Though not officially on the agenda, the topic of parking took up a significant portion of the evening at as some two dozen folks signed up to speak on the issue during the public comment section of the evening.
One by one, West End business owners, residents and area supporters took to the podium to ask council to address the concerns regarding the .
While many commenters raised similar complaints about the new parking measures – the $1.50-an-hour parking fees and the $28 tickets – others mentioned overly-aggressive enforcement and limited times as issues of concern.
The new meters were installed along the four blocks that make up the business district of West Marshall Street in February of this year and council through a municipal ordinance. Some West End business owners have said they agreed to meters being used along West Marshall to aid with parking turnover, but never agreed to such exorbitant rates. (Similar communities like Ambler and Manayunk charge fifty cents an hour.) Council maintains that no one objected to the rates as they were being decided on and enacted in public meetings.
"These meters are absolutely killing the street," said business owner Dave Sereny. "The meters' prices are way too high."
Sereny, who had taken it upon himself to organize other local business owners when the meters first became an issue, pointed out that if the goal of parking regulations are meant to maintain an 85% occupancy rate and a 15% vacancy, then by his estimation Norristown has it backwards on the West End.
"I'm starting to see like 15% occupancy and 85% vacancy" said Sereny. "This past Friday at noon, at lunchtime on the 400 block, there was literally one car."
Pierre Long, owner of Hairzone on the 300 block of West Marshall, came to Tuesday's meeting to follow up a meeting he and other business owners had with several council members on the issue and while reiterating the concern over rates added he'd also like to see some changes made in the Poley Park lot nearby.
"I'm wondering if we can get something done as far as turning Poley Park into a four hour [parking lot]," said Long.
Long and several of his barbers mentioned that the meters have adversely affected their business, which they note often requires their customers to spend several hours in the shop.
Almost halfway through the comments, Municipal Council President Gary Simpson attempted to speed things along by submitting that council had heard these complaints and needed time to evaluate it's next move. Simpson asked that they be allowed to move on past the comment section, but many objected and insisted everyone be heard.
Commenters continued to take to the microphone and air their frustrations about the parking situation, but Mike Stevens, a King of Prussia resident who owns several properties in Norristown seemed to sum up the crowds wishes best.
"Do the right thing by these merchants," said Stevens. "Do the right thing by their customers. Do the right thing by the residents of Norristown so we can prosper... and get things going in the right direction."