Pay to park? City to 'study' idea

Sandusky city commissioners green lighted a $38,500 plan aiming to provide some clarity to downtown’s parking dilemma.
Andy Ouriel
Apr 10, 2013

People familiar with downtown’s layout realize plenty of free parking spaces exist. The hazy part — often frustrating downtown residents, entrepreneurs and anyone visiting the area — revolves around long-lingering issues left unaddressed for years.

Ideally, a parking plan approved Monday will answer the following questions:

• Should people, including those leaving their cars in city lots for days while they hop on boats to nearby islands, pay to park?

• Are city officials going to install meters, limiting people how long they store their cars on streets?

• Can employees hog prime parking spots in front of shops or stores all day, forcing customers to walk great distances so they can spend money?

• Will city officials possibly assign an officer to vigorously enforce parking rules posted on signs?

Arizona-based parking company Kimley-Horn and Associates will provide resolution to these inquiries and more after after analyzing patterns and compiling data during the next few months.

Members representing Sandusky Main Street Association, a private organization advocating for downtown development, selected the company after area residents and business owners brought these parking issues and others up during a community meeting some months ago.

The study depended upon a $20,000 donation from the Dorn Foundation. 

City taxpayers contributed the remaining $18,500 following a 5-1 commission vote, with commissioner Wes Poole dissenting and commissioner Diedre Cole absent.

“I do want to say parking downtown has not been mismanaged — it has been ignored,” Poole said.

Poole voted ‘no’ after citing problems with John Lippus, the association’s executive director, spearheading the process in selecting a company.

If taxpayers are spending money, Poole argued city officials should’ve quarterbacked the effort in receiving bids from multiple companies interested in formulating a parking plan.

“This is a lot of money to spend and tell us what we already know downtown,” Poole said. “We circumvented the process and we went outside of it.”

Lippus countered Poole’s statement by saying he followed all ethical policies city officials normally abide by during a bid process.

Meanwhile, commissioner Julie Farrar voiced her approval for the plan.

“We have to make sure we have a plan in place for parking, and we have to create some revenue from parking,” Farrar said. “People pay to park all the time. Any city I visit, I have to pay to park.

Farrar wondered aloud, including suggesting adding another level atop the Erie County Office Building’s parking garage, if city residents and others should pay to park in downtown.

“In my personal opinion, $18,500 is a drop in the bucket compared to the money we have spent over the years on other things,” Farrar said.


Several downtown residents, business owners and others concerned with the plan voiced their opinion at Monday’s public meeting:

“We support the study. We have many parking problems when we have large events.”

— Sandusky State Theatre board member Tom Sloma

“We have some challenges down here, and one of them is parking. A professional and unbiased, detailed study is really important to me.”

— Downtown resident Matt Ehrhardt

“I have some serious concerns over this. It’s no good to do a study if you don’t have the money.”

— Sandusky resident Sharon Johnson

“This study will provide some insight on how we can properly manage and provide some solutions to parking.”

— Downtown business owner Cesare Avallone

“We need everyone to understand we don’t’ have a parking problem. We have parking management issues. We have enough parking spaces, but they are not managed in the best way. The parking situation today could affect future growth and business development.

— Sandusky Main Street Association executive director John Lippus.



God Of Thunder

Amazing though, how the city goes from threatening to cut over 20 positions, to be OK, to spending an extra 20 grand on another dumb a## study..Remarkable..

See, all you naysayers, Ard seems to be doing a great job (dripping with sarcasm)


Wow. Apparently it costs over $38,000 to tell business owners it's okay to tell their employees not to park in front of a business all day (for the moment, the City parking garage is still free). I could've told the business owners to grow a pair, and I would have done it for HALF the fee! There would have been thousands left over to put a few signs up on the street where appropriate that say "Two Hour Parking" or some such, too.

What an unbelievable crock. If the City EVER pays for another study, I'd like it to be a study to study why it is the City keeps doing studies and avoids doing much of anything else! And we wonder why there are budget shortfalls.

Licorice Schtick

Studies are tools for incompetents to try to get the other incompetents who disagree with them to change their minds. But it usually doesn't work because instead of competently implementing the recommendations, they'll fail to take action for a year or two. Then, having forgotten about the study, they'll do something else completely, or nothing at all.

