Grand Haven City Council on Monday night unanimously approved allowing anyone with a Grand Haven, Spring Lake or Ferrysburg mailing address the ability to obtain a permit to park in the city lot at no cost. Residents would be required to show a driver’s license or proof of property ownership to get a permit from City Hall.
The fee would remain $10 for anyone else, with proceeds going to the Save the Catwalk fundraiser.
"I have not had the luxury of having a lot of people come up to me and tell me what a great idea this was," said Mayor Geri McCaleb, who voted no on the original proposal.
McCaleb said the idea was implemented too quickly and not well thought-out, adding that she was not a fan of making things exclusive.
"An idea like this ... works a lot better when it goes through the proper channels," she said.
City Council voted 3-2 on June 5 to implement the fee for nonresidents to park in the lot on “peak beach days."
City staff estimated that the beachfront lot — which has 61 spaces — could bring in $1,000 per day, based on the assumption that it’s filled with 10 percent city residents’ vehicles and the spaces turn over once a day.
This past weekend, according to City Manager Pat McGinnis, the parking lot generated $290 on Friday, $80 on Saturday and $180 on Sunday. The lot was only partially staffed on Saturday due to inclement weather.
"Those were the first three days, with very limited success," he said.
Councilmen Mike Fritz and Josh Brugger brought the idea up earlier this month. On Monday night, Fritz apologized for the way the issue had driven a wedge between local communities and the city.
“We’d seen an opportunity to help the catwalk itself,” Fritz said. “(Causing a problem) was not the intent.”
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Fritz, along with McCaleb and Councilman Dennis Scott, noted that they wanted to see an update given in several weeks highlighting the effectiveness of the parking lot fee.
Brugger noted that city officials had seen and heard the feedback on social media and elsewhere in the community, and said that the city was listening to people’s concerns. He said he’d also heard positive feedback from a majority of city residents regarding the plan.
Brugger then encouraged neighboring communities to share in the costs of city services that are enjoyed by residents of the surrounding communities to help alleviate the burden on city residents.
“Our residents and our businesses can only afford so much,” he said.
Councilman Bob Monetza, who originally voted against the parking fee idea, was still critical of the plan.
"I think none of this was thought through far enough, and now we're trying to patch it up to save face," he said. "We're not doing any favors with this whole mess. ... I found this whole affair to be embarrassing as a City Council member."