Proposed East Lyme parking ordinance to go to public hearing

East Lyme — A public hearing will be held next month on a local parking ordinance that the town is considering.

Police Chief Michael Finkelstein said a conversation began with the Police Commission and then moved to the Board of Selectmen to create a local ordinance that would give police officers an additional tool to issue parking violations, rather than just the state statutes for such violations.

One of the issues is that the state fine is more cumbersome than the local one, he said, and the idea was to craft an ordinance that responds to local needs.

The town went to an independent police force last year.

The Board of Selectmen voted on Wednesday to send the proposed ordinance to a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 1 at Town Hall.

The proposed ordinance, available on the town's website, sets the penalty for parking violations at $50, which Finkelstein said is less than the state system. The fine would double if people do not pay within two weeks. The selectmen decided Wednesday to strike a provision in the draft ordinance that said the fine would triple if not paid within 28 days.

If the Board of Selectmen adopts the proposed ordinance, it would repeal an existing one concerning fines for illegal parking that has few details and sets the fine for parking violations at $5.

Finkelstein said the older ordinance is outdated, isn't enforceable and doesn't have information regarding the appeals process.

The town attorney and police department both have reviewed the document that the selectmen are sending to public hearing, First Selectman Mark Nickerson said.

Finkelstein said the new proposed ordinance encompasses parking rules outlined in the state statute and already in place, so it won't bring any drastic changes to parking in town. It would give East Lyme police the authority to collect payment for the fines and deposit it into a town account designated by the selectmen.

Nickerson said the Board of Selectmen is not proposing the ordinance to generate money but to create order in the name of public safety. He noted that during times, such as snow emergencies or a parade, enforcement is particularly important.

The proposed ordinance also concerns towing and outlines that the police can direct a vehicle that is blocking traffic or snow plowing to be towed, following procedures described in the state statutes.

The town would adopt the hearing process described in the state statutes for appeals of parking violations.

After hearing public comments next month, the selectmen further will discuss the ordinance and may make changes, based on the feedback, and then consider adopting it, Nickerson said.

He said the next step, at a later date, would be for the Police Commission to work with the Board of Selectmen and Public Works Department to propose better expectations and rules for parking in the commercial district downtown. He said the community will need to have a lot of discussion on the best way to do that.

Finkelstein said the police department is looking at working with the state Department of Transportation and other entities to make downtown safer and parking better.

"We certainly are looking to make it a safer, more accessible environment," he said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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