Town Board considers possible solutions to bolster downtown parking

The Riverhead Town Board is considering a slew of changes to fix downtown’s parking problem — including making new developments that don’t meet the parking codes pay a fee.

Councilman Tim Hubbard presented the ideas — including one-hour parking along Main Street and valet services — during Thursday’s work session. The biggest change would be introducing so called PILOP fees. PILOP (which stands for Payment In Lieu Of Parking) payments would be paid by any new development or business that fails to provide enough new parking spaces to meet the town code.

Mr. Hubbard said the money gained could be used to buy properties to turn into more parking spaces or even build a downtown parking garage. While many of the more recent proposed developments would be too far along in the process to be affected by a new PILOP payment, the five-story apartment complex proposal at the site of the former Sears building may be subject to the new fees.

Mr. Hubbard also pitched adding paid parking meters to some town lots, noting that Patchogue — a thriving downtown that Riverhead town officials have long sought to copy — makes $400,000 each year from its roughly 500 paid parking spaces.

“To me, that’s a no brainer,” Mr. Hubbard said.

Among the easiest changes proposed is reducing the parking ticket violation from $100 to $50. This would not only make drivers more likely to pay their tickets without disputing the violation, but also won’t leave visitors with a bad impression of downtown, he said.

“I think more people would be apt to pay it and not fight it,” Mr. Hubbard said. The town would also enforce the new tickets more to make up the revenue lost, he added.

The town’s parking district committee also proposed hiring valet service for downtown on Friday and Saturday nights to alleviate the parking problems. Mr. Hubbard said the valets would be paid by the drivers, as well as a group of businesses that would benefit from their services. The Town Board may also decide to tweak the hours of parking near the Summerwind apartment complex to keep the spaces open during peak dinner hours.

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Photo caption: An aerial view of downtown Riverhead in 2015. (Andrew Lepre, file photo)