City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to implement a $10 fee for nonresidents to park in the lot on “peak beach days,” with money going to the Save the Catwalk fundraiser.
Mayor Geri McCaleb and Councilman Bob Monetza voted against the proposal.
Councilmen Josh Brugger and Mike Fritz brought the idea to council. Brugger said there is a potential to earn a lot of money by charging to park at the beach lot.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the catwalk to raise an additional $15,000 to $20,000 over the course of the summer," he said.
Save the Catwalk organizer Erin Turrell said she is pleased to see the decision made by City Council to help the fundraising effort.
“I know, and I’m confident, that the positive results will far outweigh the negative aspects of this parking decision,” she said.
City residents wouldn’t have to pay to park as long as they obtain a window sticker from City Hall. Residents will be allowed one window sticker per residence, officials noted.
“I love the idea of city of Grand Haven residents having a benefit that only they get by living here in the city of Grand Haven, and that's free parking at the beach,” Brugger said, noting that there are hundreds of other free parking spots in the waterfront and downtown area that people can use if they didn’t want to pay.
City Manager Pat McGinnis said the preliminary thought is that the city would use an employee to sit at the entrance of the parking lot on “peak beach days” — those being Friday, Saturday and Sunday during “nice weather” days. An A-frame sign would be placed at the entrance of the lot and farther down Harbor Drive to denote the fee and to let people know if the lot is full.
City staff say it’s estimated that the 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, McGinnis said.
“The city employee that would sit down there for eight hours might cost us $100 with benefits,” McGinnis said. “Maybe we’d clear $900 a day. And a three-day weekend, that would be $2,700.”
McCaleb wasn’t keen on the idea.
“I see what's trying to be done here, but I don't think it's going to work very well,” she said. “I think it's going to create ill will.”
The mayor didn’t think the move was indicative of being named the “friendliest seaside city,” and said it wouldn’t be good for those who live in neighboring communities who come to use the beach.
"It's not very friendly to our township residents who come and use this space,” she said. “If you live in Grand Haven Township or Robinson Township or Spring Lake Village, you don't qualify, so you’d have to pay.”
Monetza also criticized the plan.
"I think this is pretty half-baked at this point,” he said.
Monetza noted that, over time, the city would likely at best break even on paid parking after all the other costs are factored in.
"I know that you've made it more palatable by clothing it in the language of supporting the catwalk, but what I think what it really is, is your trying to raise some money on parking that's going to be eaten up on the program trying to admin the parking program,” he said. “... I think we'd be better off to write a check for the catwalk rather than try to do all this and try to come out with a little or nothing out of this effort.”