If you asked Joni Mitchell or the Counting Crows how to solve Havre de Grace's perceived parking problems, they'd probably tell you to "pave paradise and put up a parking lot."
But after a public hearing in City Hall last night, it became clear that a solution isn't going to come quite that easy for Havre de Grace.
Howard Kohn, a principal with The Chesapeake Group, a consulting company hired by the city, re-introduced his firm's study that essentially showed there is no parking capacity problem within the city, though there are some parking challenges, such as people not knowing where to park and or how to differentiate a public space from a private space.
The entire City Council and several members of the city staff attended the meeting.
Remarks came from local business owners, council members and residents in response to the study, many offering suggestions about how to deal with parking issues.
Kohn explained the study was completed during daylight hours and while several events were taking place in the city on the same day.
But not everyone agreed the study could be accurate, since it wasn't completed in the evening hours when many downtown restaurants are busiest and when the American Legion and the Masonic Lodge host events.
"I don't feel the study that was done presents a complete view of the picture, because evening hours were not incorporated into the study," Councilman Randy Craig said.
Councilman Mitch Shank agreed the study should have been completed during evening hours, for more accurate results.
But George Wagner, owner of Bahoukas Antique Mall and Beer Muzeum, says he’s done his own study and found Havre de Grace has no parking problem—day or night.
"The study revealed there is no parking problem," he said.
Meeting facilitator Carol Mathis, the city's director of administration, took an informal survey of those in attendance, and by a show of hands, those who believed a parking problem exists outnumbered those who did not.
John Klisavage, owner of Washington Street Books, said he loses business because people cannot find a parking space in front of his storefront, and primarily because other business owners and their employees take those spaces.
"If a person can't find a parking space in front of your business, they drive right on by," he said.
Klisavage said the city needs to educate business owners on where to park—for instance, behind their businesses, so customers can park in front.
Other solutions to the perceived problem came in many forms: land banking, valet parking for large events, car stickers and self-policing, parking meters, better signage, designated lots, trolleys, shuttles and better law enforcement.
Mathis said shuttles and trolleys seem like wonderful solutions, but they're costly.
"They're expensive. Someone has to run those businesses," she said.
David Meickle, who said he moved to the city as part of the Base Realignment and Closure said he doesn't understand why Havre de Grace doesn't have paid meters, with "priority spaces" on main roads and in front of popular restaurants and stores costing more.
"If people are willing to pay for those premium spots, then by all means, let them pay 25 cents an hour and let them pay it for six hours. It's a direct revenue stream," he said.
Council President Bill Martin and Councilman John Correri, however, opposed parking meters.
"I think what we need to work on is signage and enforcement," Martin said, explaining he would like to see signs changed around and several designated parking spots for motorcycles added.
A solution was not identified during Thursday night's public hearing and brainstorming will continue, as Martin announced a second public hearing will take place next Tuesday at 6 p.m. in City Hall, and is open to the public.