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Hanover Weighs Parking Solutions

Hanover — The town’s long-time parking problem could get some relief under a proposal floated last night that calls for increasing the number of downtown parking spaces while also raising meter fees.

Parking Operations Supervisor Patrick O’Neill told the Hanover Selectboard that the meter fee increases would help pay for the installation of a new generatiuon of parking meters that accept bank cards as well as the construction of about 35 new parking spaces on Hovey Lane and Sanborn Lane and converting five short-term spaces to long-term spaces on Lebanon Street.

Per-hour fees could increase as much as 50 cents for some spaces and as little as 10 cents at others. Per-hour fees currently range from 25 cents to 50 cents, depending on parking space locations.

Town Manager Julia Griffin told the board that after discussing the proposal with the Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director Janet Rebman suggested the town compromise over the proposed fee increase by providing more long-term parking spaces for downtown workers.

Selectman Bill Geraghty said the parking problem, along with the town’s long-time policy of free parking after 5 p.m., are both issues he would like to see discussed at the public hearing on June 17.

The discussion on which meters to select for upgrade revolved around technology, including which were most user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

O’Neill proposed one meter — popular in Europe — that would allow a driver to pay with a bank card through a smart phone application. The benefit, a promotional video explained, was the elimination of meter expiration fees because the meter would notify the individual via text message or phone call that the time limit was approaching expiration.

Other proposed models included plain bank card accepting meters and some standard meters accepting only coins.

O’Neill said the proposed budget envisions upgrading the meters associated with 399 of the most frequently used parking spaces out of the town’s total 600 metered spaces.

Griffin also presented the board with a draft of proposed rates and fees for other departments. The Planning and Zoning staff suggested substantial increases under their jurisdiction after an analysis of comparative communities. “What we proved to ourselves is that most of our rates are significantly lower than our comparison communities,” Griffin said.

The proposal calls for increasing, and often doubling the rates for most of the services offered by the Planning and Zoning staff.

The first and only public hearing for the rates and fees proposal will be during the June 17 meeting.

In other developments, the Selectboard also discussed a proposed rental housing ordinance aimed at ensuring the fair treatment of tenants by landlords.

Town Attorney Laura Spector-Morgan, who drafted the proposed ordinance, was on-hand to field questions from the board, which mostly included clarification over the ordinance’s language.

Although a final decision will not be made in the immediate future, the board discussed requiring landlords to register their rental properties with the town, free of charge. Failure to accurately register all units, the board decided, could lead to hefty fines.

Selectboard Chairman Peter Christie said he wanted to be sure the board gave landlords plenty of notice before subjecting them to fines. Griffin assured the board that an information campaign would be launched in order to make landlords aware of the proposed ordinance.

All board members agreed that they would like for the ordinance to be in place before Dartmouth College students return for classes in September.

The first public hearing for the rental housing ordinance will be at the board’s June 17 meeting.

Katie Mattler can be reached at kmettler@vnews.com or 603-727-3234.

CLARIFICATION

This article has been amended for clarification.

Besides discussing proposed changes to parking fees, Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin this week also presented the Selectboard with proposed rate and fee changes in other departments. When she said "most of our rates are significantly lower than our comparison communities," she was discussing planning and zoning charges. An earlier version of this story was unclear on that point.