Farmington considers new rules to stop downtown parking “shuffle”

Farmington city council members took a look Monday at new rules designed to penalize people who skirt downtown parking time limits.

While officials agree the problem exists, some feel amending the parking ordinance may create some unintended consequences.

Forwarded by the Parking Advisory Committee, the proposals would prohibit moving vehicles from one space to another and removing chalk marks applied by parking enforcement officers.

“Car shuffling” happens in lots north and south of Grand River, Public Safety Director Frank Demers said. “Our previous parking enforcement officer and our new officer have reported it’s a very common event.”

Further, he said, the officers identified “shufflers” and those removed chalk marks as employees of downtown businesses. Council member Greg Cowley, who owns a downtown restaurant, confirmed those observations.

“It’s the same employees and the same businesses,” he said. “My employees walk and see them every day. For me, it’s become a management issue.”

While Cowley wanted to see violators pay a $25 penalty for the new infractions on top of a $25 ticket, council member Sara Bowman disagreed. She said the proposed new rules would also affect a customer visiting a business on the north side of Grand River in the morning and the south side in the afternoon.

“If we really are talking about this being an employee issue, I’m not on board,” she said. Bowman suggested more employee education and posting better signs and a map that shows timed and untimed lots.

Mayor Pro Tem Steven Schneemann agreed with Bowman.

“My experience has been that the more attractive and desireable a place is, the more Draconian the parking rules can be,” he said. “I don’t want to become so overbearing that people start to say, ‘I don’t want to go to Farmington.’.”

Schneemann also saw a difference between someone shuffling a vehicle between lots and deliberately erasing a chalk mark placed by an officer.

“I think we shouldn’t be surprised that no matter what legislation we put forth, people are going to try to find a way around it,” he said.

City administration will present a revised draft of the new ordinances at a future council meeting.