T. A. Schwanger

@ Sam Adams: Right on
The old dinosaurs of Sandusky can remember when industry, hotels, theaters, etc. dotted the downtown. How in the world did we cope with parking then?

The 2010 Anderson Economic Group Downtown Marketing Study, again paid ($29,000) for through the Battery Park TIF, stated downtown parking space numbers are adequate,suggested possible parking meters as the downtown grows, improve parking striping issues, etc. Paving and striping the Jackson Street parking lot has been lip-serviced for 15 years because of relocation of City Hall talks.

The problem of downtown employees parking in front of the business they work for is as old as the cobble stone under downtown streets and likely will never be settled.

The lighting downtown, installed during the "Streetscape Era" not long ago, is inefficient and gloomy causing unsafe conditions. Parking meters were removed to promote the downtown as Route 250 and the Sandusky Mall developed.

Everyone wants to see a vibrant downtown, but doggone it, it's time the merchants take control of downtown and stop unwisely using taxpayer dollars to do so.


"The lighting downtown, installed during the "Streetscape Era" not long ago, is inefficient and gloomy causing unsafe conditions."

Well said.
Whoever was responsible for that idea should be ashamed.


I think the parking garage is owned by the county, not the city.


I thought it was a joint venture, but you could very well be right. Either way, parking the garage is free, it's sheltered, and it doesn't block access to businesses. Seems to me if the business owners are so stupid they can't tell their employees to keep parking free for paying customers, they're probably too stupid to last long in business, anyway. (Now that I think on that a little more, anybody want to bet whether or not the City would still be in business if it WERE a business? Yeah, I don't think so, either.)


hey while were at it lets have a tolit use tax at city hall!!


Send me a check for $9250 and the dorn foundation can save their 20k. I will give you the answer to this less than intelligent study.


I thought Gunner and the Perkins school board were bad. These "commissioners" take the cake!


So how many parking meters dose it take to make $18,500 or how many years using them. Or better yet how dose this MAKE the city any money? When the study comes back it will be full of ideas that all cost money to do. And after it is looked at it will be put in a file to never looked at again.

to pave Jackson Street lot 75K
to put up better lighting 300k
to spend 38,500k to have somebody tell you this COMMON MAN

shoreline dude

Take that 38500.00 and put it towards tearing down that ugly azz eyesore of a building on Shoreline Dr. You all talk the talk of wanting the downtown flourish and do everything to try to keep people from coming downtown. we have four or five months to make money downtown. the winter we have to rely on the folks of our hometown to keep all the businesses running. Better listen to Wes,Your on your way to kill our city.

Good 2 B Me

Paying to park in such a terrible downtown is a joke. Even less people will want to visit. Maybe it is time to perform a study about what happens if Sandusky brings in BUSINESS to Downtown.


so where is the money going to come from to write these tickets ??? police still dont mark the cars on market street where there is a 2 hour limit


I wanna be in charge of the study that is studying the study !!!!! If the study pays $38,000 I bet the studying pays at least $50, Sally sells studies while studying the study down by the seashore !!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I have optimism for the study and will hope it is comprehensive in not just outlying areas of improvement but suggestions for ways to implement the ideas. Downtown is a real mix of parking needs from 24/7 residents, weekend-long travelers to the islands, short-term diners/shoppers, and long-term event attendees for the State and my store. Throw in the mix the Bike Week and car shows and it creates unique circumstances.

I can't really comment on those who think there is nothing downtown for which it is "worth it" to have to pay to park as I go out of my way to make my store a consistent attraction for downtown. Myself and other business owners are consistently trying to improve our businesses and the area through them. While based on the culture and demographic I serve, I have a vision for downtown I would love to see enacted. Alas, money is always an issue and for many of us the song "If I Had a Million Dollars" remains a wistful fancy instead of a cash-in-hand reality.

So if a plan can come from all this that will help us, I am all for it if it offers solutions AND is followed through by the various powers that be.

