On Thursday the Board of Selectmen had a long discussion about a proposal from Greenwich Community Projects Funds, the same 501(c)3 who funded the lights on Greenwich Avenue, to set up a pilot program for valet parking.
The pilot would be for just two weekends, a total of four days and have two locations: one in the street by J Crew (at Lewis Street), and one in the horseshoe around the Greenwich Arts Council/Senior Center, which is closed on weekends.
As a result just three parking spaces would come out of service, but the idea is to significantly reduce the number of cars searching for parking spots overall.
The Greenwich Community Projects Fund is partnering with the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce and a company called Parking Productions, Inc, a family owned business run out of Clark, New Jersey.
John Dent Jr was on Zoom with the Selectmen.
“I think if we see 50-100 cars a day, then I think that would be a resounding success,” Dent said.
Parking Productions Inc will operate the two valet stations for the four day trial (Dec 12-13 and Dec-20) which is anticipated to be the peak for holiday shopping.
Parking Productions will charge $20 per vehicle and will be responsible for all collection and accounting of revenues.
Because the Lewis Street station will require the use of a handicapped parking space (the 4th space) anyone arriving there with a handicapped placard will be able to utilize the service free of charge.
Deputy Chief Marino said by allowing the vendor to rent three spaces on Saturday, they would pay $30 per space per day.
“Compare that to a daily revenue for a daily meter for the time frame we enforce parking the maximum revenue to the town is $8.00 per day,” he said.
He said the town would benefit from revenue by renting those spaces on Saturdays.
The town would not get any money other than the rental of the spaces on Saturdays.
The meters are out of service on Sundays.
Hours of operation will be 12:00pm to 6:00pm, though adjustments may be made based on demand and town approval.
Valets will park the cars in private lots on Mason Street and West Elm Street respectively.
During the meeting there was significant discussion about whether an RFP was required.
“Is there a public justification to collect the data from a company already licensed and ready to go?” asked Jill Oberlander asked. “Can we craft any kind of exception?”
“If we had another month, maybe we would do a solicitation,” Oberlander said. “But since it came to us two days before one of the last two shopping weekends of the holidays, and they have the adequate insurance, is that something we can craft any kind of exception?”
“The failure of plan doesn’t ever create an exception,” said town attorney Vin Marino said. “Like the skating rink. Great concept. Talk about it in January for November type of thing, not November for December.”
“I think this is a wonderful concept, but it’s very important from a government perspective that government remains neutral from a business perspective,” Marino continued. “And that government shouldn’t be providing preferential treatment to local businesses to businesses outside of town.”
“Someone is going to claim unfairness,” he said. “I’m trying to think if there is a way around it.”
Alyssa Bonomo, from Greenwich Community Projects Fund, said her group initiated the project. She said she had reached out to John Dent Sr a month earlier to see whether a pilot was even possible.
“This isn’t a John Dent Productions initiative. It was the GCPF, Sebastian Dostmann called John Dent, Jr and walked the Avenue to execute on an idea,” she added. “This is all GCPF, just like GCPF did the lights on the Avenue. We found a company suitable to put the lights up.”
“The distinction between the lights is no one is making money off the lights,” Marino said.
“I don’t necessarily think John Dent is going to make money off this. He’s trying to do a service,” Bonomo added.
Marino said in the the case of the lights there was no consumer paying an entity for a service, which will be the case in the valet service.
Mr. Dent Jr pointed out that whatever workers put the lights up was paid.
“That was a donation to the town,” Marino said. “Here, (the valet service) is a license agreement for a limited purpose.”
“Unless it’s a pure RFP process, we’re going to get a complaint,” Marino said.
Still, he added, “We’re aware of the RFP process, but we don’t have enough information yet to know if it’s a road we want to go down. I think the concern is de minimis.”
Margarita Alban, chair of the Planning & Zoning commission, said the Avenue was outside P&Z’s authority, but P&Z would like feedback on the pilot.
She noted retailers are not required to provide customer parking on Greenwich Avenue.
“Also, we think there is a little extra wiggle room because of the Executive Orders,” she added. “From the zoning point of view, I think we’re out of the picture, but if you’re gathering data, we’d be interested in knowing how it effects traffic, traffic flow, what the retailers say, does this support business – all those things that flow into the POCD and the long term plan for the Town.”
“We’d love to know if this is a boost to business and how the public reacts to it,” Alban added.
“If the selectmen consider this as a purpose of gathering data, there is a municipal and public purpose for doing it, which would further support the waiving of the RFP,” Marino said.
The Selectmen voted unanimously in favor of the pilot.
Specifically the motion was to: approve the pilot for the two valet parking stations for two weekends to collect data on the viability and demand for such a service in an endeavor to promote in person shopping during one of the busiest shopping periods and collect data.
They also voted unanimously to waive the rental fee for the parking spots.
If the pilot is a success, the town will put out an RFP for future valet parking.