By Bob Uphues
The village of Brookfield caused some unexpected alarm among business owners in the Eight Corners business district on Monday after they realized new signs had gone up restricting parking to two hours between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Rick Dahms, the owner of Off Broadway Pub took to social media Monday afternoon to vent his frustration at the appearance of the signs, saying he "may have to close for lunch" if customers decide not to come by for fear of being ticketed if they tarry too long.
The posting generated quite a bit of heat, accusing village officials of planting the signs so police could aggressively start writing parking tickets and bashing the village for putting up the signs without seeking input from business owners first.
"I've been there for 17 years and there were never signs there like that," said Dahms, who also expressed his displeasure to the village board in person on Monday night. "Then all of a sudden, bam. We're just asking you to consider our feelings, because it is our livelihood."
Dahms told village trustees that his establishment hosts business luncheons that can stretch past two hours and that many sporting events easily eclipse the two-hour limit.
"What's the average time of a game? At least three hours," Dahms said. "How hard is it for me to tell somebody, 'Hey, you better go check your car.' It really doesn't comply with the nature of my business. They're just going to go somewhere else."
Joining Dahms at the podium during the public portion comment of the village board's committee of the whole meeting were Betty LeClere of Betty's Flowers and Mary and Jason Vazquez of Mary's Morning Mix-Up.
But the village held out an olive branch Monday night, promising to meet with business owners and leaving the door open to perhaps changing parking laws in and around Eight Corners to accommodate the businesses that exist there now.
Village President Kit Ketchmark said the new signs don't represent a change in the existing parking ordinance and were placed in large part due to complaints from business owners, especially west of the circle, who have complained about parking spots near their businesses being occupied all day.
"The calls were on the west side of Broadway, but both sides were zoned the same way in terms of the parking," said Ketchmark.
Village Planner Emily Egan told business owners that she did not expect police to enforce parking laws any more strictly than they do now, a statement backed up by Police Chief James Episcopo.
As it has in the past, enforcement will be driven, said Episcopo, by complaints.
"Just because there's more signs doesn't mean there's going to be more intense enforcement," Episcopo said. "I don't think it's really been a problem so far. When it gets congested and there's complaints, a guy will come by and mark tires and come to check two hours later to see if the car is there. That's what we've always done."
Egan said that the goal for parking along Broadway Avenue is to have it work for the community, and that her department is in the process of addressing parking, particularly along Grand Boulevard.
The village will be designating two 15-minute pickup/drop-off spaces on Grand Boulevard in response to business owners who handle a lot of that kind of traffic. Egan also hopes to highlight to visitors parking that exists right now that isn't used, particularly along the railroad tracks.
The Eight Corners district, whose parking regulations have been in place for decades, might benefit from that kind of analysis, Egan said.
"We're sorry for any alarm," said Egan. "We thought this was moving in the right direction to get what the parking actually shows in the ordinance. We're certainly happy to meet with business owners and review this situation to make sure the parking is meeting the needs of the community. That's ultimately what we want to do."