By Shawn Regan firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini said merchants and residents will get the changes they want to paid parking spaces downtown.
Fiorentini said he plans to quickly use new power he received this week from the City Council to tweak the parking rules.
He said that as early as this week, he will convert hourly, metered spaces in the parking lot at Essex and Locust streets to multi-use spaces that can be used by people with permits. The lot is across from Maria’s restaurant.
“Employees who work in the Wingate Street area have been telling us they really need more permit spaces there,” Fiorentini said. “I’m going to make the changes immediately.”
At this week’s City Council meeting, councilors approved the mayor’s request that he be allowed to make temporary changes to the paid parking rules without the council’s consent. Under the new rule, the mayor has 45 days to convince the council to sign off on his temporary changes or they revert back. Last month, Fiorentini sought changes requested by businesses and residents, but the council delayed decisions on them.
At the Merrimack Street deck, Fiorentini wants to convert 22 spaces from permit spaces to hourly, metered spots for short-term parkers. He said restaurants in that part of downtown asked for the changes. He said he intends to poll councilors individually this week about that proposal. After that, he might make those changes on his own, he said.
The city is also considering changes to paid spaces on Washington Street. The change would allow “loading-only” spaces reserved for business deliveries to be used be as “free parking” spaces for anyone for up to 15 minutes. This change is designed for customers of nearby restaurants and businesses.
The council also approved a measure that allows the mayor to temporarily suspend or alter the paid parking rules during snow emergencies.
The city began charging drivers to park downtown in August. The paid parking plan has a variety of rules governing on-street parking and the use of spaces in parking garages and lots.
Haverhill adopted the plan to discourage downtown workers, residents and train commuters from using on-street parking, and therefore free up those spaces for businesses customers and other short-term visitors to the area. Officials have told businesses, residents and others to let them know how it’s working and that the city will continue to tweak the plan.