The idea of free parking every Saturday in an effort to support local business amid the COVID-19 pandemic will have to wait until City of Vernon council discusses next year’s budget.
The Downtown Vernon Association pitched the idea ahead of council’s Monday, Oct. 26, meeting, asking the city to consider implementing free metered parking every Saturday in 2021.
Over the years, the city has granted an average of seven free parking days and two non-enforcement days per year in support of the DVA’s annual events and promotion calendar.
“Due to COVID-19, the DVA’s marketing strategy for the BIA (business improvement area) has shifted focus from large public events to sustained activity-based promotions and ambient entertainment that allows for downtown Vernon to be physically distant yet socially connected,” DVA executive director Susan Lehman wrote.
The merits of the two-hour metered parking system are recognized by the DVA, Lehman wrote, but free metered parking on Saturdays, in line with the city’s free surface Saturday parking, would benefit all businesses in the core.
City council previously waived the enforcement of metered parking in April as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Free’ parking was available to Vernon residents until July 1, 2020. City staff reported a $102,000 revenue loss per month in May.
“We are requesting that the City of Vernon recognizes that the small businesses downtown, many of whom cannot take advantage of the city’s generous sidewalk and patio programs due to the nature of their business or industry, would benefit from having free metered parking,” Lehman wrote.
“The City of Vernon’s support is crucial to the recovery efforts to downtown business owners.”
Council voted to refer the item to 2021 budget discussion Oct. 26.