that they aren’t currently changing the current policy. He states that the purpose of meters is to help regulate parking, so that people don’t take up spaces all day. Belanger would like to eventually have free parking in the downtown on evenings and weekends. C Mercier, Kennedy speak in favor. Motion passes.

C Leahy requesting an update on the removal of the double poles by utilities. C Kennedy speaks in favor.

C Leahy – requesting a report on all utility work being done – including maintenance and emergency repairs. Approved.

C Leahy – requesting an update on fire damaged buildings throughout the city. Motion passes.

C Mercier – requesting that a number of spaces on Dublin Street be designated and marked as “Parking for COA Employees Only.” Motion passes.

Meeting adjourned at 8:59.

3 Responses to City Council Meeting: February 4, 2014

  1. Brian says:

    I’m very concerned that c. Belanger’s motion regarding the parking ordinance will be counterproductive for business at Majors Pub and The Club. Free on-street parking is NOT a good idea. Metered parking encourages turnover so new customers/members can get dinner or go to the gym.
    Free on-street parking encourages people to keep their cars there all day/night or all weekend.
    C. Belanger and Karen Bell probably DO hear some complaints about tickets or there being “no spots” on the street. But they probably never hear about the 100’s or 1000’s of successful parking instances at meters. What’s $2.00 when you’re spending $75.00 on dinner and drinks?
    It’s a classic case of the vocal minority. Pretty soon you think the meters are the problem when they’re not.
    If Karen Bell has members that are afraid to park in the garage that’s a perception problem not a meter problem. In fact I would argue that increasing free parking in front of the club would hurt her business. Over night visitors to Appleton Mills or Loft 27 would snatch up those spots AND the city would lose parking revenue.
    As B. Lynch mentioned the metered parking revenue is important to fund the upkeep of the garages. I think we,the city, have it backwards on this one. What C. Belanger and K. Bell SHOULD advocate for is to increase metered parking times to 8pm on weekdays and all day Saturday but making the first 60-90 minutes FREE in the garages. That’s right FREE!!!
    Think about it. People go out to dinner and go to the gym typically from 4-8pm on weekdays. We don’t ticket during those times and everyone knows it, so when the reverse commuters come home from work they park on the street and go straight to their mill loft or condo. This is bad for the businesses downtown!
    Will the increase in revenue collected from meter fees from 4-8pm and Saturdays make up for the loss in revenue by making parking free in garages for the first 60-90 minutes? I don’t know. As long as we can pay the debt service for the garages and keep the garages safe and clean this can be a win-win-win for business owners, customers, and the city.
    What WILL happen is businesses will be busier and more profitable because more spots will available on the street for quick visits AND more customers will utilize the garages knowing the first 60-90 minutes are free.
    Even if parking revenue goes down at first because of free garage parking our commercial tax revenue should increase over time because more businesses will be able to survive and thrive downtown.
    I highly suggest anyone interested in this to view this short youtube video about Old Pasadena Ca and how after implementing these parking changes the city has been transformed.

  2. Joe S. says:

    I agree with Brian, especially in making parking in the garages more attractive. However, a problem with the current ordinance is that there are times (4-6 pm, and Saturdays) where there is a meter fee, but no enforcement. Those 2 should line up, whether it be to terminate at 4 ( as Belanger suggested), or 6 (as it is now for the ordinance) or even later (as Brian suggests).