Elkton to offer free downtown parking starting Nov. 25
Those hoping to do some holiday shopping won’t have to worry about feeding the meter, as the town plans to once again offer free parking in the downtown starting Nov. 25.
The Elkton Board of Commissioners voted last week to offer free parking in the downtown from Nov. 25 to Jan. 2.
The Elkton Police Department, which is responsible for enforcing parking regulations, will put red bags over the meters in the downtown business district area to signify that the meters are free, said Lewis George, town administrator, in an email.
Although people will not have to worry about the parking meters, they will still have to obey parking regulations, which are enforced by a nonsworn parking officer, George said.
“The town suspends park-
ing meter enforcement but not enforcement of time limits in parking areas designated and signed as such,” he said. “This will encourage people parking in the downtown business district to limit their use of space during the holi- day season and provide more equitable use of that space for shoppers and others visiting the town.”
Other parking regulations such as parking too close to a fire hydrant, handicap parking and parking where pro- hibited by a sign are also still in effect, he said.
George said he could not estimate how much revenue is lost during the holiday season from the free meters. The town has implemented this policy for many years and therefore does not have “a revenue amount earned during this timeframe for comparison.”
“Regardless, we believe that the suspension of parking meter enforcement in the downtown business district is a positive incentive to encourage shopping in our downtown during the holiday season and adds much to festive spirit thriving in this area,” he added.
Mary Jo Jablonski, commissioner and executive director of the Elkton Chamber and Alliance, said she is in favor of people not paying for the meters during the specified time.
“I really like doing that,” Jablonski said. “Just to help promote business downtown.”
During previous free parking meter dates, businesses owners in the town have said that the free meters have had an effect on their businesses.
The Cecil County Arts Council has parking meters in front of its building.
“It’s great, it’s a very welcoming idea,” said Annmarie Hamilton, executive director of the CCAC on Friday. “It’s very generous of the town and I know for some of our people who see the hooded meters, it calls your attention to it.”
Hamilton said that while the free meters have had some impact on the business, she doesn’t think it’s the meters alone that bring in more customers and visitors during the holiday season. But she did note that the free meters make people more at ease since they don’t have to worry about stopping and feeding the meter.
“I think it’s a nice Christmas gift the town gives to the mer- chants and shoppers,” Hamilton said.
The Palette & The Page, which does not have meters in front of its store, has also been impacted by the free meters.
On Friday, Patti Paulus, one of the co-owners of the business, said the free meters have helped increase the volume of people who come into the store during the holiday season. While she also cannot solely attribute the increased business to the free parking meters, she said they are a factor.
The downtown area already offers many places to eat and shop, which brings more people to the area, Paulus said, but the addition of the free meters is a good thing to have.
“Just the whole atmosphere of small business and having parking close to the store — we’ve watched traffic, in general, grow,” Paulus said. “Over seven years, we’ve watched the number of customers grow over the holiday season.”
Paulus noted people do not have to worry about feeding the meter, nor having to check the time. She said the free meters allow people more time to look around the town.
The town will provide a notice on its website, www.elkton. org, about the free parking.
The town will suspend parking meter enforcement beginning Nov. 25 until Jan. 2.