Parking flyer causes downtown flap

A flyer distributed by Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler to businesses on Main St. in the city’s downtown area was criticized by Mayor Ann Thane in an email sent to Common Council members late Friday evening. The flyer notified business owners that the lot adjacent to the old Key Bank building was available for use by downtown business owners, employees and residential tenants. The arrangement between the city and the building’s owner to cover liability and provide snow removal for the lot was approved by the council back in October of last year and was just recently signed by the mayor after details of the agreement were finalized. The flyer went on to say “all street parking should be kept for downtown customers.” The flyer included Hatzenbuhler’s name and phone number as contact for “further clarification.”

Main Street is located within the city’s fifth ward, however last September, Hatzenbuhler posted on Facebook that “since downtown needs an alderperson to represent them, I have assigned that duty to myself as of today.” No council committee or officially designated liaison for the downtown area currently exists.

According to Thane, Hatzenbuhler overstepped her bounds by taking the action, given there is no law that prohibits store owners and tenants from parking on the street. She called Hatzenbuhler’s action “unacceptable and irresponsible” given that she acted unilaterally and without participation of the full council. Thane said that “business owners are upset and have brought their complaints to me.” Thane also claimed that Hatzenbuhler asked a city employee to produce the flyer and that she has “no authority to direct an employee in this or any action.” The email ended with a call to discuss the action at a future Committee of the Whole meeting.

Nicola and Ileana Magaletti, owners of La Piazza Social Club on Main Street, said Monday that they did not welcome Hatzenbuhler’s involvement in downtown matters. Mrs. Magaletti said that “parking has always been an issue” on Main Street but that finding a parking space is usually only a problem on weekend evenings when Sharp Shooters, a nearby billiards hall and pub, has special events. Magaletti said the availability of additional parking is a positive development but that patrons of her club usually arrive after traffic for Sharp Shooters clears out, closer to midnight. Magaletti said she was concerned the newly opened lot did not have adequate lighting at night and said she plans to continue to park close to her building.

Dan Weaver, owner of The Book Hound on Main Street, said Sunday, that he interpreted Hatzenbuhler’s flyer as a suggestion to park in the new lot, not a requirement. He added, “The new parking lot eases things during snow emergencies and when the pool hall has a tournament like this past Saturday. I appreciate what Diane has done as I appreciate anyone who does something to help downtown.”

Hatzenbuhler said Sunday she did not tell any business owners they were “required” to park in the newly opened lot and that she had only gotten positive feedback about the new lot from residents and business owners in the area.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.