BW1's picture

Hero Zone, it's not necessarily a condemnation of your or any other downtown business to say nothing downtown is "worth" paying to park. The point is that, while your businesses may be appealing, with all the other commercial venues in the area, they fall short of differentiating themselves enough to overcome the negative of paying for parking, and the accompanying inconvenience of having to make sure one has sufficient cash in the proper denominations to feed a meter, worrying about the meter running out, etc. The point is, in today's world where the vast majority of businesses offer free, convenient parking, paid parking sets a very high bar to sufficiently differentiate oneself to justify it - so high, in fact that most businesses that can clear it are already offering valet service.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I totally understand your point and any recommendations the plan may suggest will have to be taken into an overall consideration for the "identity" (or branding if you want to think of it that way) of downtown. Funds from parking would need to be applied not just toward road/sidewalk maintenance but beautification and other projects that will increase the popularity and worthiness (so to speak) of downtown as a whole.

BW1's picture

The point is, it's probably not possible to achieve a "worthiness" that overcomes parking fees. The expectation that, if a business wants our dollars, it will provide free parking, is deeply embedded in American culture. Conversely, parking fees are largely seen as almost a personal affront. That's why city centers are often a combination of businesses that serve non-drivers and restaurants swanky enough to subsidize valet parking. In Sandusky that means paid parking would limit downtown to Zinc, J Bistro, and places that cater to the 15 and under crowd.
It's a non-starter. About the only change that makes sense is a 6 hour limit, which accommodates everyone except the island hoppers.


tax tax tax, fees fees fees, fines fines fines, interest interest interest, PAY PAY PAY....just one more BS scheme to take our money..... don't they have enough of it already!
Hey i got an idea, lets spend more time, energy and money bringing some decent jobs to this area!!! Jobs that are a living wage. Oh wait you say they all left and went to a county that doesn't tax them to death? Thats OK we can just write more laws and make up new taxes and patrol the streets looking for ANYONE not obeying every single law that we just make up, writing more and more tickets to poor people who cant afford a lawyer to defend what ever happened to that deal where we were going to sell our waterfront property to a Chinese company??? Is any of this getting through to you people. No parking meters please.....i have a feeling that rather than generating money it will get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle with too many hands in the jar and will be a loss in the end.


If Sandtown puts parking meters anywhere in the city, you'll see the crime rate going up and parking meters in the bay after the money is taken from them. Don't be stupid.


Re: Darkhorse
Wed, 04/10/2013 - 5:03pm
"Meters will destroy downtown business."

Meters did destroy downtown business, it started in 1960 when I was in business downtown.
Business owners took up the parking spaces, plugged the meters and drove people to the shopping center.


Most SinDUDskians don't even know about the free parking garage...which is closed during Bike Week. Amazing.

J. Hartman

I keep seeing the word "study" in a lot of comments. I'm not exactly sure why all the confusion came about, but I have a pretty good idea. So, allow me to clear this up. This IS NOT a study! It's a parking PLAN!


Just another money grabbing commissioner trying to justify the position.


I vote to buy Farrar a cup of coffee and a piece of crow pie. She gets on her "soap box" supporting this study and at the same time solves the issue of downtown parking__-Parking Meters and more levels on the County Garage.

Oh, it's not $18,000---a couple of years ago Main Streets con jobbed the City out of another $22,000 for a downtown marketing study.


I bet the reporter mis-quoted Julie.


Hero Zone, we will check back with you when those meters get installed in front of your place to see how you are doing and to see if you feel the same way about those meters.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Certainly. But, let's see if that is even a proposition that is then installed. I will be one of the first in line to read the report and speak at city council meetings if it seems necessary to do so. I go to every meeting anyway to stay informed. I am confident that while it will be seen as an economic inconvenience for my customers, I will maintain the draw of patrons and attendees that I already do (and hopefully continue growing it).

Just as I have had to adapt to Bike Week, navigating perilous snow piles, State Theater events, and the Friday car shows in the summer (please note I begrudge none of them), I would presumably have to adapt to meters if they were installed.

Could I be wrong? Yup! Am I speaking for other businesses that aren't as confident as I? Nope! But as I have a rather large interest in the parking plans for downtown I will be as much a part of it as I can. I appreciate your concern for my store's interests. Be it in a comment section here or the LFG blog, opinions and concerns will be shared regarding the plan as it comes into focus and implementation is on the top of the list.


I hope the downtown residents don't get beat up with this plan.