With limited parking in , a mild winter and spring allowing for more time to meander from shop to shop, and summer fast approaching, Village Board members held an open session last week at the Emergency Services Building to brainstorm some ideas to improve parking in the village.
Upon the meeting's end, no immediate changes seem evident. But members of the local business community, general public, and village board alike agreed that the nearly 90-minute-long conversation opened up a discussion about how to handle a dearth of parking spaces in a village that during peak season sees close to 5,000 cars per day enter in and out of its public lots - which accommodate roughly 850 cars.
How exactly to fix that problem - to get the money possible out of each space for business owners and ensure that visitors will want to revisit the village time and time again - remains a difficult task for the village board.
Proposals from members of the audience - which numbered about 15 - ranged from charging for parking just on weekends, to purchasing a high-end cable car, to keeping the system as is.
No ideas stood out as eye-opening and warranting immediate attention, said Trustee Barbara Borsack.
One plan the village does plan on moving on is reaching out to businesses within the business district, to remind them that employee parking is for employees. And the rest of the spots are not for employees.
"We have to give the employees the mindset that the reason they are employed is because of the number of customers coming into their store," said Trustee Richard Lawler. "If you park near the store, and prohibit customers from parking there, at some point you might be unemployed. Until we get that message across, I think they’re going to continue to take advantage."
Village Administrator Larry Cantwell will be sending out notices to business in the village, though he mentioned that the village has done that in the past. Some people just don't cooperate, said Mayor Paul Rickenbach.
"There are some that want to join us in concert," he said. "Others could care less. That's the problem we have with some businesses."
East Hampton Business Alliance Executive Director said her organization has no stance on what to make for parking recommendations - namely in Reutershan and Schenck lots and on the streets - due to the differences in opinion.
Elaine Jones, owner of , said that required employee parking, and three-hour limits in Reutershan (as opposed to the current two-hour limit) makes sense to her. But running a salon, she finds one hour parking on the street restrictive to her business.
"The only reason I'm in business is because my employees are willing to move my customers' cars so they don't violate parking," she said, saying she would prefer to see two-hour parking on Newtown Lane and Main Street.
Jeffrey Fisher, an East Hampton resident, said he favors paid parking.
"The income could be used by the village to clean the parking lots," he said. "Or if nothing else, create a reserve fund and eliminate the need for increased taxes later on."
Andrew Goldstein, the chair of the Village Zoning Board of Appeals, recalled his days working in New York City, where many people don't have to worry about taking cars since they don't drive them in the city.
"People would walk 10, 12 blocks twice a day," he said. "And people can't walk across Reutershan lot to get to work? We might actually have some more important things to think about."