By Kaylee Lindenmuth
The lot at 22 South Whiteoak Street, bounded by Sander Alley, Herring Alley, Whiteoak Street and the Young Ones/Feed and Read bookstore building, has been converted to “metered parking, with the use of multi-space parking kiosks,” according to Eric Boyer, community service officer coordinator with Kutztown Police.
“The downtown area surrounding the lot is a heavily populated region of the Borough of Kutztown with many residences as well as businesses,” Boyer said in an email. “As such, parking is an important resource, which must be managed to accommodate the needs of this area.”
The lot is located in the heart of downtown Kutztown, with a multitude of businesses within a few blocks including Letterman’s Diner, Mamma’s Pizza, the Kutztown Tavern and Kutztown Printing, among others, as well as apartments and homes. Public parking is at a premium in the neighborhood.
Because of this, parking in the neighborhood has historically been restricted to specific time limits: two hours for Main Street and the Whiteoak lot.
“The downtown area has long been restricted to two-hour parking to require people to move their vehicles and give an opportunity for others to find an open parking space,” Boyer said. “However, during that time we have received many complaints from people who wished to be able to park longer for various reasons or not being able to find a parking space because vehicles remained past the two-hour limit.”
“For several years now, the options for addressing these concerns have been discussed at borough committee meetings, community organizations and with citizens,” Boyer added. “Metered parking is successfully utilized in many other municipalities in the region to manage various parking needs.”
According to borough meeting minutes, the matter was discussed at the June 2017 meeting of the borough’s Community Development and Public Safety committee and later approved at the April 2018 committee meeting. That month, the borough council unanimously approved the kiosk parking.
At the monthly council meeting on Sept. 17, an ordinance amendment was approved to set the fees for the lot and penalties for nonpayment. According to the ordinance, the first 15 minutes in the lot are free, and each 15 minute duration after costs 25 cents. There is an option to pay by credit card or by phone as well.
“The change in this lot will diversify the availability for parking in the Borough by maintaining the turnover of available spaces while adding the option to stay longer should you wish,” Boyer said.
Kutztown councilman Scott Piscitelli added at the council meeting on Sept. 17 that the borough has no plans “at this time” to install parking meters on Main Street.
Chris Holt, owner of Young Ones, said that spaces are usually available, if not plentiful, in the lot with the exception of dinnertime and Saturdays. In the six years his business has been open, he’s seen the use of the lot decline, which he believes is a result of enrollment declines at KU.
“It’s not a problem except for dinnertime. Saturdays, all day, can be a problem, but they don’t enforce it on Saturdays,” said Holt. “Students would leave their car Friday night until Sunday. If they just enforced on Sundays, that would take care of that problem. They didn’t need to do this to take care of that problem.”
Holt added that the metered parking may drive away business from downtown or lead people to park elsewhere, based on feedback from his customers.
“People that don’t want to pay, they’re either not going to come into town, or they’re going to try to find a free spot to park, but where is that free spot going to be?” Holt said. “I think it’s going to force a lot of people to park on Main Street.”
“Theoretically, instead of my customers parking here [at Whiteoak], and the Tavern’s customers parking here, they’re going to park on Main Street and take up the parking in front of those businesses,” Holt continued. “You’re going to have to count on people being willing to pay or to walk to those businesses.”