Business owners and residents are singing the blues over parking issues related to Arts, Beats & Eats (ABE).
With just over a week to go before the start of the Labor Day weekend festival, a new city ordinance, which requires businesses to obtain a parking station license, is frustrating local business owners. And, the decision to award a parking contract to a Detroit-based parking service has local volunteers feeling shut out.
Parking station ordinance riles business owners
A new parking station ordinance passed in June triggered lively public comment at Monday’s City Commission meeting with vocal businessmen telling Royal Oak officials just what they think of the new regulations.
Chuck Buttons, of , and Gayle Chinn, of were among those feeling confused and frustrated by the application process required to obtain a license to park cars during ABE.
Both men received a letter of denial to use their property to park cars during the festival.
“I’ve had a business in Royal Oak for over 43 years and I think I have been a good citizen,” Chinn said. "I don't mind jumping through a few hoops."
But after reading the ordinance and the "13-page application," Chinn confessed he was aggravated with city officials.
The city was quick to cash his check for the $185 application fee, he said, but took their time reviewing his application, and in the end turned him down.
“If I had one business do this to another business, I would call it fraud,” Chinn said. “I am very disappointed. I am not sure now what your rules are. I don’t think you know what your rules are.”
Attorney and former Royal Oak City Commissioner David Richards spoke on behalf of a client that applied for parking station licenses for 16 properties and got denied on all of them.
Of the 45 applications the city received all were rejected but one, according to Tim Thwing, director of planning.
Most applications submitted had deficient drawings or other correctable problems with their applications, said City Manager Don Johnson. If the problems are fixed they will eventually be approved, he said.
“We asked for specific things and we got everything from crayon drawings to aerial photos that don’t tell us anything,” Thwing said. Reviewing the applications are not a high priority for his department, he said.
City opts for a parking service over volunteers
In April, city officials decided to eliminate the volunteer parking program for ABE. Department of Public Services Director Greg Rassel, told commissioners the city can make more revenue by not working with volunteers, estimating volunteer costs are an additional $40,000 to the city. And, with the festival occurring on a holiday weekend, Rassel said there were always problems manning lots on Labor Day.
The city awarded the ABE parking contract to Park Rite, a Detroit-based company that operates nearly 60 locations in Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor.
"School related groups, like so many non-profit civic and service organizations, enjoyed working Arts, Beats & Eats parking and benefited greatly from the fundraising opportunity that was provided," said Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin. "We were disappointed and distressed when we got the news that this opportunity would not be available."
Athletic teams, band boosters, dance boosters, and the choir program were just some of the school groups that earned money at ABE in 2011. The girls volleyball team alone raised $1,820 parking cars.
"I am disappointed. It was an easy way to make money for the Upton PTA," said Jeff Eisenberg, who estimates Upton earned about $500 parking cars. "The $40,000 the city is saving was going to charity. It's sort of a cop out."
Judy Harnois and her husband John also parked cars last year to raise money for South Oakland Citizens for the Homeless.
"We thought it was great. The time went by fast," Harnois said. "I like a fundraiser where you don't feel like you are begging for money. And, it brought the community together - churches, PTAs, clubs - we were all together. I was looking forward to seeing people again."
Because some of the parking at ABE will occur in school district parking lots, the city worked to make volunteer opportunities available to school-related groups.
"The earning potential this year is significantly less than it was last year, but when we went to them, the city did work with us to create an opportunity," said Lewis-Lakin.